Finding Work as a Freelance Journalist
You may also find our page on Becoming a freelance journalist helpful.
Being a journalist is all about capturing the moment in words, and if you’re reading this page then your thirst and enthusiasm for breaking news and 'taking readers into the story' means that you have the journalist buzz. Whether it be writing about politics, sport, fashion, business or a hundred other different subjects, journalists need to consider the best way to set up in business and to continually find new work.
Journalists have always seen freelancing as the way to go, and with recent full time employee redundancies it's something that will become more and more popular. Freelancing provides the freedom journalists seek, allowing them to be their own boss and to choose the work they wish to do, along with who they work for and where. However, it’s not all plain sailing and finding work isn’t always as easy as people may think. To help with this we have written a few helpful hints and tips.
For clarity on any un-answered questions about freelancing, please visit the following pages - Benefits of freelancing, sole trader calculator and setting up as a sole trader and freelancer - for all the pros and cons of freelancing.
Intern / work for free
Like many industries, journalism attracts a good deal of interest and vacancies are rarely open for long. This all means it can be a tough nut to crack and breaking into journalism may be difficult. Obviously you probably shudder at the thought of interim or free work, but it does generate results. You will build experience and get noticed, so discount it at your peril.
Writing on the web - build your own website
As well as being a handy skill to have, building and writing your own website not only keeps you writing but it also provides a wonderful showcase for any prospective clients to review your work, a bit like a photographer with their portfolio. Remember to put links to work you've done externally.
Have a niche, but also be a generalist
Being an expert in certain areas will always make you in greater demand than being a generalist, providing that there is a demand for your niche of course! However, as a freelancer you still need to be skilled in numerous areas.
What can I do to become more employable?
You can already start gathering and demonstrating the skills you'll need as a journalist, however far away you are from applying for jobs. Increasingly journalists need to be multi-skilled. Here are some ideas for what you can easily do now:
- Read everything and write regularly- it goes without saying that you should be very up to date with what's going on in your industry, plus generally what's affecting the country.
- Build your own website- there's a good chance you'll be writing articles for the web so you might as well learn HTML - before your client asks you to write an article and load it up, and then you panic wishing you'd booked yourself on a HTML course in your local college!
- Build your network u p- once you've secured a contract make yourself as valuable as possible by providing additional support wherever possible, by being able to introduce other contractors and freelancers.
- Learn photography - buy a good SLR digital camera and take some lessons. Taking great pictures isn't necessarily as easy as some photographers make out, but your chances of taking better pictures greatly improve with a few lessons or a short course. Being able to write articles and supply them with supporting images will add an extra element to what you can offer.
Magazines and newspapers
Without a doubt, the large hyper-popular magazines and newspapers will already have many experienced journalists on their roster, along with a very long list of reserve journalists. Remember though, we all have to start somewhere, so for new journalists starting out, this may mean working as a proofreader or copywriter for smaller companies to begin with, to build up your credibility.
Starting local is often a good place as you're ideally located, so you already have an advantage over other aspiring journalists. Local editors are often willing to pass on small pieces of work to new people, so it's well worth a speculative email or call.
Small Corporate Magazines
Blockbuster, Tesco and Sainsbury's are just some of the companies who create small monthly internal magazines with most the work being handled internally. However they often outsource to freelancers so it's worth asking the question.
“Don’t drink drive” and “The Big Tidy Up…Stop littering”. These are just some of the campaigns local council members constantly work on in order to help stop issues within the community. Newsletters, press releases, leaflets are all required….the list is endless, as is the amount of work involved in making local campaigns a success. It's well worth contacting the press office and offering your services.
Forum bulletin boards
Despite the number of freelancers looking for work, it is often difficult for clients to find suitably qualified and experienced journalists, copywriters, proofreaders etc. To address this market, there are now a few well regarded forums / websites that allow freelancers to post a professional profile listing their skills, credentials and experience. An excellent example of this is Freelance Alliance. We can't guarantee you'll find all of your work this way, but it can only help.
Having a great CV
Now, before you get that CV uploaded make sure you have all the essential qualities included that will make your CV stand out from the crowd. Think about:
- CV Keywords - if your CV doesn't include 'scannable' keywords and industry buzz words for your particular industry, it might not be found, despite the fact that you might be the best person for the job/contract.
- Two pages not ten - there has been lots of research on how many pages the perfect CV should have, and all evidence points towards two. It's about getting the right balance between just giving enough information to ensure the client wants to find out more about you, and not too much so they get bored reading it. If you've ever been on the receiving end of reviewing CVs you'll understand why it needs to be two and not ten!
One last piece of advice - continue building your profile
Freelancing can have its ups and downs, and as your own boss, if work is quiet it is up to you to find more! The above mentions the best sources for finding work, however should these sources want to search for you, you need to be found easily. Make sure you have your own website, containing all your contact details, a dedicated section talking about yourself and why you got into journalism and include everything you have worked on. Even if the work seems minimal or frivolous to you, it may be just what that company needs.
Do not feel downhearted should you get turned away from a job, remember to keep writing and build up your portfolio. Visit local bookstores, try and get an interview with up and coming writers, write a piece on a new fashion range launched in store or even write about how the local church has helped the community. The list is endless as to what people will want to read about, and what companies will want to hire you for.
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Good luck and keep trying new things, even when you have a full schedule. And remember, if you would like any advice tax, setting yourself up in a business or working freelance please don't hesitate to give us a call on 0500 234 111 or 01442 275 767, or email email@example.com.
You may also find our page on Becoming a freelance journalist helpful.