Tips on freelancing abroad from NASH 75


by H.G. Watson


Everyone has the image in their head of the glamorous foreign correspondent, working out of busy bureau and going for after work drinks at a smoke filled expat club. But as international news agencies close or make deep cuts to their international bureaus, working internationally has become more difficult for Canadians.

But for freelancers, this change could in fact be an opportunity. This was the case for Rita Devlin Marier, a Montreal based journalist who found herself freelance reporting on the murder of Chinese student Lin Jun and the subsequent search and capture of his murderer, Luka Magnotta, for Reuters.

“The fact that [Reuters] didn’t have a bureau here and I was able to cover that kind of breaking news made me an asset for them,” she said. Earlier this year at the Canadian University Press’s 75th national conference (NASH 75), Marier laid out her own career path – which included a stint reporting for AFP in Stockholm – for aspiring young journalists.

Her message was clear; while freelancing for an international market is a lot of work, it is entirely possible to break into the market whether you’re working for your hometown or you’re travelling abroad.

Marier recommended that freelancers consider these points:

  • Go where you’re needed. International news agencies aren’t likely to need a correspondent in New York or London. Marier was able to find work in Montreal because Reuters had no bureau there.
  • Always be on alert for stories of Canadians doing amazing things. “Canadian media is hungry for anything to has to do with Canada,” said Marier. For example, if you hear about a Hamilton native running an NGO in Kenya, that story might appeal to Hamilton local media.
  • Early in your career it can be worth it to do things for profile not profit, as Marier puts it. Putting yourself out there as a stringer for writers at larger organizations can bolster your reputation and get you credited on stories in much larger markets.
  • If you’re very new, it’s not likely you’ll be filing for the New York Times. Local expat papers can be a good place to build a portfolio and show potential clients and employers that you know your community better than anyone else.
  • “Things like tweeting and having a blog cannot be overestimated,” said Marier. Doing both can help make your name your personal brand – and the first person the large wire services go to when they need information.
  • Networking is just as important for international freelancers as it for people working from home. If you are abroad, join expat clubs. “You can make contacts with people…which could eventually lead to a story.”

Marier is quick to point out that acting as a freelance correspondent without a bureau comes with its own challenges. “[You] need discipline to an excessive level,” she said, adding that you have to have the reflexes to look at every news story and think of how you could relate that to an international audience. But that discipline could pay off with amazing bylines on stories that will get read by an audience that stretches beyond Canada’s borders. Which is pretty glamorous, when you think about it.


H.G. Watson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Cord Community Edition in Waterloo, On.

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 9:15 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

One Response

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  1. Written by Copywriter Collective
    on September 24, 2013 at 8:29 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Hi, Thanks for sharing

    While most of us hanker after a foreign holiday now and then, the opportunity to work abroad might just be the best way to kill two birds with one stone.

    More of my thoughts on this link…

    Keep rocking!

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