Want to be a freelancer? Here are a few handy hints!

2 April 2012

Written by: Cass Savellis

1. Skills mean everything

University degrees are obviously an advantage, but you need the skills to back up your education if you want to stand out when applying for jobs. This doesn’t only apply to skills that you want to learn, but skills you should learn. Step out of your comfort zone and have a go at all different journalism mediums – print, broadcast and online.

2. You’ve got to be flexible

You may not always get paid when starting out as a freelancer, so be willing to accept that. Instead, think of the positive that your work has been accepted and published by a professional publication and what this will do for your career. Phoebe Montague reinforced this as she told of her career, starting out on her fashion blog, Lady Melbourne and now being known all over the world.

3. Look at self publishing

If no one else will publish your article, don’t forget that you can. Make sure you have a blog and use this for self-promotion. It’s a way of showing your initiative, that you’ve attempted online publishing and know how to attract and keep an audience. You automatically have a source for your writing and it adds to your CV.

4. Maximise the number of times you can sell a story

Think about how you can turn one situation into multiple stories. Can you vary ideas to produce a review, interview and opinion piece all from attending the same event? Lee Mylne states how she was sent to travel events to review them, but also used the opportunity to write articles about the location. This led to her present job as a travel writer.

5. Conduct your blog/social media in a professional manner

It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Even if you’re still a student, don’t get carried away with using social media to project personal or inappropriate information. You may have an amazing portfolio to show to prospective employees, but using bad language or writing about partying on the weekend will not show your dedication to your career. Save it for private chats with friends.

6. Contacts are invaluable

Many jobs in the media industry aren’t advertised, and many potential roles are passed on through word of mouth. Jason Chatfield, cartoonist and comedian, says to try meet and greet various people that may be able to assist you in the future. Keep their contact details, and pass on yours, so that if an opportunity arises they may notify you and you’re automatically one step ahead of everyone else.

7. Freelancing enables writers to be bold, no workplace ethics required

When writing for yourself and pitching articles, you have no company boundaries to abide by. You have the freedom to write about any subject from any angle and can tailor your work to appeal to different publications, providing more opportunities to be published. However, remember articles need to be professional, relevant and contain accurate sources. Be aware of the Code of Ethics and refer back to this when unsure.

8. Lean on lecturers/have a mentor

Having an experienced person in the media field to assist you is priceless. Be sure to take criticism lightly and use this to improve your work. If you’re able to convince a lecturer/tutor to help with articles unrelated to Uni then don’t pass up the chance! Otherwise Photojournalist, Jason Edwards, says to try contacting a professional you admire and ask if they are willing to act as a mentor.

9. Don’t pitch articles to more than one publication at a time

If you haven’t received a reply after a fair amount of time, you can contact the company and withdraw your submission. Only then, can you pitch your article elsewhere. If you send your work out to various publications, more than one accepts and it’s published by rival companies, you will severely risk your reputation and you work will most likely not be accepted again. Just don’t do it!

10. Never miss a deadline

Deadlines are there for a reason, to show that you can achieve the required task in a specified timeframe. They’re also necessary to make sure publications are completed on time. You’re not in an office with a boss watching over you, but someone is still waiting for your submission. Even if they’re not paying you this time, you are proving your reliability and responsibility which will lead to paid work.

The one point that was reiterated throughout the day is that journalists have access to amazing life experiences that people would not normally get to do everyday. They are presented with obscure opportunities and have the chance to meet interesting people, both professionals and interviewees.

To get to this point in your career Phoebe Montague notes a freelancer must attribute resilience, confidence and determination. Crikey deputy editor, Jason Whittaker summed up the day by saying aspiring journalists must write, and should want to write everyday.

Cass Savellis is a final year Bachelor of Journalism student and part of the upstart editorial team. She writes a blog and can be found on Twitter @csavellis.