Home » How to Establish Your Personal Brand Online: A Guide for Emerging Journalists

How to Establish Your Personal Brand Online: A Guide for Emerging Journalists

Journalism today looks vastly different than in the past. In the past, your go-to was to work as a staff writer or to be hired by a publication and then sent on an assignment where you were needed. With the rise of the internet and, of course, personal platforms, this old framework is now completely outdated. Journalists today can have a thriving platform of their own, can sell their work to all the major news outlets, and can even establish an audience that they can monetize on their own. 

How You Can Monetize Your Personal Brand 

Getting a steady paycheck when you largely work for yourself can be challenging, which is why it’s useful to invest your efforts into expanding your revenue streams. You shouldn’t solely rely on getting paid for the stories you post. This is just the tip of the iceberg of how you can earn money online today. Consider the following points:

  • Sponsorships and Advertising 

When you build up a platform, you have an audience. Audiences can then be monetized by accepting advertisements and sponsorships. You don’t need to worry about your integrity, either, as you’ll always be able to pick and choose who you work with. So long as your audience is aware of a sponsorship when you talk about it, there’s nothing to lose. You can even help your audience by partnering with companies that they are interested in. For example, you can partner with tech or security companies to help your readers stay safe, particularly if you write a lot about cybercrime and its threats. 

Specialists in writing, editing, and other useful tools such as a VPN are other great companies to partner with because they make sense with your niche and are likely of interest to your audience. Your sponsorship partner is happy, you get paid, and your audience is introduced to a new company they may even need. 

Many journalists do this. Most podcasts today are paid for with sponsorships that are advertised at the start and end of every episode. This is because it’s an effective way to earn money so that you can continue to investigate and publish content that your audience has come to enjoy or rely on. 

  • Patreon 

One of the best ways to let your audience support you is with Patreon. Patreon is a member-only platform where your readers or listeners can pledge to pay you whatever they want. They can donate to you once, or can pay a small amount every month. Patreon lets you offer special perks for being a Patreon supporter. For example, you can release Patreon-only content for those who are monetarily supporting you, or you can release content early. This gives your audience a little incentive to help support you monetarily. 

  • Paid Products 

You can also create premium products that are locked behind payment. One of the oldest and most popular versions of this is to write a book. While getting published by a big publishing house is a great way to get your name more established, it’s not the only way to get your book out there. Self-publishing has come a long way, thanks to on-demand printing. What this means is that you don’t need to pay large sums in advance to print a thousand or more copies of your book. Instead, your book will be printed and then sent out whenever someone orders it. 

The technology behind this is very advanced, so you can relax knowing that the products people are buying from you, even if self-published, are of high quality. 

Other paid products you can offer include merchandise. If you have a logo and visual graphics you can then place these on t-shirts, bookmarks, tote bags, and more. Many podcasts and digital video brands do this, and no, you don’t need to focus your brand on entertainment in order to sell merchandise even if it sounds like a good side business idea.

Sometimes all you need is a good design. Once again, this merchandise is usually made on-demand, so you can give your audience ways to support you that doesn’t involve the high cost of having stock and managing it. 

  • Become a Guest Poster 

If you work independently then you’ll want to sell your articles and think pieces to publications. This is standard practice, especially for the larger journals that offer more in-depth journalism than just reporting. You likely won’t get paid opportunities to report news when there are staff writers, for example, but if you’re an investigative or niche journalist you can create content that you can then sell the rights to. 

  • Becoming a Guest Speaker 

Just as you can earn money through your writing, you can also earn money by being a host. If you manage a podcast, you can get the ball rolling on this by bringing in guest speakers and asking for interviews. By establishing yourself as a top journalist with a big audience, especially one that’s reached out to the wider community, you’ll start finding new opportunities like becoming a panelist coming your way. 

  • Offering Your Services 

You can offer your services for a fee. This means you can work as a copywriter, an editor, or even a mentor on a case-by-case basis. This way, you can help others get their shot at establishing themselves as an independent journalist and get paid to do it. 

