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Finding work
Trolling the web for work

On Your Own: A Guide to Freelance Journalism

> Home

> Introduction: The freelance side of life

Freelance journalism 101

> Vocabulary lesson

> Dollars and sense

> Contracts are essential

> Copyright 101

> Dressing for success as a freelancer

> Staying productive even when you’re not working

Business matters

> Five reasons to pay attention to business

> Contracts and copyright — beyond the basics

> Getting your business organized

> Separating yourself from your business

> Keeping track of business

> Taxing matters

> Insurance considerations for freelance journalists

Making a living

> Time and money

> Budgeting without a salary

> A simple way to boost your pay: Ask

> Retirement planning: Where to stash your cash?

Finding work

> Finding your way to work

> Trolling the web for work

> Inspiration for finding the story

> Brainstorming ideas you can sell

> Pitching your way to a full story calendar

> Tips on freelancing for newspapers

Marketing yourself

> Paying attention to business

> Making a home for your business on the web

> Networking: the key to staying happy and fed

> Business cards help make the best first impression

Tools of the trade

> Why journalism ethics matter

> Four tips for better self-editing

> Selected websites for finding freelance journalism assignments

> Journalism organizations

> Journalism reading list

Sometimes a cash crunch makes it necessary for freelance journalists to turn to job-listing websites and marketplaces for a quick infusion to stay afloat. Writers who have been freelancing for a while may remember a time when they could visit certain websites and regularly find listings for freelance gigs they wanted to apply for. Some of those sites still exist, but many freelancers — particularly writers — find them less fruitful today than they were five to 10 years ago.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the mushrooming of the independent workforce and the growing propensity for companies and organizations to rely on them for content. One problem this poses for freelance journalists is sifting out opportunities to land gigs producing journalistic work from all the other current writing offerings. Another is that with so many freelancers looking for work, many of the gigs on broad-based job sites are posted by organizations expecting to get professional work for low pay.

A quick look at Indeed.com, which has been recommended as a go-to service for job hunting, demonstrates the problem. The site pulls in posts from across the internet, so there are lots of job openings in its database. One disadvantage for freelance journalists using this approach is that it’s hard to sift through all the PR, corporate and movie industry jobs to find journalism jobs and gigs.

Another problem with broad-based job sites (including Craig’s List and Upwork as well as Indeed) is the sheer volume of low-paying gigs. $70 a day for a video journalist? $25 for 500 to 1,000 words? These are not pay rates professional journalists expect to or should be paid.

Even so, many freelance journalists succeed in finding assignments listed on the web. Trolling the web is a good way for beginning freelancers to find assignments, and some experienced freelancers use them from time to time to fill holes in their schedules — and to keep up to date on what’s going on in the industry.

How to succeed on jobs websites without killing your schedule

Rather than writing off internet searches completely, be judicious in how you spend time trolling the web for journalism gigs. Here are some tips for maximizing your internet gig-hunting efforts.

Check out the sites on the list in the Tools of the trade section to see which ones work best for you.

Contributor: Hazel Becker

Beware the temptation of bidding websites

At first glance, online bid sites and so-called employment marketplaces, such as Upwork (the combination of Elance and Odesk, two previous marketplaces), Guru, and Freelancer, look tempting because they offer so many writing opportunities. Most of them aren’t worth a freelance journalist’s time or effort.

The problem is that many of these sites require bidding for projects, and the average contractor in these environments is more interested in the lowest fee acceptable. Those that don’t require freelancers to bid against each other simply offer dirt-level fees — $10 for a 500-word article, if that much. Many of these bid sites and listings target aspiring freelancers who aren’t making a living from their writing, or people in countries where the cost of living is low, so the pay rates are far below what experienced journalists expect.

One way around this is for freelancers to set a minimum acceptable fee. On some sites, member profiles can be adjusted to reflect such a minimum, so prospective clients are aware of a freelancer’s policy and are less likely to waste time with invitations to bid on projects below the stated rate.

Most potential clients looking for professional journalists to create stories for them are willing to pay decent rates for professional work. If they aren’t, they should be — and we should not reward them by providing quality work for low fees.

Contributor: Ruth E. Thaler-Carter


Last updated: December 2018

Copyright © 2012-2018 by Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved.

Questions or comments? Please post them in the Freelance Guide Comments forum of the Freelance Community Board or e-mail fcguide@spj.org. We’ll answer as soon as we can!


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