How to Become a Freelance Reporter (Even with No Experience) in 9 Easy Steps

Wondering how to become a freelance reporter? This step-by-step guide will get you there!

Freelance writing can take many forms, but if you’re wondering how to become a freelance reporter, your journey to full-time freelancing will take a unique path. A freelance journalist writes for magazines and newspapers, either online or offline, requiring a specialized type of writing.

Still, if you want the flexibility of being a freelancer, journalism and reporting may be part of the picture. Thankfully, others have gone before you on this path. They can provide insight into what a freelance writer needs to do to move past marketing copy and blogging to become a true freelance reporter.

How To Become A Freelance Reporter

How to become a freelance reporter?
Freelance journalism is not the same as being a blogger or writing marketing copy for companies. Here is what you need to do to get started.

Step 1. Make Sure You Have the Right Skills

Before you can become a freelance journalist, you need to be a skilled writer. This doesn’t mean you need a bachelor’s degree in writing. I am a successful freelancer, and I hold a bachelor’s degree in education. 

However, you do need to know how to write, spell and use the computer proficiently. If you don’t, then you’re going to need to gain those skills first.

Step 2. Become a Reader

Become a better reader
Reading is important because it develops your curiosity and teaches you how to hone in on what is important in an event or story

Before you quit your day job to launch your freelance journalism career, become an avid reader. Read magazines, newspapers, online news sites and emails from sources you would not normally read, so you can get a feel for what it is people want journalists to read.

Reading is important because it develops your curiosity and teaches you how to hone in on what is important in an event or story. Donald Murray once said that “A journalist is forever astonished at the obvious.” 

Step 3. Become a Storyteller

Effective journalists are able to tell a story in such a way that it captures attention and keeps it through the end. Use your own blog to practice this skill. You can even write fiction as you practice this skill, as long as you are doing it for the purpose of learning the story writing process. 

As you write, aim to write a lot. if you can’t produce at least 2,000 words a day, preferably much more, then your writing career will only bring in part-time income.

Step 4. Decide Your Rate

The hard part about getting paid for the written word is deciding what you want to get paid. Typically, writers receive a per-word payment. According to a survey from ClearVoice, 25% of writers earn between $0.76 and $1 a word for their writing. 

If you are new, potential clients may not want to pay this premium rate, but make sure you charge what writing is worth. Determine how long it takes you to write 1,000 words, and what you would like your per-hour rate to be to make writing your full-time job, and this will help you set your rate.

Step 5. Build a Website

How to become a freelance reporter? Build a website
Your website helps with your online marketing because you can use the site to gain new clients

Early in the process, you need a website to showcase your writing skills and portfolio. In the beginning, this may simply house your own blog, and not much paid work. As you get work with your name on it, link to it on your site.

Your site gives you a place to send potential editors and publishers to see that you are a legitimate, serious writer. It also helps with your online marketing because you can use the site to gain new clients if you use SEO to drive traffic to it.

Step 6. Learn to Find Clients

Freelance journalists are looking to write news stories, not the marketing copy an average copywriter writes. To find clients, you must master the art of the pitch. A service like Writers Work can help with this.

A pitch is an email you send to a potential publication with a story idea. Many published articles from freelancers started with a pitch. Find publications in the niche you wish to write about, locate their “write for us” page to read how they want pitches sent and send those pitches.

Make sure your pitch matches the style and topics of the publication. Have a website that showcases your skill as a writer that you can point them to. Send at least one pitch every day, because most writers only get a “yes” from about 10% of their pitches.

Step 7. Build Client Relationships

Writing skills alone won’t make your freelance career work if you’re focused on journalistic writing. Once you start getting those pitches approved, build relationships with those publications. 

If your work is well-read, you may find that the editors come to you with a story idea in the future. Thus, you can leave behind the pitching process and simply write the stories brought to you. 

Of course, to build that relationship you must know your client. Follow them on social media. See what they enjoy publishing, and reach out when you have a story idea that feels like a good fit.

Step 8. Look for a Byline

A byline is your name attached to the article you write. Many freelance writers work as ghostwriters, which means they write works that never have their names attached. In journalism, this isn’t wise.

when you get a byline, other people see your name attached to the article, and some of those people will be other editors. A bylined piece you can link to on your website as part of your portfolio. When it comes to your journalism career, bylines are a vital component.

Step 9. Keep Reading, Writing and Pitching

The life of a freelance journalist is never boring. There’s always another story to chase down and another pitch to send to your favorite editor. I spend the majority of my days writing and publishing, but it’s work I love.

If you are going to make this your full-time income, you are going to need to work hard, but it is possible. Keep reading publications, writing stories and pitching ideas, and you will see the income flow. You might also be interested in our guide on how to become a technical writer.

A Final Word on How to Become a Freelance Reporter

Newspapers and magazines often save money by working with freelancers instead of hiring in-house writers, and as such, you can have a successful career as a freelance reporter. You just need to learn how to become a freelance reporter and keep your clients happy.

Take some time to work through these steps. Hone in your writing skills, and pitch ideas. Soon you will have writing work coming and be able to step away from your job and into the world of freelance reporting.

FAQs On How To Become Freelance Reporter

How can I become a freelance reporter?

Becoming a freelance reporter starts with understanding freelance reporting, then pitching ideas to publications. Once you start getting published, you can build a portfolio and use that to land more work until you are writing full-time.

How to be a freelance writer with no experience?

Many publications want to hire experienced, well-known writers. To start your career with no experience, build a solid portfolio, and simply start pitching. Sending hundreds of pitches usually ends up with one “yes” from an interested editor.