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Become A Freelance Journalist

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Working As A Freelance Journalist

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Getting Information
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $61,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Freelance Journalist Do

Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, blogs, or other types of media.

Duties

Writers and authors typically do the following:

  • Choose subject matter that interests readers
  • Write fiction or nonfiction through scripts, novels, biographies, and more
  • Conduct research to obtain factual information and authentic detail
  • Write advertising copy for newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, and the Internet
  • Present drafts to editors and clients for feedback
  • Work with editors and clients to shape the material so it can be published

Writers and authors develop written material—namely, stories and advertisements—for books, magazines, and online publications.

Writers must establish their credibility with editors and readers through strong research and the use of appropriate sources and citations. Writers and authors select the material they want to use and then convey the information to readers. With help from editors, they may revise or rewrite sections, searching for the best organization and the most appropriate phrasing.

An increasing number of writers are freelance writers—that is, they are self-employed and sell their written content to book and magazine publishers; news organizations; advertising agencies; and movie, theater, and television producers. Many freelance writers are hired to complete specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing a newspaper column, contributing to a series of articles in a magazine, or producing an organization’s newsletter.

An increasing number of writers are producing material that is published directly online, in videos and on blogs.

The following are examples of types of writers and authors:

Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce written content, such as advertising themes, jingles, and slogans.

Biographers write a thorough account of a person’s life. They gather information from interviews and research about the person to accurately portray important events in that person's life.

Bloggers write posts to a web log (shortened to “blog”) that usually pertain to any topic or a specific field, such as fashion, news, or sports.

Generalists write about any topic of interest, unlike writers who usually specialize in a given field.

Novelists write books of fiction, creating characters and plots that may be imaginary or based on real events.

Songwriters compose music and lyrics for songs. They may write and perform their own songs or sell their work to a music publisher. They sometimes work with a client to produce advertising themes, jingles, and slogans, and they may be involved in marketing the product or service.

Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They come up with a concept, write lines for actors to say, produce stage direction for actors to follow, and suggest ideas for theatrical set design.

Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or turn a book into a movie or television script. Some may produce content for radio broadcasts and other types of performance.

Journalists write articles and reports on current events. For more information, see the profile on reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts.

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How To Become A Freelance Journalist

A college degree in English, journalism, or communications is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Experience can be gained through internships, but any form of writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial. Excellent writing skills are essential.

Education

A bachelor’s degree is typically needed for a full-time job as a writer. Because writing skills are essential in this occupation, many employers prefer candidates with a degree in English, journalism, or communications.

Other Work Experience

Writers can obtain job experience by working for high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or nonprofit organizations. College theater and music programs offer playwrights and songwriters an opportunity to have their work performed. Many magazines and newspapers also have internships for students. Interns may write stories, conduct research and interviews, and gain general publishing experience.

Employers also increasingly prefer new applicants to have the ability to code and program webpages or manipulate data to create a visual story using tables, charts, and maps.

In addition, anyone with Internet access can start a blog and gain writing experience. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments regardless of education, because the quality of writing, the unique perspective, and the size of the potential audience are the greatest determinants of success for a piece of writing. Online publications require knowledge of computer software and editing tools that are used to combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation.

Writers or authors can come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences as long as they demonstrate strong writing skills.

Training

Writers and authors may need to gain some writing experience through on-the-job training with more experienced writers and editors before their work is ready for publication.

Writers who want to write about a particular topic may need formal training or experience related to that topic.

Because many writers today prepare material directly for the Internet, knowing graphic design, page layout, and multimedia software can be advantageous.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations offer certifications for writers and authors. Certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. For example, the American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer® credential.

Certification can also increase opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Beginning writers and authors can get a start and put their name on work immediately by writing for smaller businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and nonprofit organizations. However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited because they usually do not have enough regular work.

Writers and authors can advance their careers further by building a reputation, taking on more complex writing assignments, and getting published in more prestigious markets and publications. Having published work that has been well received and maintaining a track record of meeting deadlines are important for advancement.

Many editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly skilled at identifying stories, correcting writing style, and interacting with writers may be interested in editing jobs.

Important Qualities

Adaptability. Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to newer software platforms and programs, including various Content Management Systems (CMS).

Creativity. Writers and authors must be able to develop new and interesting plots, characters, or ideas so they can come up with new stories.

Critical-thinking skills. Writers and authors must have dual expertise in thinking through or understanding new concepts, and conveying it through writing.

Determination. Writers and authors sometimes work on projects that take years to complete. Freelance writers who are paid per assignment must demonstrate perseverance and personal drive to meet deadlines.

Persuasion. Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to persuade others to feel a certain way about a good or service.

