As we pass the first quarter of 2018, it’s the perfect time to reflect on those New Year’s resolutions and any #careergoals set on January first. For recent journalism graduates, perhaps it’s making those first steps towards a freelance writing career that demands your focus.
With many publications struggling to thrive in print and moving to online platforms, see Glamour and Teen Vogue, there has, theoretically, been no better time to make a start on your freelance writing career.
The luxury of being able to work from home in autonomy sounds like the dream job, especially if you are the introverted type – as most writers tend to be.
After completing my degree in fashion journalism last year, I knew that freelance writing was the career path I wanted to head down, but I was at a loss as to where to start. So I attended a panel session with Dolly Alderton, journalist, author and co-host of The High Low, and Stuart Heritage, aature writer and columnist at tThe Guardian, hosted by Maven Events, on how to forge a career in freelance journalism.
Here are some of the best takeaways from the panel to get you started on creating your dream job in freelance writing:
Build up an online body of work
It is VITAL that you have a collection of work that can be easily showcased when pitching to editors. Whether this is writing for your own blog or for small publications, think about how you can quickly prove to editors that your work is worthy of commission.
Use the backdoor
A lot of people want to be writers, so how are you going to stand out? Dolly’s advice is to start pitching your ideas to a small publication, perhaps in the town where you grew up, so you can hone your voice and grab people’s attention more easily. Stuart suggests figuring out the email structure at the publication you’re interested in, for instance, firstname.lastname@example.org, to get in direct contact with commissioning editors and pitch your ideas.
Earn the editor’s trust
Now more than ever, editors are desperate for someone who will make their lives easier. What does that mean? Delivering a concise and well-considered pitch, getting copy in on time and just generally being a reliable and pleasant person to work with. Your reputation will precede you and once you have earned an editor’s trust, you will find it a lot easier to get repeat work without having to continually pitch yourself and your writing.
Know your worth
Figuring out your starting salary in freelance journalism can be difficult, as money is often a topic shied away from. Dolly’s suggestion; if you ensure you earn £100 a day, that means you’re doing okay to start with. To break that down, this could be one commission charged at £500 for the week, or two commissions worth £250.
Pitch, pitch, pitch!
Stuart advises pitching your idea as something approaching the finished article. Editors will find it easier to buy into a fully-fleshed out idea, making it much harder for them to say no!
Don’t forget the negatives
The allure of being your own boss makes a freelance career seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to remember the downsides when considering if freelance writing is for you. Dolly admits that in the beginning, going freelance was not as freeing as she initially thought. The support system that an office job provided fell away, leaving her to deal with filing and chasing invoices, keeping on top of accounts and managing her own deadlines. This is all part and parcel of being self-employed.
These tips will get you noticed and should give you the confidence to manage your fledgling career in freelance journalism. However, an ugly sister in a Gucci loafer is still an ugly sister. So remember, good writing always triumphs. Hone your skills and you’re already halfway there! Now to refine those pitches…
Words by Heather Ibberson