Make it Work
Make It Pay
Sometimes the idea of being free to do what you want as a freelance journalist is misleading. Freelance journalists are often tasked with coming up with pitches that appeal to specific publications in order to ensure that they are able to pay their bills every month.
A lot of the time, the freelancer might not get the chance to pursue their so-called “passion projects” because they are either too busy doing other stories, or because no one is willing to pay them to do the story they actually care about. So what should a writer do when she has a story she believes in and wants to tell, but no outlet to place it?
Many writers would say that going out and starting a story without a paid deal is a “rookie mistake” and that one should never start work without a contract.
According to Dana Neuts, Society of Professional Journalists Freelance Committee Chairwoman, pursing your passion story is a risk, but a risk worth taking.
“If you are getting something out of it, whether it’s money or exposure, I think it’s worth doing a story even if you don’t have an outlet,” Neuts said.
Maisie Crow, freelance journalist and documentarian, did just that. Without a paid deal, she went to Ukraine to shoot her now award-winning short film, “Half Lives,” about the survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Crow, sometimes just goes out and reports on a story before she has sold the idea to a publication. “If I really believe in a story and I am really passionate about it, then hopefully it will translate and help me do the project and sell it,” Crow said.
Neuts says when there is no market for a story, “create your own outlet.” When she moved to Washington state, Neuts noticed there wasn’t enough news coverage in her new community of Kent, so she took that opportunity to create her own news outlet: iLoveKent.net.
For freelance journalists just starting out, Neuts suggests starting small. Do not pass up on all the small projects that will help you grow when you want to purse that big passion project. Starting a blog or website to showcase personal projects can help demonstrate a writer is prepared and qualified when the time comes.
“When you are ready and looking for a market, you can prove it, and say that I can do this,” Neuts said.
Image Courtesy of Flickr, Peter Denton