4 Steps to Becoming a Freelance Sports Journalist

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Are you a sports enthusiast who’s also an avid traveler, a self-starter and a talented researcher? These are several of the qualifications necessary for becoming a freelance sports journalist. If you’re thinking you might like to pursue a career in sports journalism, take the following steps to get started:

1.   Learn to Communicate Well: Start a Sports Blog, Podcast or Youtube Channel

Keith Elliott is the training advisor at the UK-based Sports Journalists Association. According to Keith, the most important key to sports journalism is not eloquent writing; it’s being able to quickly, accurately and concisely deliver the essential information that sports fans will want to know about an event.

The only way to learn how to do this is jumping in and doing it often. Starting a blog is one approach that can give you the practice you need. Write articles or create videos covering the latest games, sports news or other topics of interest to sports enthusiasts; then post them to your blog promptly.

Aside from blogging, podcasting and starting a Youtube channel are also possible ways to get the practice you need with sports reporting.

Some sports journalists specialize in covering one sport. If you want to specialize, start a blog or podcast about the sport you would be most interested in reporting on.

2. Get a Degree and / or Obtain Journalism Training

There is no single straightforward path to getting the knowledge you need for becoming a sports journalist. Regardless of the type of training you decide to obtain, knowledge of media law and shorthand are essential, according to the Sports Journalists Association.

Journalists who work in the United States typically have a bachelor’s degree, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a degree in journalism, although coursework in journalism is ideal and recommended. Some sports journalists hold degrees in communications, English, political science or other majors.

In Australia, most journalists have either a bachelor’s degree, a postgraduate / graduate diploma, or a graduate certificate, according to the Australian Department of Jobs and Small Business.

It’s beneficial to complete an internship while you’re in school. If your university maintains a school newspaper, write for it. This will help you obtain published writing samples to show potential clients in the future.

3. Research Potential Clients and Their Audiences

Solid research is an important skill to develop if you want to actually land assignments. While the competition is fierce, many of your competitors will fail at doing sufficient research for obtaining story assignments — so do not skip this part of the process.

Find publications that report the types of stories you want to write. Make a list of them and subscribe to them. Read these publications to understand the types of details their reporters include in their stories. Research their audiences to understand who their readers are.

4. Pitch Stories to Media Outlets

Once you’ve compiled a list of publications, go through the list and obtain writers’ guidelines for each of the media outlets on your list. Then start pitching story ideas to each of them, making sure to follow the writers’ guidelines precisely.

Be forewarned that it will take extreme amounts of determination to get stories published. You will have to keep pitching, pitching, pitching and pitching some more. The more you pitch, the better you’ll get at doing it and the better your odds will be of having an editor on the other end of your queries say “We’re interested”.

These are the steps to take if you want to become a sports journalist. While it isn’t an easy career to pursue, many sports journalists find that it’s an interesting and a rewarding one.