Newsrooms across the country are struggling to stay afloat. This has been a universal truth since even before the coronavirus pandemic.
If you want to be a journalist, you may be wondering how to become a freelance journalist. Freelancing gives you the flexibility to write what you want for who you want on your own time.
And as newsrooms continue to downsize, freelancers will only become more important in filling those gaps. Fortunately, there are ways to use this to your advantage.
The first step to becoming a freelance journalist is carving out what niche you want to write about. Start with a broad topic, then narrow it down to smaller ideas.
Try visualizing your ideas with flow charts or concept maps. Read stories that are relevant to your topic, and see if you can localize the ideas for your target audience. Bounce your ideas off of friends or mentors for feedback.
Before you can introduce yourself and pitch your ideas to editors, they’ll want a better idea of who you are and what makes you qualified. To do this, you’ll need a cover letter, resume, and a small selection of your writing samples.
Take it a step further by branding yourself with a custom website and cohesive social media accounts. Building a website doesn’t have to be expensive or even difficult, and it makes it easier to keep everything in one place.
When pitching ideas, you want to first identify which publications have a market for your niche. You likely won’t get a health story published in an automotive magazine, for example.
Then, track down the specific editors relevant to your topic at each publication. This can usually be found on a website’s “Contact” or “Staff” page.
Know who you’re pitching to. One of the fastest ways to get a pitch rejected is by addressing your pitches to the wrong person—or even worse, the wrong publication.
Network like your freelance journalist salary depends on it—because it does.
Networking goes beyond telling everyone you’re a freelance journalist and using LinkedIn regularly. Know where you can find work, especially if you don’t know where to pitch your ideas.
Some places where you might find work include The Writer’s Market, Freelancer.com, TextBroke, Constant-Content, and Content Mart.
5. Understand How Payments Work
As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for billing each of your clients through invoices. Luckily, invoice templates are easy to build, and you can even find free ones online. Be prepared to follow up on invoices that don’t get paid on time or even at all.
Moreover, you’ll also need to know how freelancers pay their taxes. Since you work for yourself, you won’t have an employer automatically withholding your taxes on each paycheck.
6. Embrace Rejection and Constructive Criticism
You won’t land every single story you pitch. You may have to pitch the same idea to multiple publications or follow up with unresponsive editors.
Moreover, if your pitches are accepted, you’ll have to learn to work with editors. You may not agree with every revision they make. Communicate professionally, and be prepared to compromise.
Remember that editors have deadlines, too. They’re also probably under immense pressure to fill in for other lost staff positions. As a result, don’t take it personally if your pitches go ignored or if multiple rounds of editing are required.
How to Become a Freelance Journalist Varies
The biggest thing to remember when becoming a freelance journalist is that there’s no single path to success.
Different people have employed different strategies on how to become a freelance journalist. What works best for you will depend on your qualifications, connections, and how much time you can devote to freelancing.
Not sure where to start? Looking for more freelancing advice? Contact us today and see how we can help.