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Freelancers make up a big segment of SEJ's membership. The work is a tricky mixture of contract negotiation, copyright issues, time management and story-selling. This page offers resources specifically tailored to those journalists.
DISCLAIMER: Various SEJ journalists and others have offered these links as sources of information. We pass them along as a service. The views expressed on these websites are not necessarily those of SEJ or its board. Some offer products and services. SEJ does not endorse any of these websites. Do your homework.
Have other ideas for content on this page? Email SEJ web content manager Cindy MacDonald.
- Sign up for our SEJ member freelancers listserv: SEJ-Freelance. Go here for information on joining the listserv and accessing archives.
- Check out SEJournal's Freelance Files for valuable tips and wisdom from environmental journalism freelancers.
See the resource list (updated in early 2020) compiled by SEJ freelancers Karen Schaefer and Meera Subramanian, who hosted a beat dinner in October 2010 at SEJ's 20th Annual Conference in Missoula, Montana to share information about how to make the freelance life work.
Events and Other Opportunities
- Feb 22, 2023: "How To Find High-Paying Clients With The Writers' Co-op." For TWC's February event, the discussion will be on tactics to identify clients who would pay you at least $100/hour or more. 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET.
- Jan 12, 19 and 26, 2023: "Get $h!t Done With The Writers' Co-op: Rebuild Your Webpage!" In TWC's interactive three week course, you'll learn about what makes a stellar portfolio, workshop your sales page with your freelance colleagues to talk about your experience in a way that feels authentic to you, gather information to make your work shine – and have accountability through the entire process. 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET each day.
- Dec 7, 2022: "The 2022 Business Refresh with The Writers' Co-op." TWC is hosting a 75-minute year-end business audit, where you get to reflect on your freelance wins this year, and get direction on where you'd like to take your creative ventures in 2023. Turn your goals into tactical next steps. Includes TWC's online business planning course and the business audit worksheet. 3:00-4:15 p.m. ET.
- Nov 29, 2022: "Freelancing FAQs: An Interactive Workshop." Science Writers and Communicators of Canada is bringing together freelancers from across Canada to share their expertise on everything from finding clients and setting rates, to pitching stories, to managing time effectively. 12-1pm ET. Cost: $15 Members & $30 Non-Members.
- Nov 16, 2022: "How To Buoy Your Freelance Business During Economic Downturns," The Writers' Co-op. 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET.
- Nov 2, 2022 deadline: In honor of International Freelancer Day on Oct 19, Freelancers Union + Fiverr opened applications for Freelancer Wellness Grants of $500 to aid freelancers and independent workers worldwide.
- Jun 21, 2022: "How to Build Your Own Freelance Team: Subcontracting, Assistants & More," The Writers' Co-op.
- May 11, 2022 deadline (extended from Apr 15): Gumshoe Group's Public Records Payment Scheme for Freelancers. If you're a freelancer with an idea for a public records-based investigative project, the Gumshoe Group offers grants of up to $1,500 to fund the research and work of filing open-records requests for your reporting project. They may also connect successful applicants with lawyers to support their requests.
- Jan 18, 2022: "New Year, New Clients," The Writers' Co-op.
- Dec 7, 2021: "Business Refresh," The Writers' Co-op.
- Nov 9, 2021: "Pricing Clinic," The Writers' Co-op.
- Oct 26, 2021: "Mental Health Management for Freelancers," The Writers' Co-op.
- Sep 28, 2021: "Freelance Contracts: A Public-Interest Roundtable," a virtual roundtable on solving freelancer liability, with Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein, former Bloomberg News Global Media Counsel Charles Glasser, freelance investigative reporter Alexandria Bordas and Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors executive director Laird Townsend. Watch the recording by filling out this quick form, which helps us understand more about the landscape of legal liabilities for freelancers. Check out the new FIRE Contract Template, free to download with just a quick form to request access.
- Jul 21, 2021: "Making Journalism More Efficient," The Writers' Co-op.
