Extracts from Frank Dillon‘s presentation at Freelance Forum 2011:
Freelance journalists should see themselves as micro-businesses and should apply the same disciplines as a small professional practice would to the service of their clients. They should also specialise in a particular niche and build up their reputation as an expert in particular fields. These were the key themes in the presentation to the NUJ Freelance Forum by business journalist Frank Dillon.
Frank, who has worked as a business magazine editor, newspaper freelancer and as a publisher said it was difficult for freelancers to survive as ‘jack of all trades’ and they were better to stick at one discipline and do it well. Those who build up their reputation will develop a brand identity and will find themselves in demand if they approach the market in the right way. The same knowledge skills and contacts can be leveraged across multiple platforms including print, broadcast, online and in some cases, working for public relations firms.
Networking is vital for freelancers, both physical networking in terms of meeting editors and colleagues to keep abreast of trends and opportunities and maintaining a presence on social networks. Freelancers should set up a Linked-In site and should consider twitter and blogging. Personal websites can be established at virtually no cost by using services such as weebly.com and this can act as a very effective showcase of work when approaching editors and producers, he pointed out
Appearing on radio or television is another good form of promotion does no harm so approach radio producers from time to time with ideas – this may even lead to a regular paid slot, Frank suggested.
Rates are poor and are in decline in many traditional areas of freelancing so writers should consider other markets. PR agencies can be a good source of work for specialist freelancers and books or independent publishing ventures could be a viable option for some, he concluded.
Frank Dillon is a freelance journalist specialising in business features. Starting out as a freelance, he then spent six years as Editor of ‘Management’ magazine in the 1990s before establishing his own title, Decision. In 2004, he returned to freelancing and has written regularly for The Irish Times and The Sunday Times amongst others. Frank also lectures on Media for the Public Relations Institute of Ireland Diploma course.