Everything you need to know to get into freelance journalism

Taking the plunge into freelance journalism is by no means easy - so here's all you need to know from experts in the industry.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

This post was written by an external contributor. Lydia Wilkins has put together a quick guide for anyone considering pursuing a career in freelance journalism.

Freelancing is more popular than ever before. The BBC is even asking whether it’s the end of 9-5 working hours, as  only six percent of people of the population still adhear to this traditional working method.    For people pursuing a career in journalism, it’s an alternative route to the traditional (and notoriously competitive) path. It can offer flexibility over your career and allow you to have more control over your content. However, it’s by no means a walk in the park.

From learning the best ways to work remotely, to earning a steady stream of income, there’s a lot to bear in mind. So if you’re considering taking the plunge, here’s a few tips from someone whose had experience.

Managing your career

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There’s a passage in How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran, where Joanna Morigan, is contemplating pursuing her dream career. Her father inspired her by exclaiming in a rant, “If you want to be a writer, then be a writer!” This logic should also apply here.

If you’ve got zero experience, it’s probably advisable to start a blog. That way you can showcase your writing style and interests. Once you get a few articles under your belt, create a portfolio. It’s common for editors to ask for examples of your previous work, so keep everything in one place. If you’re networking at events, follow every conversation up with an official business card – it makes for a good impression!

Freelancing also means that you’re your own boss. The key to success? Be  disciplined and organised. It’s probably a good idea to have a diary to keep track of meetings, events, deadlines, and more (I’d be lost without my Filofax!). You’ll need to be good with deadlines, ensuring that you meet them regularly.

Jem Collins, freelance journalist and founding editor of Journo Resources shared her own personal advice with Debut, “Use whatever works for you – I have a paper diary and about a million spreadsheets, but also know friends who use online calendars and software. But just make sure you know what’s coming up and what’s next.”

Jenna Farmer from The Bloglancer also has an extremely helpful  video on the art of pitching,  where she suggests that you send an email pitch for an article daily. As you start to get commissioned, you’ll eventually start to build up a steady stream of work.

Resources you need to know about

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There’s a host of freelance resources that you can make use of. First of all, have you checked out Journo Resources? There’s everything you need to know about writing freelance, including  pitching guidelines, advice, and rates publications pay for freelancers.

I also recommend checking out Rebekah Gillian’s work. She is a twenty year old freelance writer and autism blogger, with an extremely useful  public Pintrest board. This has a whole host of links, resources and articles to browse.

When I asked her for some advice on breaking into freelance journalism, Gillian said, ”I must admit, a lot of the more mainstream information I found about freelancing in the beginning was unhelpful, overwhelming and made me believe things that weren’t true once I got into the business myself.”

She continues, “Perhaps the best piece of practical advice I was given was to be realistic about your achievements and celebrate all of them, even the small ones, because most businesses don’t make any money in the first year of launching.”

Jump For Journalism may be a defunct blog, but it still has a massive amount of posts to be utilised, including how to build your own brand, how to adapt to different styles, and a whole tab of resources.

The finance stuff 

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When you go freelance, money is a lot harder to keep on top of. Jem Collins advises, “If you’re not keeping track of all this kind of stuff you will come unstuck, no matter how exciting the projects you’re working on are.  Being self-employed is also about keeping track of your own taxes and making sure you don’t overwork yourself – all of which comes down to planning and organisation.”

If you’re freelance, remember that you’re responsible for your tax and National Insurance contributions. After all, you’re self employed! If you don’t know where to start,  Save The Student has a similar guide for freelancing; they say to save twenty percent of any earnings to keep yourself covered.

Be aware that you won’t have the same monthly income in your bank account, as you would in a 9-5. Make sure you’ve got enough to cover yourself in case work dries up one month. Plan your writing and pitches accordingly.

Connect with Debut on  FacebookTwitterand  LinkedIn  for more careers insights.

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