CAMP 2016: Top 10 tips for successful freelancing

Rachel Louise Snyder speaks at the “Freelance Free-for-All” workshop.

Story by Olivia Smith, 2016 JAWS Fellow | Photo by Erica Yoon, CAMP photographer

From budgeting to being your own boss, four panelists kicked off “Freelance Free-for-All” at JAWS CAMP in Roanoke, Va., this year with a number of tips for journalists interested in freelancing.

Michele Weldon moderated the event, and the panelists for the first part of the workshop included Rachel Louise Snyder, Jackie Frank, Lottie Joiner and Liz Seegert.

Here are the top 10 takeaways from the first panel:

1. Find opportunities to network

“Network, network, network,” Lottie Joiner said, and “keep your LinkedIn updated.” Building relationships is essential: Strong networks can lead to new opportunities, including fellowships, grants and jobs. Rachel Louise Snyder said, “Whenever possible, meet someone in person.”

2. Set boundaries with friends and family

Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean you have extra time to run errands or take time out of your workday for loved ones. “Are you prepared to set strict rules” for family and friends, Jackie Frank asked. It’s important to set time aside for your work, make a schedule and stick to it in order to get the job done.

3. Know what kind of reporter you are

“Think before taking a job,” said Jackie. Know what you care about covering and understand your passions. “Don’t write what you need to write to make money,” said Rachel Louise. “Write what you’d write if nobody was paying you.”

4. Know who you’re pitching

Understanding the outlet where you are sending your work can be key to your success. For example, Rachel Louise said, says can work in cycles of two years. If they’ve just had a piece about domestic violence, “they may not cover it again for two years,” she said.

5. Seek out publications in your niche

Look for publications that specialize in your niche if you have one. Having a strong suit in a certain subject can help your work get published; knowing a place interested in that subject will help.

6. When you send a pitch, have a second place in mind

“Men get rejected and they pitch again,” Rachel Louise said. “Women get rejected, and they stop pitching,” she said many editors have said. Having a second place in mind as a backup in case you if you get rejected the first time helps you stay on the track to success.

7. Figure out what techniques work for you

“Structure your day,” Liz Seegert said. Set a “chunking time,” doing a major amount of your work in chunks of an hour to a few hours. “Figure out what techniques work for you,” she added.

8. Budgeting is more important than ever

The reality of freelancing is that you are your own boss, and you are “hiring yourself as the employee,” said Jackie. “Do you know how much money you need to make each year?” Figuring out things like health care and lifestyle costs in advance helps you set goals you need to meet in order to live comfortably as a freelancer.

9. Hide your temptations

When you’re structuring your day, understand in advance what will distract you so you can either avoid it or work around it. Liz talked about working from the morning to the afternoon because she “had fewer distractions.”

10. Believe in your own voice and don’t give up

Believing in yourself might be your ultimate key to success, Rachel Louise said.