Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Freelancing 101: Enjoy Flexibility and Find your Niche

Freelancers enjoy many perks including flexible hours, the opportunity to meet and work with new people, the possibility of travel and the freedom to create a custom career path. Despite these perks, there are definite hurdles that freelancers have to overcome to achieve success
Financially, it can be hard to sustain oneself solely on freelancing.

Without the consistency of a daily schedule or planned projects for a corporation, it can be difficult to find enough jobs to make the money to be financially comfortable. For this reason, it can be challenging for a student fresh out of college to make a living solely off of freelance work.

Ruchika Tulshyan, an Adjunct Communications professor at Seattle University, has been writing as a freelance journalist for around nine years. Tulshyan saved up money from other jobs before transitioning into freelance work, and she suggests doing this to create a sense of financial stability before chancing it with freelance. A common issue among freelance workers is a struggle to maintain livable income.

However, Tulyshyan said that college is a good time to start getting experience in freelance.

“I recommend doing it while in college. It’s a really good way to build your credibility and it’s a great idea if you see yourself going into freelance work after graduation because you have already built a network,” Tulshyan said.

Communications professor Jeffrey Philpott also thinks it is important to build a network of contacts to be successful in freelance work.

“It is so much about connections,” Philpott said. “Word of mouth for something like freelancing or consulting is in a way the best form of marketing I’ve ever run into.”

Philpott has been working in freelance communications consultation for over 30 years, and he says that his freelance career was able to take off because he was a contractor for a management company in Seattle that helped him get in contact with a variety of clients.

It can be difficult to make these connections, but Philpott suggests using platforms like LinkedIn, creating business cards and meeting and connecting with a range of people. Once you have made some connections, it is critical to maintain them.

“It’s really important to cultivate a good relationship with your editors,” Tulshyan said. “It is important to establish trust and be credible with your sources, get your work in on time even more so than if you were working for a full time media.”

While having good relationships with employers is important, Tulshyan says it’s just as important to set boundaries and expectations.

“Be very clear in terms of expectations with the publication that you work with,” Tulshyan said. “That means having good contracts about what’s going to happen if your article doesn’t get published, and getting what’s known in the industry as a kill fee.”

A “kill fee” is when a journalist still gets paid a portion of the price for an article they reported on, even if it does not get published. These are not widely offered, but Tulshyan always tries to work them into her contract.

Freelance writers should also be adamant about requesting their paycheck on time, according to Mark Baumgarten, the Editorial Director of the 16 King County titles of Sound Publishing.

“You have to be committed not only to scrounging for and developing story ideas, but you have to be constantly pressuring the people who are employing you to get their checks to you as soon as possible,” Baumgarten said. “I’ve worked for places that are really bad about paying their freelancers on time and some places that are really good.”

Despite the challenges that come along with freelancing, it can be equally rewarding. Philpott says that he has been able to work on interesting projects all over the country and meet a lot of people through his experiences in freelance work.

Tulshyan has found and been able to foster her passion for reporting on business and gender equity. With freelance work, it is often possible to find something you are passionate about and focus your efforts on
that topic.

“Be a specialist,” Baumgarten said. “Really pick one or two areas of interest and just make sure you know as much as you possibly can in those areas of interest and then find as many different outlets as you can to develop relationships with editors. If you’re just being a generalist, it’s way more difficult to get bites.”

A final piece of advice to the aspiring freelancer comes from Philpott: “Have confidence in yourself. It’s a scary world being a freelancer or a contractor and there are some things to figure out, but it also gives you some freedom, and there are people who need what expertise you have.”

Bailee may be reached at
[email protected]

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