5 Essential Tips To Become A Freelance Journalist

If you are new to the field of writing, there’s a good chance that you are wondering if you can actually make money doing this.

Unless writing has come to you as a natural hobby, it is only normal to wonder if you will be able to make it a living doing what you love. I remember that I was facing this question myself.

I was wondering how I was ever going to let people know that my writing was good enough to actually be compensated for it.

The good news is that if you are going to prepare appropriately, put in the hard work, and have a passion for what you do, you can certainly make a living as a freelance writer.

Also, there are writing services out there that can provide articles and writing needs. You can start your writing job from them.

If you are wondering how to become a freelance writer or how to become a freelance journalist, there are a few essential tips that you should follow. 

See Related: Types of Freelance Writing

How To Become a Freelancer Writer: What Is a Freelance Writer?

Before we dive into the tips, it is important for you to know that freelance writers come in all shapes and forms. Therefore, there is no set path that your career as a freelancer should take.

Some of the most common examples of people who make a career as a freelance writer include: 

  • Some people decide to become a freelance copywriter. This is someone who writes blog posts, copy for websites, and the occasional magazine article. Sometimes, copywriters are also asked to write scripts for podcasts, videos, or even commercials.
  • There are other freelance professionals who decide to become a freelance editor. If you are wondering how to become a freelance editor, an editor is someone who usually takes a look at blog posts, articles, and technical writing that has already been produced. Then, the editor is responsible for proofreading and suggesting changes. 
  • There are even individuals who work as freelance journalists. These are professionals who write relevant news articles for a wide variety of publications. Freelance journalists could be responsible for interviewing potential subjects and pitching their articles to various magazines and news companies. 

One of the major reasons why people decide to become a freelance writer is that they are able to work from home and set their own schedules. Some freelance writers work directly with several different clients while other freelance writers might work on a commission basis. 

If you are first getting started as a freelance writer, do not be afraid to make mistakes. You are going to make mistakes and they are going to teach you lessons.

On the other hand, if you can learn from the mistakes of others without making them yourself, this will place you in a position to be successful.

Therefore, take a closer look at a few of the essential tips that you should follow if you want to become a freelance writer. 

See Related: Best Freelance Skills to Learn

1. Explore All of the Options Available To You

Flexjobs

One of the most common mistakes that people make when they are trying to become a freelance writer is they only use one tool.

For example, some people might only use their email to communicate with potential clients. While there is nothing wrong with using email, there are better ways to get clients.

For example, there are plenty of online platforms that offer a list of freelancing gigs that people can use today to get in touch with people who need the help of a freelance writer. 

For example, one of the biggest platforms that people can use to find clients who need the help of a freelance writer is called FlexJobs.

FlexJobs is one of the biggest sites in the world for flexible jobs. If you are wondering how to become a freelance editor, FlexJobs could be the answer.

Some of the main benefits of using FlexJobs to find your next professional freelance gig include: 

  • FlexJobs will provide you with a wide variety of flexible jobs in your chosen career field, allowing you to narrow the jobs list to only those that are relevant to your skillset
  • FlexJobs also provides you with exceptional resources that you can use to support you during your job search
  • The platform does an exceptional job of providing you with an ad-free, clean, streamlined way to look for jobs in your chosen career field 

If you are wondering how to become a freelance writer or how to become a freelance journalist, this is one of the essential platforms that you should be checking out.

At the same time, there are numerous other freelance writing platforms that you can use as well. Depending on the type of writing that you want to perform, there are multiple platforms available to you that you can use to establish working relationships with clients and build up a strong base that you can use to support yourself as you get your career off the ground.

Pro Tip: Try to set up a profile on multiple platforms and make sure that you set up your availability to be as open as possible. That way, potential clients will never hesitate to contact you if they need work. You should get an email notification and will be able to respond quickly.

See Related: Best Freelance Content Writing Websites

2. Always Have an Idea File Ready

how to become a freelance journalistParticularly if you are wondering how to become a freelance journalist, you never know when an opportunity is going to come your way.

Therefore, make sure that you are able to record new stories, ideas, and research that you can use for future articles.

Then, have an idea file already, usually referred to as “swipe file,” that you can use if someone expresses interest to you. A professional journalist is usually going to have a file on hand where they store research, snippets, and other interesting articles that they can use to show interested parties.

If you demonstrate that you are always prepared, you have a better chance of winning future gigs. 

There are numerous applications that you can use to store your research on a mobile device.

Then, whenever someone expresses interest to you, you can pull it out and swipe through a few ideas. This might happen in-person or it could be done virtually. The overall goal in the situation is to make sure that you are prepared at all times.

