Shop Talk: Awesome Things About Being a Freelance Game Journalist

There is something magical about being able to work all day without the tediousness of having to put clothes on. You save on a lot on laundry being a freelancer, that’s for sure. Rolling out of bed, flicking the computer on, making a pot of coffee, and diving into a busy day of word ninjitsu – in your underwear no less – is both convenient and gratifying. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why freelancing is the way to go, if you want to making a living writing about video games.

Greetings From Wherever The Hell This Is

In the U.S., most of the excitement in video game land takes place on the West Coast. That’s where a large number of the big game publishers, flashy trade conventions, and major gaming publications are based. When most people think about writing for a gaming magazine or website, they assume the only way to do so is by getting on staff. If you’re after a staff position at one of the bigger websites or print outlets, your only choice is to relocate to California and try your luck landing something solid on-site over there. Unless you live out that way already, reside within commuting distance, or are looking for a total change of pace from your current location, the idea of moving across country is both daunting and expensive. But thanks to the marvelous wizardry of modern technology, freelancers have a lot more options these days.

You can work in this industry from just about anywhere as long as you have access to a computer, gaming consoles, a phone, and a reliable high-speed internet connection. For example, at this very moment I’m typing this missive while sitting on my porch smack dab in the middle of rural Vermont. Years ago, I assumed the only way I could get a sweet gig like writing for IGN or GameSpot was by living out west. Thank the Demonic Trans-dimensional Forces of Halthor, God-Swallower of The Immortals that I was wrong.

I write myriad word configurations for most of the top game publications on a freelance basis. I do this from the relative comfort (except for the lack of GODDAMN air conditioning) of my own abode, surrounded by my loving wife and our mini-legion of adorable furry pets. With some heavy duty writing-based ass kicking, you too can catapult words into the vast nether of the internet in exchange for monetary currency from behind the ramparts of your own abode-fortress, poisonous lava-moat and all. Such is the dark and all powerful magic of the freelancer. Mwuhahahaha! *Cue ominous lightning…and snakes. Don’t forget the snakes*

All Your Egg Baskets Are Belong To Us

By its very nature, the act of freelancing is a polygamous activity – except we’re talking about magazines and websites instead of husbands and wives. Rather than being stuck writing for a single publication, freelancers get to sew their word-seed all across the land. It’s a marvelous thing. Having the freedom to write for competing publications on a piece-by-piece basis without (much) fear of getting canned for doing so is pretty cool. Beyond looking sexy on a resume, this is in-part a means of self-preservation, since steady gigs can dry up at a moments notice, and freelance budgets ebb and flow to coincide with seasonal shifts and fluctuating release schedules.

There’s a certain allure to being apart of a team that’s missing in the freelance life, but I enjoy the diversity of working with numerous outlets, writing in different styles and tones, and exploring coverage gaming coverage from each publications unique angle and focus. It also keeps repetition and boredom – two things that can set in with any job over the long haul, even a sweet one like writing about video games – to a bare minimum.

There Is No Dana, Only Zuel

As a freelancer, you are a sentence Ronin. A word samurai with no shogun. You are a master of your writing domain. While freelance writers do have to appease and answer to the many different editors they work with if they wish to stay employed, there’s generally a lot of freedom as to when, where, and how they get to go about the task of completing and turning in work. Not having a boss standing over your shoulder to micromanage your every move is quite empowering, but it also means there’s no one to crack the whip if you’re slacking off too much.

One of the best things about freelancing is the freedom to structure your day however you see fit. Routine is important, though it’s great to be able to switch gears on the fly or change things up from one day to the next. As long as you track assignments and meet deadlines, it doesn’t matter much how you go about the task of writing. This gives you more flexibility than that crazy stretchy dude from The Fantastic Four. You can chug coffee like a rabid wombat and turbo through all of your day’s work in a few hours then switch to beer and unwind for the rest of the afternoon. Every. Day. Now that’s freelancing! Woo!

Want to read more Shop Talk? Why not scope out the archive for past installments!

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71 thoughts on “Shop Talk: Awesome Things About Being a Freelance Game Journalist

  1. Can I tell you how interesting I think it is that your Freshly Pressed post sits in such proximity to a post that laments the 9-5 grind? Perhaps the FP gods are making assessments from on high today…

    I’m a freelance writer by day/night and a school district spokesperson by day. I would give my right pointer typing finger to transition to full time freelancer!

    (Just kidding of course — let’s hope the FP gods don’t have the ability to grant those kinds of wishes…)

    Congrats to you!

