Earlier this week I was given the chance to step back in time and be a student for a day, as my friend Rebecca had invited me to accompany her to the Walkley Foundation MediaPass Student Industry Day at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Being a ‘free’ event and having the day off work, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to hear some tips on how to become a freelance writer/journalist and what it all entails. I must say I’m glad I went along (thanks Bec) as I found the day inspiring and insightful. There were so many fantastic guest speakers including Courier Mail assistant editor Trent Dalton, freelance writers Benjamin Law and Lee Mylne plus Triple J Hack reporter Alex Mann.
As panel sessions were structured in a Q&A style, many of the questions I had lingering in the back of my mind about freelancing were answered. Questions like, how do you pitch to publications? How much should you get paid for your work? Plus there was tips on how to secure government funding if you’re a freelancer starting out (thanks Ben!) Oh and apparently if you’re a writer, you shouldn’t be offering to work for free. In the words of Lee Mylne, “if its good enough to be published, it’s good enough to be paid for”.
As highlighted by Benjamin Law (who currently contributes to frankie, The Monthly, Qweekend and Good Weekend), being a freelance writer is far from a glamorous. You spend much of the day cooped up in the house in front of a laptop/computer wearing your pajamas. Occasionally a friend might call and ask if you want to do lunch or coffee in which you use it as an excuse to escape the ‘office’.
If there’s anything that I learnt and took away from the day, it’s the following:
1. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Particularly know the strengths of your story ideas and know your weaknesses as an interviewer.
2. Pitch only what you can deliver and give editors what they want. Building a relationship with editors is vital!
3. NETWORK! As the saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know. Get some allies and build yourself a support network.
4. Freelancing consists of two things – writing and marketing yourself! The two go hand in hand.
5. Be confident in your own work and be willing to persevere. You must be hungry at all times and in the words of Andrew McMillen, “hunger can’t be learned, only encouraged”.