Advice for succeeding as a freelance journalist

by Lindsay Kalter
Oct 30, 2018 in Freelancing

Freelancing comes with benefits like autonomy and flexibility, but the fluid nature of the work can be challenging for many journalists.

Marta Gómez Rodulfo, a Spanish freelance reporter with 12 years of experience in Spain and Mexico, shared what she has learned along the way in an interview with Silvia Higuera of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Here are IJNet's takeaways:

Create a professional space

Although freelancing provides the freedom to work from any location, it's important to set up a work space that feels professional. "Treat your work with the seriousness it deserves by thinking of it as a business," Higuera wrote. "If you work at home, set hours for yourself, create a space that you see as an office and be sure that family and friends see it that way too." This will also help to maintain focus and help avoid costly errors.

Find a niche

Journalists who can report on basic news are a dime a dozen--it's the specialized reporters who are hot commodities, Gómez Rodulfo told Higuera. "Finding a topic that you can become an expert in can be a huge advantage," Higuera wrote. "If you do, you'll have more control over your work opportunities and it's more likely that media outlets will seek you out."

And while many freelancers want to acquire as many marketable skills as possible, it's important not to spread yourself too thin. "While there are a lot of advantages to writing your own stories, taking photographs and doing video too, if you're sacrificing quality to get it all done you won't get the extra leg you're hoping for," Higuera wrote.

Do your research--and your math

Before sending a resume, CV or story pitch, it's crucial to have a thorough understanding of the publication and its content. Knowing their topics of interest allows you to pitch multiple ideas. Eight seems to be a good number, Higuera wrote. It's not too many, but enough to give the editor options and let your knowledge and abilities be known.

Before pitching your work, calculate the value of your story. Estimate the time it will take to write it, and additional expenses like trips, food and phone calls. This allows you to have more control over the transaction, and receive the proper compensation.

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Photo CC-licensed on Flickr, courtesy of the Italian voice