Tips for Getting Started with a Freelance Journalism Career

journalist

There’s no doubt about it that starting your own journalism business and setting up as a freelance journalist can be a tough career choice. Theoretically, anybody could call themselves a freelance journalist or start a journalism company as there are no qualification requirements or rules for entry, unlike working as a journalist who is employed. However, in general, talent will usually come out on top, and you are more likely to find success as a freelance journalist with your own journalism business if you have the right skills, experience, and education.

If you have already put in the hard work or are willing to put in the work that is needed to get into journalism and build the skills and experience that you need to start your own business and set up as freelance, then keep reading for some top tips for success.

Get the Right Education

First of all, you don’t need to have a degree to set yourself up as a freelance journalist – anybody who enjoys writing about current affairs and news could get started. However, this might not always be the best way forward as you are going to be up against other journalists who have an advantage over you in the industry due to their previous education, experience, and the skills that they have built.

You can learn more about a journalism career at the Saint Bonaventure University website including which degree options may be worth considering if you want to get into a career as a freelance journalist or start your own media company in the future. If you want to start your own news site or newspaper, for example, then it will definitely help you to have a foundation of journalism education.

Fortunately for many, getting a journalism degree has now become easier and more accessible with the growth of online programs. If you are currently working in another job or just want a more flexible option for studying so that you can set your journalism or news business up and start growing it while you study, getting an online journalism degree that you can study from home may be ideal.

Get Experience

Most people who start their own media company or set up as a freelance journalist do so when they have some experience of working in the industry. It can be difficult to navigate the world of news and journalism on your own if you are not sure what you are doing. The good news is that there are lots of different ways to get experience and build your skills on the job. This is another reason why it is a good idea to consider getting a professional journalism qualification such as a bachelor’s degree in journalism, as this will give you a chance to get some work experience.

Many colleges offer work placements for students that you can take advantage of, giving you the opportunity to intern or even work at a news or media company as a part of your education to see how things work hands-on and get a better feel for the career. Alternatively, you may want to gain experience by writing for your school newsletter or contacting local news outlets with your work.

Choose a Type of Journalism

If you want to freelance and set up your own news or media company, then you will need to consider which type of journalism you are going to focus on.

For most freelancers, digital journalism is the best option. as not only is it easier to set up a website than it is a physical newsletter, but the internet is where the majority of people today get their news, meaning that you are in with a higher chance of success. Within digital journalism, there are lots of different options for you to consider focusing on.

Sports journalism might be an interesting option for you if you are passionate about sports, for example, or you could focus on local journalism and report news and current affairs from your area to the people who live there. General journalism covers a wide range of different news topics, opinion pieces, and celebrity news – it’s up to you to consider what kind of news your site will focus on the most and what is and is not going to be included. If you are interested in digging deeper into certain topics, companies, or even people, then investigative journalism might be right for you.

Alternatively, you may want to consider setting up a broadcast journalism business. This will involve reporting the news on TV, so the start-up costs are often much higher compared to starting a digital journalism company. Many freelance broadcast journalists are investigative journalists who pitch their ideas to different TV channels to report their findings to the public.

Set Up Your News Site

Setting up a news site is a key aspect of getting your company started and beginning your career as a freelance journalist if digital journalism is the route that you have decided to take. While you will get a more professional finish by working with a web developer to set up your site, the good news is that if you are on a budget, you don’t need to pay a professional to do it for you.

WordPress is an ideal choice for setting up your news website since this platform is optimized for blogging, which is what you are going to need if you are planning on posting regular news stories, articles, or opinion pieces. You can choose from free or paid options – paid is usually the best way forward as this allows you to have a custom domain name and choose from more templates, which will add more professionalism to your website and brand.

Find Writers

When setting up your news site, you might be the only journalist writing for it at the beginning. However, this is likely going to need to change at some point as most readers are going to be interested in hearing things from different perspectives. Along with this, it’s also important to consider how much you are capable of as just one person; if you are reporting on breaking news, for example, then you’re probably not going to be able to keep up with everything by yourself.

