Three No-Cost Ideas for Starting Out as a Freelancer

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The wife and I were at lunch when our waiter introduced himself. Right away, I noticed his golden voice. I asked if he was a student and what his aspirations were. He had left college for personal reasons but wanted to be a voice actor. He had no idea how to go about achieving this. Even from my students, I hear a lot of inquiries of how to get started as a freelancer and jumpstart their careers. Here are three tips for getting started in freelancing at no cost to yourself!

BUILD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CIRCLE

Having social media profiles is no new thing but are you using them professionally? Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing yourself. However, you need to begin thinking of yourself as a brand. Is your existing social media reflective of how you want to sell yourself? Probably not. Rather than painstakingly adjust your current online presence, create a new one. Start from scratch and shape each aspect of how you will be presented.

You need to begin with one email that can be used to create all the other profiles. This email could also serve as your primary contact. I recommend using Gmail since many services since you get a Youtube account and access to Google’s services (Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.). Begin using this email to register for all the other websites and social media profiles.

A Facebook Page and Twitter will be great ways to publish your work, update people on your current projects, and socialize with followers. Starting a WordPress blog lets you both write on your current projects, your related interests and thoughts, and even create hub for all your other profiles. A Youtube and/or Soundcloud profile will let you upload and showcase your audio/visual work for potential clients.

With an online presence established, start publishing! Even when you’re not getting work, talk about your topic and become a source of information on it. This will help build yourself as a professional in your field. Find the message boards and other online discussion groups where other professionals meet and join the conversation. Do everything to put yourself out there.

FINDING FREE EQUIPMENT

Equipment is expensive. Professional media equipment easily costs thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. The problem I’ve seen too many times are novice freelancers maxing out credit cards to get the toys but not knowing what’s next. Finding no gigs, they’ve put themselves in debt. If you are just starting out, then accept that better equipment must be earned.

“That’s all fine and good,” you say, “but how am I supposed to do anything with no equipment!”

Take an inventory. Chances are, you have a computer and a smartphone. That’s ok. Use what you have. Smartphones may not be professional equipment but you can still make a professional product with them. Check out my Smartphone Storytelling series! With just a smartphone and computer you could easily put together a commercial for a small business, a video for a church, and many other smaller gigs.

If you know anyone doing media, especially as a freelancer, see if they have any older equipment they don’t mind parting with. Through my early work, I managed to nab all kinds of gear, including an audio mixer and a lens for my DSLR. Get whatever you can and as you gain profit begin upgrading your tools.

Software is perhaps the easiest to get. Plan on doing audio recording/editing? Try Audacity, a free audio editor comparable to Adobe Audition. Need something to edit photos? How about GIMP, a free photo editor comparable to Photoshop. Animation and graphics? Blender. Video editing? Davinci Resolve. Even legal document templates are available online to help you create your contract (which you will need). Just start searching!

GET IN THE GAME

To start freelancing you need start doing it! There are many free online marketplaces to tap into that will put you right in the game. The basic plan on GigSalad allows potential clients to find you. Fiverr lets you create a job that you will do for $5 and other higher cost premium jobs.

To be more proactive, you could also look for opportunities on Craigslist and similar websites. These sites consistently have opportunities for freelancers. Indie filmmakers are always looking for casts and crews. Startup businesses have needs for photographers, media performers, and other roles. Seeking them out can help you choose the gigs that work best within your schedule and abilities.

Finally, if you are truly just starting out, you probably have no experience or any samples of your work. This makes it hard to get a paid gig. So forget about the money. Do pro bono. Many non-profits, churches, or small businesses have a need for media work but neither the resources or personel to do it. This approach allows you to help support a cause or business you favor. Additionally, its an easy way to build that portfolio when starting out.

Don’t be discouraged to start small and work up from there. You have to crawl before you run.

Freelancing isn’t for anyone. It takes a lot of work! However, you won’t get anything accomplished unless you try. Using no-cost strategies, you can test the waters before diving in and possibly getting in over your head. So go ahead! Get started!

