Moving from freelance to staff writer

The freelance life is difficult, what with sporadic income, disorganized editors and the need to be perpetually self-disciplined. Perhaps you’re thinking about getting a staff job on a magazine or newspaper.

There are certainly advantages to having a job. High on the list are steady income and benefits. Also, you can concentrate on writing instead of marketing, you have deadlines to keep you going, and you become part of a work family. You can learn valuable skills without paying for classes or training programs. A job can also help you make connections that will help in the future if/when you return to freelancing.

On the negative side, staff writing jobs can suck up all your time so that you have nothing left for the fiction, poetry or creative nonfiction that makes you happy. You can do both, but it’s hard. You also might have to relocate to find a good job. Where I live, in a small town on the Oregon coast, the only staff option is the local newspaper, which pays barely above minimum wage. I tried it and went back to freelancing. Are you able to transfer your life to another city or another state?

Balancing jobs and writing is a puzzle I’ve been trying to solve for oh, about 40 years now. I spent many years working as a staff writer and editor at various newspapers and magazines, but I always wanted to freelance. When I was freelancing, I often yearned for the security of a job. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?

But if you have to earn a living from your writing and you haven’t yet made it into the national publications that pay $1 a word or more, you might not have a choice. You need a job.

It’s honestly not a good time for magazines or newspapers. Both have cut pages and staff drastically in recent years. If you study the bylines, you may find they use more freelancers than staff writers. Odds are better in public relations, corporate writing or advertising. But you can find a job if you really want to.

It helps to have a degree in journalism, English or a specialty in something like science, business, or technology. It helps to have strong computer skills. These days, staff writers often find themselves designing pages, writing for web sites, or blogging. You’re also going to need some clips and people willing to give you good references.

Where do you look? Some online outfits that promise to find you writing jobs charge a fee and never find you anything that’s suitable. If it sounds fishy or an ultra-traditional person like my dad wouldn’t approve, it’s probably not a real job. Good resources for jobs include: www.journalismjobs.com, www.mediabistro.com, and your state newspaper association—search for _________ Newspaper Publishers Association. For magazines, try www.foliomag.com, where you can read industry news and post your resume. Also try the Public Relations Society of America at www.prsa.org, which posts jobs and resumes. In addition, you can find some job listings at www.fundsforwriters.com, www.writing-world.com, and other writing sites.

The best resource may be your telephone book. Look under publishers and see what’s listed. Then find copies of their publications to determine whether you’d want to work for them and contact the office to find out if they’re hiring. If they don’t have an opening right now, ask if they’re open to freelance work. Being a reliable freelancer is often a good first step into a full- or part-time job.

Good luck in your search.

 


Job-seeking at Mediabistro.com and Journalismjobs.com

If you’re looking online for freelance writing opportunities, Mediabistro.com and Journalismjobs.com both offer lots of possibilities.

As with many sites, one must register to read the listings at Mediabistro.com, but it doesn’t cost anything. You will get the occasional e-mail from them, but you might also find some great jobs. Narrowing my search today to freelance work, I got 38 listings. They vary widely. If I were a food writer, I’d jump on the listing for a freelancer for CafeMom. They want a blogger and will pay $40 a post. It isn’t big bucks, but it could be fun, easy and a good way to get clips to find more lucrative work. You could write iPhone apps for UrbanDaddy or parenting blogs for an unnamed site. There are editing and PR gigs there, too. You can also find listings for patch.com, an online newspaper which is seeking writers from New Hampshire this week but has outlets all over the country.

Mediabistro.com lets writers advertise their skills for editors to see. They also offer courses and articles on job-hunting and a bulletin board to chat.

At Journalismjobs.com, some of the listings are a little older, but the offerings are more appealing to me than those at Mediabistro.com. For example, there are freelance listings for a Sacramento Correspondent for the Bureau of National Affairs, freelance reporters for The Houston Chronicle, college sportswriters for College Sportswatch, freelancers for Hamptons Magazine, patch.com reporters in Iowa, California and New York, and more. This site also has news and articles about the journalism business. As with Mediabistro.com, you can post your resume here for employers to see.

These two sites should keep you busy until next week when I’ll be back with more. Have fun.