In most circles, it’s considered unsophisticated, uncouth and uncultured — and all of the other shameful “un” words — to talk about the money you make and the way you make it. I don’t care. Let’s talk about it. As a freelancer, the matter of money involves a labyrinth of considerations, factors and variables, for which there is no universal solution that works for every writer or for every situation.
Assembly Bill 5, or AB5, ripped through the careers of California freelance journalists much like wildfires churn through the Golden State, turning trees and bushes into plumes of ash. I am one of the lucky ones, whose freelance career has been damaged, but not completely destroyed – yet.
Can you show a decrease in your journalism income because of the current pandemic? Freelance journalists nationwide including sole proprietors, independent contractors and the self-employed (for example, S Corporation owners) might now be entitled unemployment benefits in their state. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the provisions of the unemployment program have been expanded to help provide temporary monetary relief for freelance journalists and other workers who illustrate a decrease in income resulting from the effects of the current pandemic virus on business operations.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) included several provisions that affect how independent journalists are taxed on their business income. We asked Matthew Apodaca, a certified public accountant and executive vice president at NCH Tax & Wealth Advisors in Fullerton, California, to help us understand the current tax situation for freelancers.
“I was sitting there, choking. I couldn’t breathe.” Davis Winborne, a freelance photojournalist, remembers the night he and several other journalists were forcefully loaded into a van by police while covering a protest in St. Louis last September. “All of a sudden, there were no cops around us,” he said.
March 30th, 2018 • Featured
Isolation and harassment: My life as a female journalist in Pakistan
Working as a journalist in Pakistan is a difficult task, especially for a woman since it is considered a man’s domain in my country. Women are harassed and threatened regardless of their profession, but when you are a journalist, raising your voice about issues facing a dysfunctional society such as Pakistan, the threats become more acute.
The news that 45 freelance journalists will receive their fees for unpaid work published by Ebony magazine is more than welcome – it’s cheer-worthy!
January 17th, 2018 • Global Journalism
Mentors Played a Huge Role in Bringing Me Where I Am Today
Writing was always one of my passions, and the idea of covering stories was one of my earliest dreams. My father’s diplomatic career took us to many different countries. So, Pakistan, ostensibly home, always fascinated me and when we moved back I was keen on joining a newspaper and diving into a country I hadn’t lived in for some time.
Autonomy is part of the appeal of freelancing. As independent journalists, we work with editors as our clients, not our supervisors. We choose our projects and set our own schedules. We may or may not work in our pajamas, or from a lawn chair in the backyard.
It’s a cliché for a reason. Money is the force that shapes decision-making in all businesses – for-profit, non-profit and everything else. And every newsrooms is, of course, a business. But while journalists are instructed to “follow the money” in their reporting – revealing power structures and their often problematic consequences – many are insulated from the need to understand the their own organization’s business model and its implications on how they spend their time – and what they’re told to measure and value.
Angelo Lopez came to California in 1974 and hasn’t left. It wasn’t a gold rush that brought him, but he did live the somewhat nomadic lifestyle of a prospector moving from place to place as a self-described “Navy brat.” Born in Norfolk, Virginia, to Filipino parents, he spent his youth on military bases on the U.S.
Born and raised in Appalachia, Amanda Womac is no stranger to the great outdoors. She’s grown up with strong ties to the land, water and mountains she calls home. Science and environmental journalism came naturally to her. Originally an environmental activist, she was pursuing a degree in creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga when she realized that being a journalist might be her calling.
June 14th, 2017 • Quill Archives
Freelancing: You Can, Sometimes, Get What You Want
“Unless you know exactly what you want, you’re sure not to get it.” I could attempt to diagram that sentence. Instead, I’ll explain how this nugget of advice became a cornerstone of my freelance business — and how it can help yours.
By definition, upheaval uproots. Practices and institutions that that once felt secure suddenly seem flimsy. Even if you didn’t like them to begin with, you may find yourself wishing for them again, for the familiarity. Upheaval, by its nature, isolates. Independent journalists work in a constant state of upheaval: We work without roots, often alone.
February 21st, 2017 • Quill Archives
Freelance Goal-Setting: Keep Your Eye On The Prize
When I was a kid, I remember waking up on New Year’s Day and excitedly pulling out my unicorn-and-rainbows box filled with paper and a pencil. I’d write down my New Year’s resolutions and tuck them away in the box, along with my not-so-great drawings of horses, my love at the time.
