Introduction to becoming a freelance journalist

Journalism has been defined as: "Writing intended for publication in a newspaper or magazine, or for broadcast on a radio or television program featuring news, sports, entertainment, or other timely material." - Thomson Gale

If you are reading this page then the chances are that your thirst is for breaking news and your hunger is capturing the exclusive. We believe that your interest as a journalist lies in bringing the most up-to-date and relevant news and information to the general public through your words. Whether your words are printed in a magazine, national or local paper, or online, if your words concern timely issues and topics then you can consider yourself a journalist.

What to write about as a freelance journalist?

Of course, within this broad definition, we have the whole range of journalists in the industry ranging from sensationalised reporting on the lives of the rich and famous in tabloids to the freelance journalist who contributes once a week to the local newspaper's gardening guide. If you have a passion for a subject and have the patience and drive to work towards your goals then you could well succeed as a freelance journalist. Many journalists cover areas such as sport, fashion, environment, business, or even day-to-day news. There is no rule for what you choose to write about, just what interests you.

But what is freelance journalism? The ability to write for whoever and whatever you want sounds very appealing, you will even have the freedom to have flexible working hours and pick and choose your clients. Deciding when and where to work lets freelance journalists travel around the world to write and the choice to pick any engaging topic.

Depending on which area of journalism your heart desires will decide your route to your destination. If your desire is to work for the nationals then a journalism degree or years working as a freelance journalist or junior reporter may be the best route. If your desire is to support your income in later life by writing a few articles a week for magazines and small publications then a few courses to give you enthusiasm and a better understanding of what may be asked of you may be a better option.

With the surge in numbers of websites that require journalistic input, there has probably never been a better time to consider a career as a freelance journalist. With such a wide source of potential clients completing some research will help you define a niche market. For every niche hobby and interest, there are magazines and websites catering to the interest of the general public, therefore there is an abundance of opportunities. 

Principles of Journalism

When becoming a freelance journalist, there is one thing that all journalists need to know, the set of principles. Here are the 5 core principles you should know when becoming a journalist:

  • Truth and accuracy
  • Independence
  • Fairness and impartiality
  • Humanity
  • Accountability

Journalists should strive to write about the facts above all else, accuracy is vital to a freelance journalist due to working on their own and in their own environment. Working as a freelancer can potentially lead to more mistakes as there is nobody else to check your work, so the truth and accuracy allow for a direct approach to stories. You might have your own views about particular topics but it is important to set aside differences and stick to the facts. This is an important tool when writing as you will want future businesses to see that you can be impartial – political topics are particularly important to remain neutral. When you write any story, remember the impact your words and images can have on the public. Having these principles in place is a reminder of how aware journalists need to be when writing.

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