A Practical Guide to Becoming A Freelance Journalist

freelance journalist

Understanding what it takes to be a successful freelance journalist

Unlike what most people tend to think, establishing a career in freelance journalism is not as easy as it seems on face value.

Sure, almost anyone can call themselves a freelance journalist as there are no clear-cut regulations or qualifications to hold such a title. However, in more cases than not, it is those individuals who have the right mix of skill and experience that always succeed.

To this end, the following are some tips on becoming a freelance journalist that can be invaluable in your aspiration.

Establish a Network of Fellow Freelance Journalists

The very best individuals from whom you can learn the ropes of this game are those who have been freelancers for some considerable period of time. If you happen to be acquainted with one or two, take the necessary time to take them for coffee or lunch, and over it, request insights on just how to become a freelance journalist.

Additionally, you should consider signing up for an online discussion forum that solely focuses on this kind of work. You can be in an excellent position of accessing invaluable advice and tips that will point you in the right direction. Most reputable groups are very supportive, particularly when you post intelligent and insightful questions.

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Consider Taking a Training Course

Like the old saying goes, “it is never too late to learn.”

There are numerous websites that make it their business to offer exhaustive training courses on freelance journalism. Many of which cover critical aspects of this trade such as how to look for work, making deals, finances, taxes and copyright.

Searching for Work

It is highly recommended that from the word go, you target viable publications, and carry out comprehensive research on just what jobs are out there. Doing this will enable you to effectually determine what publications and employers may need, and how you can fill such a gap.

Quite a large number of budding freelance journalists tend to target established publishing houses and even newspapers. But you need to fully understand that there are also many practical work opportunities when you settle for specialty titles. Most especially if you happen to possess the necessary skills, knowledge and experience in a given field of journalism.

There are a wide variety of online directories that feature extensive and regularly updated databases of publishers who are looking for freelance journalists. By taking the time to go through these websites you will be able to determine potential clients that suit your requirements and preferences. Signing up for email alerts, as well as RSS feeds, of such sites will keep your options open.

Pitching for Work

When it comes to the right methods of pitching for jobs, you will need to find a way of doing so without incurring a lot of expenses. This is all about making the lives of editors easier by offering practical solutions.

  • Take the time to inform them of the viability of your ideas, and just why readers will love them.
  • Always make use of clear and descriptive subject lines to ensure that you effortlessly convey your message across.
  • Never make the costly mistake of outlining your ideas in their whole entirety. This can sometimes lead some unscrupulous editors to derive inspiration, and instead of hiring you, get one of their available writers to work on your idea.

Dealing With Your Finances as a Freelance Journalist

The best thing about freelancing is that you don’t answer to anyone. But on the other hand, you won’t be earning a steady salary.

This means you will spend a considerable period of time following up on unpaid invoices. As a rule of thumb, it can be wise to establish a thirty day limit for submission of work and ultimately getting paid. Always try to keep in touch with the accounts departments you have to deal with, and develop a clear-cut system for getting paid.

One handy trick that you can utilize is to set a clause in your contract that copyright on your work is not passed to the publisher until the moment they pay you.

Finally, it can be important to take up some form of health insurance or sickness cover. This is because long stretches of sicknesses for a freelancer equates to earning no income.

This article is a guest submission from freelance journalist Liam Evans

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. Freelance journalism can feel like a constant battle, to come up with good ideas, to pitch them to the right places and to land assignments that both pay well and leave enough room for more writing.