Archive for June, 2009

Freelancing — A Business? You Bet It Is!

Many thanks to Hazel Becker of the Society of Professional Journalists’ group for freelancers in Washington, D.C., for sharing this blog post. What an excellent idea, for SPJ freelancers to gather together in our own communities. Amy Green, SPJ freelance committee chairwoman

A group of freelance journalists got together this week for lunch/coffee sponsored by the D.C. Professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. This was the second meeting, and I was again pleased/surprised by the variety of people who attended. What didn’t surprise me was the obvious need for discussion of business issues facing freelancers.

One important topic for all of us was how we “set” our rates. It’s only an issue when a prospective client/employer asks us what we would charge – many of our assignments come with preset fees. Some of us work for publishers who are accustomed to paying by the word, and others said they generally get a set amount per assignment. It was apparent that there is no “standard” – other than that we all want to be paid a reasonable amount for the time and effort we put into our work.

Some in the group are new to freelancing, and they were interested in talking more about how to get work. I’m sure this topic will come up again – it is an increasing challenge, as the ranks of freelancers are swelling with out-of-work journalists. I believe there’s plenty of work to go around, as publishers who lay off reporters and editors still need works to publish and “first readers” for quality control.

We talked briefly about rights – who owns the works we produce. I’m sure this topic will come up again.

These are only a few of the topics we touched on in our free-wheeling discussion, and even the long-time freelancers were seeking advice and learning from the newbies in the group. Thanks to SPJ for filling this need.

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Fantastic opportunities for freelancers

Two fantastic SPJ opportunities for freelancers!


With the current state of the economy, now is the time to brush up on your skills, network and get your name out there. The Society of Professional Journalists offers two ways to do all of those things.

First, check out our Freelancer Directory.

The directory connects freelancers with employers seeking to hire. SPJ members may set up an account on the Freelancer Directory to have their names and specialties displayed online to employers.

Second, you can’t afford to skip the SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference, taking place Aug. 27-30. Boost your career by signing up today! You can look forward to:

• Expanding your toolbox to include the best emerging technologies that will make you a coveted journalist for any newsroom. Find out which technologies are simply the “flavor of the month” and which possess true staying power.

• Getting back on track after losing your job.  If your company downsizes, don’t be left in the dust— find out how to handle the new job search, a possible change in careers and the stress of being laid off in this tough economic climate.

Look forward to all of this and much more! See other offerings here.

This year’s Convention, in SPJ’s home base of Indianapolis, is the perfect time for you to leap ahead of your competition and learn exclusive industry tips and tricks. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today! Take advantage and save by registering before Aug. 2. Get the special SPJ rate at the Westin Indianapolis Hotel by signing up before Aug. 5. And if you’re looking for a roommate, we’ll help you find one. Post an ad or leave a reply on our Convention roommate board.

For more information on Convention events and how to register, visit the SPJ 2009 Convention Web site.

Finally, don’t forget to check the 2009 SPJ Facebook group often for weekly updates! And don’t forget to follow the national SPJ office on Twitter: @ spj_tweets.

We hope to see you in Indy!

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How are you getting through the journalism collapse?

Editor’s Note: What follows is the first installment of an occasional series telling the survival stories of freelancers in this journalism collapse. It is the best way to get through it, I believe, by doing it together. If you would like to share your story here please e-mail me as little as 200 words or as many as 800 at Or perhaps you’d like to hire Megan to build a Web site for your freelance business. Amy Green, SPJ freelance committee chairwoman.

By Megan Taylor

I graduated one year ago, with the expectation that despite the scarcity of jobs in journalism, I would find something because of my wide Web skillset. That confidence lasted until the fall, when my internship at The Miami Herald ended, and I could not find another job in journalism.

I moved to New York city, thinking that the mass media market would provide. Two weeks after I moved, the country officially went into a recession. Oops.

I started freelancing in order to supplement the meager income I got from internships. Both of the internships I’ve had in New York ended early, including one which was supposed to lead to a full-time job. I started freelancing by building websites for people I met through my previous internships, and they have been very good about spreading the word and securing more work for me. I got in touch with one of the many community papers in my neighborhood, and have been doing some writing for them as well. But I’m not even making enough to pay my rent at this point.

I’ve tried a couple of new things to find more work: advertising on Craigslist and revamping my personal website, including better SEO and adding a services page. I plan to start using Twitter to try to find work as well: searching for keywords and contacting people who might need work done. I’ve even drafted an e-mail to send to companies and individuals (instead of cold-calling…cold-emailing?) advertising the kind of work I can do for them.

I’ve been able to do more than I think I would have if I didn’t have all the web skills I learned in college. I can be a one-stop-shop, providing website, video and programming services as well as writing.

Hopefully, some of these new tactics will help me to survive the storm, and I’m interested in what other people are doing to find work, and giving those a try as well.

Contact Megan at

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