What is a Freelance Journalist?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2019
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A freelance journalist is a non-fiction writer who independently contracts her services to different media sectors. She may offer her articles to printed mediums such as magazines or newspapers or for broadcast on television, radio or the Internet. A significant number of freelance journalists also write press releases and newsletters for various clients.

Some journalists specialize in writing about a particular subject or area of interest. Others are more inclined to let current affairs and pop culture lead them to topics people want to further explore. A freelance journalist’s success frequently hinges on her talent for predicting which topics are newsworthy enough to get her hired for articles she pitches to editors.

Among the subjects such a journalist may choose that have lasting appeal to many editors, readers, viewers or listeners are politics, law enforcement, health issues and personal triumph. These topics are generally considered timeless sources of curiosity based on the myriad of aspects each possesses. The diversity of angles from which each may be approached also typically adds to their appeal.

In addition to having the talent to write concise and compelling copy, a freelance journalist is ordinarily required to have trusted sources and contacts in many sectors. When she seeks expert opinions or confirmation of facts, these are normally the people who help her obtain the information she needs to write a piece that is professional and accurate. For beginning freelancers, this is frequently an obstacle in locations or industries where they are unknown.


The most important part of a freelance journalist’s job is often considered to be her talent for selling her work. She is frequently competing with other journalists who are pitching editors similar ideas, so she is typically required to make her idea unique enough to get the job. Establishing strong relationships with a few editors through consistently providing them with interesting, well-written articles is normally considered imperative to the long-term success of a freelance journalist.

Natural curiosity and predicting the tastes of her audience are two traits commonly found in a journalist with a lucrative career. She is also generally expected to be able to regularly meet deadlines. This ordinarily requires formidable organizational and time management skills.

The credentials typically required for a freelance journalist include a bachelor’s degree in journalism, creative writing or media communications. Experience in writing or reporting for high school, college or community publications is generally preferred. A portfolio of published clips frequently accompanies the resume an aspiring freelancer provides to potential employers.


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Post 2

The market for freelance journalists appear to be expanding for a couple of reasons. First, a lot of publications simply don't have the budgets to afford full time salaries and benefits for as many reporters as they'd like to have on staff. It can be advantageous for publications, then, to fill in the gaps on their staffs by hiring freelancers to handle some articles here and there. That arrangement is the natural consequence of the decline of journalism that's been giving newspaper owners fits for the past couple of decades.

Also, there are a lot of online publications that have contracts with freelancers instead of full staffs of reporters due to budgetary constraints. Also, an Internet publication that covers news nationally or internationally might want regular freelancers throughout the nation or world.

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