This is the second part of a series on becoming a games journalist. In this part I will discuss freelance journalism as a route of entry into the industry. In the first part I discussed what a games journalist does and the degree to staff position route of entry. I would recommend that you read both parts before embarking upon a career in games journalism.
In the working world there are two types of people: Those who work for others and those who work for themselves. A freelance journalist is somebody who works for themselves, following commissions wherever they may lead, from one publishing house to the next. A freelance journalist can be somebody attempting to break into the industry; or a staffer breaking out of the corporate food chain, hopefully to make more money along the way.
What happens when you only think of yourself.
As a route of entry into the games journalism world freelancing can be attractive for two main reasons:
No qualifications required. Most, if not all, editors do not care whether you have a PhD or left school at 15 to work on building sites, so long as you have the necessary demonstrable skills to be a successful writer (see Part 1, if you haven't read it.) Similarly, if you're a school leaver who is not too keen on faffing about for three or four years in college then experience accrued whilst freelancing could get you a staff job in half the time as getting a degree and then eventually applying for a job.
The attraction of being your own boss. I'll speak in a little while about what it actually takes to "be your own boss" as a freelancer, but suffice to say that to a certain breed of people the attraction of largely being able to set ones own hours and maximise earning potential is a powerful draw.
What Does a Freelancer Do Differently Than a Staffer?
Freelancers pick up the slack on publications, mostly writing reviews, previews and feature articles. Whereas a staffers life is nice and predictable, a freelancer has to constantly hunt new work and new opportunities. The rewards for being a successful freelancer are greater, as one can get better paying and/or more interesting work; but by the flip side of that coin, if you're not successful then you're going to go hungry.
A freelancer must pitch editors with article ideas and, if all goes well, the editor commissions an article. You write it to perfection (of course) and after a while a bond of professional trust develops between editor and freelancer, and the editor will pitch ideas to the freelancer as well as vice versa. The big trick in freelancing which sets it aside from staff work is that a freelancer must constantly sell him or herself to editors until, eventually, that bond of trust develops.