There's no denying that with more and more news going online, the rise of the citizen journalist and the increasingly interactive nature of reporting, the traditional newspaper industry - and subsequently journalists - have felt the consequences. Staff cut backs and reduced budgets have been a prominent feature of the newspaper industry in recent times.
In a democratic country, however, there will always be the need for journalism as well as a market for good quality journalism. Although there might not be as many opportunities for cadetships and full time jobs with established newspapers, there are still ways for journalists to break into the industry and get work.
Freelance journalism is one such way. Freelance journalism allows writers to contribute to a wide variety of publications on a wide variety of subjects. Freelance journalists essentially work for themselves, and can either be commissioned by a publication to write a story, or submit their stories to a publication in the hope that it will be published.
As with all professions, however, success depends on a number of factors. For a freelance journalist, polished writing skills are essential - journalism courses are a good way for writers to improve their written expression. There are a number of other skills, however, that are essential to freelance journalistic success. These include:
Good networking skills. As a freelance journalist, contacts in the industry are essential. A people-friendly and social attitude are essential, and freelancers should always accept invitations to industry events such as book launches, for example, because you never know who you'll meet! Always be willing to go for a drink and engage with others in the industry, but be aware of the fine line between trying to sell your ideas and establishing a relationship. Always ask lots of questions and carry a business card.
Establish yourself as an 'expert' in an area. Freelance writers who establish themselves as an 'expert' in an area are always employable. If there's a topic, subject or hobby that you're interested in, then establish yourself as an expert in that area and editors will immediately think of you when stories in that subject area arise. For example, if you love organic gardening, there are a number of story ideas and publications that could use articles related to your hobby.
Be able to rework stories and story ideas for different publications. Get as many articles as you can from your research and story ideas. There are always a number of angles and ways to structure and focus a story. Always write a story in a tone and format that is appropriate to the publication you are pitching it to, while keeping in mind different angles, perspectives and publications that could suit the story.
If you're interested in joining the freelance world, then freelance journalism courses will help teach you not only the writing, but the marketing and business skills behind freelance work. If you're interested in a flexible career that promises diversity then freelance journalism could be the writing career for you.