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What is Freelance Journalism?

First, it’d be helpful to define what journalism is and what journalists do, before moving on to freelance journalism. The definition of journalism is ‘the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.’ So, journalists investigate and report on issues, event and trends that they think the public will be interested in and, importantly, they do it in a timely manner.

What do Journalists write about?

Some journalists focus on specific areas such as:

  • sport
  • fashion
  • environment
  • business


Others concentrate on topical day-to-day news, finding relevant stories from home and abroad to report on. Journalists can work for magazines, newspapers, TV and radio. They are employed either full or part-time and receive a regular wage, much like any other job. They usually work a set number of hours from the publications offices and they’ll probably discuss what they are going to cover with the editor before they start reporting.

The Principles of Journalism

Journalism also has a set of principles which it operates by, these are:

  • Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
  • Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  • Its essence is the discipline of verification.
  • Its practioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  • It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  • It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  • It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
  • It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  • Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

So, how does Freelance Journalism differ?

Freelance journalism is exactly the same as described above in all but one respect – freelance journalists do not work for only one publication, they are self-employed. The definition of freelance is as follows 'a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.'

This certainly has its benefits, allowing freelancers to:

  • choose who they work for
  • what they write about
  • how often they write
  • where they work from
  • when they write


It’s easy to see how this allows novice journalists to start out on the path towards a new career. They’ll be able to work part-time, around their current job, building up their portfolio. It also means that they can concentrate on working in areas that they particularly enjoy.

Other considerations for Freelancers

As well as allowing the freedoms listed above, freelance working also has some other things to consider. Freelancers have to:

  • find markets, contact editors and negotiate fees for their work
  • motivate themselves to write regularly
  • meet strict submission deadlines
  • understand and pay appropriate tax contributions
  • take care of the administration related to being self-employed
  • keep careful records of work that’s been sent to editors, keeping track of who’s been invoiced, who has paid and who needs chasing up
  • plan their finances so that periods of sickness and holidays are covered
  • be prepared to work unsociable hours
  • understand what working from home entails


If you like the challenge of being responsible for your success, being a freelance journalist could be an ideal occupation for you.

If you want to find out more about being a freelance journalist request a Writers Bureau Freelance Journalism prospectus.


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Cathal Coyle

"My short-term intention is to continue combining writing for newspapers and magazines with my current job. I'm enjoying my writing 'sideline' but I may find as time goes on that I want to make the transition to full-time writer."

Cathal Coyle


Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

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