One of the biggest challenges of being a freelance reporter

Freelancers Union subway ad

Freelancers Union subway ad. Flickr/Scott Trudeau

There are many challenges associated with freelancing — one of the greatest of which, of course, is the lack of steady paycheck. Another comes when one tries to introduce oneself.

Before I moved to Chicago, I was the education reporter at U.S. News & World Report, which was a natural way to introduce myself. Now, when I explain that I’m a freelancer, I’m invariably asked whom I write for, which becomes a set of variables which either undermines or upholds the value of my writing depending on the taste of my inquisitor.

Being a freelancer and working with many different editors offers a new kind of flexibility, but it also means that I’m not always sure which outlet I’m covering something for.

I’m sure I’m not the only reporter who has received a press release and written back expressing interest (which, sadly, happens with only the tiny percentage of the releases that are actually on the mark) only to be asked what venue I write for. One would like to assume that if someone is taking the time to send a targeted release that the sender would actually research the recipient’s background.

Apparently lists are composed in bulk without much attention to who ends up on the list, which might be why such a staggering percentage of news releases are neither news nor properly released.

This issue is compounded for freelancers, though. When one has a full-time journalism job — a mythical beast that some of us have heard rumors about, but believe to be all but extinct — it’s easy to explain what venue one is writing for; when one is a freelancer, that’s not always, or often, the case.

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