Freelance journalism has quickly become a mainstay of modern journalism, with an estimated 90 percent of correspondents classified as freelance. For aspiring journalists, this can be a route to get into the industry. It offers both the chance to be independent but also one that brings professional insecurity. Some pros and cons of working as a freelance journalist are what this blog post aims to address.
As with any chance to work independently, there are some significant disadvantages of freelance journalism. In the case of freelance journalism, the lack of a guaranteed monthly income or an irregular pay check can be nerve racking. Any journalist wanting to work as a freelancer would have to accept a degree of insecurity; that said, the flexibility can be attractive and sometimes being freelance means rich veins of work can be tapped, with a multitude of opportunities for covering stories available. Another major drawback is that sometimes a freelance can feel very alone especially in the field or if in danger, injured, or in legal trouble. A freelancer needs to be able to be self-sufficient enough to deal with all of these issues and understand that these are the risks of being an independent journalist.
Freelance journalists are also considered to be self-employed, which can mean running their life as a small business to promote themselves and to keep their work organized. Including dealing with self-employed taxes, which can be trying and daunting and important to consider when deciding to go freelance. Furthermore, there is little warning as to when a news organisation may want a report and so being able to move fast and to be ready to be in the field at all times are a must.
However, being a freelance journalist has significant advantages as well. While being independent has its problems, it also means that an element of choice exists regarding whether or not you want to take jobs, and when you want to take them. Taking a vacation, while unpaid, is more possible, and being sick is less of a problem. It also gives a journalist the chance to gain work experience, and therefore up their qualifications as a professional, by covering stories for multiple news organisations and taking any job they want, working in multiple mediums, from a standup report to a radio interview to sending in pictures. More than any other job in the news industry, the major advantage of freelance journalism is being able to control your own life, and deciding what you want to do, which is not something to be underestimated.
As professional journalism continues to evolve, and multiple international news projects come up every day, freelance journalism will likely only grow in demand, with the pros and cons to be a freelance journalist continuously evolving. Consider these before jumping onto this career path, so you really understand what you are getting into.