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Looking for advice from freelancers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by thelurker, May 4, 2009.

  1. thelurker

    thelurker New Member

    I'm a frequent lurker and occasional poster round these parts under my real name. Had to go undercover for this.

    I'm considering making a go as a freelancer. Can't go into the details. I will say this, I have lots of quality experience in newspapers.

    My question to the self-employed is this: How's the work these days? I'm guessing it would be harder to find, but I figured I'd go to the source. How risky would a move like this be.

    Thanks to all and if anybody would be willing to chat with me in more detail, it'd be greatly appreciated. Just e-mail me.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I think you'd have to get Web, magazine and PR work to make it worthwhile. You should PM Dan Hickling. He does what you want to do.
  3. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    There's lots of threads on this; do a search.

    I'm a full-time freelancer. Stitch is right, you can't make much of a living freelancing primarily for newspapers. And chances are you can't make it primarily in sports either. I've written about stuff in the last four years I'd have never dreamed of doing.

    I think there was a theory that with all the layoffs/cutbacks in papers, mags, etc., more work would trickle to freelancers. I'm not convinced that's true, and if it is it's still tough because the freelance writer pool is growing constantly.

    And if you're married to someone with a steady job and bennies, it's infinitely easier than going at it alone.
  4. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    I've tried it. Don't do it.
  5. lono

    lono Active Member

    To succeed as a full-time freelancer, you need to do four things exceedingly well:

    1. Find work
    2. Do the work
    3. Get paid for the work.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3 daily.
  6. RayKinsella

    RayKinsella Member

    A freelancer at our paper does about 5 stories a week. All are obits. $75 bucks a story. And we know obits aren't going anywhere. People will still keep dying and papers will still be printing a story about them. If done right, he can make up to $1500 a month doing this.
  7. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    gee, that was helpful
  8. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    There have been a couple of jobs posted on here that pay around $18,000 per year. I'd rather sit at home and write obits than go to an office for that amount of money.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Hey, he got $75 for it. Don't bitch.
  10. thelurker

    thelurker New Member

    Thanks for the insight, folks, here and in the personal message form.
    I'm gathering the key to making this work might be to have some other job on the side (non-journo/writing) that you can tap into. At least until you can get some momentum going. If anybody else wants to provide some words of wisdom ....
  11. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    Except freelancing includes no benefits, no vacation and no guarantee of when -- or if -- a check actually shows up.

    During my two-plus years as a full-time freelancer (an oxymoron, to be sure), I made just about the same money as I had made with my previous job. But the issues mentioned above made it impractical to continue. Freelance is a great supplement to a full-time job. I continued to do plenty when I caught on with a paper again and the extra cash was surely welcome. But only a rare and privileged few can afford to dump everything else and freelance for a living, unless they want to live in a box.
  12. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    Up until recently, I did the freelance route for my lone source of income.
    A few tips:

    - Broaden your work: Do sports, music, news, photo (a huge money maker), magazine, PR, book editing, etc. I worked my way into all of them and was close to breaking into photos. If you can do everything, you'll get to a point where you don't have to take shit assignments. Nothing is beneath you, but also remember that it's like any other job. If you hate what you're doing, you're not going to last long. (At the same time, the fact that you'll rarely do the same thing twice is a benefit; you shouldn't get bored.)
    - Become very good at bookkeeping: This doesn't only apply to writing down what you have done, what you're owed (and paid for) and what you're going to do. But also, you need to start thinking about your taxes. Investigate whether you need to pay quarterly and find a really good accountant who can suggest write-offs and expenses, etc. Essentially, use some of your best reporting skills on the business side of it.
    - Work your connections: One of the best gigs I got came from someone on this board. It turned into a regular weekly assignment reprinted in some major publications (not to mention paid all of my bills every month in one check). It's often better to be lucky than good, but you can work for your luck.
    - As messed up as it sounds, don't assume that papers who are laying people off aren't going to pay for freelancers. As guilty as you might feel about it, that paper who just cut 10 people has pages to fill and paying someone a few bucks for a story a couple times a week is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying a full-timer with benefits.
    - Continue to work your way into a community. It will open up work on the PR, Photo and Advertising side away from news, and it can be profitable.
    - Lastly, when you aren't working, make looking for more gigs your full-time job. Even if you can't land anything for a week or two, it isn't the end of the world. When it rains, it pours, and the more your name is out there, the more you open yourself up for consideration.
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