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Freelancing: A smart alternative?

By Billy O'Keefe

By Jacqueline Palochko
The uncertain journalism job market can lead to layoffs and downsizing. For reporters who worry about their jobs but still want to write, freelancing is an option.
Ruth Thaler-Carter, a freelancer since 1985, was the speaker during the “Launching Your Freelance Journalism Career” program Saturday. Her session gave journalists tips on getting into freelancing.
According to Thaler-Carter, benefits of freelancing include freedom, flexibility, more time at home and choosing topics to write about.
Ben Shlesinger, USAE News assistant managing editor, is also a part-time paid blogger. Shlesinger started blogging last year about Washington, D.C., tourism, an interest that has allowed him to attend political balls and concerts. Although Shlesinger has a full-time job at a weekly community newspaper in Maryland, he said he considers blogging to be his “fun” job.
“If I could find a job where I’m a full-time blogger, I would,” he said.
Stephenie Overman, SPJ Freelance Committee vice-chair, fielded journalists’ questions at her freelancing tips booth in the Journalism Expo.
“They’re employed but are concerned about layoffs,” she said.
Overman said she recommends that journalists look at all freelancing options, including newsletters and online publications — not just newspapers.
“You don’t just have to know one area of specialty,” Overman said. “Being a writer — you just flow with it.”
Overman became a freelancer 14 years ago when she was laid off by a newspaper. She said she enjoys freelancing because she gets to write about labor unions. If handed a full-time job at a newspaper, Overman said her answer would be clear.
“I would not take the full-time job,” she said.
However, Overman and Thaler-Carter noted disadvantages of freelancing, such as low pay, working alone and having to self-market. One of the biggest concerns is health care.
“There’s no health care for freelancers,” Overman said. “And that’s a big issue.”
Carter said those interested in becoming freelancers should search Internet sites such as LinkedIn.com and Craigslist.org or send queries to local publications.