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Freelancing full-time

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by CarlSpackler, Oct 23, 2007.

  1. CarlSpackler

    CarlSpackler Member

    I love this craft. I despise the people who run the industry -- yeah, no real revelation there. But the hatred is strong enough to look at the viability of purely doing freelance work in a major market. So my question to you more experienced vets, what kind of money can be made with such a gig? It seems like it would be necessary to take on a part-time job of some other sort, but I'm curious as to whether there is enough money to be made freelancing for a sustainable income.
  2. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    We're in the same boat, you and I.

    If you can hook on somewhere that will have you string three or four days a week--if you want to write for a newspaper--then maybe it is doable. Or if you hook on with a magazine.

    But, if you get work in drips-and-drabs, it's going to be tough. Especially when it comes to payment. Some places are very good about getting you a check right away. Some place, it takes awhile.
  3. Stone Cane

    Stone Cane Member

    very tough but do-able

    the key is finding one source of income that is steady that you can build around. something you know will be there week in and week out. i have a couple free-lance sources that are up and down but one that is a consistent source of a set amount of money (within a small range) every week. from there, I have a handful of other sources that come and go, but i know that even in the worst week, I have that one key source of income to get me through. without that, I don't think I could do this
  4. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    I don't freelance a whole lot, though I've done my fair share through the years. So I don't have a whole lot of advice for you other than maintain good relationships with all your contacts. If you're in a metro area and can get two or three assignments a week, you can probably make a living out of freelancing. Of course, your insurance is up to you to get. And the stability is almost non-existent at the start, I'm sure.

    Here's a thread that should help you out: http://www.sportsjournalists.com/forum/threads/47134/.
  5. Dan Rydell

    Dan Rydell Guest

    Love the intro, Spack. I've never done freelance, but have plenty of friends who do. It's hardest early on, the first six months or a year or so. Gotta get your name out there, write everyone you can and take anything you can grab.

    After that, you should be established if you do good work. It's all about networking and working hard up front, then expanding your contacts and your field of work, if you can. I would think you could start freelancing for newspapers, wire services, online, whatever. But I would aim for magazine work once you get established. And there is a wide variety of magazines out there that pay well for freelance stuff.

    If you're good enough after a while, you can get sports stuff -- or whatever else -- in Playboy, Esquire, Men's Health, Maxim, whatever....even Reader's Digest, which seems to pay well. Plenty of local magazines if you're near a big city, too.

    But the first year would be tough. Work really hard and write anything you can sell, and after that you should be set up nicely. And yet it's hit-and-miss. Some months are tough, and some months the checks just roll in. So you have to plan for that and handle your finances well, too. Best to have a part-time job or another source of income during that time.

    Not for the faint of heart. But if you establish yourself, you'll do well, and then people will call you all the time, looking for another of your compelling stories.

    Good luck, Spack.
  6. GB-Hack

    GB-Hack Active Member

    I freelanced when I started out since, managed to hook onto the paper I now work at after working part-time for a smaller paper.

    From there, I became the department Martini man: volunteered to do everything this paper needed in preps, ended up with a beat for fall, winter and spring, bunches of liitle league/youth sports in addition, especially over the summer, plus football tab, weekly games and previews, noteable tidbits etc. I'm now on the staff at the same paper.

    After that, the paper would also refer me to others that needed help, and I'd develop contacts to do more for those when their teams were in the area. I even began cold-calling prospective employers ahead of when their out-of-state college teams were coming to town. Covered college football, basketball and a major softball tournament for some excellent papers.

    I didn't get at all rich by doing it, and you'll need to remember to save for taxes since they don't make any deductions, and it'll bite you in the ass if you're not paying attention. However, since it was me and me alone, I didn't have to take on any extra jobs once I got established.

    Good luck man.
  7. The hardest part, without a doubt, will be waiting for the money to come in.

    I just wrote an A-1 feature for a major metro, a big feature that they all loved over there...started the article in July, turned it in early August...rec'd the check three days ago...

    Keep that in mind when you're going to a Payday Loan center...

    Good luck, and if you're talented, your writing will carry you to assignments...
  8. FishHack76

    FishHack76 Active Member

    I did it for a few months and barely got by. The biggest mistake I made was not having more contacts before I left, especially in the magazine field. My advice would be to get a day job and string at night or work on a magazine story in your off time until you can get more established. Otherwise, you have nothing to fall back on during the slow times. That's what happened to me, and I had to scramble for a part-time job.
    I hate to say it, but newspapers don't pay enough day to day to let you get by comfortably. I don't know what the magazine rates are, but I imagine they are slightly better. Breaking in as a newspaper guy - I assume that's what you are - is a little difficult, it seems. At least, that's my experience.
    The freedom is the best part about it. The variety of assignments is also a positive.
    The ups and downs is one of the toughest parts. Some months are great; others are not. I will echo the part about waiting for the money to come. It's so much different now that I get checks every two weeks. It used to be a crap shoot. One place didn't pay me for three months.
  9. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Carl, yes it's absolutely possible to make and sustain a living as a freelance writer. It's also much harder - not easier - than having a staff job. In part because your job will no longer be writing. Your job will be finding the next job.

    And a word of warning. If you don't like your current boss, just remember this: You'll be trading one boss for seven. Or eleven. Or 16. Ad inf.
  10. 2underpar

    2underpar Active Member

    i was gonna say that freelancing sounds great, but if you are working more hours and taking every crappy assignment that comes along to make $50, is it better than having a fulltime gig with benefits and a paycheck that comes every week or two weeks.
    If you are going to freelance, you have got to be forward thinking -- what teams are coming to town in a month or two months that you can cover for a paper that might not staff those games. But you can't call the sports ed the week of and expect to get a gig. better get your foot in the door early.
    It's also wise to doubledip -- find an event where you can get multiple assignments froim -- state cross country, volleyball, etc.
    and, it can't be stated enough, prepare for the taxes that come along with freelance gigs. good record keeping is a must, otherwise you'll get screwed over by the tax folks. best to have a good accountant.
  11. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    Aren't you still working for the demons who run the industry?
  12. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    To do this and make a decent wage, you better be damn good, have damn good connections and it almost goes without saying that you have to live in one of the three biggest markets...

    Also, have fun collecting those paychecks... I have friends who are owed five figures from magazines that always take their sweet time paying anyone... If you're a superstar, they're less likely to do that, but if you're not, sometimes you've got to be a bulldog to get money that you're owed...

    I've lost thousands of dollars over the years from websites, magazines and even newspapers who have stiffed me on freelance gigs...
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