>Commenting on last week’s blog, Susan Johnston urged me to address online opportunities for making money as a freelancer. Depending on print alone is not enough anymore, she said. True. Not only are many freestanding online pubs accepting freelance, but lots of newspapers publish articles and blogs online that you won’t see in the paper. Although I have written a book about freelancing for newspapers and spent most of my life writing for the print media, I have also published online, and I agree. Although I’m committed to defending newspapers until the last one hits the recycle bin, no one hoping to make it as a freelance writer should depend on only one medium.
I took a finger-stroll through online freelance listings and found a lot, enough to make me wish I had time to apply for some of the opportunities. But if you have time, check out journalismjobs.com. You can find more by googling “newspaper freelance online” like I did.
A few cautions: Some of the listings are scams. They may not pay anything and they make be taking advantage of you in some way. One listing, for example, bases its unspecified lowest pay on a minimum of 1,000 hits. What if you don’t get a thousand hits? You get nothing. I once wrote a deeply researched article and provided a long list of web resources only to be told there wasn’t enough interest in my topic. I had imagined a great following and lots of money coming in. Instead, I wasted my time.
Your best bets are with established newspapers or long-running sites that are very open about what they want and what they pay. In fact, although usually I don’t advise writers to ask about money in their queries, if you have any doubt, make it clear that you do this for money, not just for the glory of a little Internet exposure. Ask about the pay and the terms before you commit to anything.
If it sounds fishy, it probably is, but there is money to be made online, and you could spend all day checking out the opportunities.
>I found some great advice for journalism grads and wanna-be reporters on a UK blog at this address: http://onlinejournalismblog.wordpress.com/2007/07/31/advice-for-journalism-graduates. In summary, j-school professor Paul Bradshaw advises: 1) Get a job, any kind of job. It looks better to potential employers, plus it gives you access to information, ideas and contacts. 2) Start a blog where you can practice writing, create samples of your work, prove you can commit to working on something, and expose your name and work to the world. 3) Get involved in the area you want to report on. 4) Buy a phone that takes pictures and audio so that if you find yourself in the middle of a story, you can send it in. 5) Develop an eye for news. Always be looking for stories, writing them up and sending them out.
Bradshaw specializes in Internet-based media. You and I may not be as high-tech as he is. We may still be figuring out our word processing programs. But I second his advice to keep your eyes open for stories at all times. When you find one, don’t sit on it. Write and send a query, an article, an editorial, with pictures if you have them. Do something with it. Do it today. As someone who used to have printers literally take the pages out of my hands, I can tell you newspapers don’t wait for anyone and news spoils faster than potato salad left in the sun.