Tuesday night’s event gave WIC members insight about the pros and cons of freelancing, as well as tips on how to create the perfect pitch. Our speakers/freelancing experts included Adam Penenberg, Jessica Seigel, Matt Rivera, Rebecca Fox and Althea Erickson.
Freelancing in today’s job market seems scary, but it actually allows you to pursue the stories you really want to write. Your stories can be more investigative and have much more depth than a traditional newspaper story, and freelancing gives you the chance to build a “thicker skin” as you write from one outlet to the next. Althea Erickson, community manager for the Freelancers Union, assures that freelancers have the resources they need—from seminars to basic healthcare benefits—to make sure you can pay your rent!
Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for navigating the freelance world.
DO have an online presence via a blog (another reason why you should write for Lit Up!). Write about an area of expertise that you truly care about and include multimedia (videos, charts, pictures, podcasts) to spruce it up.
DON’T leave your blog stagnant. Always refresh your blog with new content a couple of times throughout the day.
DO consider writing for online outlets, which is more up-and-coming than print.
DO have a personal and unique perspective to market yourself.
DON’T pitch stories that you don’t care about—if you’re passionate about a topic, it’ll show in your article. For video pitches, Matt Rivera recommended that anything “flashy” or “viral” will make your videos stand out.
DO practice summing up your pitch in one sentence—if you can’t sum it up in a sentence, the idea is not focused enough.
DON’T pitch content that the particular outlet would not publish–you need to familiarize yourself with the publication first.
DO follow-up through e-mails (with no attachments and grammatical errors, of course!).
THE FINE PRINT: CONTRACTS
DO visit www.asaj.org to acquaint yourself with freelancing contracts and how not to get duped. Notice words and phrases such as “paid upon publication” (you want to be “paid upon acceptance” of your article).
DON’T be afraid to negotiate, and always ask: “What’s the fee?” and “What’s the word count?” to ensure that you’re not being overworked and underpaid.
DO always ask for a contract and check the wording very carfully to see what your liabilities would be.
DON’T get lowballed. If they offer you a lower rate than what you’d hoped for, ask: “Is this the best that you can do?”
Whether you become a freelancer in the beginning or middle of your career, it’s a great experience in finding your niche and becoming an expert in it. What do you think?