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How to Become a Freelance Journalist

by Davis Porter

As a journalist, you’d naturally be expected to apply for a position with a local publication. 

But as it turns out, you probably hate the idea of being restricted to a single media house. You’d rather work independently with multiple clients while enjoying a flexible job schedule. 

The good news is, freelance journalism offers the whole package. You get to work with as many publications as you want without any serious limitations. 

What’s more, both digital and print publications are increasingly opening up to the idea of working with freelance journalists. They find such arrangements conveniently cost-effective and flexible. 

On the flip side, freelance journalism happens to have its downsides . While some freelance journalists are reportedly earning big money, quite a number have been, in contrast, struggling to establish decent careers. 

A quick scan of the popular freelance forums on the web reveals that some of the freelance journalists are exceedingly experiencing difficulties such as low pay rates, and inconsistent supply of well-paying projects.  

woman writing in a journal

So, the fact of the matter is, freelance journalism can be a double-edged sword. But, luckily for you, this article provides insights that’ll help you launch your career in the best way possible. 

Essential Skills and Qualifications to Work as a Freelance Journalist

If you’re curious about the qualifications you might need along the way, we’re happy to tell you that it’s an open game. Getting started as a freelance journalist is not as demanding as applying for a regular full-time job. You can go ahead and take up major projects without any journalism background or education. 

According to a U.K. survey conducted by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCT), only about 63% of freelance journalists go into the industry from journalism-related jobs. 28%, on the other hand, choose to join the party without any journalism experience. 

However, that’s not to say that a degree in journalism is useless. Although most of the prospective employers you’ll come across won’t ask you for one, you might want to get it beforehand. 

Degrees in media-related fields provide critical insights into how the world of journalism works. You get to learn your responsibilities as a professional, as well as the standard code of conduct across all job levels. 

But, make no mistake about it. A degree won’t make you a great freelance journalist when all is said and done. Rather, it all comes down to your research and writing skills. 

You need to know how to dig for information from not only the web, but also offline sources- including human interviewees. All the data you collect should subsequently be pieced together in a systematic manner to form an interesting story. 

person writing on a pad

That means you also need to possess impeccable grammar and spelling skills, rich vocabulary, as well as adequate knowledge of syntax and punctuation rules. 

It doesn’t stop there. If you want to expand your opportunities further, we’d advise you to also consider sharpening your media-editing skills. Employers in the media industry tend to favor versatile freelance journalists who can accompany their write-ups with original well-edited videos and images. 

How To Launch Your Freelance Journalism Career

Register on Freelance Writing Marketplaces

One of the quickest and most convenient ways of kickstarting your career is signing up on popular freelance writing marketplaces. We’re talking about the likes of Freelancer.com, Upwork.com, FlexJobs.com, and PeoplePerHour.com

woman on phone

Although they don’t necessarily offer the best rates in the industry, they are great for beginners who are trying to learn the ropes. You can sign up and start working right away without any journalism credentials. 

In particular, you might want to search for freelance journalism jobs in your specific field of interest. Such marketplaces are often frequented by employers seeking freelance journalists who specialize in general news, politics, tech, and business subjects. 

These small projects will help you gradually increase your industry exposure as you continue to build your professional portfolio. 

Create a Professional Website

Once you learn how the industry works, you can go ahead and start looking for independent ventures. 

But, while there are many web platforms you could possibly leverage for that, none of them possess as much potential as your own personal website. 

So, as you hunt for opportunities across various job markets, you might want to prioritize building a professional website. 

laptop on a desk

Such a site should serve as your central launchpad. You can use it to establish your brand as a freelance journalist, as well as showcase your most outstanding projects. This alone could substantially boost your credibility among employers, and consequently, get them to trust you with their projects

Now, to build a professional website, you could hire a specialized web developer to handle everything on your behalf. Alternatively, you could set it all up yourself, with the help of an intuitive site builder like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress. 

In the end, you should have a complete website with professional-looking landing pages, a biography, testimonials from past clients, a personal blog, samples of your previous work, plus your contact info. 

And while you’re at it, avoid cluttering the site with extra nonessential stuff like heavy photos or irrelevant links. 

Network Extensively

They say that journalism is not about what you know, but by who you know. In other words, your success, even as a freelance journalist, depends on the professional relationships you form over time.

That shouldn’t be difficult at all, as there are many solid networking platforms in the journalism industry. 

If you’re thinking of going for the most valuable leads, you might want to capitalize on local media events, popular freelancing forums, social media sites, LinkedIn, and political rallies. 

people networking

Talk to not only your family and friends, but also other professionals – particularly editors and writers in your favorite media houses. It would also be a good idea to reach out to prominent persons of interest in your specific field. 

Staying in a senior politician’s good books, for example, could ultimately land you a couple of juicy exclusive stories. 

Over To You

And with that, this the point where we finally wish you all the best in your freelance journalism career. 

But, remember – as you excitedly embark on it, prepare yourself for disappointments too. Most of the employers you come across will reject you. That’s a pretty normal thing in the world of freelancing, and it happens to even the most skilled professionals. So, don’t take any of it personally.

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