Question: I am now a junior studying journalism at Towson University. This summer I would like to venture out and cover stories — freelance, if you will. I have never done this before. Do I need to do anything official before I get out and write? And since I would not only like to do print, but video, photo and audio as well to cover stories, what would I label myself as?


You are smart to not let this important summer go by without gaining some professional experience — in whatever way you can.

There is no official test, board exam or credential for you to become a freelance journalist. You can start right now without any permissions.

This is one of the things that makes journalism great. It is open to all, and people who attended a far less prestigious program than yours — or no program at all — can make it if their work is good.

freelance journalism The most important thing to have when you start freelancing is a darn good idea for a story. Editors seldom have enough of them and do not want to spend one on an untested freelancer. However, if you call in or come through the door with an idea that someone likes, you might get your chance.

Begin with research. Study the news outlet to familiarize yourself with the type of content it runs. Find out if it will accept freelance work. And make sure your idea is not one that has recently been done or is on a beat that the newsroom already has well-covered. You’re looking for good stories that might fall through the cracks. Those cracks can become niches for freelancers.

Once you get the green light to do a story or project, move Heaven and Earth to do it well. A first assignment done exceptionally well will usually pave the way for the second story — which you should also pitch. (I usually pitch my next story as I turn in the one that is due next.)

The most efficient use of your time is to create repeatedly for the same place rather than to create just once apiece for a variety of clients. Economize on the amount of time you need to spend pitching, invoicing and collecting.

If you become successful at freelancing, you will eventually need to get serious about setting yourself up as a small business. It is not necessary to set up a business structure in advance of summer work, though.

And to answer your question about what you should call yourself, I would go with “multimedia journalist” given all the avenues you want to pursue. That is in demand and leverages your diverse interests.