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Journalist Skills: 13 No-Degree-Required Tips to Get Writing Jobs

Evan Jensen

Learn These Journalist Skills to Get Writing Jobs. Makealivingwriting.comThinking about going back to school to learn journalist skills to help your freelance career?

You could…if you want to waste time and money. Don’t get me wrong, learning is good.

But do you really need to spend a couple years in the classroom and a pile of money on tuition to develop journalist skills? No.

In case you’re wondering, I’m one of those people with a master’s degree in journalism. But you don’t have to take that route. Seriously.

You don’t need a degree to be a freelancer. After all, The Carol Tice is a college dropout.

But you do need journalist skills to do things like dig up information, generate ideas, interview sources, find fresh angles, craft headlines, and write great content.

So how do you develop journalist skills to get more writing jobs? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Curious Minds: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Freelance Journalist

Journalists Allen Taylor and Emily Leidel both got their start writing for newspapers and magazines. And now they’re both highly successful freelancers. Their advice: If you want to move up and earn more, learn to think like a journalist. Here’s how:

2. Clever Ways Article Writers Can Find ‘Real People’ to Interview

Successful journalists know finding reliable sources is one of the most important elements of getting a story right. But how do they do it? There’s the old-school way of making phone calls and knocking on doors. But in today’s digital age, there’s a few more options to help you find the right sources. Use these tips from freelance writer Kristi Valentini to find real people to interview.

3. The Lucrative Business of Dumpster Diving for Discarded Freelance Ideas

Can you generate ideas to write for magazines, blogs, and businesses? If you think you’re out of ideas, freelance writer John Makohen wants you to look in the trash. You may very well be sitting on a treasure trove of your own ideas. Use this tip to turn old ideas into new assignments.

4. 2 Experts Reveal the Secret Ingredients to Success in Brand Journalism

Ever wonder how to take use basic journalist skills to tap into the highly-lucrative niche of brand journalism? If you want to write for big-name brands or help start-ups stand out with great copywriting, here’s what you need to know.

5. Level Up Your Freelance Skills with These 18 Writer Organizations

It’s no secret that college is expensive. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be learning and developing your journalist skills. If you want to be a successful freelancer, that should be a regular part of your job. Check out these writing organizations to help you develop your skills, network with writers and editors, master your niche.

6. Solutions for the Top 5 Worries That Terrify New Freelance Writers

Every cub reporter, newbie journalist, and freelance writer is bound to face a learning curve in the beginning. You can let fear and worry paralyze you and keep you from pursuing your dreams. Or you can tap into your inner pysche and train your brain to think like a never-give-up journalist. Here’s how:

7. The Credentials You Need to Be a Freelance Writer

Do you need a degree in journalism, creative writing, or English literature to be a freelance writer? Ahem…need I remind you The Carol Tice is a college drop out? Here’s what really matters to be a freelance success.

8. How Freelance Article Writers Can Find Facts Fast – And Make Sure They’re True

You’e got the basic idea figured out for your next pitch or assignment. But you need data to back up your points from reliable sources. Sorry lazy writers, Wikipedia is not a reliable source. You need primary sources. Use these four strategies to dig up facts and figures you can trust.

9. The Missing Skill Freelance Writers Need to Find Good-Paying Gigs

If you really want to stand out as a freelance writer and journalist, there’s a few things that matter more to editors than your credentials or experience. Learn these essential skills, and you’ll be able to carve out a niche for yourself and make a living writing. Here’s what you need to know:

10. Why Writing Killer Headlines Will Change Your Life

What’s the most important element of any story that draws readers in, catches the attention of editors, and gets people to click, swipe, or tap? The headline. In the old days, summary headlines were the norm. But in today’s digital world, you need the skills to write headlines that get editors and readers to start foaming at the mouth. Here’s how to develop your headline-writing skills.

11. Article Research: A Savvy Librarian’s Top Tips

Emily-Jane Dawson is the kind of bookworm every freelance writer needs as a friend. She’s a reference librarian for the Multnomah County Library system in Portland, Ore. If you’re looking for information to beef up a query letter, pitch a prospect, or complete an assignment, follow Dawson’s advice.

12. Freelance Journalist? Use These Tips to Get Juicy Interview Details

Ever wonder how to get interview sources to cough up juicy details for your story? Former senior online editor of WritersDigest.com Brian A. Klems and public relations pro Kelli Matthews rif on how to find sources, prepare for interviews, build relationships, and get details your editor and readers will love.

13. Writing a Pitch: Use These Tools to Build Your Freelance Business

Want to learn the craft of writing a pitch to land more assignments? Freelance writer Holly Hughes-Barnes lays out her strategy to write query letters and letters of introduction, along with cold-pitch and follow-up emails to get noticed by magazine editors and marketing directors.

Develop journalist skills to move up and earn more

Want to move up and earn more as a freelance writer? Think like a journalist. Practice. Step outside your comfort zone. Learn by doing. You don’t need a degree. But you do need plenty of hustle and the journalist skills to connect with editors/clients and write great content. Go get your next assignment.

Need help developing journalist skills? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.

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