Freelance Does Not Mean Free: Who is a Freelance Journalist?

By Maggie Miller - 08 Nov 2015

A journalist, a job title that used to be narrower only 20 years ago, now can be defined many ways depending on opinion. Many will agree that a true journalist is one that has been trained through a combination of education and experience in the field, with advice given by other professionals along the way. Others will suggest journalism is a trade and even a vocation or calling. Either definition extends to freelance journalists as well, but there is a much higher degree of independence for them compared to a journalist tied to a certain publication or broadcasting outfit. But this this not mean they are more independent of mind, just in what shifts they do. Independence of mind is a key tenant of journalism - views and politics should be checked in at the door. The age of the internet has muddied these waters and much opinion and platform ranting is now termed journalism.
The other thing to note about a freelance is they wait for work - they are not on fixed hours or other contracts which in some ways makes their daily life more restrained than a typical journalist.
The term freelance journalist means covering all manner of stories for various publications, and they are constantly looking for the next job. As a result of this, they are constantly tied to their phones or laptops waiting for a message to come through. Yes, they work for themselves but they have to know the styles and requirements of each publication, broadcaster and editor and have to have journalistic qualifications to be hired for each. The jobs and projects they do are the ones they choose to take, although for financial reasons often will take any port in a storm as there is no continuous job security. 
Still, being a freelance journalist isn’t all bad. Rules of freelancing mean being able to cover a variety of stories around the world, which is thrilling and keeps life more interesting - it’s an enviable job. They have opportunities to report for a variety of news organizations, and can add published pieces from all these companies to their resume or CV to show a great deal of work experience. They can also live the life of a professional journalist but not be tied to an office, going where they will with no office hours. True, when a freelance journalist is under deadline there can be great deal of stress involved and equally when waiting for an assignment, but there is still more independence involved in the process. 
Freelance journalists are professionals; they are just those for whom the world is their office.  This can be a nice boost, and a reason many become freelance journalists. 
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