I became a full-time freelance journalist three years ago. The first thing I did was make a mistake. It took me a while to figure that out — from the start I was busy writing for local, regional and national newspapers, magazines and websites.
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.
While I was writing recently for Newsday.com, the editor asked me to upload video off a Flip camera onto TwitVid. The article — a short piece on a folk music open mic night at a Long Island venue — begged visuals.
As our media world changes and adapts to new business models, rules and tools, I am often asked what it takes to be a freelance journalist. Sure, it requires a passion for journalism, some marketing know-how and a lot of business savvy, but to earn a decent living, a freelance journalist also needs skills and resources that are not necessarily obvious to the outside observer.
A new SPJ member asked me about how to drum up freelance business in today’s market. Use 55-gallon drums of oil, I want to say — they’ll help keep you warm in the winter. The freelance market is even less certain than when I started in 2002.
Like many in our field, I’ve been a freelance journalist for as long as I’ve been a broadcast journalist. It’s a great way to supplement my income without taking on a second job. Specifically, the work I’ve done has been in public radio, with occasional programs for public television.
New freelance journalists often tell me they don’t need a website. I gently tell them otherwise. For your freelance business to succeed, you do need a website. You need one so prospective clients will find you. You need one to serve as your brochure and portfolio.
Perhaps you’ve noticed advertising for Demand Studios on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Web site or in Quill. Maybe you noticed Demand Studios at SPJ’s convention in August in Indianapolis. Demand Studios is the creative arm of Demand Media, an upstart Web enterprise that has undertaken the Herculean task of providing answers to every question any Web user might ask.
You operate out of a corner of your house. A coffee shop is your conference room. Should you turn yourself into a corporation? I decided at the end of 2006 to form 89 Peanuts Inc. (the name is an inside joke) with the assistance of Tom Bartlett, a registered tax preparer and certified financial planner with Royal Alliance Associates Inc.
As freelance journalists looking to market ourselves and our work, we get that we ought to use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But once we obediently set up accounts, few of us know what to do next. Here, fellow freelancers and experts in social media provide tips for getting the most out of social networking tools.
Business writing is not as glamorous as investigative journalism or writing a column, but it can be more lucrative. Back in the days when University of Florida was chary of giving us a “public relations” degree for fear of hurting our job prospects, we had to take almost every course in the journalism sequence (plus a few more that were not) to earn a degree in journalism.
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA — All foreign correspondents have a tale of their big break: the story that, in the eyes of editors back home, suddenly transformed them from a dreamer who only talked about the overseas reporting they wanted to do into someone who’s proven they can deliver the goods.
In these scary days of a shrinking job market for journalists, with newspapers closing at every turn and journalism jobs at risk from bloggers willing to write for free, freelancing is an ever-more-tempting option for SPJ members. For some of us, it’s a joy and a thrill; for others, it’s simply a necessity.