Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

Why Do People Freelance in the First Place?

Why Do People Freelance in the First Place?

I was recently asked to speak on a Women and Minorities in Media at Columbia College Chicago, my alma mater. I sat beside Joseph Hernandez of The Chicago Tribune and Michelle "Showbiz Shelly" Menaker of B96.

You can watch my Facebook Live stream below:

One of my favorite parts of the panel was when one of the audience members asked about how to pursue a career in journalism when people around you approach you with negativity. And in truth, it’s a fair question. And it’s one that comes from a logical place.

The media business has been in trouble….probably since I was a toddler. It seems like publishers trying to get readers to pay for news is like herding internet cats. (Bad pun, I know.) That, in turn, means layoffs for staffers, low wages for freelance journalists, and fewer opportunities for up-and-coming journalists.

After I spoke on this panel, I started to think about this in context of my own life. I started freelancing out of both choice and necessity. I wanted to make money while I search for a job that was the right fit, so I started pitching and writing like crazy. It’s definitely full of ups and downs. But that begs the question, why would anyone start freelancing at all?

You want control over your life.

As I mentioned during the panel, a close family member recently had a health scare. Thankfully, things are mostly okay now. But for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have to ask to take a day off from work. That freedom is priceless.

You want to control your income.

It’s no secret that there’s a gender-racial pay gap in the U.S. workforce. And we’re now learning that gap persists among freelancers. I’m sure that’s a combination of negotiating, varying editorial budgets and outright sexism. But I can say that I feel more confident in my negotiating now that I’m a freelancer. I’m much more comfortable justifying my requests for raises, or just outright asking for them. I’m not always successful, but I often am. If/when I do find a steady gig I like, I’ll be much more prepared to negotiate for a fair salary.

You want to tailor your portfolio.

It would be great to choose one beat, but I have a lot of interests. Most of my reporting falls within business, technology, and underserved communities. But outside of those umbrella’s I’ve written here and there about personal finance, health, cannabis, and housing. Maybe I’ll narrow it down. Maybe I won’t. But at least I’m never bored.

You want something different.

Freelancing is fairly similar to working in an office. The only difference is I get paid for how much I produce rather than how many hours I put in. It’s a different way to work. I focus on working efficiently rather than overworking myself. And no two days are the same. I’m always working on different kinds of stories, shifting between national and local outlets. I set my schedule. I choose the pieces I work on. It’s pretty cool.

What made you want to freelance? Tell me in the comments or email me at

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