Freelance Files

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Freelance Files is a quarterly column for and by environmental journalism freelancers in which a rotating cast of writers share hard-earned wisdom here about myriad aspects of weaving a life and business out of their independent status. Also check out's Freelance Resource Page.

For questions and comments, to suggest future Freelance Files columns or to offer to write one, email Freelance Files Editor Elyse Hauser at

June 5, 2024

  • When freelancer Sophie Yeo first thought of writing a book, it seemed an impossible task. But with a successful website under her belt, she plunged in. Two missed deadlines and one baby later, she had her book, a history of the natural world titled “Nature’s Ghosts: The World We Lost and How To Bring It Back.” How she got there, and lessons learned, in the new Freelance Files.

February 7, 2024

  • Veteran environmental freelancer Christine Woodside makes the case for fostering long-term connections with editors to keep your journalism work coming in. In the latest Freelance Files, the column’s co-editor shares three things that tend not to work in gaining trust and two things that do. What a weird job for a beer heir taught her about building freelance relationships.

November 8, 2023

  • Freelance food systems reporter Thin Lei Win believes that if the world doesn’t change the way it produces, processes, transports, consumes and discards food, climate change will worsen and hunger levels will spike. But she also worries that powerful interests want to keep the status quo and cites parallels with the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. More in Freelance Files, including places for freelancers to pitch climate-food stories.

July 26, 2023

  • In her early days, freelancer Gloria Dickie aimed high, pitching her dream publication first, as well as offering newsier stories and short features instead of long-form. The formula worked, leading to assignments, a book project and a prestigious staff job. Freelance Files Co-Editor Christine Woodside spoke with Dickie about the lessons of a life as an independent. Plus, a BookShelf review of “Eight Bears” by a fellow bear connoisseur.

February 15, 2023

  • Freelancers looking to explore complex environmental issues may want to consider magazines published by … environmental organizations. Despite the caveats, like ensuring a publication’s editorial independence and guarding against organizational self-promotion, long-time environmental writer Francesca Lyman makes the case in the latest Freelance Files that the pros of such gigs outweigh the cons. Plus a sampler of pubs to approach.

September 7, 2022

  • A career as an environmental journalist can be fulfilling — but it can also leave you crying all the way to the bank. Freelance Files gets guidance from four veteran journalists who’ve made the money side of independent reporting work better for them. Plus, six top tips for earning more with your own journalism. No. 1: “Ask for more.”

December 15, 2021

  • The struggle to juggle numerous pitches and simultaneous stories, or even to decide if a story will actually work, is a familiar one to most journalists, especially freelancers. So SEJournal’s Christine Woodside sought out advice on surviving this rough-and-tumble from Jessica Abel, author of “Growing Gills” and “Out on the Wire.” Tips, tricks and insights in the new Freelance Files.

September 22, 2021

  • Once it was mainly radio reporters who showed up with audio recording devices. But with smartphones now in virtually every pocket, many print journalists also record audio for increased accuracy and accountability. But there’s a problem — dreaded hours of transcribing. That doesn’t deter writer Steven B. Krivit, who has tips to make transcribing a breeze, in the latest Freelance Files.

July 28, 2021

  • If you’re a freelancer with disorganized piles of 2021 receipts already gathering dust in a corner, the latest Freelance Files is for you. Globetrotting science journalist Dan Grossman shares his system (and advice from his accountant) for tracking expenses for travel, legal and professional services, business costs, home office use and more. Your Schedule C will never seem quite so disconcerting again.

March 17, 2021

  • Freelance journalists can face debilitating threats of legal action — and the associated costs — as a result of their investigative reporting. But now a contract template that freelancers can use with publishers and broadcasters offers a solution. Freelance Files explains what’s behind the new initiative. Plus, find out about a short-term, pro bono program for contract-related legal assistance.