    • Thanks! Kudos for sticking with it! Moonlighting is a great way to get your feet wet as a freelancer while staying finanically stable. It can take a lot of time and energy to generate enough sources of steady income before its feasible to make the jump to freelancing full-time, but it’s worth it. Patience and persistence helps.

      I moonlit for a few years in the game journalism industry while holding down a steady full-time job as a staff reporter for a weekly newspaper. Took awhile, but eventually I was able to quit my day job and take the full-time plunge. It’s been well worth it – challenges and all.

  2. I just read the “My Parachute is the Color of Apathy” post, and then this. I would love to do the freelance thing, free myself from the 9-5 grind and dictate my own schedule and lifestyle. I’m not a video games guy, but do you have any general advice as to how a writer can start out on a successful freelancing career?

    • Sure thing! Much of the advice in this post and my other similar articles on freelancing in the game journalism industry also applies to general freelancing as well. If you cut out the game-specific stuff, the rest generally rings true for other kinds of freelancing.

      I have some other articles in the archive mentioned above that are more generalized, like my Pitching Dos and Don’ts piece: https://nathanmeunier.com/2011/08/17/shop-talk-pitching-dos-and-donts/

      I’ll be doing future article posts a few times a week that dig deeper into how to start out as a freelancer. They’ll also cover other aspects of this gig. I’m sort of jumping around at the moment topic-wise, but I plan to touch on all the important bases: everything from how to get started to how to maintain and expand your freelancing business later on as a pro.

      Thanks for your interest!

  3. Well, I have to be honest…that really does sound like a great gig, but I’m not sure I could do it. I mean, I could only spend so much time sitting around the house in my underwear…eventually I’d get bored with my wardrobe. Haha.

    But rural Vermont? Yes, I’ll admit…TOTALLY jealous that it’s your work environment. 🙂

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  4. “All your egg basket are belong to us.” — I see what you did there.

    🙂 Fun post. I know you mentioned this in a previous comment, but I’m just gonna also throw out there that it’d be cool to read about how you started out as a freelancer.

    • Thanks!

      Here’s the short(ish) version of how I got started, if anyone is interested. I may elaborate in a full post at some point.

      -Got hooked on writing in high school and wrote a ton / went to college and majored in journalism. Did a lot of A&E writing/reviews/essays/news stuff/ etc.

      -Landed a steady full-time gig working for a weekly newspaper shortly after graduation. Did that for about 3 years and relocated to a different area but continued to work for the paper full-time via telecommute for another 2 years — a very unusual arrangement but one that worked well and gave me some breathing room to explore other writing opportunities on the side.

      -Grew tired of the news grind and wanted to get back into A&E writing. Started learning about freelancing and began pitching to different outlets. Got a few things published.

      -Switched gears and focused entirely on videogames. Got some steady paying gigs, and keep hustling to get more work. Pulled 60 hour work-weeks between full-time gig and freelance work.

      -Eventually got enough steady work to justify taking the plunge. Did a lot of battle-planning/financial calculating/finger crossing. Made sure it was feasible.

      -Quit my job. Ramped up my freelance pitching. Made it work. Kept breaking into new/bigger/better paying outlets through lots of networking, pitching, mega effort. Caught a few lucky breaks and parlayed those into more opportunities.

      -Make a good living freelancing full time. Boom. Awesome.

  5. It’s easy to be a freelancer – if you’ve got someone to
    mooch. Mwah ha ha – I make no money and am terrified
    of the future – the present however, is pretty sweet. Just
    finnished a short novel about an abandoned theme park.
    Think of it Spirited away meets Silent Hill. If anyone want’s
    to give it a shot they are welcome. Keep up the good work
    nmeunier, I am glad to see you succeeded – as for everone
    else who dreams of sticking it to the man – keep fighting the
    good fight my brethrin!

    • Thanks for the encouragement! It does help to have a spouse/significant other/alternate source of income when you’re getting started as a safety net. That’s for sure.

      If you’re interested in fiction and freelancing, you might dig the writing/advice musings of my comrade Chuck Wendig. He’s got a few fiction books out, some non-fiction writing advice books on freelancing, and a sweet blog. http://terribleminds.com

  6. Pingback: Shop Talk: Awesome Things About Being a Freelance Game Journalist (via Nathan Meunier – Freelance Writer / Game Journalist) | Volunteer in Rwanda

  7. Pingback: Shop Talk: Awesome Things About Being a Freelance Game Journalist (via Nathan Meunier – Freelance Writer / Game Journalist) | Volunteer in Rwanda

  8. Oh how I miss the freelance life now that I’m a staff writer! Thanks for rubbing it in 🙂 Gaming sounds like an interesting beat. You must get a lot of jealous expressions from people like I do when I tell them I write about travel all day.

