What I learned from being a freelancer: It’s not about being the most successful alone, it’s about collaboration

Adi Renaldi
3 min readMar 18, 2021

A senior freelance journalist just threw some tips on Twitter for young journalists who want to do freelancing. These kind of tips are important of course, particularly to help them get on their feet in the unknown world called freelancing. But instead of being enlightened, I found myself quite disheartened with some of the tips. They are what every journalist shouldn’t be.

Journalism, for me, is not about being a lonewolf doing a story inside a room, alone and detached from the world. I learned that journalism can be great if we are collaborating with others. In this case networking is totally a must and don’t be selfish.

  1. Don’t give away your contact/networking

I found this tip very discouraging. Everyone has to start somewhere. When I first immersed in journalism, I don’t know who should I talk to. I would be lost if my seniors didn’t help me. I asked for their help, and they did. I did the same in return to whoever needs my help. It’s about helping each other. Journalism is not an exclusive place, we are all in this together for the world to be a better place, right? Help each other and stand together.

2. Don’t be someone else’s fixer

If it isn’t a paid job, you shouldn’t. Period. But giving someone else’s a hand wouldn’t hurt and it depends on what kind of fixing job. I don’t see any problem in connecting someone to the source I know. I once asked a fellow journalist to connect me with the LGBTQ community in his hometown. Another time I asked a photojournalist to take me around his town to capture people’s activities during the pandemic and to connect me with some sources. You know what, I offered them some fees, but they declined. They insisted they just wanted to help. Sometimes a thing can’t be measured by money. Friendship, networking are way better than invoice.

3. Don’t share byline with others, work on your own

This will not help you to be a good journalist. You have to remain adaptable and agile working in various scenarios. Again, collaboration is a key. The more the merrier sometimes, and some of the best stories I’ve read are result of teamworks. This is especially true when you are doing cross-border collaboration stories such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, fishing industries, etc. You can do the story alone of course, but sharing bylines will not make you a bad journalist. It proves you are a good collaborator.

I am new to the freelancing world with less than a year of experience. I am forever learning but I wouldn’t keep everything to myself. You can choose between being a ‘secretive’ journalist or an all-rounder journalist. Either way you are still a journalist and a good one. But for me it isn’t about being the most successful journalist where you can tell the world like ‘hey, I can break this most difficult story all by myself, gimme the Pulitzer Prize!’

Again, we are in this together. Helping each other doesn’t make you an incompetent journalist. Just believe in each other.



Adi Renaldi

Jakarta-based freelance multimedia journalist. Award-winning and award-losing. Has written for various publications around the world. www.adirenaldi.com