I recently decided to become a full-time freelance journalist after working in the field part time over the past few years. As a full-time doctoral student, I knew I needed to do something that allowed for a flexible schedule and fulfilled my academic needs as well.
Belonging to SPJ holds a different meaning for each member. One in particular has dedicated her time to making sure every member has a sense of belonging and a meaningful experience with the organization. Since fifth grade, Robyn Davis Sekula knew she wanted to be a writer.
I started freelancing nearly a decade ago, before the recession had taken hold. I’d worked at a community newspaper for several years, covering education, neighborhood news and the arts, and I wanted to explore new ground. At the time, it may have sounded risky to trade the downtown office for my sunroom, but the housing market hadn’t yet collapsed.
Once we start digging into freelancing, it doesn’t take long before we find out that editors receive all kinds of queries every week. Even editors of publications with modest circulations receive lots of emails. So getting noticed can be tough, especially when one is just starting out.
October 22nd, 2014 • Quill Archives
Ultimate Risk: Remembering James Foley and Steven Sotloff
There was no question that Steven Sotloff knew what he was doing. The 31-year-old journalist from Florida had worked for years in the Middle East. He spoke Arabic. He knew how to navigate the myriad dangers of enemy combatants, hostile government forces and the painful effects of war on civilians.
The future of SPJ, journalism and even democracy rest squarely on two people’s shoulders: Joe and Chris. That’s a huge burden, I know, and it might seem a little melodramatic, but it’s true. I’m talking about two people who really keep our organization moving: SPJ Executive Director Joe Skeel and Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Director Chris Vachon.
The demanding profession of journalism is a never-ending saga of personal vs. professional responsibilities. But does it have to be a painful negotiation? At the start of a career as a journalist, it’s impossible to know what concessions you’ll be required to make.
One thing I miss about having a full-time corporate job is the benefits — sick time, vacation time, health insurance, a retirement plan, etc. It was nice having someone else take care of those pesky but necessary details of life. As a freelancer, I have to provide all of those benefits for myself, or simply do without.
Journalists dwell in a media marketplace rife with uncertainty. Formerly stable places — newspapers, TV, radio, even some news-oriented websites — struggle with scarce resources and diminishing staffs. Some operations still able to hire, meanwhile, cannot guarantee long-term employment. Get It Now: Download the Freelancer Guide (free for SPJ members) Outside, j-school graduates and seasoned news reporters elbow for sparse jobs, and salaries have shrunk at the same rate as stability.
Do an informal survey of any group of news professionals and ask who and what is shaping the future of the industry, and you’ll get a wide variety of responses. Predictably, the level of angst over professional uncertainties is high among veteran reporters with decades of experience as well as freelancers just beginning to get a professional foothold.
The email subject line reads: “Wrapping Up.” It could be a quick editor’s note letting me know my most recent article is ready to publish, but I know better. This particular heading won’t flow through the “Good job; next up?” vein.
If you looked at JournalismJobs.com on Aug. 25, you would have seen that in the reporters category for newspapers/wires, 59 out of first 100 jobs called for skills beyond traditional writing and editing. The list of skills employers wanted included a willingness to work in multiple platforms, including audio, video and print; multimedia experience; an understanding of Web analytics; and a high digital IQ.
With so many journalism organizations like SPJ, the Radio Television Digital News Association, Online News Association and UNITY to join (among many others), the budget-conscious freelancer has to choose membership options carefully. She has to ask herself, “What groups should I belong to, how much does membership cost, what benefits do they offer, and what’s in it for me?”
It is difficult enough for journalists in Pakistan, but what about those who are women? They seem to be fighting a double battle, to be recognized by both their male counterparts as well as the rest of society. But there is a group that has taken on the challenge of helping women who want to pursue careers in journalism.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about happiness and making major life changes. Perhaps it’s because that’s the kind of thing I’ve been doing lately, so I want to read about other people doing it. Maybe it’s crazy, maybe it’s too abstract to be constructive, but at the same time, most of the books have been written by people at least 10 years older than me.
Grab your checkbook: It’s time to pay the mortgage bill, the gas bill, the Netflix bill, the fine for paying that credit card bill two days late … Budgets challenge salaried people who know exactly how much and how often they’ll be paid.
Making it as a successful full-time freelancer — writer, editor, photojournalist, blogger, etc. — requires equal parts talent, persistence and business savvy. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you are skilled in your primary area of interest and that you are motivated, self-disciplined and persistent enough to acquire and produce a sufficient level of work to make a living.