Are you one of the thousands of journalists who hold their breath and watch the industry shrink?
28,000 people in the US lost their newsroom jobs between 2008 and 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. (That’s a quarter of all news jobs in the U.S.)
If you work for a print publication, you are likely to be bearing the brunt of the downturn. But digital media are not off the hook. These days, digital media workers are also being laid off at an alarming rate.
Getting laid off is nerve-wracking in any industry.
Most of us knew that the downturn was taking positions that offered lower wages. But when 25% of jobs go away, that motivation is gone and you may be wondering how to keep a roof over your head.
It’s time to channel that fear and fear and turn it into entrepreneurship: you will Switch from journalism to freelance blogging.
Skills to pay the bills
What Makes Journalists Great Freelance Bloggers? You already have these skills firmly under control:
Journalists know which sources to trust and where to find them. This includes finding information and data the old-fashioned way (in person using current books!), Using primary sources, and internet research. For blogging, it’s important to dig into information and sort the facts, especially on unfamiliar topics.
This skill alone will set journalists apart as freelance bloggers looking for work. For a journalist who also understands the exact questions that need to be asked in order to get the right information, it is easy to make gold from talking to subject matter experts.
Journalists craft stories that draw a reader in and keep them there. Often they take up topics that seem banal and turn them into luminous narratives. You can easily find out what writing techniques should be used, as well as word choice and word count.
If there is one thing that television and movie presentations get right in journalists, it is that they are persistent. Journalists don’t give up until they’ve exhausted all options and tried every tool. You have mastered getting in touch with people quickly. The same provision can be used when there are slow periods when increased marketing efforts may be required. This grit is needed when a client or source is pulling their feet on a project.
These are just a few of the skills developed as a journalist that can be key to building a “stationary” business-sized salary as a blogger from home or anywhere. (One of the reasons to love freelance blogging – you’re not stuck at a desk!)
From laid-off to legendary: break into blogging
So if you’re a journalist, you already have most of the skills freelance blogging requires. But what should you do if you’ve been laid off or need additional income? Follow this roadmap to start a new blogging career.
1: get help
Losing a job can be just as emotionally devastating as losing a loved one. You will miss your work, your people and your way of life. If you have savings, it might be good to take a breather and count on your cost of living for a while before diving into something like freelance blogging. This is especially true if you are new to the industry.
Journalists live and breathe appointments, but try to stay away from tough dates when starting a freelance blogging business. After you’ve been released, you may think you’ll be “over it” in a month or two, but remember to treat that time as part of your grieving process. This is also a great opportunity to do more research on freelance blogging and evaluate your hard and soft skills.
You need to view the transition from employment to freelance work as a significant career change. Even if you choose to continue writing on topics that you were assigned to in your journalism job, there is a significant shift in awareness when you go out alone.
2: Get legit
To be alone means to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Starting this out as a part-time gig can be ideal for getting into the world of freelance blogging. This is your new business. Treat it like one.
Here are a few things to consider as you begin this new journey:
Some employer’s contracts restrict former employees’ opportunities to work. It is important to ensure that writing for another publication, including as a contractor, does not violate any exit obligations.
This is your digital version of your portfolio and information on what makes you a distinctive blogger. This is used to attract new customers. A writer site is more than just posting a copy of your resume online.
A good website is tempting. Feel free to brag about your accomplishments and knowledge. A good portfolio page with clips is a good place to start. Then it may be time to do some research on how you can use your skills and achievements to create content for other companies.
In the traditional job search, there is a great focus on you and your wishes. In creating a successful business, the focus is on your audience and their needs. This distinction is the secret to a good website.
3: Make connections
Good or bad, groups of ex-journalists are popping up online. If you have an active social media presence, it can be helpful to let your followers know that you are looking for work. (Be aware that you may inadvertently give this information to former employees and supervisors. If you want to keep it close to your chest, please contact the employees via email or private message.)
Do a Google search for “ex-journalist facebook groups” or “ex-journalist slack groups” to find others like you. Empathizing with your ex-employees is an important part of the process. To expand your network, you need to find a new online water chiller and ways to make connections for this new phase in your life. Some groups can also meet in person, which is fantastic for pushing you back from a mental collapse into normalcy.
4: Get Specific
You have probably dealt with many different topics in your previous job. Niche up to one or two areas that you feel comfortable in. Let the long-time Beat reporters be happy! Also, keep in mind that some niches are more profitable than others.
For example: My main position as a journalist was feature writing. So I made a lot of personality profiles and stories about upcoming events. This probably wouldn’t be that big a niche for freelance blogging, given that the fast-growing companies – and hence the most lucrative projects for you – are in areas like SaaS (software as a service), technology, finance, and business-to-business.
As a freelance blogger, I started blogging about the writing process. It was a good entry point to getting clips under my belt that I could share with future clients. Then I started working with small to medium tech industries, speakers, and thought leaders who need an influx of good content for their website and social media platforms.
5: Get pitching
Creating winning fields can be a learning curve for ex-journalists. As an employee journalist, you get a break and can then search for any topics or potential story ideas for an editor in short emails or brief meetings.
But with pitching, you need to get a feel for the type of communication that is to be sent to individual customers. Some companies want a long list of content ideas packed together. Others just look at brief emails with a brief listing of your functions. Pitching can also extend to social media platforms like LinkedIn.
All freelance pitches require a level of personalization that journalists may not be used to. This includes providing statistics or details about the company based on your research or mentioning any personal connections you may have with the company.
Think about the differences between a good and a bad PR media release. Good ones are specific, usually short, contain every detail of important information, and are unique or enticing.
In this sense, a good pitch can be similar to a well-crafted press release or interview request. You have an opportunity to summarize your idea and why you would want to work with them. You need to articulate this with specificity and detail. In addition to convincing them of your skills, you need to trust you and start a working relationship with you.
That is not always easy. It may require some long-term interactions that will develop over time. News journalists quit their jobs every day, maybe every hour. Bloggers may spend weeks working on a good lead before they get an introductory meeting with a marketing manager.
Loyal readers of this blog understand how freelance blogging can change their lives and increase their own (and that of their customers) online presence. It can serve as extra income or turn into a full time business venture. If you know ex-journos who could benefit from this, please let us know.
If you are a former journalist, Use this post as a guide to converting your journalism skills into success in freelance blogging. You have already mastered the basics.
The biggest hurdle you face is getting into the mindset of a business owner. Use resources like this blog to show you how and to find high-paying work.
It is possible. There is hope. We have your back.
(What other tips would YOU recommend for writers looking to move from journalism to freelance blogging? Share your experiences in the comments!)