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.
Of all the buzzwords in journalism right now (“hyperlocal” comes to mind), perhaps none is more important than “entrepreneurial.” As news companies continually look for fresh sources of revenue and ways to monetize digital and mobile offerings, the journalists who report can’t help but think: “Is my job secure?”
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.