Working as a freelance journalist vs. as a staff writer

By Churchill Masheti

Anyone who wishes to work within the journalistic industry has two primary options: work as a freelance journalist or a staff journalist for a particular company. Even though both options can be used by one to make a successful career, contrasting elements exist between them that could otherwise trigger the need to make a choice.

Self-employment or permanent employment

However, the significant striking difference between freelance journalists and staff writers is who you work for, meaning the terms of employment differ. One could also say that freelancers do not have permanent jobs, but this may not be a clear-cut difference since some staff journalists work on contracts that are not necessarily permanent. The code and conduct that governs the practice of journalism are nonetheless applicable, with no exception to anyone working either as a freelancer or a staff journalist. This enables both of them to work within the journalism sphere in a well-coordinated way, resulting in the overall journalism industry. If you are not yet sure which path would be suitable for you, the following article might help get to a proper decision.

Working as a freelance journalist vs. as a staff writer
For freelance journalists making money is a whole different world than for staff writers (Pixabay)

Sources of income for freelance journalists and staff writers

A staff journalist works for a specific publication outlet and gets paid at the end of the week or month, just like any other type of job. Compared to that freelancers are self-employed and get paid when each of their articles is published. Freelance writers also have multiple income avenues and can set their own rate as compared to staff journalists. For instance, freelance journalists can work on pieces for various outlets parallelly depending on where they pitch their articles, their time management, and how much they want to get paid. Furthermore, they can opt for another temporary job on the side to supplement their income or use their creative skills to come up with digital products that could earn them that extra bit of cash. Before deciding on your career path, deeply reflect on whether you prefer the stability of a job as a staff writer or the greater freedom but insecurities of working as a freelance journalist. Maybe the following direct comparison of advantages and hardships can support you.

Working as a freelance journalist vs. as a staff writer
One of the significant merits of freelance journalism is choosing when and where to work (Vlada Karpovich/Pexels)

Advantages of working as a freelance writer

More often than not, having multiple sources of revenue and the freedom to send their works to a wide range of publishers are among the appealing reasons to not search for permanent employment. Nevertheless, there are several other advantages of working as a freelance journalist:

  • A freelance journalist decides when to work – Freelancers have no set routine for work. They can structure their work and fit in holidays whenever they wish to as they have no binding agreement with anyone concerning their day-to-day activities as long as they meet their deadlines.
  • Free choice of topics: For the case of a freelance writer, the decision of what to write about is solely theirs. It's especially appealing to journalists who wish to try out new topics instead of only focusing on a particular area which is often true for staff journalists.
  • High editorial control – Freelance journalists have the freedom to choose what they want to cover or write about in their way as they are not subject to any company's editorial policy. They pitch their stories to whomever they fit best and can only abide by a certain editorial policy if they work as per a specific request by an individual company's editor. Staff journalists mostly lack this kind of editorial freedom.
  • Freelance writers can choose who to work for, or if they have had a bad experience dealing with difficult clients, they have a choice of deciding never to work with them again.
  • Freelance writers are also able to set their rates, and if they happen to be good at negotiating, they might be paid better than staff journalists.

Disadvantages freelance journalists face compared to staff writers

Despite having all these advantages, it is not all merry for freelance writers. There are downsides as well, for example, unpaid holidays. This is because freelance writers only get paid when they work, unlike staff journalists who get salaries at the end of every week or month. Sick leave for freelance journalists is also unpaid. On top of creating your own schedule and meeting deadlines, taking care of your tax contributions and or National Insurance is also an individual responsibility for journalists working as freelance writers. They also face the challenge of lack of a stable income, job security, and other employment benefits, which is especially crucial if you have a family. Many publications don't want to pay you a lot of money, yet you still have to meet client deadlines and write in a way that fits the publication.  

Have you decided on your journalistic path yet?

Entering the world of journalism and primarily freelance journalism can be challenging at times. Thus, we at The Story Market offer a platform to resell your articles to international publications and essential tips on becoming a freelance journalist as well as other hot topics for talented writers.

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