  9. Hi, thank you for this great post! I always love reading about different insights and experiences from writers. Perhaps you can offer a fellow writer some advice on how to find freelance work? I just graduated from college in January and I’m lucky to live on the West Coast but along with the economy and the competitive industry, it’s been an uphill climb to find a job. I’d be willing to do some freelance work though. I’m still living under my parents’ roof so I don’t have to worry about a lot of bills at the moment, but it’d be nice for my film and music reviews to be seen on a wider platform. I would love to hear about how you got your start freelancing and how you go about finding work. Thanks again for sharing with us!

    • Sounds like it’s a great time to give freelancing a go! I’d start by making a list of websites or magazines you’d ideally like to write for. Having specific goals and a target to shoot for is very helpful, even if it takes a while to reach them.

      If you’re looking for freelance music/film review work, I’d do some research and try to hunt down some paying outlets or publications open to working with new writers. It’s not always easy to find leads right away. Dig around for opportunities that offer pay and interest you, figure out the editorial contacts, and start pitching to them.

      If you can at least get a few published clips to begin with, that’s a great starting point and gives you a leg to stand on when pitching other outlets down the road. I’d start small and work your way up.

      That’s a real quick and dirty approach. I’ll be writing some more in-depth articles here on the site in the near future about breaking into new outlets and how to drum up work, so feel free to stop by again!

      If you want a few more tips on pitching, check out my Pitching Dos and Don’ts piece I linked to earlier in the comments section. I’ll be writing more on that soon too.

      Thanks!

  10. This sounds like a super fun job! Writing is so much better to do in your own home, instead of commuting into a busy city just to sit down at a computer for 8 hours. With my senior year coming up, I definitely will give freelance writing more consideration! I previously dismissed it because I thought it wasn’t a strong enough profession to support someone financially, but obviously it works for you!

    • It can be tough to make a living on freelancing alone. There’s a lot of pitching and husting for work involved, but if you cram hard early-on, it’s definitely possible to get enough steady work to make it your full-time job.

  11. Awesome post! As someone that enjoys writing and gaming, it’s a bit relieving to see that you can do this without the hassle of living in the “right” location. I’m in Tennessee, and I’ve always thought that sinking my teeth in the gaming industry would be impossible. I hope to some day start some freelance work!

    • Yup, it’s totally doable. Before I learned more about freelancing and the gaming industry, I was dismayed because it seemed like all the game journalism gigs were on the west coast. Thankfully you can do this job from anywhere as a freelancer, and almost every gaming outlet I’m aware of uses freelancers from some aspects of their coverage. Think Game Informer is the only main one that’s 100 percent staff written.

  12. I hope you keep them honest out there. I never feel I can trust game journalists. They all seem so quick to praise games from places that give them exclusive info.

    • That’s a common misconception. Most of the experienced, professional game journalists I know tell it like it is. I’ve panned games before that I had expected to be good. I’ve also panned games that I received for free, weeks ahead of advance, directly from PR and publishers who I have working relationships with. Sure it can be awkward, and people do get pissed, but I’m not going to pull punches if there are significant problems with a game.

      If a game is sucky, I call it out. If it has some issues alongside the high points, I point that out.

      The other thing that people need to understand is that game reviews are entirely subjective. While reviewers are approaching the games they’re covering with knowledge of the industry and experience in covering games, not everyone is going to have the exact same gaming experience.

      Drives me nuts when reviewers get lambasted in comments sections simply because the readers don’t agree with what was written. They’re not supposed to agree. It’s opinion based on playthrough.

  13. Thanks for your post and all of your comments. I am almost a senior in communications and I love writing but have never thought you could make a living doing freelance work. Very inspiring, I am now going to do a lot of research to see how to get started, including following your blog. Again, thanks for posting.

    Todd Cardon

  14. I poured over all your replies and will bookmark everything. 🙂 Pitching scares the crap out of me, but you’re right – it has to be done. It worked for you, so it’s bound to work for me too! (I hope!) Thanks so much for the wonderful article and straightforward tips. It’s so nice to read some sugarless advice for a change.

  15. Hi, thank you for this great post! I always love reading about different insights and experiences from writers. Perhaps you can offer a fellow writer some advice on how to find freelance work? I just graduated from college in January and I’m lucky to live on the West Coast but along with the economy and the competitive industry, it’s been an uphill climb to find a job. I’d be willing to do some freelance work though. I’m still living under my parents’ roof so I don’t have to worry about a lot of bills at the moment, but it’d be nice for my film and music reviews to be seen on a wider platform. I would love to hear about how you got your start freelancing and how you go about finding work. Thanks again for sharing with us!