How to Become an Independent Journalist 

When you work as an independent journalist, you’re in charge of everything. This means you are more than just a journalist. You’re also a web designer, a marketer, a manager, and an accountant. Like all freelancers, you are your own boss. The only issue is that you’re the boss of one, so you need to keep on track of a lot more than just your story. If you can’t do it all, then finding a staff position and working your way up to fieldwork is the way to go. If you can manage yourself and are happy to push the limits of journalism so that you can focus on your area of interest and build a career for yourself that way, then you’ll want to use these tips: 

  • Earn the Right Journalism Degree 

If you don’t have a journalism degree already, then there are a lot of benefits of earning one. While you don’t need a journalism degree, it will help immensely with your ability to put together stories and think pieces, and will also go a long way towards establishing your credibility. When everyone can post whatever they want and even grow an audience, thinking of how you can stand out is essential. 

For those who want to become independent journalists, there’s another big benefit to earning a masters in journalism online degree. If you opt for the digital journalism route, for example, you’ll not only be trained traditionally (writing, reporting, and editing), you’ll also be trained on how to code, how to use digital platforms, and how to use analytics to improve your approach and boost engagement. 

The online world can feel like a wild place with too much competition. The fact is, unfortunately, that’s exactly what it is. If you want to stand out in the sea of people, all with platforms of their own, you need to not only train as a journalist, but also as a marketer and web designer, and that’s what modern-day journalism degrees can offer. 

  • Decide on a Niche 

The best way to not only stand out online, but to also establish yourself as a reputable journalist, is to start with a niche. Independent journalists rarely relay news as it happens unless they are on the ground. Instead, they work to help people understand the why and how behind events. Their work is far more complicated, and requires in-depth knowledge of the topics they are covering. 

That’s why it’s important to cover a niche. This niche should involve the field you are most interested in. It could be fashion, business, sports, foreign affairs, crime, and so on. You need to become an expert in that field so that you can understand the connecting factors that have led to the news you’re covering, and also explain to your audience the impact of the story itself. 

Staff writers can be flexible, since they’re given stories by their editors and are sent out to put together the information. Independent journalists need to dig deeper, and because of that they usually specialize in certain fields. Not only does specializing help you establish yourself more quickly, it can actually help you with SEO. 

Creating Your Digital Presence 

When you’re an independent journalist, you are in charge of the content you put out. While you can absolutely focus on just writing, chances are you won’t see a lot of traction until you get your work published. For the best results, try to adopt a multi-media approach. You can create short videos that outline what your article covers and then use those as a way to market your work to the wider world.

Create videos, podcasts, infographics, and remember to rehash the information in every article or long-form piece you create so that you can continue to advertise your content. This is how you can get more out of every story, build your audience, and create a unique platform that comes with its own audience. 

When it comes to establishing your own audience, of course, you’re going to eventually want to bring everything in-house. What this means is that, while at the start you can and should use other companies’ platforms, ultimately you’ll want as many people as possible going straight to you. This means going to you to read the articles, or to listen to the podcast, or even to buy merchandise. 

This doesn’t mean the goal is to remove yourself from these external platforms, but to instead give incentives and paths that lead your audience directly to your website. A good way to do this is to simply link your social media and website together. You can also create a newsletter that encourages your readers to visit your main page. 

Why do you need people on your website? So you can monetize them. You’ll get the full amount of advertising money and any money paid for merchandise and the like when people go directly to you. In short, you won’t have to split your income with other publishers. 

So, while you won’t want to remove your podcast from popular podcast platforms, for example, you will want to try to get as many listeners as possible going through your platform. 

Optimizing Your Presence 

Whenever you do anything online, you need to consider how it will impact SEO. SEO can feel like this massive, complex entity that you cannot grasp. The reason why it may feel like that is because the rules constantly change. The good news, however, is that there are a few evergreen tips that can help you improve your website and digital presence so that they rank higher and, more importantly, appeal more to your audience:

  • Make it Accessible 

Accessibility is critical when it comes to anything online. If you go through the effort of captioning your videos properly, or adding a transcription, then you will immediately be more appealing to those who are hard of hearing and those who simply don’t want to listen to the video because they’re out and about. 

Making your content and website accessible isn’t just useful for members of your audience who have a disability, it’s better for computers as well. Structuring and formatting online content so that it’s broken up, full of sub headers, and peppered with multi-media, is also how you can help all devices properly showcase your content. 

As a bonus, it’s also how you can improve your site’s domain authority (DA). DA is a quality ranking system that can help boost your presence online. 

  • Guest Posting

Once again, this tip will help you increase your ranking and improve your audience. When you guest post or collaborate with others, you work to get your name out there. Just remember to link back to your site and platform when you do it. This will not only help boost your audience reach, it can also help you improve your backlink profile. A good off-site and on-site SEO strategy can help you get to the top of relevant searches.