The responses to my call out to freelancers continue to come in, and I’ll do another wrap in the next few days. But in the meantime, I received this challenge from a would-be freelancer. She asks what she should do to get a start, if not work for free. 

Now I have my own ideas about some advice to give her, but given the success of crowd-sourcing information about rates, what about crowd-sourcing some advice for this woman, and the many like her?

Post your advice and comments here on the blog, or if you want anonymity send to [email protected] and I will post on your behalf.

Hi Margaret,

I’ve recently noticed your ongoing discussion about freelance writers and the poor pay conditions. As someone starting out in the industry, I thought freelancing would be a great way to get work published while I complete my Masters in journalism and build my portfolio. Here’s my dilemma:

I have applied for hundreds of entry-level journalism roles only to be knocked back time and again. Of course, this hasn’t stopped me from pursuing a career in the field but I do find it difficult to find any publications willing to pay (even a small sum of money) for contributions to their editorial space. A lot of the entry-level roles are now going to candidates with post-graduate qualifications. In a bid to expand my skills and add a competitive edge to my resume, I have started a Masters course in journalism. While I complete my studies, I have tried to venture into the freelance world as I believe this would be a good way to secure some experience and build my portfolio. Many publications claim that they have no budget for freelancers (not even a small amount or flat rate per article) but will happily accept submissions without issuing payment. Now, I’ve seen in many of the previous discussions that the very freelancers working in the industry have expressed a disgust in the upcoming generation of journalists taking on unpaid work, which then lowers the expectations and standards of the industry. But if I do not get any work published (regardless of paid/unpaid work) how does this demonstrate to a prospective employer that I am capable of producing work to a suitable standard, or that I can liaise with editors and build relationships and network in the industry? Often us fresh graduates are ridiculed for not showing enough determination and persistence, which are the very qualities required to become a journalist but I can tell you that I am working very hard to prove myself. I have completed about 5 internships (all of which I wrote content without payment) and currently freelance for a print magazine and a couple of online magazines, again without payment. How can I create a name for myself in the industry if I don’t start somewhere? Often in this industry it’s not what you know, but who you know. And I feel that by not putting in the hard yards and writing for free now that I never will reach a point where someone does want to hire me because I’ll have nothing to prove that I can infact work to deadline, generate quality content and position myself as a serious upcoming writer in the industry. What shall I do? Sit back and hope that my dreams of becoming a journalist will simply happen? I think that it is the industry itself forcing a lot of freelancers to accept work without payment because they are refusing to pay. And us writers that are accepting these conditions are merely trying to survive. Perhaps there should be more regulation when it comes to commissioning and paying contributors?

 I am so glad that someone like yourself has sparked this discussion. Hopefully it can generate some awareness for the unfair conditions out there in the freelance world.


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