The perks and challenges of freelance journalism with Kate Allman
Journalist Kate Allman spent her first week as a full-time freelance journalist covering surfing for Tracks magazine in Bali, and squeezing in plenty of time in the water herself.
The former Associate Editor at the award-winning LSJ magazine made the move to freelancing in March to explore work in other areas of the media, including sport and travel writing. She says that the lifestyle is not all glamour but there’s plenty to enjoy about it.
“Freelance travel writing is certainly not all pina coladas by the pool. Okay, you might get a cocktail here or there but then you also have to find the time to work while you’re travelling. What happens is you end up sitting in a hotel room at 1am filing a story on your bed because you've been out all day doing things,” Kate says.
“You're constantly trying to juggle working and exploring the place, and you're often on a limited time as well. You're usually there for a couple of days or a night at a hotel and you just do a whirlwind tour and then have to bash out a story.
“I was getting up early to surf every day. The water’s so warm in Bali — it's 30 degrees, so you don't realise you’re sunburnt to a crisp because you've been in for about four hours. You don't sleep much but it's definitely worth it.”
While writing occasionally for travel, surf and ski publications, Kate has spent most of her media career so far covering legal news and business affairs, after studying a double degree in journalism and law at UNSW.
She says a highlight of her work at LSJ was investigating and exposing issues of sexual harassment in the legal industry.
“I did a piece called #TimesUp for the legal profession. It was sort of a take on Me Too that was relevant to lawyers, because it turns out lawyers in Australia experience really high rates of being sexually harassed at work,” Kate says.
“I wrote this cover story and that really resonated with a lot of our readers in the legal profession. That kind of created a big impact, and since then a lot of law firms and the Australian Human Rights Commission have set out a number of policies and changes to enable law firms and lawyers to be better in that space. That definitely stands out as one of the more impactful pieces I've done.”
Following this reporting, Kate was invited to speak at a conference in Seoul for the International Bar Association, sharing a panel with Julia Gillard.
Describing her move to freelancing as “an itch I had to scratch”, Kate has now started doing match reporting on women’s sport for News Corp.
She says establishing herself in a new area of the media has been “a hustle”.
“I'm really excited to learn new skills. I've had to kind of get back to the beginning and do heaps of research for every piece I write. Because I had so many contacts in law, I had so much inherent knowledge built up, and now I'm shifting to a new space. I have to do a lot more groundwork,” she says.
“I’ve had to adjust to match reporting, you have to file on the buzzer which is kind of alarming when you're used to a monthly press deadline. It's intense for the three hours that you're there, and then you're off. So I at first found it hard to wind down afterwards.
“That has been a steep learning curve for me, but I'm enjoying it.”
Kate’s pitching preferences:
“I'm not looking for the same thing that everyone else is writing, because in-house journalists at most media outlets are going to be writing those fast news stories. If you’re sending a press release to a blanket list of journalists it’s probably not going to be useful for me. I need a point of difference.
“[I want pitches for] anything exclusive, an individual interview with someone hard to get, high profile sportspeople with strong views on issues, high profile legal or political personalities. Anything fresh on topics that you think I’d be interested in and I could pitch to an editor who won’t otherwise have the story. For travel, skiing and surfing — any new and exciting travel opportunities. Of course, free trips don’t go awry!”