7 ways to build connections as a freelance journalist

Building a professional network can often feel like a thankless task. Especially as a freelancer. But having a community of likeminded peers around you can be invaluable. 


The past year has accelerated the global shift to digital like nothing before. We rely more and more on connections made online, and remote working and collaborating has become the standard.

Though this has many positives, it can make forming new professional relationships and communities even harder than it already was.

It doesn’t matter how you spin it, “virtual coffee” just doesn’t sound as appealing.

To celebrate the launch of the OWM Alumni Network, we asked some of the brilliant filmmakers and journalists who make up the One World Media community to share their tips for building connections as a freelancer in 2021.

Whether nurturing connections with the peers you have worked with before, or stepping outside your comfort zone to attend more online industry events, there are plenty of great suggestions to get you started.


1. Reach out to the people whose work you admire

Most of the time, it can be as easy as just reaching out to the people whose work you admire.

If approached in the right way, people will kindly share their expertise and give advice.

Another way to build a network is simply nurturing the relationships that have been formed by working with your colleagues in the field. Taking part in events, discussions or forums also helps a lot.

– Marta Miskaryan, Global Short Docs Forum 2020


2. Keep up to date on opportunities within the industry

The internet has been very effective for me in many ways.

There are constantly open calls to participate in forums, symposiums, portfolio reviews and fellowships that I find very useful, as there are thousands of amazing people who either organise or attend these things.

Keeping myself updated and attending these events within the industry has proven to be very helpful in building my professional network.

– Damilola Onafuwa, Global Short Docs Forum 2019


3. Make use of social media

Make sure that you use your own social media channels to increase exposure for your work.

When you share something, you can target specific audiences or useful connections by using relevant mentions, tags and hashtags.

– Nahla El-Nemr, Fellowship 2019


4. Make connections with your peers

One of the most amazing things I’ve learned by becoming an OWM fellow is the power of connecting with your peers.

That’s how you improve your ideas, get in touch with gatekeepers and eventually get your projects commissioned.

So my advice for someone trying to build connections in the industry is to try to take part in as many masterclasses, labs, courses and fellowships as you can so you can have a strong network.

The people you get to know will be the ones widening your horizons.

– Julia Lemos Lima, Fellowship 2016


5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask someone in your network to introduce you to someone they know.

Work on your social media sites and keep in touch with industry people. This has been a great help to me.

– Shanta Nepali, Fellowship 2020


6. Be patient!

Building connections takes time, so I think it’s important to be patient and respectful towards others.

A strong network comes naturally when you have personal and professional integrity and when you’re always finding ways to improve.

Generally speaking, it’s best to be open – to not shy away from approaching people and asking questions!

– Marta Miskaryan, Global Short Docs Forum 2020


7. Stay honest and open

The most effective ways to build a professional network is to stay true to who you are, to your message and what you have to offer.

Show respect to your colleagues, and most importantly, regard any network as a valuable community aimed to exchange thoughts, cultures, challenges, and expertise, not just an added line in a resume.

– Mariam El Marakeshy, Fellowship 2020