- Jul 8, 2021: "Crafting a Winning Pitch: A Follow Up," an International Center for Journalists webinar with Fredrick Mugira, Rekha Chandiramani and Ezaldeen Arbab, journalists who have landed reporting grants in the past. They will take journalists through their pitching process and provide insights into what has worked for them.
- May 13, 2021: "How to Start and Succeed at Freelance Journalism," a webinar with Melissa Noel, freelance multimedia reporter, moderated by ICFJ Global Forum Community Manager, Paul Adepoju.
- May 11, 2021: "How to Make Your Freelance Business More Efficient," The Writers' Co-op.
- Apr 21, 2021: "Market Yourself: A Live Portfolio Review for Freelance Writers," The Writers' Co-op. This event is sold out. Contact TWC to be added to a cancellation list.
- "Spring Mastermind: Journalists," The Writers' Co-op. 12 members will meet monthly (Apr 5, May 3, June 7, 2021) to discuss the challenges of doing independent journalism. We will talk about story development from a business perspective, contracts, markets for our journalism, and growing our careers.
- Mar 9, 2021: "Using Twitter to Find Work," The Writers' Co-op.
- Jan 26, 2021: "How to Price Freelance Writing Projects," The Writers' Co-op.
- Jan 18, 2021: The Writers' Co-op talked with SEJ member Lee van der Voo about how she looks at investigative journalism as a business.
- Dec 21, 2020: The Writers' Co-op interviewed Deepa Lakshmin, who leads content marketing for the Tribeca Film Festival full-time and is a freelance journalist part-time, about "balancing full-time work with freelance gigs, the privilege of being in a phase of life where you can prioritize work and just that, and how to plan your career strategically as a freelancer."
- Nov 18, 2020: Navigating Liability and Legal Issues As a Freelance Writer. Joining The Writers' Co-op for this webinar are Umair Kazi of The Author's Guild and media attorney Carolyn Schurr Levin.
- Sep 1, 2020: Drilled News seeks stringers for its Local Climate Accountability Reporting Network in these geographic areas: West Texas/Permian Basin; Corpus Christi, TX; Ohio River Valley (eastern Ohio and/or western Pennsylvania); and Louisiana Gulf Coast.
- Jul 29, 2020: Outside/In Podcast and Radio, a show about the natural world and how we use it, has a brand new Pitch Page, and a renewed budget for freelance pieces. They're looking to work with all kinds of journalists, but as a podcast/radio show there will need to be SOME WAY of bringing sound into your stories. Either you need to be ready to record yourself, or work with a producer to make a plan for how to record audio.
- Freelance Breaking News: Promises and Pitfalls. In the age of COVID-19, many news directors are turning to local independent journalists for coverage, trusting freelance reporters and photographers to supply continuing on-the-spot news. Join Washington, D.C.-area reporter and editor Stephenie Overman in a talk with freelance journalists Katie G. Nelson in Minneapolis and Haisten Willis in Atlanta. July 30, 2020.
- Freelance Journalism Summer Camp: This intensive online course, run by full-time freelance journalist Abigail Edge, is an inspired DIY retreat for any freelance journalist feeling the urge to take stock and refresh their career goals. Over the course of four weeks we'll cover everything from pitching and ideas to branding and business skills, with Q&A sessions. June 15-July 6, 2020.
- Freelancer Focus: Pitching Environment and Science Stories to Mongabay. Jun 5, 2020.
General Resources and Articles
100 Best Apps for Online Job Freelancers
While not aimed specifically at freelance journalists, this list researched and compiled by Small Revolution gives a rundown on apps to help any freelancer manage, streamline, collaborate and increase efficiency in their work.
A Culture of Safety Alliance
Established in 2015, the ACOS Alliance is a coalition of news organizations, freelance journalist associations and press freedom NGOs collaborating to promote safe and responsible journalistic practices. You'll find information on insurance, safety training, an information-sharing project and other resources.
Established in 1999, this site for beginners and professionals offers free newsletters, online forums, literary agents, market and writing resources, more. "Absolute Write is a moderated, free, online community of writers, agents, editors, and publishers. We welcome writers of all levels of experience and ambition. We do not offer any paid services, classes or workshops."
