Sustainability

How to make a living doing what you love?

How to make a living doing what you love?

It is the crucial question – and one of the things I get asked most by fellow freelance journalists.
We’re asking ourselves this question for a good reason. We went into this profession because we love telling stories. We want to inform, uncover, inspire and maybe even contribute to positive change. But as the world of journalism is changing, we need to change with it or we simply won’t be able to keep paying our bills.
We know -some of us firsthand- how staff jobs are disappearing almost as fast as print readers and paid subscribers. Newspapers become less about news and less about paper. Audiences become less about reading, listening and viewing and more about participating and experiencing.
Our field is increasingly competitive. Despite the industry’s transformation, media remains a popular area of study with tens of thousands of talented graduates joining the field each year. Like those affected by the ongoing redundancies in traditional media, most of them will – by choice or out of necessity – join us in the army of freelancers.
But successful freelancers know that we can seize this moment if we want to. Mighty media conglomerates, broadcasters and publishing houses still have power, but they now have to share it with us independents. Technology is creating a level playing field for publishers of all kinds of media: from crazy cat blogs to investigative reporting published in e-book format. For every disappearing advertiser, there is a crowdfunder ready to invest, donate, sponsor or pay a dollar. Or ten. Or a thousand.
And that’s where there the opportunity for us freelancers lies, if we are ready to adapt and become journopreneurs. It’s all new, and yet we can learn from the many who’ve adapted before us. Like Eric Hoffer, American writer and philosopher (1902 – 1983), who famously said: “In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Let’s keep learning together.
– The Journopreneur Workshop for freelancers is back! The last one before the summer is on Friday 19th June in London. Spaces limited to allow for plenty of individual attention – book your ticket here.
Crowdfunding journalism: Someone I met…

Crowdfunding journalism: Someone I met…

Crowdfunding journalism can pay off if you build a fan base.
Half a year ago I embarked on a new writing project. It’s called Someone I met. Each month I write about ordinary or extraordinary encounters with people. It is always someone I met in real life and was inspired by.
Over the last fourteen years as a journalist, many interviews and conversations have opened my eyes to new places, situations, cultures, beliefs and ways to live a life. I started this series because I believe that -more than facts and statistics- it is the people who bring a story to life.
I fund the series through crowdfunding on the Guardian Media Group’s online Contributoria platform. The beauty of it is that the ‘crowd’ (ie. my family, friends, regular readers and others who somehow have found and enjoyed the series to the point that they want to support it) don’t have to fully fund it.
The project has external funders and sponsors to top up the commissioning budget. All my ‘backers’ have to do is to create a free or cheap account (£1.99 per month) and donate their monthly allocation of points to the next episode. If I hit my target, I get my requested fee and I get paid.
I have experimented a lot with crowdfunding journalism over the past two years, and raised amounts from $3.50 to €39.510. I used anything from ready-made tools like Kickstarter to DYI WordPress applications, as well as various independent journalism platforms. So far I have found that the bottom line is simple: whatever the model, make sure you invest time and effort in creating a fan base. They don’t have to be in their thousands and they don’t have to all pay. Most important is that they like what you offer and benefit from it in some way. These individuals will become not just your fans, but your ambassadors too.
A strong, solid following of people who like what you do can help you bring your stories to them, and then onwards to the rest of the world. The future of journalism may well be in the hands of the crowd.

Freelance Booster Session

If you want to get started with crowdfunding your own freelance journalism, you can now book an online one-to-one support session with me. Together, we analyse your strengths and identify opportunities. I will share tips, ideas and advice tailored to your specific needs, to help you maximise your freelance income and work on the stories you care about. A Freelance Booster Session is 30 minutes and takes place via Skype.

BOOK YOUR BOOSTER

Selling overseas

Selling overseas

In this sunny holiday season, thoughts of travelling and exploring life abroad are the perfect distraction for freelancers. But when it comes to branching out your business, many don’t dare to step into the unknown. And yet, it could be a great way to create additional income from your journalism.
While it does help to have a contact in a foreign media outlet before pitching, there is still opportunity in just trying it on the chance. If the publication or media outlet you are pitching to is in English, it can be good idea to send them a complete package, containing the full story, images, audio or whatever it may be. Accompany the package by a friendly, brief email pitching the story.
If you are venturing out abroad after you have already placed the story in media at home, do make this clear when pitching. Many foreign outlets do not mind this, as long as the story has not appeared in their distribution area.  Although there can be some debate about online versions, which are technically available from everywhere, I find that this often is not an obstacle when it comes to selling stories abroad. Their fee might be lower for second publication rights, but not necessarily, so always start high and see what room there is for negotiation.
If the medium you are pitching to is non-English, you have to judge how well the editor will be able to understand the story in English. If not very well, it might pay off to translate the story in their language (or a summary, and then offer to translate in full if they wish- and add on a cost for this). If you think they will be able to comprehend the story in English, you can also send them the original version and let them take care of the translation in-house.
The best way to find foreign newspapers, magazines, TV stations and websites is to search on the internet, ask fellow freelancers (social media forums can be quite good for this) and start collecting a list of any potential outlets you come across. There are many web portals listing different kinds of media and languages. World-Newspapers.com for example shows most English language news publications in countries around the world.
Just like for local media, it helps to do some basic research on each outlet and adjust your pitch accordingly, rather than taking the scattergun approach. But don’t worry too much if you don’t know all the ins and outs of the place you are pitching to: a good story is a good story everywhere.
[The image above was taken during my digital detox earlier this summer. Let’s just say I will be making this an annual thing…]
We’ll discuss many ways to increase your freelance income during the one-day workshop on Friday 5 September. Info here.

Back to Top