Five Tips for the Freshman Journalism Student

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With Fall, many highschool graduates are undertaking the crazy adventure of higher education. Among the college-bound is the next generation of journalists. As the Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Oklahoma Baptist University, I’ve witnessed the shock many students have when they take their first steps into news. Its a lot more work than most realize as they often say, “I had no idea…”

To those brave souls beginning their journey in to journalism, here are my five tips to help you better prepare.

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CONSUME THE NEWS

Are you reading the news? No? Start doing it.

Are you watching news broadcasts? No? Start watching them.

If you want to be a journalist, prepare to eat, breathe, and sleep the news. Haha! Not really, there is no sleep for journalists. You need to be plugged into news all the time. Know what is happening in the world around you and stay informed. Consume news in different formats from different organizations. There is no room for favoritism, read and watch it all. You will not only stay up-to-date with events but learn different styles of reporting.

The more you educate yourself, the better you will be able to report on various topics. You will be stronger at finding stories, covering all the angles, and understanding the weight of certain events.

A great way to be on top of things is through Twitter and Facebook. Follow local and national journalists and news organizations of interest. If you check your social media few times a day, you will get the daily updates straight to your feed.

GET PLUGGED IN

Starting college can be an overwhelming experience. There are plenty of things demanding your attention. However, one of the best ways to establish a strong foundation in journalism is by connecting early with your school’s journalistic organizations. You won’t be expected to know everything from Day 1 but taking baby steps with the group will allow you to gain solid experience. Sticking with it through the years, you can graduate with an established reputation and attractive portfolio.

Make journalism your sport. A college athlete works hard to get on the team and trains to be ready for game day. Similarly, a journalism student needs to get involved and commit the time to getting the publication or broadcast polished. Take on that work ethic and you will be a News MVP in no time!

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USE YOUR ADVISORS

In college, you will have a faculty advisor and plenty of “unofficial” advisors. Your professors are excellent sources of knowledge. Too many students don’t take advantage of their teachers. Many of those old guys have careers longer than your existance and have plenty to share.

Professor’s help those who help themselves. Take iniative and go beyond the classroom. Be open with your advisor on your academic and professional goals. Talk to them about what opportunities are available to advance yourself. Ask your professors to teach you beyond the textbook and about their own experiences professionally.

LEARN EVERYTHING

Journalists used to have dedicated roles. You had a producer, a reporter, a photographer, an editor, etc. Times have changed and journalists are expected to be jacks-of-all-trades. News organizations are looking for journalists to be able to do it all. In some places, reporters are their own photographers and editors. Many times, photographers will be expected to conduct interviews, film the story, edit it all, and publish it. And everybody, I mean everybody, needs to be a social media guru.

News organizations are all experimenting with this new reality and, honestly, schools are still playing catch-up. Your education is your own. If you want to be best prepared for the climate of the newsroom, learn everything. Take courses beyond the role you would like to do. Are you an aspiring reporter? Take some photography and editing courses. Wanna be a photographer? Learn to write. The more tools in your belt, the more prepared you will be for any job.

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START NOW

From this day forth, don’t view yourself as a journalism student. You are a journalist. Even as you are learning the craft, see yourself as a professional. If you are truly serious about being a journalist, start acting like one.

Where to begin? Do an assessment of your online self. Is your social media reflective of how you want job seekers to view you? If not, clean it up. Additionally, consider creating new emails and profiles for the purpose of publishing your work.

If you feel you are ok online, start being a journalist. Find stories, write, take photos, report. If you have a specific topic you’d like to cover, go for it! Be a community journalist. Report on local sports. Cover pop culture. Just start establishing yourself. You will not only be building yourself up as a commodity but gaining invaluable experience. Even if no one views your work, you will have, at least, began training your “muscles” for bigger and better opportunities. If you do gain viewers, you’ll have the beginnings of a killer portfolio. Dream big!

For journalism tips and trends, follow me on Twitter @xtiannetizen.