Entering the world of freelance journalism
For many people, freelance journalism is a dream job. You’re your own boss, deciding your own hours, working from home and often travelling to interesting and exotic locations. In addition, you’ll be making a living from writing; what could be better?
As well as loving to write, you should also love doing research, plus meeting and talking to different people. Degrees and other courses in journalism are available, but perhaps the most important elements are eagerness and the drive to succeed. An example of this is the Irish journalist Alison O’Riordan who has those most important qualifications for a freelance journalist: a wide interest in and enthusiasm for anything that could make a story. A keen sports fan, Alison is just as at home covering hard news through her work as a court reporter for Ireland International News Agency (IINA). Getting work with an agency is a great way to further your career in journalism, and Alison has worked for the Irish Times, the Irish Daily Mail and the Sunday Independent among other publications.
It’s a digital world now, and this means the opportunities for freelance journalists have boomed. It also means the competition is fiercer, with bloggers, product reviewers and social media users all fulfilling journalistic roles. To earn a living as a freelance journalist you need to be confident that your copy is original, engaging and of the highest quality. Happily, you can also take advantage of the many tools that exist in the modern world to help you make this a reality.
Essential items- your phone
First, you need a smartphone. It’s essential that you can be contacted anywhere and at any time. The whole point of being a freelancer is that you’re not always in the office during office hours, and that’s even more the case with journalism. For this reason you also need to be able to send and receive emails and access the internet from your phone. A good quality camera won’t go amiss, either.
A decent PC with a good broadband connection is your basic workhorse as a journalist. This is where you’ll do your actual writing and online research. Use the latest version of MS Office and Word; you need to be able to submit work in a universal format that editors can open. If you can have a desktop PC and a laptop then that’s ideal, but if you have to choose one then a laptop is best, for reasons of portability. You’ll also need a reliable quality printer, and essential applications include Skype, WinZip and cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Finally, no journalist should leave home without a digital recording device. You can record on your phone, but it’s best to use this as backup alongside a dedicated device that can be plugged into your PC to download audio files. You can also use transcribing software to make a journalist’s most onerous task a little bit easier.
Along with an old-fashioned notebook and pen, these are the basics any freelance journalist will need when starting out. However, with these tools at your side, talent and a lot of hard work, you’ll make your dream job a reality.