AIR Rate Guides
AIR, a network of independent audio producers, multimedia journalists, and public media programs, stations and networks across 30 countries, publishes rate guides for public radio, day rates, editing and more. Guides last updated Sep 2021.
All About Freelancing
For members of the National Association of Science Writers, this site provides links for science freelances, a frequently-asked-questions section, listservs, writing tips for specific subjects, time management, contract negotiations and advice.
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
Offers a range of information to non-members, including position papers on indemnification clauses, "work made for hire" and "All-Rights" contracts plus information sheets on contract tips for freelancers, e-rights, copyright registration, how to protect your writing, intellectual property and more.
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)
Established in 1946, ASMP addresses the concerns of independent publication photographers, offering resources and deep experience in dealing with issues such as licensing and other legal issues, business management, etc.
A free web finance resource, accredited by the Better Business Bureau, offers an annuities guide on how to generate long-term income, which can greatly benefit those out of work or on a reduced income, and a COVID-19 financial guide.
Association of Independents in Radio (AIR)
Since 1988, AIR has been providing producers in radio- and audio-based media with professional development programs and resources, including mentoring, training and printed and online publications, as well as conferences and activities that expand networking, advocacy, employment and funding opportunities.
Canadian Freelance Guild
"A new form of unionism for freelance workers." Founded by members of the former Professional Writers Association of Canada and the independent membership of the Freelance Branch of the Canadian Media Guild , the CFG offers a job board, help with contracts and payment disputes, media cards, insurance, webinars, health care, social media accounts and more. $150/year.
Canadian Freelance Union
CEP Media formed this union for Canadian freelancers in 2006 to "utilize its resources to create a strong collective voice for media freelancers and other independent communication professionals." $125/year.
Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
The Dart Center offers a plethora of resources and a global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy. It is a project of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, with international satellite offices in London and Melbourne.
Short online business courses for freelancers. Prices vary by individual course or the full program.
Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE)
In 2016, with a $200,000 grant from a generous anonymous donor with a background in news reporting, Project Word launched a pilot project for a program to help unaffiliated journalists, Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE). Two services are provided: a complimentary Editorial Consultancy and a Virtual Newsroom offering funding (up to $12,500), open-records coaching, trained research assistance, data management and more. Rolling deadline. Also, FIRE accepts applications for customized contract-related legal assistance from two veteran media attorneys. Info on FIRE's resources on liability for freelancers from SEJournal. FIRE Tip Sheets for media outlets and freelance reporters providing guidance on arranging contracts for public-interest investigations. Sign up for FIRE's e-newsletter.
Freelance Solidarity Project
FSP is a division of the National Writers Union, requiring membership therein (sliding scale). They aim to improve industry standards for digital media workers worldwide by joining forces in an open-shop union (you don't have to work for a specific employer or client to join). They offer free monthly info sessions, a crowdsourced Rate Sharing database and access to a lawyer for advice on contracts. FSP supports the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize Act).
A great subscription site (USD$119/year) for serious freelancers, providing a weekly newsletter; an online forum; access to tools and databases that make running a freelance business more profitable; practical advice on using technology, such as how to find sources online and how to locate editors who treat freelancers well (and how to steer away from those who don't welcome contributors); a personal link to writers' confabs and invitation-only networking groups; tips on how to manage your freelance business; and more.
Another freelancer's assortment of links, with news, agents, ideas.
The Freelancer's Essential Guide to Business and Taxes
The purpose of this guide is to provide a concise, yet comprehensive reality check, so that freelancers are fully prepared to protect, build upon and succeed in this new freelance-centric economy. The guide is free online, educational, inspirational and practical; it aims to teach you why the freelance economy is growing and how, as a freelancer, you can take advantage of that growth. Scroll down past the W-9 form info for the guide.
This organization offers group health and dental insurance to freelancers, as well as useful discounts to Zipcar, Barnesandnoble.com, and other resources. Includes a great e-newsletter and a helpful section on Nonpaying Clients. No charge to join.
