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Marketing yourself
Paying attention to business

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

Freelancers can write or edit stories all day and still feel as though their careers are stuck in neutral. A measure of innovation may be required to move things forward.

To start, it helps to master social media — Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora, Twitter, etc. — the fastest-growing form of communication. Story sources and editing clients may prefer one of these venues to share basic information, pass along content changes and stay in touch (although phone calls are still the most meaningful form of direct communication, apart from face-to-face meetings).

Being active in social media also is essential for self-promotion, although it takes considerable time and care to develop it for that purpose. In the book publishing world, the informal time-management rule for authors nowadays is “80/20” — they should spend 80 percent of their time promoting themselves and 20 percent actually writing their books. This large percentage devoted to promotion includes such activities as presenting at workshops, speaking at conferences or seminars and working with other authors and editors to develop their craft.

Granted, an 80/20 split may not be right for most freelancer journalists, given that their success depends largely on volume. Nevertheless, a nod toward innovation can boost potential and expand your reach in the marketplace. Having an active presence in social media can get you known for your skills and found for assignments.

Freelancers are their own bosses — the greatest perk of the business. They’re also entirely responsible for their own failures. Extensive care and planning, and the willingness to innovate, will go a long way toward minimizing failure.

Take a look at how you find assignments and clients. If you’re waiting for them to come to you, rather than aggressively going after new projects, you aren’t being businesslike about your freelancing. A social media presence can help, but it takes more than that. Social media activity is still essentially a passive way to generate new freelance work.

Look at how — or if — you’re marketing your skills and business. To develop a constant flow of work, freelancers have to market their skills all the time, even when on deadline or immersed in a major, long-term project. If you aren’t spending any time and energy on marketing, it’s time to make that an active element of your freelance business. Doing traditional research into potential markets, followed up with queries to those markets, can move you from the passive to the active in building up your freelance business.

It also helps to assess where your assignments came from over the past six months to a year, and how much you actually earned on each one. That information will help you figure out where to spend more effort, and which — or which kinds of — clients to drop because they require more of your time and skill than they’re worth.

We may be artists of the word, either written or edited, but we still have to be businesslike about our freelance efforts in order to succeed. That means promoting ourselves, assessing our successes and marketing our businesses.

Contributors: Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, David Sheets


Last updated: February 2015

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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