You never want to let an opportunity pass you by if you are trying to make it as a freelance writer or journalist.

Pro Tip: Download a mobile application that you can sync with your desktop computer. Then, store relevant research and article ideas in this note-taking application. Try to include a few pictures as well. If someone ever asks you for ideas, you can simply open this app on a mobile device and show off your ideas to interested parties.

See Related: Best Freelance Writing Jobs

3. Leave the Isolated World of Email

email as form of communicationThere is a good chance that you use your email address as a primary form of communication. You are able to respond to inquiries at your leisure and can work on multiple things simultaneously while also responding to emails.

On the other hand, it is also very easy to misinterpret the tone of an email. You certainly do not want to lose out on an opportunity purely because someone misinterpreted the tone of your email.

Therefore, particularly when you are talking with clients, editors, and readers, you want to make sure that they get the gist of what you are writing. 

In particular, lucrative events are going to require face-to-face conversations or phone calls.

As a result, you need to make sure that you are willing to get out from behind your email address and meet with people face to face. This could include meeting in person or using video conferencing software.

Some of the most popular video conferencing platforms today include Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. If you are willing to get out from behind your email address, you have a better chance of winning lucrative commissions and land a freelance project. 

Pro Tip: Always test your internet connection before you use video conferencing software. You need to make sure that you are familiar with how these platforms work and want to make sure you do not break up during the meeting. Even if the dropped connection is not your fault, you want to show everyone that you are a professional. Make sure that your connection is solid. 

See Related: How to Become a Freelance Editor

4. Always Prepare for Interviews in Advance

freelance journalistIf you are wondering how to become a freelance journalist or a freelance editor, there is a good chance that you are going to be doing interviews on a regular basis. Interviews are a critical part of the research process for freelance writers.

Whether you are an editor for doing an article that has recently been submitted or a journalist who is preparing to interview a subject, you need to make sure that you are ready to avoid mistakes that can turn a client off. You might even be asked to interview multiple people for a single assignment. 

Therefore, you want to make sure that you have questions ready. You need to make sure that you are able to gather enough information to fill out the body of the piece with interesting information. You do not want to be stuck trying to throw fluff into your piece purely because you think it looks too short. An experienced editor will be able to pick this out right away and this will hurt your reputation. Some of the key tips that you should keep in mind include: 

  • Try to do some research on the individual ahead of time and see what has already been written 
  • Think about checking out his or her social media accounts to see what his or her interests are 
  • Take a look at the goal of the piece and align it with the information that is already out there 
  • Finally, use all of this information to generate useful questions that you can use to fill in the gaps in your article 

Even though it will take a little bit of extra time to do this research ahead of time, it is certainly going to be worth it because the overall product is going to be much better. This is a key part of how to become a freelance editor or journalist.

Pro Tip: Write down a list of questions for your interviewees in advance. Speak the questions out loud to make sure they sound professional and will not be misinterpreted. Use these questions as a guide but do not be afraid to go off-script if you feel like you have a better question during the course of the interview.

See Related: How to Hire a Press Release Writer

5. Always Clarify the Goals of the Piece

freelance writerFinally, if you are wondering how to become a freelance writer, make sure that you clearly understand the goals of the piece for it is one of the reasons why clients hire writers. No matter how good of a writer you might be, you are going to have a hard time meeting the goals of the assignment if you do not know what the goals are. Always ask your client or your editor for a brief that will provide you with the essential information and get compensated with the right freelancing rate. Some of the key pieces of information you will need to meet the goals of the assignment include: 

  • An overall word count 
  • A list of topics that need to be covered 
  • When the assignment needs to be returned 
  • The contact information of anyone who might need to be interviewed for the piece, particularly if you are a journalist 
  • Whether any hyperlinks, images, or videos need to be included in the piece
  • A formatting brief, particularly if you are not going to be using an editor 

If you are working as a freelance journalist, you may also want to ask for the calendars of any of the people who are going to be interviewed if they are available. This will help you plan around your schedule. 

If this is a high-commission assignment, you may also want to agree on a certain amount of edits before the piece is approved. You do not want to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of editing the same piece over and over again.

Finally, if there are any examples of prior pieces that have been published, these may be helpful for you when you are figuring out what your final assignment should look like. 

Pro Tip: If you are working with a new editor or a new publication, ask if there is a style guide that you should follow for the publication. The less work the editor has to do, the happier they are going to be with your work. This will increase your chances of earning repeat commissions from that publication, which is an important part of building a strong foundation as a freelancer.

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