7 Tips on How To Become a Freelance Journalist

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 21, 2022 | Published September 29, 2021

Updated November 21, 2022

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies are now embracing remote workers, and the demand for freelance gigs is rising. Freelance writing is one of the fastest-growing types of remote work because companies often have the need to communicate with their clients through quality content. If you want to become a freelance journalist, there are certain strategies and skills you may want to develop, especially if you are new to freelancing. In this article, we explain how to become a freelance journalist and provide a list of skills to build.

Related: Freelance vs. Self-Employed Work: What's the Difference?

How to become a freelance journalist

Clients sometimes prefer to hire freelance writers who practice the ethics of professional writing and are capable of creating unique stories. Being a freelance journalist typically comes with a lot of enticing benefits, like being able to create your own schedule and perform your work outside of a traditional office environment. If you're interested in this career path, consider these steps:

1. Improve your writing skills

Your writing ability determines if clients hire you for regular writing projects. Make sure to do your best work so you may continue to grow your freelance business and expand your client base. As a freelance journalist, adopt an attitude that promotes continuous learning and seek to improve your writing skills. If you don't have a college degree or diploma in journalism, take online courses in writing and practice writing daily.

2. Create and build a writing portfolio

A writing portfolio is a collection of your best writing samples that you can provide to clients so they can gain a better understanding of your writing skills. Private clients usually decide who to hire by evaluating the writing samples in a freelance writer's portfolio.

To make it easy for hiring managers and clients to review your portfolio, consider building a website that focuses on your work or starting a blog. When clients request to see your writing samples, you can provide them with the link to these online assets. If possible, add a mixture of work, including press releases, featured articles, advertising copy, and more to show your diversified writing styles and abilities.

Related: Online Portfolio (With Benefits and Steps To Create One)

3. Engage in proactive marketing

Proactive marketing entails actively searching for clients or placing your writing samples where potential clients can find them. To achieve this, you can research magazines or publications you want to write for and send a cold pitch to the editor. In the pitch, introduce yourself as a freelance journalist, suggest story ideas that may interest the editor, and explain briefly why you are the best person to write the story. When you write your pitch, be persuasive and concise.

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4. Find and apply for freelance journalist jobs

There are many job boards for clients to post open positions when they're in need of a freelance writer. These job posts have requirements a freelance writer must meet to be eligible. To increase your chances of securing employment through freelance job boards, apply only to job listings that fit your unique skills, qualifications, and experience. Cultivate the habit of finding writing jobs daily on these job boards and write a persuasive pitch on why the client may hire you.

Related: How to Become a Journalist (With Job Duties and Qualifications)

5. Network with other freelance journalists

Client referral through other freelance journalists is one way of getting regular writing gigs. Find freelance writing groups on social media and become an active member by participating in group discussions and asking relevant questions. Create a personality online so other freelance writers can know and trust you. Another networking strategy is to expose your writing skills by being a guest writer for top blogs of popular freelance journalists and appearing on podcasts related to your industry. When editors read these popular blogs, they may notice your work and contact you.

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6. Prioritize and organize your activities

As a freelance journalist, you are self-employed, so it's important to have the capacity to manage yourself and your resources. If you have multiple client projects to handle, organize each according to priority and set specific deadlines for completion. You can also use a spreadsheet to keep track of potential clients whom you need to follow up on for future writing projects.

7. Manage your time

Freelance journalists often receive hourly payment for their work done. If you are efficient enough, your earning potential can be unlimited. Try out different methods to produce high-quality work in less time so you can maximize your earning potential. Strive to submit client projects on time so there is a greater likelihood that your client base recommends your work to others in the industry.

Related: Why Is Time Management Important? And How To Manage Your Time

What is the job of a freelance journalist?

A freelance journalist is a writer responsible for gathering information and creating articles for educating or entertaining a target audience. A freelance journalist works remotely and contracts writing services per hour or by the project. Freelance journalists often work independently and typically set their schedules themselves. Newspapers, magazine editors, businesses, and organizations hire freelance journalists.

Foundational skills of a freelance journalist

Successful freelance journalists possess skills they have developed over time. The combination of these skills is necessary to succeed as a freelance journalist:

Writing skills

Because writing is your primary responsibility, it's important to hone your writing skills so you're able to work with clients in different mediums and genres of work. Create stories that are informational and entertaining to earn optimal engagement. Ensure you follow your client's instructions and style guide to fit their unique voice and tone.

Related: Important Skills Every Good Writer Must Possess

Editing skills

A freelance journalist writes stories without errors in grammar, vocabulary, and style. Before you send your first draft, review your story a second time and correct any errors you notice. A better way to achieve this is to offer to edit the stories of other freelance journalists while they edit yours. This exchange helps to overcome bias in your work and improves the overall quality of the work you submit.

Creativity

Your ability to find unique angles to news headlines and stories enables you to secure recurrent freelance writing gigs from magazine editors who appreciate your creativity. To build your creativity, consider digitally bookmarking and collecting stories you find interesting. You can regularly review these stories for inspiration.

Interpersonal skills

Freelance journalists communicate consistently either with their clients or during interviews with experts. To succeed as a freelance journalist, it's important for clients and other freelance writers to feel comfortable connecting with you and discussing work. Start by showing your genuine interest in your clients and offering to help them achieve their goals.

Conducting research

To support your claims and add credibility to your stories, it's necessary that you quote authoritative sources. Use only data from recognized sources, such as governmental institutions or accredited research organizations, as references. To identify credible websites, use websites that have domain names ending with a ".edu" or ".gov".

Related: What Is a Journalist? (Definition, Requirements, and Salary)

Finance management

Develop accounting skills to keep track of your income, expenses, and pending payments. If you monitor and track your earnings, you can make sure clients are paying your invoices on time and you receive the money you've earned for your work. Create a separate income spreadsheet on a monthly basis to track all the income you receive and from whom.

Also, you can colour code a column in your spreadsheet to represent clients who haven't paid and set reminders on when to send follow-up emails or phone calls. In addition, as you earn income, develop the habit of saving excess income into a retirement account or for periods you may not find regular freelance writing gigs.

Persuasion

Persuasive skills can help you convince an editor of how compelling your story is and what differentiates it from others. Study persuasive writing and pitching techniques so you are able to send pitches that gain the editor's attention. Cultivate the habit of sending pitch stories regularly to increase your odds of receiving a story assignment.

Negotiation

Your capacity to negotiate well with clients can determine your income as a freelance journalist. Learn negotiation tactics such as pricing and handling objections from clients. Ask your network of freelance journalists what they charge for certain projects if you aren't sure. Research what other freelance writers charge in your field and create a pricing sheet to show prospective clients upon request. To entice clients to hire you, consider giving them special offers like discounts and bonuses for multiple writing projects.

As you can see, to become a freelance journalist, you need a certain set of skills and experience to succeed in this fast-paced industry.

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