Freelance Files

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Freelance Files is a regular 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 Christine Woodside at

And if you're interesting in joining the SEJournal volunteer editor staff, including as co-editor of Freelance Files, contact editor Adam Glenn at

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.

December 2, 2020

  • As a young journalist, freelancer Madeline Halpert worried about her late start in the profession. So she took charge of her career path to get a leg up. Check out her six steps for successful advancement in the freelancing field, including self-publishing and building relationships with editors. From the latest Freelance Files.

August 12, 2020

  • When breaking news hits, freelancers often find editors at media outlets eager for related stories. But what about when breaking news like a global pandemic becomes virtually the only story being told? What do you do when those same media editors say no thanks to yet more coverage? Freelance Files editor Karen Schaefer went looking for some timely advice.

April 29, 2020

  • Numerous freelance journalists are suffering financially alongside other businesses damaged by the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis. But in an especially timely tale, one freelancer explains how she took matters into her own hands when media clients were overdue on payments. Freelance Files has the story. 

January 29, 2020

  • What better New Year’s resolution for freelance environmental journalists than putting their work on a sounder financial basis. In the latest Freelance Files column, journalism veteran Julie Halpert (pictured, left) offers 10 tips for financial stability. Among them: Side gigs, grants and relationship building, plus crafting the perfect pitch, spinning several stories from one and thinking big picture.