Freelancer Life

5 Tips for freelance journalists: How to write great stories efficiently

by Hiba Naeem 

With covid-19 pushing people to the periphery of their homes, nearly forced to work remotely, freelancing has become all rage today. Though it may seem too good to be true, the flexibility of location and time are some of the greatest perks that truly attract us to freelancing. But even with all the hype, it takes a good measure to understand how at the end of the day working as a freelance journalist is much like working at any other job: responsibilities, deadlines, feedback, and communication are major elements. For any beginner in the industry, self-employment can become a daunting experience if they are unable to meet the challenges and requirements of the projects. It is not uncommon then to feel a bit lost under the chaos of what and how to both manage time and keep motivation for working on your assigned piece or story. Luckily, you have come to the right place as we at The Story Market take a long look at some of the most recommended tips on how to manage time efficiently and keep sanity while being organized as a freelance journalist.

1. Time is money as a freelance journalist

Too often social media portrays freelance writing as a hobby or a recreational pursuit that requires little to no dedication. But that can not be farther from the truth as veterans in the industry will tell you that working on a tight schedule is a norm in self-employment. So, keep your deadlines in hindsight before taking on a project. If you are tech-savvy, then organising yourself through apps will be work best. But if you are old-school and love journaling, scribbling away in notebooks should also help. All in all, managing time, keeping a work routine will pave way for meeting deadlines. This will ensure payment of your tasks on time too.

2. Be more self-reflective

How much time did it take you to finish that one article or story series? Was the duration worth the quality of the content? The only way to find out is by keeping close tabs on yourself. Write a journal or diary if it helps. They do not have to be detailed if you keep track of your work habits. Are you attentively getting your work edited, peer-reviewed and meeting the deadlines? In freelancing, it pays you to be self-aware of the time you consume to complete a project (more on that next).

3. Working on multiple projects is a norm for freelancer writers

Experienced freelancers will tell you that they regularly work on multiple projects at a time. This is where your self-awareness and reflection will play out. Initially, it is ok to start small but gradually you should understand your pace and ability to keep up as you take on more projects simultaneously.

4. Self-discipline over motivation

Some days curling out of bed just does not seem to work. With a lack of workplace engagement, it can be a common emotion. Therefore, motivation will not be helpful in the long run. Our recommendation: learning self-discipline over time will keep you on track with your goals much more than that motivational poster. We know it sounds easier than it is but try starting with building routines just as if you'd be working a normal 9-5 job. Feeling overwhemled by a whole unstructured bunch of different to dos often makes procrastination look like the better option. Which it obviously isn't... Also, minimize possible distractions by e.g. installing an app that won't let you use social media – a possible threat for freelance work – within a certain time span of the day. Rather use those kind of things as little rewards and breaks after finishing  tasks.

5. Research in advance for an even more efficient writing process

Don’t wait last minute to work on the field, draft your story and write it. As a freelance journalist planning out your research, understanding what the task entails well in advance of the due is much better in the long run than doing it all last minute. Sometimes researching will consume way more time than previously expected which will lead to mental distress. Moreover, rushing into your task all at once can also compromise the quality of the work.   

Don't forget: Freelancers deserve a work-life balance, too!

Finally, and we cannot stress this enough, do not overwhelm yourself. For freelance journalists with no specific work boundaries, getting all too caught up in tasks can become a common feature. As cliché as this sounds, remember that maintaining a healthy balance between professional and personal life is integral for both physical and mental wellbeing. But this is not all we have to offer. If these tips pique your interest and you feel that freelance reporting is something that speaks to you, why not join our community of quality freelance writers at The Story Market and see how you too can earn as one with us? Additionally, if you want to find out what expectations about the industry might not meet your reality, read our blog post on expectations versus reality of freelance journalism.