  16. I really enjoyed this blog!! I found myself chuckling away at work ( whilst sneakily reading under the till!) I spend most of my Sundays writing and I agree it’s lovely to roll out of bed to your computer without having to get dressed. Although a word of warning make sure the blinds are drawn! I don’t like to think of the amount of times I’ve had the nosey neighbour wave at me during non-clothed writing sessions. *groan*

    Kudos

  17. it’s interesting. most people seek for fob vacancies on some companies, but actually there are a lot of jobs can be created by their own.

  18. Great post, such a good read. You’re lucky! It’s not easy finding a good freelance job! I’m a writer/journalist as well. Just graduated…not easy. I’m glad to see it’s going so well for you!

  19. I know embarrassingly little about the journalism side of the industry. This was an interesting insight – thanks for writing!

    Also got more than a little jealous that you get to work from home. I like LA so far, but I would love to return home to the east coast if it made sense.

  20. I took the plunge into freelancing full-time myself a few years back because I wanted to live in the mountains and get out of the rat-race. Best thing I ever did. I tend to procrastinate with my writing but I seem to work well under pressure and never miss a deadline. I do wear clothes though, or i don’t feel like I’m really working. Great post.

    • Congrats! Also, I’m a horrible, horrible procrastinator at times, but writing on deadline can be a lot of fun too. Used to do that a lot when I was a news reporter, so I’m used to it.

    • For starters, being able to write well, with creative flair is one way to get noticed. Writing style and ability is what editors are looking for. Well, that and the ability to meet deadlines, tackle any assignments thrown at you, etc.

      Getting their attention in the first place is a bit tougher. Figuring out which editor to pitch to and the hitting them with a great, well developed idea and a snappy query is usually the best way to get on an editors radar. After that, being able to deliver what you promised and then building on that momentum with other good pitches can lead to steady work.

      I’ll be writing more about all this in future Shop Talk blog posts! Stay tuned.

  21. Thanks for posting! I love this: “By its very nature, the act of freelancing is a polygamous activity – except we’re talking about magazines and websites instead of husbands and wives. Rather than being stuck writing for a single publication, freelancers get to sew their word-seed all across the land. It’s a marvelous thing.”

  22. I’d imagine there must be something fun about working in an major publication office surrounded by actual people with the same hobby that has became a job. Have you been in that situation? Does it compare?

  23. I love freelancing from home, I often take on translation work and promise to deliver it the following morning, the client is over the moon, and has no idea that I have just woken up at 3pm. I then work through the night and have in their inbox by 3am, resulting in a premium fee charged to the client for ‘express’ service – freelancing. beats. everything.

  24. Hahaha Freelance would help me because being winter I threw on my jumped after an all night of gaming to go to work and I forgot my shirt 😛

  25. Nice post, you’ve covered two dreams of mine: writing about something I love professionally and living in Vermont. I’ve just started out blogging on a couple of different topics, getting into the groove, etc. Can’t wait to see how it all pans out.

    • Vermont is a beautiful state. I’m a born and bred New Englander. Lived in the city for a few years but moved back north recently and absolutely LOVE it up here. Except when I’m buried under a foot of snow. All that time in front of the computer makes for squishy muscle meat. Not so great for shoveling. 😉

  26. chers étudiants dans les écoles Secondaires tous,
    Je suis heureux de vous écrire qu’à partir d’aujaurd’hui ou vous retourner aux écoles respectives, tenez chaque foi la Bible lire chaque fois que vous voulez commencer n’importer quelle activité, Dieu seul sera ton guide et fruictifiera ton rendement.
    Margré la fatigue ne te laisse dormir ou se reveiller sans toute fois prendre un bout de temps de Prière pour que Dieu qui voit tout tes donnera ton satisfaction.
    Oswald

  27. Ever since mankind posted their blogs on cave walls, one burning question persists: Do typos diminish the meaning of this sacred text or do they allow the faithful to joyously read between the lines.

  28. “There is no Dana, only Zul” – I love this – Ghostbusters rocks!!

    Thanks for this – it’s nice to read something about freelancing that makes me laugh out loud! Most of the time, people take a pretty serious tone – how to focus, how to make sure you get paid, how to get past writer’s block etc. Writing has been a huge part of my life, both personal and professional, and while I really appreciate all the serious advice I’ve read, I really enjoyed yours.

    Thanks for putting a smile on my face, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  29. I’m only just beginning at uni at the moment and when I told people I wanted to be freelance writer after my degree, they all laughed! I don’t see why and articles like this, from this perspective, I can really relate to, not having to answer to anyone and just doing what you love! Thanks for posting 🙂

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