My route into freelance journalism was haphazard. Once I picked up these tips, everything fell into place.
- Scout constantly for news. Editors rely on freelancers for extra news. Train yourself to find it for them. Look for potential stories around you, and then research them for newsworthiness. The first time I pitched stories to an editor, I emailed her five ideas. She selected the fifth idea, but I had neglected to research that one, and it turned out to be a dead end. Once you have dutifully researched, scout on to find the right publication for your ideas.
- Generate clips any way you can. The first newspaper I wrote for was a “penny saver” I grabbed on the way out of a grocery store. I wrote three articles for free for that newspaper and used the clips to legitimize myself to paying editors. When you draft story pitch emails, include links to your published clips. If the clips are not online, upload them to a personal webpage and link to them there.
- Specialize for your benefit. By freelancing, you can employ your wacky hobbies and career sidesteps. If you did a stint in the rodeo, you may have expertise to write about the rodeo circuit. If you work in a restaurant, you could become a food critic. You may even want to maintain a day job in your specialty to scout for stories and establish yourself as an expert in the field. Then you can target industry publications with your story pitches.
- Set expectations with editors. Before beginning an assignment, make sure you are in sync with the editor and publication. Resist the urge to be obliging and instead resolve any uncertainties you have. I like to get expectations in writing, usually in email, including the pay rate and formatting guidelines.
- Go for it! I would have saved lots of worry and garnered many more clips if I was simply confident that I could do this. It is doable to be a freelance journalist. Any of the wonderful Yahoo contributors could tell you that. Get to work, freelancer. You can do this.