Taking the leap to freelancing in your stride

Thinking of moving from a job in the regions to freelance for national titles? Worried you may not cut the mustard or that the commissioning editors could eat you alive? There’s no need. If you’ve produced enough praiseworthy copy to satisfy the daily or weekly demands of a busy local newsdesk, then forget any qualms about making the jump.

My own experience proves that confidence may not always be at a premium if you decide to move on. Your stories may have been thrown back at you a million times or the air turned blue when you spectacularly failed to pull off a supposedly straightforward door-knock.

The temptation is to think that news or features editors on the nationals are bound to be even more ferocious – isn’t it in the job description? Not necessarily.

Since going freelance nine years ago, such fears have proved completely ungrounded. I’m more likely to be freaked out by an email asking for amends, giving no clue as to the mood of the person writing it, than I am by a busy editor on the phone.

Emma Lunn worked at the Kent And Sussex Courier for nine months before moving on to Money Marketing. She now freelances on personal finance for national broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, magazines and websites.

Her first paper was strict, which stood her in good stead with accuracy of spelling, but didn’t prepare her for a move from news to features, she says.

‘I always assumed I’d need more experience. I thought I’d do it in about five years time. But fate intervened. Eventually the low pay and the 90-minute drive each way meant I started to look for another job,’she adds.

‘One thing that local newspapers taught me is how to live on a budget, as the pay was so awful. Even my worst month as a freelance brought in more money than a month there.”

For freelance Guardian columnist Michael Cross, the thought that anyone working on a regional paper wouldn’t be seen as a ‘good bet’for working on a national is ‘horrifying”. Adherence to media law, deadlines and even the dreaded shorthand, should provide a solid grounding, he says.

‘One of the best things about working on a local paper is how close you can get to the readers and their point of view.

‘Not just when they ring you but when you see them day in, day out. When you lose sight of your readers then it can be dangerous,’Cross continues. Read his account of his first day at work on the Surrey Advertiser at www.michaelcrossjournalist.net/page5.htm

Linda Jones is the author of The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips In The World. (The Greatest in the World, £6.99)

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