How to Become a Freelance Reporter

Find out how to become a freelance reporter. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in freelance reporting.

Do I Want to Be a Freelance Reporter?

Freelance reporters are self-employed and report news stories and other information on an as-needed basis for various organizations. They must find, develop, investigate, and write their own stories. Freelancers must be business-minded and competitive, with the ability to find work on a regular basis. Relocation might be needed to report effectively about countries other than their own. Some situations might be dangerous, such as reporting on wars or natural disasters.

Job Requirements

A bachelor's degree related to journalism is usually required. A portfolio of past work also could be helpful in securing assignments. The following table contains the main requirements for freelance reporters:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field English, journalism, or communications*
Experience Experience working for high school and college newspapers, as well as magazines and other publications, is often required*
Key Skills Writing, active listening, critical thinking, persistence, and creativity*
Computer Skills Knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet and social media software**
Technical Skills Microphones, video cameras**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers prefer journalists who have a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications, English, or a related field. Relevant coursework includes reporting techniques, journalism ethics, visual communications, and editing.

Success Tips:

  • Participate in an internship. Students should look for bachelor's programs that allow them to gain practical experience through internships. These opportunities can help students strengthen their skill sets and prepare for employment after college.
  • Consider blogging. Freelance reporters can get experience by starting or writing for a blog, which might lead to further exposure and paid work opportunities.
  • Develop a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of work and other items that demonstrate a person's skills, abilities, and background experiences. An aspiring reporter should develop a portfolio that includes education information, proof of work experience, and examples of his or her work. Some bachelor's degree programs include a course or classes devoted to portfolio development. Other portfolio pieces could come from past experience working for a school newspaper, television station, or radio station; having work published online; or participating in an internship.

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

A business plan serves as a research and planning document that allows a person to organize and run his or her business effectively. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a business plan should include information about marketing, services offered, and a financial outline. Creating a business plan can help a freelance reporter identify areas where work opportunities exist, plan out finances, and discover ways to market his or her services.

Step 3: Secure Employment

Freelance reporters continually market themselves to organizations, companies, and people who may be interested in securing their services. This may involve traveling, working long hours, and going without pay for long periods. Freelance reporters work on stories to pitch to potential buyers, such as local, state, and national news organizations; magazines; newspapers; websites; and other companies and organizations that provide information to the public.

Success Tips:

  • Establish professional relationships. A freelance reporter must have strong relationships within the industry to find work. Networking through online social media applications or websites, local events, and seminars is one way to build those relationships. Freelance reporters may also consider joining professional organizations, like the Editorial Freelancers Association or the Society of Professional Journalists.
  • Complete continuing education courses or programs. Students can take continuing education classes or workshops to hone their writing and reporting skills. These courses can be completed on campus or through distance learning programs. Some result in professional certificates that can be added to a freelancer's resume.

Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree

Completion of a graduate program isn't required in order to become a freelance reporter. However, advanced degrees in journalism are available and can add further experience and credentials to a freelancer's portfolio or resume. Many master's programs allow students to select a specialization, like political or business reporting. Internships with news organizations are often part of the curricula as well.

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Popular Schools

The schools in the listing below are not free but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 21 years of age or older and have completed some college or 24 years of age or older and a high school graduate for a Bachelor's degree
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Florida (1 campus)

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (1 campus)
    • California (2)
    • Colorado (2)
    • Georgia (1)
    • Michigan (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    Do you prefer online or campus based learning?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • All degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree or higher
    • Post-Master's Certificate degree applicants must have a Masters degree or higher
    School locations:
    • Maryland (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Master
        • MA in Communication
        • MA in Science Writing

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Undergraduate applicants must be a high school graduate or have completed GED and completed some college. Master's degree applicants must have a bachelor's or higher.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Minnesota (1 campus)
    • Washington (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • Bachelor - Digital Media Production
        • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Digital Media Production
    • Associate
        • Associate - Radio Broadcasting

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Composition
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Journalism
      • Public Relations and Advertising
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Composition
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Journalism
        • Broadcast Journalism
        • Print, Broadcast and Electronic Journalism
      • Public Relations and Advertising

Popular Schools

The schools in the listing below are not free but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics