By JAMES SWANWICK
Everyone says the same thing.
“Freelance journalism is hard!”
“It doesn’t pay the bills.”
“It's too volatile a living.”
You know what I say?
I disagree with those statements, wholeheartedly.
As does long-standing freelance journalist and current New York Times staff reporter, Adam Ellick, who thrived for years reporting from all over the world.
Adam really knows how to become a journalist.
Not typical tourist destinations
Some of the places Ellick has lived in are not typical tourist destinations.
But if you fancy a bit of an adventure, you can learn a lot from Ellick.
He’s covered Pakistan and Afghanistan in-depth, witnessed the Asian tsunami and Hugo Chavez’s violent land reforms in Venezuela.
He’s investigated Russia’s anti-American Youth Groups and reported on the Arab spring movements from Egypt and Bahrain.
I interviewed Ellick for my book and audio series, Insider Journalism Secrets.
But here, Ellick discusses three simple formulas to make freelancing work for him from abroad.
By Adam Ellick
“Journalism has basically been a ticket around the world.
“I spend about half the year overseas. There are so many different types of journalism jobs out there, so there is no monolithic.
“If you do this you get to travel. You can be a magazine editor that is behind a desk from 9am to 5pm every day or you can spend the whole year in Afghanistan. It just depends what you go after.
“I worked as a freelancer for about five years in Eastern Europe and Russia, mostly Prague, Lithuania, Moscow. I spent two years in Indonesia doing a lot of work across Southeast Asia and I’ve been for the past 2.5 years in Afghanistan and Pakistan in and out covering the wars and the war on terrorism in those countries.
“Then a lot of shorter trips, a week in Brazil, a month in Moscow and I recently spent two weeks in Egypt and Bahrain and then Venezuela.
“Here are the three tips:
1. Move to countries where the cost of living is really cheap: So basically the developing world. I was selling stories to newspapers and magazines in well-off countries and so I was earning pounds or dollars. So when I lived in Lithuania I lived in the center of the old historic old town and my rent was $175 a month, which I covered in a 400-word story in the first of the month. Everything else was savings or luxury money.
2. Move to countries where there isn’t a pollution of foreign correspondents: The further off you go maybe it is less relevant to the world and harder to sell stories but there is less competition. So when I lived in Prague there are tons of Americans living in Prague. There were so many freelancers and I sold some stories but it was a tight market. When I moved to Lithuania I was the only foreign journalist there. Granted people don’t care about the country very much but when I found stuff I thought had a global interest it sold.
3. Find stories that relate to the print or TV media you’re pitching: The biggest mistake that freelancers make is they’re not familiar with the outlets they are pitching to. You need to know exactly not just what this magazine looks like but what page this editor will probably run your article on. Know what sections they have within a magazine. Would this be part of this column or this special? And only when you’re familiar with the publication can you actually make a pitch. It is like a restaurant not knowing its clientele or a luxury brand not knowing its customers. It’s a business and so you need to tailor it to your audience.”
So go out there and make it happen in the wonderful world of freelance journalism!
A great lifestyle awaits you.
Talk to you soon,
Author, Insider Journalism Secrets
P.S. I regularly made more than US$100,000 a year on just 3 days work a week when I lived in Los Angeles. How did I do it? Check in at the “Freelancing” chapter (4) on page 57 of my book, Insider Journalism Secrets. Trust me. If I can do it, so can you!
P.P.S. For a comprehensive list of US publications, their circulation, editor names and contacts, check out Writer’s Market. Adam calls it “The Bible for freelancers”. You can subscribe online as well. It lists most of the publications in the US, circulation, editor, contacts and what they like and what their preferences are and what percent of the publication is freelance. It is a tremendous resource.