October 23, 2013 ()
Don’t Become a Freelance Journalist
If you’re considering becoming a freelance journalist, my advice to you is this: Don’t.
And I’m not just saying that because I want to discourage extra competition. I’m saying it for your sake, potential future freelance journalist. Don’t do it.
I myself didn’t think I would last a month in the freelance world, and am honestly surprised that I’m not begging for quarters on King St right now. Before quitting my steady job to become a freelancer I started reaching out to people in the industry to ask them for their advice.
I spoke with one of the only Canadian reporters with the New York Times, a former colleague who currently works at the Wall Street Journal, a former professor who had been a freelancer in his youth, had coffee with a veteran business reporter from the Globe & Mail, and even approached the editors who were assigning me freelance work in the first place, asking them all the same question: Would you recommend pursuing a career as a full time freelance journalist?
The response was unanimous, everyone advised against it.
But of course, I did it anyway.
Not because I thought it wasn’t going to be risky, or that I was no longer concerned about making rent. Ironically, the very exercise of looking for an answer provided the answer I was looking for, as I realized how many friends, colleagues, professors, editors, and new acquaintances I had in the industry now vying for my success. Though they all advised against quitting my job, they all volunteered their assistance if I did.
But in spite of the success that I’ve had in the last year or so, if anyone ever came to me and asked me the very same question, I’d probably advise against it as well.
This job certainly isn’t for everybody, and unfortunately the only way to know if you’ve got what it takes is to take the plunge, and see whether you sink or swim.
Some of the most important skills required to make it as a freelancer are stubbornness, curiosity, and self-motivation. In other words, nobody will ever advise you to reject a steady salary in exchange for the unpredictable world of freelance journalism, but if you’re too stubborn, curious, and motivated to listen to that advice, you’ll do just fine.