Journalist as Author: Dr Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson – Freelancing for Journalists
By Phoebe-Jane Boyd
2 Sep 2020
the great thing about being freelance. It’s never boring, always a new
adventure,’ says freelancer and author Emma Wilkinson, who teamed up with Dr
Lily Canter to write Freelancing for Journalists for Routledge.
With combined experience of the
freelancing industry, including recent pieces for publications including Pulse,
the BMJ and The Telegraph, Lily and Emma have knowledge to spare on making a
success of freelancing and, now, publishing your first book, too.
you introduce your book in a couple of sentences?
for Journalists offers an authoritative, practical and engaging guide for
current and aspiring journalism freelancers, which explores key aspects of the
role including pitching, networking, branding, finances and navigating laws and
rights. It features case studies from experienced freelance journalists working
in the UK, US, Asia and Australia, and a variety of templates and resource
The aim was to create a must-have guide on all things that journalists need to
know about how to make a success of freelancing. We’ve had lots of readers get
in touch to tell us how helpful it’s been, which is great to hear.
Could you tell us about how you came to
was approached by someone from Routledge during an academic journalism
conference. They were looking for textbook ideas and when they realised I was
also an active freelance journalist they said were really interested in a book
on freelancing. I went away and discussed it with Emma and asked her to come on
board because she had been freelancing for a lot longer than me. We then put a
proposal together and after it received great reviews, Routledge commissioned
the book. It has taken three years from pitch to publication, and a lot of
you working on another book, or do you have other projects under way?
I am always coming up with ideas – Emma is exhausted just listening to
them! We already have our podcast series, freelance community and training
courses, which have all grown out of the book. But we are also both avid
runners and would really love to do a book on ultrarunning, maybe around a
series of personal stories. It would be nice to do something together that doesn’t
focus on freelance journalism and is a completely new challenge. This is just
an idea at the moment, but I am sure we will do another book soon.
Yes, Lily keeps me on my toes but that’s the great thing about being freelance.
It’s never boring, always a new adventure.
Can you offer any advice to other
journalists thinking about writing a book likeFreelancing
I think the key thing is to decide how you are going to publish it. There are
so many different routes these days. We went with an academic publisher because
they approached us, but in hindsight we could have self-published or found a
commercial publisher, which probably would have been more profitable.
Researching your options and speaking to other people who are published is
really important. And also listen to our podcast on Publishing your
What books are you reading right now,
or about to pick up?
I’m just about to starting reading Paper Dolls by our good friend Lisa
Bradley. It’s had amazing reviews and I’m excited to get stuck in. I’ve
also just bought Difficult Women: A History of Feminism
in 11 Fights by Helen Lewis, a journalist I admire a lot and The System:
Who Owns the Internet, and How It Owns Us by James Ball.
I am also about to start Paper Dolls, which is a crime thriller. We met
Lisa on our Print Journalism Masters and she was a journalist for many years,
too. It’s set in the world of local journalism, which I worked in for seven
years, so I can’t wait to see what she has written. But before I dive into that
I am finishing Gotta Get Theroux This, the autobiography by Louis
Theroux. It’s really fascinating learning about the world of TV journalism and
how his career has developed over time.
Are there any other examples of your
everyday journalism that you’re especially proud of or would just like to
As a health journalist, I have unsurprisingly mainly been writing about
coronavirus for months. Most recently a cover feature for Pulse (a GP trade
magazine) on how GPs are
preparing themselves for the biggest flu vaccine campaign to
date (when they can’t have queues of people in the surgery) and weeks
after the RECOVERY trial got underway in NHS hospitals I did an article for the BMJ on just how
amazing an undertaking it was. It was the first to discover
a treatment that worked (dexamethasone) and is doing great
work answering ongoing questions.
Recently I did a big FOI investigation into the coronavirus small business
grants, which was published in the very last edition of Moneywise magazine. I
hired an intern to help me and that was a really positive experience. Another
piece I am proud of is an article for
The Telegraph about an amazing woman battling
scientific prejudice to get her cancer research taken seriously. The story was
picked up all around the world.
Are you available for freelance
commissions, speaker opportunities or other roles?
Yes, I have a diverse portfolio and am currently in
the middle of organising a medical webinar among the news and feature writing.
I’m always open to new opportunities.
Yes, I have lots of lecturing experience having worked in universities for 15
years and I love taking on new writing opportunities. I cover money, health and
lifestyle because I love to keep things varied and interesting.
If I’m a PR professional with a story
or another opportunity for you, how should I get in touch?
Emma: You can find more about me and how to get in touch at my website Emmawilkinson.net.