Lighting Electrician are there, among other things, to see people like you, so if you can convince them you've got something they can use on their program, they will want to see you. Don't forget it can be quite a headache filling programs each day or week, so someone who can come up with workable ideas will be very welcome.
Read, read, read everything you can lay your hands on for ideas, especially the daily newspapers, but be prepared always to think of a different angle to the story, as there's no point in just broadcasting a newspaper story. Get to know as many of the producers as possible, and always know the format of a producer's program before you go and talk to him, as nothing irritates a producer more than someone who thinks she can contribute to a program when she hasn't the faintest idea of what goes into it.
Try to be as independent as possible. You will find that being a freelance, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. The very fact that you are free to go about, rather than locked into a nine-to-five routine, means that you are in a good position to go and meet people, and also to get hold of the more interesting stories. This is simply because you're not in a secure job, but living from hand to mouth, which can make for a much better journalist than one who is cozy and secure and, in many cases, deadened by that very security that a staff job gives.
Be organized. Always research you projects as much as possible, make use of libraries etc, and set aside several days just to collect the material that you need, to record interviews and so on. Don't start putting it all together until you have the material, all of it, or you will get into a muddle, and never take something up to a producer until it's edited with a brief script. Last, be ruthless with your editing; the most they're going to want for a news-type item is, say, two to three minutes, if that, and for a feature, well, this can vary but probably 15 to 20 minutes at the most. So, if you're interviewing someone who's going on a bit, stop him and take him back to the point. Or be brave and once you've got what you wanted from him, even if it has only taken two minutes after an hour and a half's drive to get there, turn off the recorder. Remember, you're the one who's got to listen back to it all, and editing is made a lot easier if there isn't too much material! News bulletins themselves, does create a very pressured atmosphere. Although 1 am essentially working shifts, these often overlap because important stories break and have to be covered. This means working long hours. At the end of each shift, I am responsible for handing over stories to be carried on by the journalist starting the next shift.
Christine is a freelance radio journalist. Here she describes some of the pros and cons of her job.
If you have something broadcast as a freelance, there's no time to rest on your laurels; you've got to come up with the next idea almost before you've finished the project in hand, or your producer will lose interest. This in itself is a problem (both keeping in touch with the sorts of idea the station wants, and keeping in touch with producers) because, of course, you are freelance and can't maintain the day-to- day contacts that the staff journalists have with the department. Remember that the continuity between you and the department is always at risk.
Be careful that you get paid a fair rate. If you're an NUJ member, use the NUJ to help you. They have special freelance rates, so make sure you're getting the full NUJ rate, as a lot of producers are uncertain of rates and if they can acquire something cheap, some of the more unscrupulous ones will. It is also worth knowing that without NUJ membership, it is almost impossible to get your work accepted.
Take care when you go to a producer with an idea that you want to expand on, that he doesn't pinch the idea and give it to an in-house journalist to do. Tell the producer the idea, but not the whole story, so that you've still got something to pull out of the hat; often it might be easier for him to get a staff member to do it, so you're only protecting your own interests. Try to take along a certain amount of work that you've already done on the subject, say, an edited interview that can be played to the producer when you meet to discuss the idea. This will make it much easier for him to get an idea of how it will sound as a program. It may also make him feel more obliged to ask you to do the rest of the work, since you've shown initiative by doing this and haven't just turned up with an airy-fairy idea.
On the whole, it's better to ring producers than write to them, because once again it's easier to talk your way into seeing them than waiting sometimes for weeks on end for a reply to a letter.