Hiring freelance journalists for news: Pros and Cons

In the modern gig economy, more media outlets are hiring freelance journalists to cover the news. Here are a few things to be aware of before diving in.

Hiring freelance journalists for news: Pros and Cons

With today’s increasingly borderless digital economy, media outlets no longer need to solely depend on their in-house teams to cover important events around the world.

Rapid tech advancements have paved the way for remote news reporting, and thus an increasing number of freelance journalists are joining the fray — ready to hire.

Freelance journalists can help you conduct research, interview spokespeople, or write about certain niche topics with a relevant local context. If you’re thinking about hiring freelance journalists, here are some pros and cons to consider before pulling the trigger.

Pros

1. Cost-efficiency

The debate of in-house versus freelance talents always ends up with the single most important variable: cost (be it money, time, or effort).

When hiring freelance journalists, payment is often run on an ad hoc, per-assignment basis. You only pay them when you need certain jobs done. This is good for your budget and significantly thriftier than retaining talent.

You also aren’t required to cover their training, insurance, bonuses, or other perks that full-timers get to enjoy.

2. Wider coverage area and expertise

One of the most common reasons news editors choose to hire freelance journalists is that they need a large pool of talent with various areas of expertise.

With a versatile network at your fingertips, you can assign specific tasks to suitable people, who are already familiar with the ins-and-outs of a given sector.

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3. Clearer expectations

Before hiring freelance journalists, it’s pretty simple to set a general agreement, thus making the KPI clear for both sides. If a mistake happens — for example, late submissions or poor writing quality — your binding agreement makes it easy to calculate the kill fees.

It’s also easy enough to simply part ways with the freelancer thereafter. This is, of course, much more difficult to do when dealing with someone you’ve just hired in-house.

4. Time-efficiency

Hiring freelance writers frees up more of your time so you can focus on more urgent or important tasks and thus, liberates you of additional responsibilities compared to hiring writers traditionally or full-time.

Freelancers require less supervision, too, and have already done writing gigs hundreds of times that they are able to manage their own schedules but still deliver their work when you need it.

5. Consistent, high-quality work

Since freelance journalists cover a wide range of niches and are driven to make sure that their work is turned in on time and of the highest possible quality, clients are assured that they are working with professional writers.

They always put their best foot forward to make their clients happy – and, it looks good on their portfolio, as a bonus.

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Cons

1. Freelance journalists can work at competing news outlets

Unless you have a contract governing exclusivity, there’s no real fence that keeps freelance journalists from working with other competing news outlets. While it is a pretty common happening in the industry, not everyone is comfortable with it. Consider including a clause to cover this in your general agreement.

2. Potentially less reliable

Another understandable problem is that freelance journalists can be less reliable due to conflicting schedules. Many freelance journalists have day jobs. You might want to check in with them every once in a while, to see if their workloads can allow for additional assignments. Some editors work around this by simply having a large pool of freelance talent (e.g. a deep bench of potential backups).

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3. Hard to find high-quality freelance journalists

Capable, smart, and professional freelance journalists are hard to find, especially if you are looking for ones residing in the markets you need swift coverage on.

If you need a hand rounding up the best and most reliable freelance journalists for a project, a platform like ContentGrow can help. With it, you can get started with a curated list of project-appropriate professional freelance journalists, ready to put together stories at the drop of a hat.

4. Relationship-building is quite nonexistent

Creating lasting relationships with freelance journalists is tricky since, as mentioned above, they can be juggling more than just one assignment, or more than two jobs at the same time. This often leads to them turning down assignments, or even laying low due to overwhelming demands of the work they juggle and personal struggles.

5. High turnover rates

Adding more to the previous point, freelance writers also tend to drop out of assignments or jobs because of the lack of benefits which full-time employees can enjoy. While this is already a given, clients can never predict what goes on in the lives of freelancers, thus, you end up scrambling to find another writer to replace them.

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