- "Tips for getting faster payment," courtesy of FreshBooks and the Freelancers Union
Freelancing 101: Your Complete Guide to Starting Successful Freelance Work
Zen Business' guide comprises a variety of topics on freelancing, including the pros and cons of this career; where to start and find work in desired freelance fields; resources and tools; tips on client management; and more.
Frontline Freelance Register
A membership association, FFR is open to international freelance journalists who are exposed to risk in their work and who adhere to its Code of Conduct. FFR offers a sense of community to members while providing resources for their safety and professional practice.
"How To Get Your First Upwork Job"
This article comprises tips from freelancers who use Upwork on how to get yourself noticed and hired.
"How to Successfully Acquire, Create and Manage Important Documents for Your Freelance Business"
From Adobe Blog, September 21, 2021, this guide is intended to serve as a go-to resource for freelance business owners who may be struggling with organizing their important documents such as certifications, licenses, and more.
- "Best Health Insurance Companies," LendEDU, January 3, 2020, by Mike Brown.
- Get Dinghy: media and professional liability insurance for freelancers.
- Health Insurance Information, November 2010, SEJ.
- "Issues Facing Freelance Writers in 2021: Liability," Freelancers Union, November 15, 2021.
"Journalism Isn't Who You Are. It's What You Do."
Brighten your day with this Poynter piece by Wudan Yan, December 3, 2021.
For folks who create or work with content, or who are non-creative professionals working in a content/creative industry — editors, writers, television producers, graphic designers, book publishers, people in production, and circulation departments, this "traveling press club" offers opportunities (both online and offline) for you to get to know each other, share resources, find job opportunities and interesting projects, improve career skills, and showcase your work. Bonus: they hold workshops and happy hours for freelancers all over the country!
Media Outlets That Publish Science (and Environment) Stories
SEJ member Robin Lloyd compiles and updates this comprehensive 37-page list. You can use and share it for free. Includes science, environment, health, climate, nature and tech media. Mainly U.S. and Canada, English-language; some Latin America. Scroll toward the bottom for additional resources, indemnity information, source-finding resources and more.
National Writers Union
Offers a lot of diverse material even to non-members, including:
- Writer Alerts
- Book Authors Page, with advice on copyright, electronic rights, and royalties.
- Journalists Page, with tips on standard journalism contracts, copyright, "kill fees," all-rights contracts, work-for-hire, and "indemnification" clauses. Also offers a contract-advice network, help with negotiations and tips on the sale of electronic rights.
- Grievances Page
- Contract Advice
- Rights for Creators Campaign
- National Writers Union Freelance Writers' Guide
Members-only services include:
- Organizing and Education
- Grievance Resolution
- Contract Advice
- Job Hotline
- Health Insurance
- Press Pass
- Authors Network
- Media Rates Database
Online Portfolio: How to Setup & What to Include
This website guides you through how to create an online portfolio that stands out and showcases your work, using either Wordpress or Wix.
The Reporters Committee, Microsoft Corp., the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Davis Wright Tremaine are teaming up to expand a program to provide local journalists no-cost legal help with pre-publication review and public records access. The expansion of the Protecting Journalists Pro Bono Program (ProJourn) follows a successful pilot phase and landscape study demonstrating the critical need for increased legal support for local journalism, as well as a $1.3 million investment from the Knight Foundation. Read the Oct 3, 2022 RCFP release. If you wish to request pro bono legal assistance under this program, fill out this form.
SEJ's Freelance Files
This quarterly SEJournal column for and by environmental journalism freelancers features a rotating cast of writers sharing hard-earned wisdom about myriad aspects of weaving a life and business out of their independent status.
SEJ's Mentor Program
We pair veteran environmental reporters with newcomers to the beat, or with less experienced reporters who want to improve their skills. We also accept applications from university-level students who have demonstrated an interest in environmental journalism, although our program is primarily designed to benefit "mentees" who are already working as professionals. SEJ members only. Join SEJ.
"A media newsletter & online support network for media workers." Multiple subscription options available, including a tier for media workers of color.
