What is it like to be a freelance journalist?
Answer by A Quora admin:
It’s definitely a different life to the full time journalist.
The in joke is “you can work in your underwear”, but there’s a thread of seriousness there — being a freelance journalist can give you a more flexible lifestyle. 9-5 doesn’t have to exist if you don’t want it to.
The freelance life is easier if you have no dependents or debts that may chain you to having a regular income. Successful, well known freelancers can sometimes make more money than full-timers, although it should be noted that they are more at the mercy of the economy than full timers. If publishers start slashing freelance budgets, your income can go into freefall.
It should be noted that not all publishers will pay on time. Some of the biggest have byzantine billing systems, that can be difficult to extricate money from. Always have emergency money put aside just in case. Print publishers tend to pay you after an article hits the stands, which can often mean a month or two delay. Online publishers should theoretically pay you much quicker.
Rates can vary, depending on the size of the publisher and type of publication. If you’re just starting out, you’ll have to take whatever you’re given, whether it’s per word, or a set sum. Once you’ve built a reputation, you can potentially negotiate a higher per word fee.
Never, ever, ever work for free.
Starting out in freelance can be a challenge. Often no matter how good your work is it’s more a case of who you know — or more accurately, who knows you. If you know no one, maybe try submitting an article to the editor of a smaller niche publication in the field you’re interested in, something you’ll have a much better shot at than a big newspaper.
Many sucessful freelancers actually started as full time journalists, made connections and built reputation, then cashed in on that by going freelance and targeting multiple publishers.
The successful freelancer may be able to afford to turn away work, but it should be said that these are few. As such, you can often end up with dreg work that full timers may not want to do. It could be spirit crushing.
Not having to go to an office is both a blessing and a curse. The positive? You can go out during business hours, do the washing, all sorts of things that simply pile up as a full timer. You shouldn’t have to deal with office politics either.
Most successful freelancers I’ve encountered often have a room in their home set aside purely for work. It’s an attempt to fight the temptation to keep working. You often find yourself thinking, “oh, I could just do this little bit”. Very quickly home becomes work, something you don’t want to happen; you need home to be a place you can relax. Heck, lock the door to this room if you can once your day’s work is done.
Finally, more so than any full timer: edit your work like mad, then edit it again. Always be before deadline. Be gracious. In tech journalism at least, it seems these people are few and far between. Be one of them, and you’ll likely get return work.
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