Home > Tools for Freelancers > Publications > On Your Own: A Guide to Freelance Journalism > Marketing yourself

Marketing yourself
Business cards help make the best first impression

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

Good self-marketing is probably the toughest part of being a freelancer. Journalists have been taught from the start not to make themselves part of the story, but how freelancers present themselves says a lot about their self-esteem and their talent. It also helps determine how many quality freelance jobs they get.

One way to present and promote your freelance business is through the classic business card. Even in today’s online world, business cards play an important role in introducing yourself and being remembered by clients and sources — both current and potential. That being the case, your card has to look good.

The Internet is packed with templates for business cards, most of them inexpensive templates and many that might speak to you in some way. But beware of cheap business cards — they suggest the assignment might be done the same way. Stay away from curly flourishes that are kind of pretty — you don’t want to present yourself as a romance writer when you’re really a serious journalist, especially one with a strong investigative streak. A vintage typewriter font may appeal to our profession’s roots but should be used sparingly. As the primary font, it can make you seem old and out of touch with the way people communicate today. That design element is especially incongruous for anyone aiming to be seen as a multi-platform producer.

Oklahoma-based freelancer Carol Cole-Frowe’s successful business card riffs on the copyright symbol by using a round card with a circled “C” in the middle and an “F” by its side, much as its owner signs off with her initials, and incorporates a joke about drinking coffee in the newsroom by adding a “coffee stain” to the card. That might be too whimsical for some freelancers, but it certainly stands out as unique and interesting. It’s been held up in an SPJ freelancing workshop as an example of doing it right.

The lesson is to spend a little more money and creativity on anything that reflects your image as a freelancer, including your business card.

Your business card should include the basics — your name, business name if you have one, e-mail and phone contact. You probably don’t need a street address, since most of the contacts and information you’ll receive will reach you by e-mail. Skipping that element can make room for larger, easier-to-read type; a list of your services; or a graphic element such as a logo for your freelance business. Be sure to include your website URL and your LinkedIn and Twitter account info. A list of professional organizations you belong to can go on the back. Some freelancers include a QR code symbol that links users directly to the freelancer’s website when it’s scanned.

Templates can be quite flexible. With some, you can choose your paper and ink colors, typefaces, artwork and paper stock. For something unique, and uniquely “you,” find a friend who has graphic design talents, and trade talents if necessary: Write for the designer’s website. Write press releases. Brainstorm about clients. It all creates a synergistic effect with creative friends.

Even if you don’t have a friend with graphic design talents, it’s worthwhile to have something that reflects you. Price it out — you might be surprised. And maybe you’ll find someone else to barter in-kind services with.

Another approach to designing your business card is to use elements that mimic your website, if you already have one. Your professional image should be consistent across your website, business card and any other promotional items you might develop.

What’s as important as, if not more important than, an interesting (and readable) design is how you use that business card. Carry a pocketful or card case of them with you everywhere. Not just to meetings or assignments, but to the store, to parties, on the road — everywhere. You never know when or where you might meet someone who will be a great story source, or even a potential client for freelance work. The professional freelance journalist always has business cards in hand to make a professional presentation to everyone who comes along.

Contributor: Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (with thanks to Carol Cole-Frowe for inspiration)


Last updated: December 2016

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!


Join SPJ
Join SPJWhy join?