How To Become A Freelance Journalist

For many, freelance journalism sounds like the dream job. No commute, no boss to report to, and you get to do what you love every day. But freelance journalism is not an easy career path. With no consistentpaycheck, it’s up to you to market yourself and seek out assignments. Here’s our quick guide to getting started in the profession.

How To Become A Freelance Journalist

Find your Forte

The first step to becoming a freelance journalist is deciding what you want to write about. It’s almost impossible to become a good writer on every subject, so it’s best to find a couple of areas you are passionate about and focus on those. Whatever your interest – be it politics, finance, sport, tech or anything in between – there will be a market for your work. So it’s best to find your forte and hone your skills, then you can start to approach publications as an expert.

Work your Contacts

As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. This can be tough if you’re at the beginning of your freelance career, but it’s best to start by reaching out to people you already know. Email everyone you know, friends, old work colleagues – you never know where a job opportunity could crop up. As you become established in the profession, it’s a good idea to build relationships with others in the industry, as people are more likely to offer work to people they already know and trust.

Start Pitching

When you start out as a freelance journalist, publications won’t be knocking at your door begging you to work for them. It’s up to you to market yourself. You do this bysending emails to the editors of relevant publications briefly outlining your idea for an article. Let them know why readers will like it, and make it sound like only you can write the article as otherwise it’s possible your idea could be given to one of their in-house writers. Be prepared to play the numbers game and experience a lot of rejection!

Cover the Legal Issues

As a freelancer, you will need to register as self-employed with the tax office using the CWF1 form. You will pay tax on your earnings remaining after deducting your expenses. This means you will need to keep all your receipts and fill out an annual self-assessment tax form each year. You will pay your tax twice a year, so make sure you set aside enough money.

It is also a good idea to think about insurance. Health insurance is important, as freelance working means an injury or serious illness could mean no income. In some forms of journalism, professional indemnity insurance is also useful as it covers any legal costs incurred in your defence. For more information on how professional indemnity insurance can protect you, click here.

Keep Organised

Working for yourself means keeping organised, in terms of both deadlines and your finances. It’s a good idea to keep a to-do list and a diary with all upcoming deadlines. You will also need to keep on top of all incoming payments and chase any unpaid invoices – one recommendation is to state that copyright for your work does not transfer to the publication until the invoice has been paid.

As freelance work can be unpredictable, it’s best to manage your finances well and make sure you have a financial “buffer” at all times in case you go through a dry spell.

Although freelance journalism requires a lot of hard work, it’s also a great way to get paid to do what you love and be your own boss. With good organisation, perseverance and motivation, freelance writing can become a successful and rewarding career.

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