Advice on Freelancing

Carl Anka
4 min readJan 17, 2022
Photo via Unsplash — a really good place to get free photos from

Hello again,

If you’re reading this then you’ve probably reached out to me for help as to how to explore the creative industries/sports journalism/sports media.

First of all — like this piece I previously created and may have shared with you — I’m very sorry, the world remains in an odd place right now and while I can try my best to help direct you at the start of your creative journeys, I get these requests with such a frequency now that it is better I share what little I know here for you to read and if you have any further questions, I can direct you to better answers down the line.

What follows is a recent batch of questions given to me by an aspiring journalist. (I hate that term. If you’re reading this and have aspiring anything in your social media bios, go take it out. Stop aspiring and go out and do it.)

Photo via Unsplash — This is a hint. Use Unsplash if you need to use good photos for little cost in your pieces

What’s the deal with freelancing? Everyone always seems to say that it’s always an option but I have no idea how I would go about it in the future. When you pitch an article to someone, do you show them a piece that’s almost totally fully formed or do you show an idea they then help you build up?

Back in the day, before Facebook and Google destroyed ad revenue for print and online publications, you’d do an internship, maybe get held as an occasional freelancer and eventually take a staff writing job.

Nowadays the majority of work you will do when starting out will be freelance, and covid-19 has made many companies freeze their kitty for freelance work so things are tough.

It’s possible to make a decent living while freelancing, but it requires consistent idea generation, skills when making and maintaining contacts, and some shit hot organisation with spreadsheets goes a long way too.

The art of pitching an article is just that — an art, rather than a science. You’re dealing with people just as much as systems so there are no hard and fast rules but more a few gentle tips:

  1. Check if the media outlet you’re pitching for has a “How to pitch guide”. The Guardian US does for its opinion page, as do a few other websites.

2. Go for associate and junior editors with your ideas as they have a bit more time to look at pitches. In fact, find one of these staff members, and then tweet them asking for their “How to pitch guide.” Shows you’ve got your head screwed on.

3. If you’re in the same city as the outlet, try to pitch in person. I know it’s hard what with the covid, but the coffee meeting pitch where you can get all enthusiastic and spend time telling stories about yourself helps build the idea you’re worth keeping tabs on.

WHEN PITCHING OVER EMAIL try your very best to nail the following topics, in this order:

  • What your idea is
  • Why it has to be written *now*, (or in whatever time frame you’ve set) and for *the particular media outlet you’re pitching for*
  • Why *you* with your *relevant background and experience* are the person to write it

How do you get people to respond and talk to you? I’ve emailed countless people about countless ideas, and I very rarely if ever get a response. I’m aware that the common denominator is me, but it does also feel hard to get people to have the time to talk to you especially at the moment where people generally aren’t in offices etc.

Freelancing is an ideas-led business.

Until people know you have good ideas on certain topics it can be harder to get your name there.

So drill down into a few ideas that you know better than other people, so people in offices handing out contracts go “Oh shit, I need to get something done on *niche topic*. Oh wait, YOUR NAME is good at that, let’s get them in.”

How do you actually get a job in sports journalism? Or is it very much just start freelancing and taking every opportunity until something sticks and you have a full time job?

I’m very sorry but this is one of those questions where you rarely find a satisfactory answer until The Good Things has already happened to you and you get a job offer.

Just try your best to do the thing you want to do, as much as you want to do it. Setbacks will happen and there will moments when you wonder why you are doing it (which is where you will need to develop a good support group) but the first step to doing the thing you want, is doing the thing you want.



Carl Anka

I just write about things I’m curious about and upload it when you’re not looking.