Hiring other writers for your journalism site is a good way to help the site grow and get a wider range of different topics and perspectives published. If you are not blessed with a huge budget, then a good way to hire different writers for your site is to work with journalism students who may be looking for work experience.

Build Your Network

The bigger your professional network as a freelance journalist, the better. When setting up, getting to know different people in the industry can help your media business and site grow as this will help you get in front of various opportunities such as guest posting on other news sites or writing pieces for well-known and reputable newspapers and sites that you can link to from your own site to build more credibility.

It is worth considering joining an online community for freelance journalists. Not only is this one of the best ways to find more opportunities that other people in the industry might have to offer you, but you can also find people that you have opportunities for too. And, of course, you can get plenty of tips and advice. As long as you ask intelligent questions, you will find that people are often willing to put a lot of effort and detail into their replies to help you out. Not to mention that working in any kind of freelance role can sometimes be quite isolating at first, so being a part of a like-minded community of people can really make a difference to how you feel and your success.

Finding Work for Publications

Even if you have set up your own news site and are doing well with growing your own journalism business, it is worth finding work as a freelance journalist for other publications to help build your credibility and get your name out there in the industry.

Bear in mind that people are going to be much more likely to read more established news sources before they come to your fairly new news website, so getting your name in the by-line in some better-known publications will make it known that you are a credible source and build trust with your readers.

With so much fake news out there today, it’s often hard to differentiate between what’s true and what’s a rumor, so writing for trusted publications is often essential to get your name associated with the right crowd.

Target some suitable publications with your pitches. First, check out what they publish and try to identify content that they might be in need of. Don’t aim too high – national papers probably aren’t going to be interested at this stage, but local newspapers and specialist titles might be a good bet, as these are often more willing to give freelancers an in. Some tips for landing work with publications to consider include:

Doing the Deal

Experienced freelance journalists recommend doing initial business with papers and publications over the phone. This is a chance to discuss the details first, before putting a confirmation in writing with a contract. Depending on the type of job you’re taking on, you may also need to make sure that you discuss some issues in more detail such as special insurance for going to certain areas or possible libel problems. Most of the time, the basics of the discussion should be centered around the subject, number of words, angle, interviewees, and the deadline. Be clear, and firm about anything that is important to you. Even if this is going to be your first professional by-line, don’t be worried for asking to payment – you should always include a question about what you can expect to be paid in your pitch.

Making an Offer

Before you start negotiating rates, it’s a good idea to do some research. You will be in with a better chance of making an offer that is hard to refuse if you have a better understanding of what the publication pays others for their work. Make sure that you are clear up front about what your expenses are going to be and how much time you are going to spend. Overall, the main thing to consider when making your offer, however, is what you are offering.

Be positive and open the topic up in a way that is comfortable to you. Most of the time, commissioning editors will have some amount of flexibility, so whatever rate they first suggest will probably be open to an increase. Point out your unique contacts, expertise, and how much work is involved if you need. Negotiating confidently could help you boost your rate up to 150%, according to freelance journalists who’ve been in this position. After all, this is a business relationship that involves you providing the publication with a service that they want or need.

Getting Paid

When you decide to start your own news business and become a freelance journalist, the good news is that you don’t have to answer to a boss. On the other hand, the bad news is that you don’t have a regular salary either, so you need to be prepared for chasing unpaid invoices.

Most freelancers will report that they spend a lot of time chasing unpaid invoices from publications – it’s sadly a part of the experience. Because of this, it’s important to be ready for it when you do a deal. Set limits for delivering your work and getting paid and keep in touch with the accounts department so you don’t get forgotten about.

A good trick for getting paid faster is to state in the contract that the copyright for your work doesn’t get passed to the publisher until you have received payment.

If you are interested in a journalism career and want to work for yourself, there are plenty of opportunities as a freelance journalist. While it might be tougher compared to just being employed, this offers you an option to start your own successful news site and get pieces published in several publications.

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