Thinking about going back to school to learn journalist skills to help your freelance career?
You could…if you want to waste time and money. Don’t get me wrong, learning is good. But do you really need to spend a couple years in the classroom and a pile of money on tuition to develop journalist skills? No.
In case you’re wondering, I’m one of those people with a master’s degree in journalism. That’s the route I took to develop journalist skills to write for newspapers and magazines, and ultimately carve out a career as a freelance writer. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You don’t need a degree to be a freelancer. After all, The Carol Tice is a college dropout.
But you do need journalist skills to do things like dig up information, generate ideas, interview sources, find fresh angles, craft headlines, and write great content.
So how do you develop journalist skills to get more writing jobs? Skip the college route, and learn by doing. Here’s what you need to know:
Has your writing income dwindled in recent years? If so, it’s a good bet you’ve been earning much of your money through article writing.
You may have noticed many local newspapers and magazines are shrinking their article wordcounts–and their pay. I meet a lot of sad former staff journalists who’re worried about how they’ll earn in the future.
That’s not an irrational fear, either. A recent study I did of about 250 established freelance writers showed 70 percent of them were article writers. And that article writing was one of their best-paid gigs.
What did that pencil out to, in dollars, this great article-writing pay? Nearly half said they earn under $20,000 a year from writing. Another 20 percent earned $20,000-$30,000. In all, most of these article writers weren’t earning much.
Gah! This makes me hopping mad.
That’s because article writing can be seriously lucrative — it’s the bulk of the work I’ve done as a freelance writer, including years where I earned six figures. But you have to know where to look for better pay.
Want to be a freelance journalist? It starts with one simple thing…curiosity.
It’s a skill that will help you get better at copywriting and content writing, not just hard-news reporting.
When you learn to think like a freelance journalist, you’ll also tap into skills to ask good questions, find fresh angles and ideas, understand your audience, and ultimately make more money from writing.
Can you really learn how to think like a freelance journalist? Or do you need a J-school degree, a stint as a cub reporter, and years of experience? Yes, you can. And no, you don’t.
It might take a little practice, but you can learn to think like a freelance journalist.
To help you out, we caught up veteran journalists Allen Taylor and Emily Liedel in a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast to talk about journalism skills and strategies for freelance writers.
Curious? Check out this Q&A to learn how to think like a journalist:
Do you regularly scan job boards looking for online writing jobs, but only find low-paying gigs? If so, you might need to get a little choosier about where you look.
If your typical rates are above what the listings offer, it may be time to stop checking the job boards altogether. In general, you’ll do better with proactive prospecting to find your own clients, rather than applying to mass-online-job ads where you compete with hundreds of writers.
But if checking online job ads is still a part of your regular marketing routine, at least be an educated freelancer and target boards that are the best fit for you. We interviewed site owners and researched listings to bring you this inside look at what’s available on 17 top boards:
It’s an exciting time, when you finally start to get some traction as a freelance writer. You land a client or two, and start writing. Maybe you score a gig with a popular blog, or you’re writing for a big…