How to be a freelance science writer*

This is what a journalist looks like.

*according to other people

What do you do when you don’t know how to do something? Scour the internet for advice, obviously. Over the last year, I’ve been on the hunt for good guides to freelance (science) journalism. Here’s all of the best stuff I’ve found so far, compiled in one place. List last updated on 10/4/2015.

Got any sweet additions? Shoot them at me @realavivahr.

On the Origin of Science Writers [Not Exactly Rocket Science]
A Note to Beginning Science Writers [The Loom]
Ask TON: Breaking into science writing [The Open Notebook]
On The First Five Years of Your Career and This is the Best Moment to Be in Journalism [Columbia Journalism Review, both from the #realtalk column]
Freelancing 101 (series) [The Science Writer’s Handbook]
+ A Day in My Life as a Freelance Science Writer [Nature]
+ How a Scientist Becomes a Freelance Science Writer [Stephanie Chasteen]
So You Want to Be a Writer? How Badly? [Broadside]
+ The Beginner’s Magical Guide to Becoming a Freelance Writer [Luna Luna]

Pitch Database (series) [The Open Notebook]
How to Pitch (series) [MediaBistro]
Ask Rachel: How Do I Write a Killer Pitch? [Rachel Hills, part of a series on freelancing]
+ How do you pitch a freelance story to a site or magazine? [Jason Fagone on Medium]
+ Trying to contact an editor at a particular publication? Check this massive masthead list.
+ Linda Formichelli has two free e-books on her website about pitching and working with editors. [ht Broadside]
+ How to pitch to a science editor [SciDevNet, ht@meghier]

How to break into science writing using your blog and social media (#sci4hels) [Scientific American Incubator]
10 Essential Qualities of Science Bloggers [PLOS]
+ From the girl who learned to dance in a year: How to Make Your Video Go Viral
10 Must-Haves for Your Freelance Writing Website []
Digital Portfolios for Journalists: What Are Your Options? [Poynter]
+ So You Want to Write Better Science Blog Posts… [University of Michigan Risk Science Center]
+ Minimum Viable Personal Branding for Writers and Journalists [Elizabeth Spiers]

+ How Much Money Do Science Writers Make? [CASW] and Pay Me Please [Beacon] both track how much outlets pay and whether they made good on their promises.
The Freelancer’s Guide to Recurring Revenue [Planscope]
How to Get Paid, Not Played [CNN Fortune]
5 ways to get a grant that will finance your journalism career [Poynter]
+ The Freelancery offers lots of advice, including a 178-page free pdf guide.
+ Virginia Sole-Smith has a long series on how to make a business plan: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
How Do We Make Freelance Journalism Sustainable? [PBS MediaShift]

Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web [The Oatmeal]
Ten Stupid Writer Tricks (That Might Actually Work) [Chuck Wendig]
+ The Guardian runs a column on the secrets of science writing.
Tools for Mastering Workflow [Storify from the 2013 NASW conference]
+ How to Come Up with Great Ideas: Advice for Freelance Writers [The Toast]
+ Not technically about freelancing, but this Harvard postdoc’s guide to work-life balance is worth checking out.

Everything I Know About Self Publishing [Gayle Laakman]
The Big Leap: From Article to Book [The Open Notebook]
The Right Fit: Navigating the World of Literary Agents []
25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author: Lazy Bastard Edition []


Freelance Life (series) [Medium]
I Was Paid $12.50 an Hour to Write This Story and Seven Years as a Freelance Writer, Or How to Make Vitamin Soup [The Awl]
How It Feels to be a Freelance Writer [Thought Catalog, ht @majorajay]
Science Writing and Experience [Scicurious]

4 Responses to “How to be a freelance science writer*”

  1. broadsideblog

    Thanks for the link!

    This is a great, comprehensive list. There is a lot to learn, and you can get very badly burned along the way if you don’t inform yourself about how to stay solvent. The biggest publishers in the industry are playing some very aggressive games these days.

    • Aviva Hope Rutkin

      Definitely true. It’s inspiring — and very helpful — to see how other people are making it work these days.

      • broadsideblog

        I think you have to be ruthlessly efficient, exhaustingly organized and spend about 15% of your time actually writing — if you don’t get Linda Formichelli’s daily motivation for writers, I’d suggest it. Full of practical information. If you want to actually earn a living — call it $45-60-80k/yr, you have to hustle very hard all the the time.

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