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July 2003

Eleven top tips for successful freelancing

Book cover: Journalism Uncovered This article was written by Sean McManus for the latest edition of Journalism Uncovered by Emma Caprez.

Journalism Uncovered outlines journalism as a career and includes interviews with journalists working in different sections of the media at varying levels of seniority.

  1. Set up a website - if you write in a niche, particularly for business to business publications, it can help to attract business if you post your portfolio online.

  2. Contact editors directly - few editors will come looking for you. You have to find them. For an immediate response to a time-sensitive pitch, call them.

  3. Pitch ideas, not expertise - editors don't hire writers. They buy articles. Demonstrate your knowledge by pitching fresh, well-targeted story ideas to them.

  4. Differentiate yourself - make sure you know why you're the best person to write the story you're pitching.

  5. Be business-like - agree fees, copyright and payment terms in advance. Invoice promptly.

  6. Meet deadlines - an average article received on time is more useful to editors than a dazzling article that's late.

  7. Specialise - develop an area of expertise to write about and build your reputation there.

  8. Network at trade shows - find the innovators and thinkers who can tip you off about the next big thing. Meet the magazine editors too.

  9. Learn additional skills - study photography so you can sell pictures with your articles. Learn website design so you can sell articles ready for online publication. Learn to sub-edit and proofread so your articles are of higher quality.

  10. Read - read your target publications so you can understand their style and then mimic it. Read as widely as possible to inspire new story ideas.

  11. Unite - join a journalism union or other support organisation to tap into expert advice and support if things go wrong

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©Sean McManus.