Freelance Writer and Journalist: Michael-Oliver’s WorkStory

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

Michael-Oliver Harding is a freelance journalist who writes for both print and online culture magazines and newspapers. His client roster includes publications such as the Montreal Metro, Exclaim, Elle Canada, Noisy, and Nylon Magazine to name a few. Michael writes about culture and the arts. He is most interested in “the intersection between culture and politics”. Working mostly from home, Michael says that there is a lot of freedom and flexibility in his schedule, which helps stimulate his creativity. Even though he is passionate about writing, he especially enjoys interacting with the people he interviews at events, via Skype, or on the phone.

As a freelance writer, it is necessary to be on one’s toes to initiate leads and to find one’s next employer. Michael says that his ambition and constant reading help him be a successful freelance journalist. Usually, Michael does cold pitches to the magazines that he avidly reads. He explained that cold pitches are when he reaches out to the editor of a magazine, without any connections or ties, with an idea for an article that he believes is going to be tailor-made for the publication. He not only sells his idea, but he sells himself as the best person to write this story. He emphasized that these ideas have to be timely and relevant to the readership of the publication.

While completing a BA specialization in Communication Studies, with a Minor in Spanish at Concordia University, Michael was focused on documentary production and producing short films. Even though he had always been passionate about culture and the media, he had never seen himself as having a career in Journalism. However, in his fourth year of his studies, he decided to write film reviews for one of the school newspapers. He found himself particularly enjoying interviewing filmmakers and musicians. To his surprise, he loved the writing component of this position. Unlike essays --  reviewed by person for a grade -- the articles Michael wrote allowed him to freely express himself. For the first time, his writing had a readership!  He soon became the editor of the school paper, and from there he started to pitch ideas to other publications.

After years of success in the journalism field, Michael is now pursuing an MA in Visual and Media Anthropology – in Germany! This program, he said, will bring him back to his original passion of documentary production. After years of writing about film, Michael says that he now wants to understand the interworking of the medium in a more in-depth way.

Michael’s closing words of wisdom for those heading into the world of journalism?

Write about what matters to you and take your cues from those who inspire you.

It’s good to write about everything, but it’s better to write about a few topics that you’re passionate about and that you know extremely well.

Read a lot. Stay updated in what’s going on in the field of journalism.

Follow the writers and journalists who inspire you. Stay up to date with what they write.

Getting a degree in Journalism is not mandatory! It is helpful to have a well rounded education in other disciplines.