Who'd be a freelance journalist these days?


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It's probably a little ironic that people still ask me how they can get into freelance journalism. I say this because I really have no idea any more. I worked damn hard in Timor-Leste for two years and I felt like I gave freelancing my best shot and that my portfolio reflects my efforts. I made enough money to be able to pay my way through a master's at SOAS and I'm coming to the end of my studies with enough left over to set myself up wherever I choose to go next. My job prospects, however, are slightly more up in the air.

A few months ago, one of the better-known English journos in Thailand told me in an email: "I would not go into journalism now." A lot of newspapers have stopped using stringers and are opting for cheaper options. The days of the foreign correspondent, while not numbered, are certainly a little more competitive than they were in previous years.

When I look around at my peers and see the ones who have worked as journalists, there aren't many left who are still putting out stories. This is especially true with freelancers. Freelance journalism, from my observations, is simply not a career that has a lot of prospects for people like me. I have friends who have gone the freelance route for a time only to end up doing something else, like working in development or similar fields.

So now I have to ask myself what I want to do. Do I want to carry on as I was or take a slightly different route? I enjoyed my freelance work thoroughly and there were times when it was utterly rewarding and quite well paid, but there were also times when it all but destroyed my soul, when my pitches were rejected, when I couldn't find stories and when I was working flat out to write wire pieces that got pulled at the last minute.

Living in London has been unbelievably expensive and I've tried to work when I could while I've been here, but I haven't been bringing in a huge amount of money this year, which leads me to question what I should do next. My fellow students are mostly doing internships and unpaid work, and I feel that at 28 years old, with experience in several countries under my belt, that I don't want to be working for free again, even though as a soon-be-fresh graduate it appears to be expected of me.

To be frank, I'm unsure what lies ahead. I'm a journalist, blogger, social media junkie, new media fanboy and part-time Internet marketer with specialist knowledge in Southeast Asian government and politics, and so I have those skills and my passion has never dwindled, but I don't know what to do with it all. I had assumed that when I got to this point I'd know exactly what to do next and that I'd more or less waltz into a foreign correspondent job, but of course it's not that easy and maybe I've been a little naive.

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