Going Solo: Freelance multimedia journalism is nothing to be scared of

By Jasper Jackson

Journalists embarking on a freelance career should not be afraid of going it alone, but they must take advantage of new technology and multimedia toll to get noticed, according to a Frontline Club panel of freelance experts.

If you couldn’t make the event, here is a video of the whole thing in full.

Experienced freelance writer and editor Anne Wollenberg admitted that the solitude that comes with giving up a staff job can be dispiriting. "Anticipate anything that may make you lose heart," she told the audience, roughly half of whom were already freelance.

Chasing editors and running what is effectively an independent business can seem daunting for those starting out, said Wollenberg. But she claimed there was ample work out there for those with determination and an eye for what editors are looking for.

However, she said many freelancers needed to pay more attention to their online presence and she said she would often not bother commissioning work from someone she couldn’t "find on Google in five minutes"

Click here to see the slides from Anne’s presentation.

Multimedia freelancer and trainer Adam Westbrook attempted to dispel the myth that expensive equipment is necessary to produce high quality video and audio journalism:

It has never been cheaper, faster or easier to create content, publish and startup businesses.

Here is Adam’s presentation:

John Brazier, managing director of the professional association for freelancers, PCG, outlined some of the practical difficulties facing all individual contractors. He said the tax legislation IR35 made it difficult for freelancers to prove they should not be paying the same tax as those in full employment.  

He hailed a commitment from the Conservative party that they will look at IR35 as part of a wider review of government regulation of small businesses if they win the coming election as an important achievement for PCG.     

Giving the final presentation, multimedia journalist Deborah Bonello described how she struck out on her own to build Mexicoreporter.com. Treating the website "as an editor (would)", she said the process of filing daily reports on life in Mexico had brought her little direct financial reward.

However, her time running the site was a "life-changing experience" that had brought her contract work for the LA Times and helped her secure a video production position at the Financial Times.  

Bonello’s web and video expertise is largely self taught and she says the best advice she’s received is to "just go out there and start filing":

You don’t need a fancy degree…You do need an understanding of journalistic principles…how to tell a story and how to write.