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Freelance journalism 101
Dressing for success as a freelancer

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

Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg tells one of the best stories about being “ready to go.”

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 19, 1995, Bragg got a call from the New York Times, his employer at the time. How fast could he be on a plane to Oklahoma City, his editor asked, to cover the aftermath of the smoldering ruins of the Murrah Federal Building, which had been blown up a few minutes earlier?

Bragg dropped everything, drove to the Atlanta airport and caught a flight — those were the days when you could still buy a ticket and walk right onto a plane. Before leaving for the airport, though, Bragg had a plan. He grabbed what he could in a couple of minutes and figured on buying anything he forgot after he got to Oklahoma City.

He wasn’t freelancing, but his story brings up a point of being a full-time freelancer: Be ready to go whenever needed.

Sure, you can wear sweatpants and a T-shirt while working in your home office or writing nook, but you need to:

You also need to be groomed well enough to go without taking time to shower, shave, do makeup, etc., when that call comes in.

It’s also a good idea to stay ahead of deadline on current assignments so you can drop everything to tackle a rush job or a breaking news story. Readiness translates to being more businesslike, not just on telephone interviews but also in seeing yourself as more of a business owner.

From FlyLady, a self-help online group devoted to housekeeping advice, here’s a “Flying Lesson” on why the owner of the group wants her followers to get completely dressed in the morning, including shoes:
“Since starting this group, I have continually harped on putting your shoes on your feet each morning. I want you to do this, and you are not the exception to the rule. Here is why.

“Several years ago, I worked for a direct-sales cosmetics company. One main rule for that company was that you could not make a single phone call in the morning unless you were totally dressed, and I mean really dressed! All the way to dress shoes. The reason … was that you act differently when you have clothes and shoes on. You are more professional. The customer can tell when you don’t feel good about the way you look, even when you think you do. So if getting dressed makes that big of an impression on someone that can’t even see you, what is going to happen to those that can see you? Mainly yourself.

“…Shoes … that lace up are better than slip-ons or sandals, because they are harder to take off. Instead of kicking your shoes off for a quick snooze on the couch, you actually have to go through a bit more trouble to get them off.

“Maybe in that short instant you will realize that there is something more that you can do. With shoes on those feet of yours, your mind says, ‘OK, it’s time to go to work.’ You have no excuse for not taking the trash out or putting that box of giveaway stuff into the car. You are literally ready for anything …”

Being prepared means never having to be concerned about getting ready. That way, when the call comes to cover breaking news or do a rush project, you’ll be ready.

Contributor: Carol Cole-Frowe


Last updated: July 2017

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