Wave Invoicing Software
Wave Financial offers "free forever" customizable freelancer invoice templates in Word, Excel, PDF, Google Docs, and Google Sheets with associated accounting features including credit card processing and payroll services.
Offers a free newsletter, markets database, writing software, links as well as additional perks for members.
Four levels of membership with paid job postings, market information, access to a media attorney, marketing tips, business-building strategies, and valuable networking help.
The Writers' Co-op
Launched in 2020, this business podcast is for freelance writers everywhere. It's hosted by SEJ member Wudan Yan and freelancer Jenni Gritters. Hear about finding clients, diversifying income streams, saying no, taking care of your mental health, negotiating contracts, getting paid on time and more. Apple Podcasts. Spotify.
For newer freelancers, this writing ezine offers a free weekly newsletter, a books and courses list, articles, warnings, information on markets, and more.
- The National Geographic Society launched a COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists in April 2021. The fund will distribute grants ranging between $1,000 and $8,000 to support evidence-based local coverage of the preparation for, response to, and impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Priority communities include those at high risk or hit especially hard by the virus; Indigenous communities; immigrant or refugee communities; underserved, urban, rural, or elderly populations; and children. Applications were accepted through August 15, 2021.
- Mar 31, 2021: "The freelancer's guide to using your paid leave tax credit in 2021," Freelancers Union. Freelancers are eligible for these refundable tax credits for time off work due to COVID, including caregiving. Credits could be worth as much as $12,000.
- Feb 15, 2021 deadline: OPC Micro-grant Program for Freelance Journalists Affected by the Pandemic. Apply for the Overseas Press Club's new micro-grants ($1000) for freelancers. You do not have to be living overseas or a member of OPC to be eligible.
- "How to apply for a PPP loan," Freelancers Union, Jan 11, 2021.
- "SBA Issues Regulations on New Round of PPP Loans," JD Supra, Jan 11, 2021.
- "New PPP guidance issued by SBA, Treasury," Journal of Accountancy, Jan 7, 2021.
- Jan 15, 2021 YPTC webinar: "Register Now! Staying Afloat: The Latest on PPP and Other Pandemic Relief Options for Nonprofits"
- Coronovirus Relief Programs, Loans, Grants
- Coronavirus Tax Breaks for US Citizens: Accounting Institute for Success offers a breakdown by state of deadline extensions, tax breaks and stimulus programs.
- SEJ's COVID-19 compilation, updated daily, includes articles, resources, funding opps and online events.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants will be available again in 2021. Sole proprietor / freelancers are included under the EIDL grant terms. The SBA portal is due to open Jan 17.
- The U.S. Journalism Emergency Fund, offered by the International Women's Media Foundation with support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, is for staff or freelance journalists — regardless of gender — to access the resources they need to report safely on politics and unrest in the U.S. Rolling basis.
- "Safety Protocols for Covering COVID-19 Aim To Protect Freelancers," IJNet, Jun 9, 2020, by Courtney C. Radsch.
- COVID-19’s Effects On Freelancing — and Its Future: Independent journalist and filmmaker Zoe Flood will speak to Melissa Noel, an independent multimedia journalist, and Marc Perkins, the managing editor for BBC Africa Eye, about the state of freelancing today. A collaboration of the International Center for Journalists, the International Women's Media Foundation, ACOS Alliance, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the Frontline Freelance Register. Jun 2, 2020. Watch the recording.
- How To Run Your Freelance Business Like a Pro During the Pandemic: In this Writers' Co-op event, co-hosts Wudan Yan, SEJ member, and Jenni Gritters, along with lawyer-turned-journalist KJ Yossman and media lawyer Jeremy Eggleton, will talk about the challenges freelance writers face in protecting their time and business in an ever-changing, fast paced assignment cycle exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Q&A to follow. Free for The Writers' Co-op members; $5 for non-members. May 28, 2020.
- Freelance Audio Fund: Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) provides emergency relief to the professional audio community impacted by COVID-19. Open to non-AIR members. Deadline: May 22, 2020.
- Annuity.org: A free web finance resource, accredited by the Better Business Bureau, offers an annuities guide and COVID-19 financial guide.