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Freelance journalism 101
Staying productive even when you’re not working

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

Busy freelancers have the blessing of bounty on their plates, with one or more projects stacked up, but some time-challenged souls pound the keyboard one minute, conduct interviews and research another minute, and plumb the market for more work in between. A moment lost is a dollar lost, they think.

After awhile this routine takes a toll, and the constant churn can make one yearn to do something else — anything else. Giving in to this feeling, however, may instill discomfiture, perhaps panic, if you believe that slowing down even a little could reduce the steady stream of income to only a trickle.

There are ways, though, to break the routine and still remain productive, because, in truth, there’s more to freelancing than incessant work.

Taking classes — Acquiring skills or honing current ones opens the mind to new ideas and possibilities, and also may pave a path to new clients. As the freelance marketplace crowds with former newspaper, magazine and broadcast station journalists, the choices available to prospective clients are more varied, and finer distinctions — such as skill sets — can become determining factors for which freelancers are hired and which are left hunting.

Networking — This doesn’t mean Twitter or Facebook, but good old face-to-face networking — the kind one does to find work, and the kind that keeps it coming. This kind can be easy, laid back: going to meetings of local SPJ chapters and other groups of colleagues, or investing in occasional meals to show local clients and valued sources they’re more than just tools of a freelancer’s trade. Staying in touch in the real world can improve relationships and foster ideas for later stories. (See the chapter on networking in the Marketing section.)

Personal projects — Spending a little time with projects not already on the assignment calendar, whether they’re hobbies, community service or pro bono efforts, can be restorative and rewarding on a personal level, and can enhance your portfolio. A little diversity in routine, just like a little diversity on a résumé, affords more than a change of pace. Consider each nonwork undertaking to be the buff and polish that a working life needs to maintain its shine.

Self-care — Getting out of the home or office for some exercise, a museum visit or lunch with a friend also has a role in enhancing productivity by refreshing your mental processes and recharging your energy levels. All work and no play isn’t good for anyone. When you get moving or get some culture, you give your brain and body a much-needed break that can make you even more productive when you log back onto the computer and get back to work.

Contributors: David Sheets, Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Last updated: January 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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