By Silvia Higuera
Omoyele Sowore, publisher Saharareporters.com
Everyday, more people are turning to freelance. The motivations range from shrinking newsroom staffs to journalists who want more freedom over what they report.
However, Marta Gómez Rodulfo, a freelance Spanish reporter with 12 years experience in Spain and Mexico, thinks the vocation still has a ways to go before it’s taken seriously. The first step is not to see freelance journalism as a something to pass the time while looking for a traditional news job.
“The first piece of advice I give is to think of it as a business. You have to look for clients, network, attend events. That’s why I think freelance journalists should know about marketing in order to negotiate,” said Gómez Rodulfo, who teaches a workshop for journalists in Mexico and Spain called “How to be a freelance journalist and not die trying.”
In a conversation with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, Gómez Rodulfo shared some of her tips for freelance journalists and those looking to break into the field.
*Think of your reporting like a business
Treat your work with the seriousness it deserves by thinking of it as a business. If you work at home, set hours for yourself, create a space that you see as an office and be sure that family and friends see it that way too. This way, you can avoid interruptions and you’ll be in a position to turn in quality work on time.
*Don’t try to do it all
While there are a lot of advantages to writing your own stories, taking photographs and doing video too, if you’re sacrificing quality to get it all done you won’t get the extra leg you’re hoping for. If you can achieve excellence in just one of these areas, you’ll reap the benefits.
*Specialization is a plus
Finding a topic that you can become an expert in can be a huge advantage. If you do, you’ll have more control over your work opportunities and it’s more likely that media outlets will seek you out. However, it’s not required. If what most attracts you to freelance journalism is the freedom to pursue lots of different topics, go for it. If your work is good, regardless of the theme, you can always sell it.
*Master the language
Specializing in a particular subject or having multimedia skills is great but don’t forget that mastering the language is the key to journalism. Grammatical errors will cost you more in this industry. Review your documents well and try everyday to improve your command of the language.
*Take advantage of the Latin American “boom”
As a European reporter, Gómez Rodulfo noted that there is currently a strong interest in Latin American journalists. If you’re not having luck where you’re from, try moving to another region, like Europe, where talented Latin American reporters are highly esteemed.
*Research publications, outlets
It seems like an obvious step but many don’t do it. Before sending your resume or CV, study the organizations where you want to work. Pay attention to kinds of topics they cover and their writing style. This way you can pitch several ideas (eight is a good number) to the editor.
*Value your work
One of the biggest hurdles for freelance journalists is pitching your work on your terms. It could be because the news media still doesn’t value the work or because some reporters give their work away in hopes of getting published but the important thing is that you know what your work is worth. Before each story, calculate how much time it should take to report, what expenses might be involved (trips, phone calls, food) and how much time it will take to write.
Keep in mind that there are websites dedicated to promoting the work of freelance journalists. Some focus on photojournalism, others fund reporting and buy work.
Source: The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.
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