One of Australia’s most successful freelance writers has visited Macleay College to inspire journalism students and provide tips on the competitive industry. Chris Sheedy has been writing for more than 20 years with his career taking him across the globe. His features have appeared in publications such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine and GQ. He also represented the Guinness World Records’ brand in the Asia Pacific region for 15 years.
Despite his personal success, Mr Sheedy emphasised that “not everyone succeeds in the freelance world” and to make a career out of it requires long hours and dedication.
He advised students to go out and work in the industry before attempting to freelance. This enables reporters to establish their credibility, make contacts and understand the needs of editors.
“Your job (as a freelancer) is to make your editor’s life easier,” Mr Sheedy said.
“If you’ve never worked with an editor and don’t know what the pressures are on them from the marketing department, circulation people, advertising and sales people, and from the sub-editors and the designers, then how can you make their job easier if you don’t know what the pressures are on them?”
Mr Sheedy said that while it was a risk to leave full time work and go out on your own, his first year freelancing was reassuring as it made him realise his own worth.
“The first year I went freelance, I made double what I was making full-time,” Mr Sheedy said.
“I didn’t know my own value because the business that I was working for was telling me what I was worth.”
One of Mr Sheedy’s strengths lies in his ability to find the human interest aspect in any story, whether it’s a personal story, corporate article or something technical.
He said one of the tests of good writing was “getting lost in the words”, when you almost forget your surroundings because you are so absorbed in the content of what you are reading.
Mr Sheedy advised students that the best way to check their own work was to imagine you are someone else, seeing it for the first time.
“Rather than reading it on a screen, print it out so it’s on paper … go and sit somewhere else that is not your desk and read the story through the eyes of someone else,” Mr Sheedy said. – Ben Owusu
Picture of Chris Sheedy by The Newsroom Team