Amid the disruption to the news industry because of the coronavirus pandemic, freelance journalists have been particularly affected by paid projects being cancelled at short notice.
The pair had been in the middle of recording a freelancer's advice podcast series, Freelancing For Journalists, due to be launched later in the year alongside a book of the same name.
As guests began to back out due to coronavirus concerns, they soon realised the need to produce an episode giving freelance journalists guidance throughout this period of instability.
Studio action shot 🎙️of @Emmajourno and I trying to provide reassurance and guidance to fellow #freelance journalists amidst #CoronavirusOutbreak. Listen to our podcast and let us know what you think! https://t.co/ywNYNtTFZK pic.twitter.com/4DoyeZL8dP— Dr Lily Canter (@lilycanter) March 17, 2020
Editors still need stories
It is never nice to find work drying up. The reality is that editors still have websites and columns to fill, and are still commissioning content. Finding work is a case of adapting your writing style.
Case in point; Canter writes a regular financial series for The Sun. While that series has now stopped running, every publication desperately wants coronavirus-related content.
"You have to be willing to diversify. All people are doing at the moment is reading and viewing content online and publications have still got budgets to pay for things," she said.
"I started writing for the South China Morning Post last year because a lot of the health stuff I was pitching in the UK wasn’t getting picked up. Think outside the box and problem solve in a different way, rather than thinking 'This is the one thing that I can do’."
Seek support networks
Freelancing networks and groups are worth reaching out to for support and solidarity. It could be worth bouncing a few ideas off members, who are often happy to lend a hand.
"When you need to problem-solve over what you’re eligible for and how to solve someone who’s not paying you, there are loads of freelancers out there who will give you advice and point you in the direction of work when they come across it - so use it," said Wilkinson.
I am still seeing call outs for pitches and editors needing content so if you're a freelance journalist make sure you tap into networks that flag up potential new sources of work. And listen to @lilycanter and I on how freelancers are managing https://t.co/zsYBIpy2tZ— Emmajourno (@Emmajourno) March 18, 2020
Return to lost gems
The current climate is also a great time to dig up previous pitches that have not quite worked out for whatever reason. Who knows, you might find a new spin on it that works this time
Canter explained that a pitch about a friend who has made their own toilet paper for years had initially fallen flat. Now with such media attention on the product, it was a perfect time to re-pitch and is now in the process of being published.
Like many other housebound journalists, the podcasting duo have parental responsibilities. Time management and realistic expectations of your human abilities are essential at this time.
“Don’t expect that you can work as a freelance journalist full-time while simultaneously homeschooling the kids - it’s not going to happen," said Wilkinson.
Seek whatever support you can at home and establish a new routine that works for everyone involved. In case you are worried about replicating the famous BBC interview which was interrupted by a child, it pays to be honest with interviewees about the situation at home.
“I’ve never had anybody have a negative reaction to that. We’re all just muddling along, so be easy on yourself and don’t ever set expectations too high," Wilkinson added.
Make the most of the situation
Weathering the current storm will require forging new contacts, so take this opportunity to fill up your book of contacts and future potential anchor clients.
“You’ll suddenly find that you’ve got loads more contacts, more different organisations that you’ve worked for and a much more diverse spread of work, so I think people will come out stronger on the other side of it," Canter concluded.
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