Freelance Media Jobs

What It’s Like to Work Freelance Media Jobs

Female designer checking photos of ceramics
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Most people understand what a freelancer is, but it has different connotations in different industries. Interestingly, in the media, there are a number of different freelance jobs you can get. You can work a part-time position as a freelancer, working a reduced schedule, or you can be a full-time freelancer, working either as a freelance writer, photographer or illustrator. You can also work a full-time job and freelance on the side, doing projects here and there.

What Are the Advantages?

The biggest advantage of working as a freelancer is the freedom it gives you. A freelancer isn’t bound to their desk, or to a 9-to-5 schedule. And, in the media world, working freelance might allow you to do different projects than if you were on staff full-time. Assignments freelancers receive often differ from those full-time staffers do as a freelancer can travel and spend more time on a project. At a magazine, for example, many features are assigned to freelance writers since full-time editors often don’t have the time to spend outside the office doing the story.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Whether you’re freelancing full or part-time in the media world, the biggest disadvantage of working as a freelancer is the fact that it doesn’t offer you any security. Freelancing can be tough because most freelancers don’t receive health coverage unless they have a specific contract with a company (and then have a unique full-time freelance position). The other big issue with freelancing is that you can’t rely on a steady stream of income. Having a full-time job means being able to rely on a steady paycheck.

A freelancer doesn’t have that luxury.

How Do You Transition From Full-Time to Freelance?

To become a full-time freelancer, you need to assess where you are in your career and what your needs are. Do you have the contacts you need to get a steady stream of assignments? How much money can you reasonably expect to make? Do you need health insurance? These are all questions someone needs to address before they can start freelancing full-time.

Many freelancers, in various sections of the media, will work full-time for years, making contacts within their industry, and picking up freelance jobs on the side, before they take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer. One thing a successful freelancer needs is strong ties to people who assign the work they do. Successful freelance magazine writers, for example, often have strong ties with certain editors who they rely on for multiple assignments. Once you have certain people who you can rely on to give you work, then you can comfortably get to a point where you can search out other jobs and bring in even more potential assignments and more money.

Because of the risky nature of freelance work, it’s very hard to develop a successful freelance career unless you’ve been working in the media for some time. There are exceptions to every rule -- if you’re a famous novelist, for example, you can often wrangle a plush freelance writing job because of your stature -- but the key to successful freelancing is leveraging the experience and reputation you build by working in that field.