How to Become a Freelance Reporter

Find out how to become a freelance reporter. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in freelance reporting.

Should I Become a Freelance Reporter?

Freelance reporters are self-employed and report news stories and other information on an as-needed basis for various organizations. They must find, develop, investigate, and write their own stories. Freelancers must be business-minded and competitive, with the ability to find work on a regular basis. Relocation might be needed to report effectively about countries other than their own. Some situations might be dangerous, such as reporting on wars or natural disasters.

A bachelor's degree related to journalism is usually required. A portfolio of past work also could be helpful in securing assignments.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Broadcast Journalism
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  • Print, Broadcast and Electronic Journalism

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field English, journalism or communications
Experience Experience working for high school and college newspapers, as well as magazines and other publications, is often required
Key Skills Writing, active listening, critical thinking, persistence and creativity; knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet and social media software; microphones, video cameras
Salary (2014) $36,000 per year (Median salary for all reporters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers prefer journalists who have a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications, English or a related field. Relevant coursework includes reporting techniques, journalism ethics, visual communications and editing.

Success Tips:

  • Participate in an internship. Students should look for bachelor's programs that allow them to gain practical experience through internships. These opportunities can help students strengthen their skill sets and prepare for employment after college.
  • Consider blogging. Freelance reporters can get experience by starting or writing for a blog, which might lead to further exposure and paid work opportunities.
  • Develop a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of work and other items that demonstrate a person's skills, abilities and background experiences. An aspiring reporter should develop a portfolio that includes education information, proof of work experience and examples of his or her work. Some bachelor's degree programs include a course or classes devoted to portfolio development. Other portfolio pieces could come from past experience working for a school newspaper, television station, or radio station; having work published online; or participating in an internship.

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

A business plan serves as a research and planning document that allows a person to organize and run his or her business effectively. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a business plan should include information about marketing, services offered and a financial outline. Creating a business plan can help a freelance reporter identify areas where work opportunities exist, plan out finances and discover ways to market his or her services.

Step 3: Secure Employment

Freelance reporters continually market themselves to organizations, companies and people who may be interested in securing their services. This may involve traveling, working long hours and going without pay for long periods. Freelance reporters work on stories to pitch to potential buyers, such as local, state and national news organizations; magazines; newspapers; websites; and other companies and organizations that provide information to the public.

Success Tips:

  • Establish professional relationships. A freelance reporter must have strong relationships within the industry to find work. Networking through online social media applications or websites, local events and seminars is one way to build those relationships. Freelance reporters may also consider joining professional organizations, like the Editorial Freelancers Association or the Society of Professional Journalists.
  • Complete continuing education courses or programs. Students can take continuing education classes or workshops to hone their writing and reporting skills. These courses can be completed on campus or through distance learning programs. Some result in professional certificates that can be added to a freelancer's resume.

Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree

Completion of a graduate program isn't required in order to become a freelance reporter. However, advanced degrees in journalism are available and can add further experience and credentials to a freelancer's portfolio or resume. Many master's programs allow students to select a specialization, like political or business reporting. Internships with news organizations are often part of the curricula as well.

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