Freelancing in journalism and mass communication



By Scot Wortner

Three freelancers visited Texas State for Mass Comm week to share the ups and downs of the business with students.

L to R: Leslie Hancock, Susan Lahey, Lance Lawhon. Photo: Scot Wortner

Leslie Hancock and Susan Lahey are freelance writers who have written for nearly everything from health care providers and marketing strategists to newspapers and blogs. Texas State graduate Lance Lawhon freelances his work in advertising sales.

All three members of the panel stressed the importance of contacts and maintaining those relationships.

“Network, network, network,” Hancock said. “Get your name and face out there.”

Lahey shared that she was told by Hancock early on, “What you need is to go out and meet everybody.”

They all mentioned that one of the main ideas in freelance work is to brand and market yourself.

“You have to walk in and think of yourself as a business person,” Lahey said. She added that you really are your own business and it’s up to you how you sell it.

Without an office or tech support, Lawhon said, “It’s all on you.” He said there are helpful organizations such as Freelance Austin who are eager to help with “tricky” things like tax advice and finding insurance.

Hancock said that the trend in writing is to outsource as it has proven more cost effective. She said that you need to keep learning and stay on top of technology to help sell yourself. She said it is okay to ask for more money if you are providing more services but to be careful.

“Don’t sell something you can’t actually provide,” Hancock said. “You need to draw a line.” While she said you should be willing to do more than others, you shouldn’t do everything.

They said that while they are enjoying success now, it wasn’t always as easy. Lawhon said that he stared at the phone for ten minutes before he made his first sales call because he was “petrified.” Lahey said that while she has taken jobs that paid $150 per story, at one point she was writing for $15 a story because she had a family to provide for.

Lahey added that she has now tailored her own website to attract more people she would like to work with because she not only finds them more appealing, but she feels that it is reflected in the job.

They said that if you want to get into the business, you have to stick with it and get used to people telling you “no.”

“Persistence is the key, really, in any of these fields,” Lawhon said.

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