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Freelance journalism and photography

Travel Forums General Talk Freelance journalism and photography

1. Posted by vikinghs (Budding Member 10 posts) 10y

Hi,

I was just wondering how good the possibilities are of financing part of ones travel through freelance journalism/photography?
Obviously you need the required skill and flair for both, but can you get into this without formal education and work experience?
What is the best way to aproach this? Should i contact newspapers first and maybe write an essay on a random subject, or go travel and then send a draft?
I'm guessing that i am not the first to consider this, so please let me know of your experience!

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4808 posts) 10y

Freelance photography - and I assume journalism as well - is 10% skill and 90% marketing/salesmanship.
I don't think I would ever advise anyone to rely on financing their travels this way - I would think that you'd need to really stand out, to add value far beyond what is being done by hundreds of thousands of other travellers who write about their travels and take decent to very good photographs with their ever increasing array of prosumer style cameras. (And do this all for free, I might add.) But that's not to say it's completely impossible. In fact, I think you don't really need to add that much more value - only to be able to find the people willing to pay for the value that you do add. That's where that 90% comes in...

3. Posted by vikinghs (Budding Member 10 posts) 10y

Quoting Sander

Freelance photography - and I assume journalism as well - is 10% skill and 90% marketing/salesmanship.
I don't think I would ever advise anyone to rely on financing their travels this way - I would think that you'd need to really stand out, to add value far beyond what is being done by hundreds of thousands of other travellers who write about their travels and take decent to very good photographs with their ever increasing array of prosumer style cameras. (And do this all for free, I might add.) But that's not to say it's completely impossible. In fact, I think you don't really need to add that much more value - only to be able to find the people willing to pay for the value that you do add. That's where that 90% comes in...

I have had many of the same thoughts about it that you state. I wasn't planning on financing my travels 100% this way, but even a little contribution in your own country might make a big diffenrence in other parts of the world. I guess a lot of it is about getting your foot in the door and having the right connections. I have just read so many bad travel articles in newspapers, that i thought i might have a go.

4. Posted by danalasta (Travel Guru 519 posts) 10y

Sander may be right -10% writing skills, and 90% salesmanship/marketing...Assuming that you have reasonable writing skills, and a perceptive mind for travel-related things, this is what you could do ( based on my 30 yrs in journalism & travel writing):

1. Get to know in person, editors, writers of publications first - they will have a lot to say about their publication, policies, requirements,house style, etc.This could mean when travelling, dropping by correspondents clubs (some allow guests). You could get a break here...Publications dont always advertise for free lance writers...keep in touch with them,e-mail them,etc.Tell them where you are, and who knows they may have something for you.ALWAYS TELL THEM WHAT YOU ALREADY (stories, pix,etc),not what you plan to do...Editors dont have time for stories; they want stories!

2. Don't focus on straight travel stories...something different...who wants to know about the bright city lights of London, Paris ? Look deeper and see if what you come across is relevant to the needs of a publication back in your country...For example, I have had (when I was handling the travel section of my newspaper ) a NZ free lancer asking me if I would be interested in a story of a Malaysian running a camp site in Queenstown.No publication is going to go ga-ga with night scenes in Khao San, wet market in Phnom Penh...they are brochure materials! Wouldn't a story on how a hilltribe in Laos gave up opium cultivation for vegetable growing with the help of awareness education make a fine story ? The art is to weave a bit of travel into the main story.

Good luck.

dana

5. Posted by Demian (Full Member 117 posts) 10y

Let me begin to say: it is possible! (to finance -parts of- your travel with freelance work). I'm doing it right now! ;)

BUT: as previous posts say: you need to know the publications you're targeting. Are you going to write for a newspaper, a magazine or a magazine? they all require a different approach/style.

And Danalasta is right: don't go to an editor and say: "look, i'm going there and there, would you be interested in a story?" Say: "I'm here and here, and I can offer you this and this." My experience is that your chances of getting your stuff published rise with 200%.

It is not really nessecary to know people at a certain publication. Just send emails to publications you think are suitable for your story (that's the way I do it). Most journalists like the straight forward way of approach.

Currently, I'm in South Africa for half a year (working at a local newspaper). But I do a lot of freelance stuff for newswebsites back home in the netherlands. I never wrote anything for them before; when I arrived, I just popped them a mail, wíth a first story. Now I am their correspondent for Southern Africa - paid and all.
Besides that, my hobby is outdoor sports (climbing, abseiling, hiking), and I wrote a couple of South African stories on that subject for Dutch outdoor/climbing magazines and websites. (one is paying exceptional well: 800 euro's per article.)

But I have to admit, I studied journalism. But no one ever asked me that. When you think your writing is good enough, don't hesitate. Everybody can call himself a freelance journalist, as it is not a protected profession.

For freelancers it is important to stand out: either make sure you are somewhere where no regular journalists are, or at a spot where something huge happened (A friend of mine was in Baghdad when the bombs fell the last time, made good money with his pics). Ór -the most important- look beyond the obvious stories.

Sometimes you just have to be lucky (especially with photo's), like my friend. I went to a poor family in a South African township (Orlando East, Soweto) for a story for the newspaper I'm working (the Star). I ended up selling a series of photo's of that family to a website! :)

In the end it can be hard to combine travelling with working. When you travel, you don't want to work - it's holiday after all! But if you set yourself the target of getting back your money by writing stories, you may end up forgetting to relax, only pursuing your financial objective.

Talk to travelwriters, they'll all tell you the same: It's harder work than you think.

But if you want to give it a shot: good luck!!