The two types of freelance writing


2 types these days

Journalism: At their heart these are stories about the world that a writer has experienced, and/or researched, written up and published. Events, people and places that are of interest, these stories have no agenda other than to inform.

Journalism you will pitch to an editor, or section editor, or commissioning editor or deputy editor – but some editorial professional, possibly, probably with journalism training, or at least a lot of experience, who has an eye for a story and has been charged with delivering those stories on a regular basis.

Content: This is our term for marketing copy, essentially – writing that is designed to sell a product or brand or service, or help them generate sales, or simply to inform potential customers about the company.

You can do ‘content’ for publishers – eg the sales page for a subscription to the SCMP. And you can do journalism for content marketers – eg articles in an inflight magazine.

But for the most part content is written for non-editorial companies or organisations – eg blog posts.

Content you will pitch to someone in the marketing or sales team. Possibly even a CEO, or COO, if the company is small and growing.

These people are charged with driving sales, or awareness. It’s not necessarily a great story they want, it’s great copy that will help them deliver their targets.

And it helps to know the difference here –

  • Content has an agenda, which is usually to sell or promote a brand or product or service.
  • Journalism is about the story. Again, there’s a lot of overlap.

And today I will focus on journalism, because it’s what I know.

But content marketing tasks can be rewarding, and lucrative – it’s something I’m going to start looking into.

And there will be some similarities in how you pitch for content work versus journalistic work.

Both of these are getting competitive, even more competitive than they’ve been in previous decades,

  1. because publications are shutting down a lot of in-house staff positions, to use freelancers instead. And
  2. because freelance writing has very few barriers to entry.

And for me that’s why freelance writing and freelance journalism is great.


Because you don’t need any formal qualifications. In fact I can’t recall a single pitch from a freelance writer that ever included their qualifications. BUT – you do need knowledge – of how this industry works, how to approach editors etc.

There are some exceptions, but basically anyone can be a freelance journalist, because what editors and publications are looking for is not a list of letters after your name – they’re looking for great stories.

So I hope to provide a little bit of that knowledge today.

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