Travel, lifestyle and entertainment freelance journalist Karen Edwards shared her advice and experiences with News Associates and The School of Journalism.

Over her 20-year career writing for national titles, freelance journalist Edwards has contributed articles to a wide variety of publications from The Independent, The Telegraph, The Guardian and Metro, to Grazia, Fabulous, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and more. She is the sustainability editor at Wanderlust and works part time with our friends at Journo Resources.

Edwards is also the author of The Responsible Traveller, a practical pocket-sized guide to give you the knowledge and tools that can help you to explore the world with a lighter footprint.

Here, postgraduate News Associates trainee Morgane Guillou shares what she learnt from Edwards.

Throughout her career, Edwards followed her interests and wrote on topics she genuinely understood and relished.

She started off in entertainment, a dream beat thanks to her passion for music and teen magazines she enjoyed reading as a child.

A keen traveller since her teenage years, Edwards naturally got into travel journalism and her freelancing experience threw her into lifestyle and wellbeing topics, which she also explored in four books.

Advice for beginners

Edwards’ first piece of advice to aspiring journalists was to practice their writing skills and create a portfolio showcasing their work and areas of interests before approaching an editor.

When it comes to pitching, she recommended taking the time to find original ideas, search for the right audience and write brief and succinct pitch.

She said: “Can you find a trend? Are they first person? Are they interview led? What is the narrative that the writer puts together?

“Go in with an idea that they haven’t done before and make sure it suits their audience.”

She subsequently insisted that any rejection or absence of reply, although quite common, were never personal but rather down to the idea not being ‘quite right at the time’ or sent to the wrong title.

She said: “Just because one editor doesn’t like the idea doesn’t mean another one isn’t going to.

“If you believe in the idea, take it somewhere else and take the time to reshape your pitch and look at it from a different reader’s standpoint before sending it to another publication.”

Freelancing tips

When Edwards started travel writing more than 10 years ago, she took a lot of trips to develop her skills and portfolio and these efforts eventually sent her off sailing into ‘penguin lands’ in Antarctica, and other far-flung places.

“The important thing is to remember that you are taking a certain amount of time out of your working week to go away, so you ideally want to make this same amount back in your commissions,” she said.

As she also built on her career in entertainment, Edwards conducted many memorable celebrity interviews at events like the Brit Awards, and established great connections with PRs.

For her, there are several ways to be a freelance journalist depending on how you like to work.

She said: “Freelance suits people who are open to flexibility and like going with the flow, but it is also possible to create your own structure if you feel strong enough to stick to it.”

Changes to the industry

With the changes brought in the industry by the internet and social media, Edwards thinks journalists these days must be able to ‘crossover’ from print to digital.

“Readership in general has changed because people want to consume smaller, more bite-size information,” she said.

“If I’m writing a print-based commission, they will also ask me to tweak it a little bit for their website.”

She nonetheless recommended using social media platforms like Twitter to establish networks and get acquainted with the work of editors before applying to a potential job.

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