Whether you’re already a freelance writer or are just starting out, you may be curious as to how to become a freelance journalist. Freelance writing and freelance journalism are slightly different things, and we’ll cover the scope of the differences within this article.
Ready to learn how to become a freelance journalist? Read on!
What is a Freelance Journalist?
First of all, what’s a freelance journalist? What’s the difference between a freelance journalist and a regular journalist? And what’s the difference between a freelance journal and just a plain old freelance writer?
Alright, so let’s start at the beginning by defining a journalist. Journalism is, simply put, covering the news. This coverage can be via writing, radio or video, but for the purposes of this article we’re only going to talk about writing.
Journalists cover the news, whether it be sports, human interest, national events or even topics like fashion. The style of writing is what’s called “journalistic.” It’s never written in the first person, and carries a bit of a more professional tone than some other work.
Journalists often work for print publications, or for online journals. They are paid an hourly rate or a salary, and in most cases they have to report to an office from time to time.
A freelance writer is someone who does not write for a specific company; instead, he works for himself. He will pick up clients for whom he works, or maybe will be hired for a few one-off gigs.
Thus, we can derive the job description of a freelance journalist. He writes about the news, whatever topic that news may cover, but does not have an employer.
How to Become a Freelance Journalist
There are no qualifications you need in order to become a freelance journalist. Well, that’s a lie. There’s one qualification: you need to be able to write. If you’ve got that skill down, there are truly no barriers to your entry into the field of freelance journalism.
It’s tough competition, however. Many of us choose to remain freelance writers, taking jobs as they come and establishing a very diverse portfolio. But it’s fair to say that news publications pay better than some writers are currently receiving. As a result, many people attempt to enter freelance journalism.
Almost as many fail. There are many who think that entering freelance journalism will be easy, and they fail to refine their craft before they attempt it. They, unfortunately, fail miserably. Talent will prevail in freelance journalism. If you don’t have the skill, you won’t get the job.
Aside from honing your craft as a writer, however, there are other ways to improve your chances of becoming a freelance journalist. A quick search of the internet will result in dozens of online communities. Many of those communities are great for networking.
Social networking is also a popular choice for freelance journalists. LinkedIn and others will allow you to reach out and advertise your services as a freelance journalist.
Be sure to have an online portfolio of your work. Like we said, it’s tough competition out there. You’ll want to be able to prove to your prospective clients that you have what it takes to be a freelance journalist.
Freelance Journalism Training
Yes, we know that we already told you that you don’t need any special training. However, we also told you to make sure you’re good at what you do. For that, there are training courses available.
These training courses are particularly helpful for those who are already freelance writers. A majority of the work that a freelance writer will do is in a more conversational tone. This is especially true for the beginning freelancer who’s writing, say, blog posts every day.
If you’ve already got experience as a freelance writer, taking a freelance journalism training will allow you to steer your writing style away from the informal. You’ll learn the ins and outs of journalistic writing, as well as other skills like writing a press release.
These courses can be invaluable for those who have never written before, as well. If you have no experience in writing, consider taking a freelance journalism class. There are courses online and in person, and those courses will be a great addition to your resume.
Finding Freelance Journalism Jobs
Part of becoming a freelance journalist is actually finding the work. That’s where it gets hard. You can be a better writer than James Agee but still never get hired.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. You’ve got to market yourself. It’s critical to your success as a freelancer. It’s particularly critical to your success as a freelance journalist.
Pitch companies, send emails and make phone calls. Editors at publications don’t know you exist. If you don’t reach out to them, they never will.
Again, be sure to have a dazzling, professional portfolio at the ready. There are many sites on the web that you can use to set up a portfolio for free. Your portfolio should include a variety of writing styles, from long form and short form news pieces about anything and everything to editorial pieces. Steer clear of political topics – you don’t want to scare your client off. Feel free to test your writing ability on all kinds of random topics, from the best drum kits to jam with to your take on the latest scandal. It doesn’t matter how obscure it is, this is just a test of your ability.
No matter how good it is, though, your portfolio alone won’t get you a freelance journalism job. In some cases you’ll be responding to a general ad. For example, a journalism job posted on Monster. But in most cases, you’re going to need to pitch your story.
Your pitch is the single-most important aspect of your application. It, like your portfolio, should be meticulously edited, and should match the tone of the publication to which you’re applying. There’s no room for grammatical or spelling errors in your pitch. They’ll be sent to the recycle bin immediately.
Perfect your portfolio and practice your pitch. Then head on over to a few freelance journalist message boards, or to social media. Once you land your first freelance journalism job, begin your resume, and you’re off to a great start. It’s competitive, but it really is just as easy as that!