How Can I Become a Freelance Reporter?

Research what it takes to become a freelance reporter. Learn about job duties, required education and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Freelance Reporter Do?

Freelance reporters provide articles and stories on a wide range of topics. Unlike staff journalists, they are not tied to a specific media outlet and can contribute content to many different publications and media organizations at once on an as-needed basis. In order to present their audience with accurate information, freelance reporters do extensive research on their stories, often conducting interviews and seeking out expert opinions. Freelance reporters may also be responsible for promoting their own stories after publication, particularly those working for online publications. As well as having impeccable written communication skills and good research abilities, freelance reporters need to be able to manage their time effectively and consistently meet deadlines.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Journalism; communications
Key Responsibilities Investigate, research and write news stories; interview newsworthy people; sell to media outlets
Job Growth (2014-2024) -8% for all reporters and correspondents*
Median Salary (2015) $36,360 for all reporters and correspondents*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Freelance Reporter?

A freelance reporter or journalist's primary responsibility is to investigate news stories and write up findings. In this type of career, you'll take charge of finding the stories, performing the research and writing the facts, in addition to selling your work to magazines, newspapers or other news outlets. You can market completed news stories to relevant publications or try to sell a story idea prior to working on it to ensure you have an interested buyer. After you've gained experience and made a name for yourself, you might be approached by media companies and asked to take on specific assignments.

Regardless of how you find stories, your job duties as a freelance reporter include conducting research, tracking down relevant documents, performing interviews and finding a balanced outlook to a particular news item. You might need to submit articles by a deadline, and your work usually runs through an editing and approval process.

What Education Will I Need?

Most news stations and publications prefer that you hold at least a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications before you start working as a reporter. While enrolled in a 4-year degree program, you'll learn the basic procedures involved in gathering material for a news story. Courses teach you how to perform preliminary research, conduct interviews, shape a news story and write an engaging article, starting out with important information and providing supporting facts.

You might also choose to specialize in a particular topic by adding minor studies to a journalism program. For example, if you are interested in writing about international news, consider focusing your electives or taking additional coursework in international relations or a foreign language. If you are interested in covering governmental news, you might consider minoring in political science.

How Can I Get Started in the Career?

To work as a freelance reporter, you might have to get your start in the journalism field by working on staff at a newspaper or magazine. Some of these staff positions include reporter, staff writer, editorial assistant or even intern. You'll typically have to prove that you can successfully research and write a story before a publication will hire you to work on your own. You can use this experience to build a portfolio that showcases your work while earning a few bylines.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 41,050 reporters and correspondents worked in the field as of 2015, earning a median income of $36,360 per year (www.bls.gov). While these figures are skewed to include staff reporters and correspondents, the BLS did note that the highest paying industries that year included independent artists, writers and performers, other information services and management of companies and enterprises. You might also earn more working in the District of Columbia, New York, Georgia, or Maryland, according to the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you like the idea of becoming a freelance reporter and studied a writing-related career at the bachelor's degree level, there are other areas of journalism that may be of interest to you. You could work as an editor and curate content for publication. You may also want to become a broadcast news analyst. These professionals offer commentary, opinion and analysis on news stories, and are required to have more expertise in a particular subject than journalists in general. In addition, you could consider becoming a radio announcer, hosting shows and coming up with entertaining features for your audience. This position is also suitable for candidates with a bachelor's degree in communications.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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