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Freelancing question

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dick Whitman, Dec 17, 2014.

  1. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    When you freelance a piece, how do you introduce yourself to a potential source? Do you note that you're a freelancer? Do you just tell then you are "with the Daily Planet"?

    What's the etiquette?
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Hi, this is Mike Harris, I'm a freelancer doing a piece for ***

    Never give the impression you are full time for an outlet if you are not.
  3. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I wasn't sure if "doing a piece for" covered it, or whether one should specifically note his or her freelance status. Your way sounds like the right way, though, for sure.
  4. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    When I was an intern at a pretty big paper, the first thing they told us during orientation is to never identify yourself as an intern. I always thought that was strange. At my first job, the prep stringers all identified themselves on the phone as, "Kevin from the (paper)." and I didn't think there was anything wrong with that.

    I'm not sure there is a right answer to this. I don't think you're misrepresenting yourself if you say, "Hi, this is Dick and I'm doing a story for" the paper.
  5. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    If you have something — such as a letter, an email or a contract — in which you've been commissioned by a specific publication to write a specific story, there's nothing wrong with telling people, "I'm Johnny Smith, and I'm working on a story for Lawn Darts Illustrated."

    In the interest of disclosure, if you're asked, you should acknowledge that you're a freelance writer. But you can certainly add that you were commissioned by the publication to write the story.

    If you have been commissioned, stating up front that you're a freelancer isn't really necessary. At best, it doesn't matter to most people, or they won't understand the difference. At worst, it will scare off media-savvy sources who might think you're just some schmuck writing the story on spec and trying to sell it to someone, anyone.

    If you actually are some schmuck writing a story on spec, you can say you're a professional writer (reporter, journalist, author or some other noun that strikes your fancy) who's working on a story that you intend to publish in the future. If pressed, you should acknowledge your story doesn't have a home yet, but you can add that your work has appeared in such outlets as A, B and C in the past (or that you've worked for those organizations, if you were on staff).

    In all cases, don't mislead anyone.

    Unless you're Jim Rockford pretending to work for Guaranteed Insurance & Casualty, trying to get Angel out of another jam.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
  6. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    I'll always say, "I'm a freelance writer working on a story for [INSERT PUBLICATION HERE]." Can't remember anyone refusing to talk to me because of that.
  7. Flip Wilson

    Flip Wilson Well-Known Member

    I string for the AP, and when I introduce myself to a coach, I always say, "Hi. I'm Flip Wilson with the Associated Press." At that time, I am working for the AP, so I have no qualms about introducing myself as such. If I'm ever asked if work fulltime for the AP or anything like that, I'm totally up front, but have no problem with saying I'm with the AP.
  8. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    I'll say "I'm Mediaguy and I'm here with the Des Moines Register." Identifies why you're there. You're representing the outlet to the same extent whether it's for one story or 100.
  9. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    That was my style. I freelanced full-time for years but rarely used the word "freelance," I didn't love it and thought it made me sound like less of a reporter. Just personal preference.

    I wrote for a major outlet on a weekly basis for several years but never had an official contract, in that case I identified myself as a correspondent if someone pressed me on whether I was a full-timer.
  10. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    This is true, but I'd go with the more informal, "I'm Name Name, working on a story for ... " approach. Wouldn't use the word freelancer, because it might invite doubt in your ability in some people's eyes (if they even know what it means). I wouldn't imply that I'm a full-time writer, not that most people would care. You are working for the paper either way.
  11. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    I don't think you should do anything to undermine your credibility. Saying you're a freelancer shouldn't do that, but it will with a lot of people.

    I don't see the harm in just saying you're "with" the publication you're working for. They're still paying you.
  12. TopSpin

    TopSpin Member

    Recommend reading the fine print of the contractor agreement if you signed one. Most agreements I've seen state something like this:

    "With respect to services performed pursuant to this agreement, contractor will describe himself/herself as an 'independent contractor,' 'freelancer,' 'stringer,' or 'special correspondent' of (company name), and not as an employee, staff writer or other legal agent of the company."

    I currently string for the AP outside of my normal gig. I'll state my name when freelancing, then follow with "I'm a correspondent working on a story for the AP" upon introducing myself to an athlete I don't know. The AP language in the contractor agreement is:

    "Freelancer may not use the AP name to obtain media credentials except in order to gain access as a Freelancer when performing Assignments that Freelancer has accepted under this Agreement. Freelancer will act in a professional and businesslike manner while on Assignments for AP. Freelancer may not create credentials, badges, business cards or similar identifiers using the AP name or trademark."

    As to undermining credibility, our industry knows correspondent is a freelancer/stringer. Use correspondent as the tag line if you're concerned about using freelancer or stringer. Those outside our industry won't dwell on a correspondent designation.
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