Creating an online presence: tools for journalists

Posted June 9th, 2011 by in

Launching your online presence. Image credit: lapideo

The launching your online presence session at the Walkleys 2011 Freelance Conference looked at how freelance journalists can create and maintain a successful online presence. The panel discussed effective use of social media platforms and how you can harness it for story ideas as well as important things to consider when using online tools to market yourself and your services.

Renee Barnes, an online journalism lecturer at RMIT, opened the session with a look at the top online tools used by journalists. Renee said it’s important for journalists to understand the online world because this is where the industry is heading, and in order to understand it, we must operate in it. Here are her top 6 online tools to assist with your day-to-day job as a journalist:

1. Twitter
Connection and engagement are key. Twitter enables journalists to tap into a huge network of other journalists, editors and potential sources. It also allows you to create and build your own audience. Twitter can be used to find stories and leads but can also be used as an effective marketing tool to drive readers to your stories.

2. Google Reader
Subscribe to RSS feeds and keep up to date with all your favourite blogs with Google Reader. Renee referred to Google Reader as her “personal media monitoring service” because rather than visiting hundreds of different websites each day, you can have them all delivered to one site.

3. Delicious
Also known as social bookmarking. It works in conjunction with Google Reader in that it saves stories and static websites to one account. It eliminates a large list of browser favourites and can be accessed from any computer. Renee said the most important feature is being able to save the bookmarks under relevant tags so they can be easily searched at a later time.

4. Flickr
The image sharing service could prove invaluable for freelance journalists seeking licensed images to use alongside blog posts and articles. It’s also a great tool to get high resolution images to editors without overloading their inbox.

5. Linked In
In it’s essence, Linked In is an online CV. But it’s real value lies in the ability to keep in contact with previous and future professional contacts in your field.

6. WordPress
A free blogging platform that is really easy to use. It allows you to create a blog and therefore an online presence in a few minutes. Now there’s no excuse not to be online!

Renee has complied a more comprehensive look at how the above online tools can assist freelance journalists: A journalist’s guide to developing an online presence

Editor-in-chief and founder of Anthill James Tuckerman, shared four key tips for journalists and content creators looking to develop an online venture. If starting anything online, Tuckerman suggests making it:

>Measureable: Don’t do anything online unless it can be measured. Measurement tools and metrics allow you to constantly improve what you do online. This largely refers to tracking web traffic, and learning how to produce more traffic via out-going links, for example.

>Findable: Your website or online presence needs to be easily found via search engines so building Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics into everything you do is crucial for developing and maintaining your online presence. According to Tuckerman, 40% of traffic comes directly from Google searches.

>Shareable: Gain an understanding of social networking tools to grow your freelance business. Make it really easy for your readers or your audience to share your links and content. Provide social media sharing buttons on your stories and blog posts so it makes it simple for your readers to share your content quickly. Get your followers to assist with your marketing efforts through online sharing.

> Manageable: Tuckerman said we need to create processes to automate our online activities, especially if you are someone who has several social media accounts and a website. Use available tools and technology to save time and help you with managing your online presence.

Do you agree with the above points? Are there other online tools that journalists can benefit from using?

Successful freelancing: tips and advice from freelance journalist Leon Gettler

Posted May 31st, 2011 by in

Image credit: Walkleys

About a week ago I attended the Walkleys Cash for Content: 2011 Freelance Journalism Conference. I tweeted live from the event and subsequently received numerous requests from my followers to write a blog post on what I had learned from the conference. Given that the day covered a lot of ground, I’ve decided to stick to key points and discussions about making it as a freelance journalist which is a great jobs that allow you to travel. This is the first post from a small series I will write based on information shared at the conference.

I found the keynote address by Leon Gettler one of the most valuable sessions at the conference. With six blogs to manage, fortnightly columns to write, a weekly podcast and two books to his name, Leon is one of Australia’s most successful freelancers. So I figured taking on board some of his advice would be a good move.

Here are some key points Leon advises for successful freelancing:

  • Don’t work for free. “There are no freebies when you freelance. You charge and you charge as much as you can,” says Leon Gettler.
  • Freelancers need a niche. Define yourself in the freelance writing market. Your niche can still be broad (such as business writing) but it is important to establish yourself in the industry as a journalist with a specialist background of some kind.
  • Approach freelancing with a business mind. Being a freelance journalist is not all about doing the writing. If you’re a freelancer, you’re effectively running your own small business.
  • Manage your admin. Send an invoice with every completed story and make sure it includes your name, Australian Business Number (ABN), home/office address, bank details, and your terms of trade (e.g. payment required within 14 days etc)
  • Make life easy for your editor. Pitch interesting and new ideas. Give them stories they can’t get anybody else to do.
  • Maintain relationships. Communicate with your editors frequently; don’t leave them in the dark then expect them to offer you ongoing work/commissions.
  • Embrace multimedia. This is a growing area and large corporations are willing and prepared to pay a lot for digital and multimedia content. See if your skills can be used across multiple platforms including blogs, podcasts, videos and online content.
  • Discipline is key. Set up a schedule for yourself to stay productive, meet deadlines and have a routine. Use to-do lists. Give yourself deadlines if one hasn’t been stipulated. Discipline is a key requirement for freelancers. If you don’t get this right your freelancing career will fail.
  • All about volume. Freelancing is very much a ‘volume game’. It’s all about how much work you can get in the pipeline and sustaining it.
  • Allow for quiet periods. January is typically a very slow month for media in Australia. Therefore, expect to receive little work during this month. Have a back up fund for this time of year and other quiet work periods.
  • Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t miss deadlines. Got it?
  • Be flexible. Only work for less where an organisation can promise to give you ongoing or regular work. For example, frequent work at a lower pay rate will be more worthwhile in the long run than infrequent higher paying work.
  • Be prepared to work very hard. Freelancing is not for those seeking an easy or leisurely career. Leon says some of his hardest working years have occurred while freelancing.

Is this advice from Leon useful? If you have any helpful tips for successful freelancing then please share them by posting a comment below.