Social perceptiveness. Writers and authors must understand how readers react to certain ideas in order to connect with their audience.

Writing skills. Writers and authors must be able to write clearly and effectively in order to convey feeling and emotion and communicate with readers.

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Freelance Journalist Career Paths

Freelance Journalist
Owner Marketing Director
Director Of Marketing And Public Relations
6 Yearsyrs
Owner President/Owner Business Development Manager
Senior Manager Of Marketing
9 Yearsyrs
Owner Communications Director
Director Of Public Affairs
7 Yearsyrs
Consultant Account Manager Marketing Manager
Marketing Communications Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Consultant Manager Property Manager
Assistant Director, Communications
5 Yearsyrs
Consultant Information Technology Consultant Web Developer
Web Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Contributing Writer Managing Editor Communications Manager
Internal Communications Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Contributing Writer Technical Writer Communications Manager
Communications Project Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Contributing Writer Founder Public Relations Director
Media Relations Director
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Editor Founder Public Relations Director
Public Relations And Communications Director
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Editor Content Manager Communications Manager
Community Relations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Editor Marketing Manager Marketing Communications Manager
Content Marketing Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Freelance Copywriter Content Writer Staff Writer
Public Information Officer
6 Yearsyrs
Freelance Copywriter Content Writer Content Manager
Senior Content Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Freelance Copywriter Marketing Manager Senior Product Manager
Head Of Marketing
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Writer Content Strategist Content Manager
Content Director
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Writer Marketing Communications Manager Social Media Manager
Digital Marketing Strategist
5 Yearsyrs
Social Media Manager Manager Of Digital Media
Digital Media Director
7 Yearsyrs
Account Executive Marketing Consultant Communications Consultant
Media Relations Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Technical Writer Senior Technical Writer Web Content Manager
Digital Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Top Skills for A Freelance Journalist

  1. News Stories
  2. Feature
  3. Online Publications
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Collected and analyzed information about newsworthy events to write news stories for publication.
  • Contributed feature articles and photographs to a wide variety of national and regional publications.
  • Conduct research and write articles for online publications covering various different topics ranging from sports to politics and crime.
  • Contributed articles regularly to several publications on a variety of topics, including celebrity interviews and city council meetings.
  • Translated and edited pieces for La Vi a, A.A. magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

Freelance Journalist Demographics

Gender

Female

47.0%

Male

44.0%

Unknown

9.0%
Ethnicity

White

62.1%

Hispanic or Latino

14.1%

Black or African American

11.5%

Asian

7.7%

Unknown

4.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

34.5%

French

20.5%

German

7.9%

Arabic

6.1%

Italian

5.4%

Portuguese

3.6%

Korean

3.2%

Russian

2.9%

Chinese

2.9%

Japanese

2.9%

Mandarin

2.5%

Hungarian

1.1%

Dari

1.1%

Hebrew

1.1%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Bulgarian

0.7%

Ukrainian

0.7%

Armenian

0.7%

Thai

0.7%

Cantonese

0.7%
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Freelance Journalist Education

Schools

New York University

11.1%

Columbia University

10.6%

Northwestern University

7.1%

Full Sail University

5.8%

Temple University

5.3%

American University

5.3%

Michigan State University

5.1%

University of Washington

4.8%

Boston University

4.6%

University of Phoenix

4.3%

Columbia College Chicago

4.1%

University of Maryland - College Park

3.8%

University of Texas at Austin

3.8%

Harvard University

3.8%

University of Missouri - Columbia

3.8%

University of California - Berkeley

3.5%

New School

3.5%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.3%

University of Southern California

3.3%

Syracuse University

3.0%
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Majors

Journalism

30.6%

Communication

14.5%

English

12.6%

Writing

5.8%

Political Science

5.5%

Business

3.6%

Agricultural Public Services

3.2%

History

2.8%

Photography

2.4%

Public Relations

2.4%

Psychology

2.2%

Fine Arts

2.1%

Marketing

2.1%

Liberal Arts

1.8%

Journalism And Mass Communications

1.7%

Law

1.7%

Education

1.4%

Area Studies

1.2%

International Relations

1.2%

Sociology

1.2%
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Degrees

Bachelors

49.8%

Masters

26.2%

Other

14.0%

Certificate

2.9%

Associate

2.8%

Doctorate

2.6%

Diploma

1.5%

License

0.1%
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Top Freelance Journalist Employers

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Jobs From Top Freelance Journalist Employers

Freelance Journalist Videos

Writer For Hire: How To Become a Six-Figure Freelance Writer

How to Become a Freelance Writer : Introduction to Becoming a Professional Freelance Writer

Writing Career Advice : How to Become a Freelance Magazine Article Writer

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