The Ultimate Guide for New Journalists: How to Build Your Platform

Journalism is a career that demands two focuses. The first is your professional career. This refers to who you work for and what you’ve published. It’s the old-school version of journalism that’s still pervasive to this day, simply because all media careers are all about who you know. The second side of journalism is your own platform. All journalists worthwhile need to also have a thriving digital platform in this day and age. Not only is having a platform a great way to boost your value since your work comes with an audience, but it’s actually how you can expand your income. 

Journalism can be hard to get into, but with so many different ways to take your career, you can branch out and establish a strong root system that supports your efforts no matter where you go. It will take a lot of effort to get started, but that’s the same as building any foundation. 

Any career can be hard to get started in, but it’s harder in creative or media careers because there are many interested professionals. You’ll not just have to compete against those who have already started their career or who have made a name for themselves, you’ll also have to compete against other hungry journalists who are just starting out. 

This guide can help you build a foundation that you can then adapt as you see fit. There is no way to predict the future, and there are so many ways you can take a career in journalism. So long as you use these tips to help you at the start, however, you’ll be in a better position to direct your career to where you want it. 

Choose a Niche 

Every journalist must choose a niche. There is no option otherwise. Journalists, after all, aren’t just people who relay the news. They help audiences understand the complexities of the story behind it. Unfortunately, no matter how objective you may be, you are still framing the story and deciding how it will be told. Understanding how to make your argument or story as objective as possible is important, but at the end of the day, there will always be a framework that is entirely up to you. There’s a reason why different people can cover the same story and end up with different conclusions, even if they don’t explicitly state their opinion. 

In short, you need to be an expert on what you’re reporting. This does mean that journalists must embody two roles at a minimum – the journalist and the expert. You don’t need to know absolutely everything, but you do need to be deeply entrenched in that single field. 

You may be a fashion journalist or a news journalist. You may be a sports journalist or a financial journalist. Picking your niche at the start is essential because it will help you narrow down your brand identity and can even help you choose the right degree and training tools. 

Earn a Degree 

While you can get started in journalism without a dedicated degree, it will be harder. You’ll first need to prove yourself and your ability to conduct yourself as a professional journalist before you can get started. Not only that, but there are a lot of skills that journalists today need. The most effective, straightforward way to earn these skills is to earn a degree. The reason why you’ll want to know your niche in advance is that you’ll get more out of a dedicated degree than a general one. 

If you want to become a sports journalist, for example, then you should click here to see just what a sports journalism degree can offer you. In general, on top of being taught how to conduct yourself as a professional, you’ll also learn how to report stories respectfully and how to relay live games properly. 

When it comes to any journalism degree, you need to choose the one that offers more than just the standard curriculum. The time when all journalists needed to learn was how to write, edit, and report is now gone. Journalists today need to use media to its fullest, including creating and establishing their own platforms. 

A sports journalist should know how to produce a podcast or conduct digital interviews. All journalists should know how to code to create engaging and impactful media assets. You need to know how to take advantage of the digital tools that have become pervasive throughout society to tell stories better. 

Not only will this help you stand out from your peers, but it will also give you the tools you need to strike out on your own. There is no guarantee, of course, but spreading out your efforts and trying to make it as a sports journalist through a professional production and independently increases your chances of making it. You can always work as a journalist. You can work as a journalist while you earn your money in an unrelated role. So long as you have the know-how to create, produce, and publish content (and know how to adapt it to increase engagement), then you’re well on your way to establishing yourself as a journalist in your field. 

Create Your Digital Brand 

You should start your own digital brand today. There is nothing stopping you from putting your name out there and declaring to the world your goal. Choose a username that’s similar to your given name, and make sure that you can use that same username on all social media profiles. This is step one to creating a unified brand online. 

You’ll also want to start your own website. If you’re tight on funds, it is fine to start with a hosted site. This means you go to a website builder and use the free tools to create a simple blog. Once you start building up an audience, however, you will want to switch to a self-hosted site. You can do this by paying the premium package for the website builder you’re using now, or you can start from scratch and get a domain name, a hosting package, and a website theme. 

The reason why you’ll want your own self-hosted site is that it removes the format. Instead, your website will be, which looks more professional and is easier to find. 

You’ll also have more creative control over your website design. Regardless of what theme you go for, however, you do need to keep in mind a few key traits: 

User Friendliness Is your website easy to use? Can users find the information they are looking for easily? Do all links, media, and interactive elements work? When it comes to assessing how user-friendly your site is, always check first how enjoyable the theme or design is to use on a small phone. 


You need your site to be responsive at a minimum. The only alternative is to create versions of the same page that only show up on certain devices. For example, you can design the desktop version of a page and the mobile version of that same page separately. 

The reason why this is so important is that how a site looks and feels determines how long a visitor will spend there. If your website looks wonderful and works beautifully on desktops but not on phones, you’ll have alienated a huge portion of your audience, and negated all benefits of investing in organic or paid social media marketing. 


Making your website accessible is smart for three reasons. One, it means that all users, regardless of ability, will be able to engage and use your website. Two, it gives users more than one way to interact with your content. If you have a podcast, for example, transcribing that podcast so that users can read it can mean more people engage with the content, even if they aren’t near their headphones and out in public. 

The third reason is that it helps boost your domain authority and, as a result, your ranking on the search engine result pages. You should do a lot more to optimize your website for search engines, but if you feel unsure, just stick with the recommendations that will help improve the user experience. A site that is secure, fast, and formatted properly so that the information is easy to read and understand is a great place to start. 

Social Media 

Social media is a great way to drum up an audience, keep them engaged, and then funnel that traffic to your website or media assets online. They have become a must for journalists, but they do mean you’ll need to put a lot more effort into content creation. 

At minimum, you should have a Twitter account. Twitter is a goldmine for journalists because people go to it to hear news and follow along with live stories. It’s a simple, effective platform for writing content. 

If you only use Twitter, however, you’re ignoring a huge demographic and potential audience. Yes, making it on TikTok or Instagram will take more effort, but it can be very worthwhile. All news can easily and effectively be translated into image or video format. Creating simple news videos in your niche can be a great way to practice not only content production but also build an engaged audience. 


You don’t need to be high-tech, but you do want to continually workshop and adapt your approach so that your content always feels fresh. 

Not only can building a winning content strategy help you boost your own audience, but it can also help you develop essential skills that media professionals need today. You can showcase your ability to potential employers or use a huge following to support your independent career. 

Establishing Yourself as a Credible Journalist 

A great, thriving platform gives you options. It does not necessarily establish your credibility as a journalist. That’s why it’s always important to network and work on getting your content published. The good news is that these efforts are great ways to get paid, even if you aren’t a staff writer. 

Getting a job as a staff writer is fantastic, as it means you will regularly get paid, get published, and have the support of an entire publication. If you find it difficult to get such a position, don’t worry, as there are other ways to make money and establish credibility as a journalist. 

Get Published 

Journals, magazines, and even news outlets pay independent journalists for their stories all the time. There are also many, many smaller publications out there that you can pitch your story to. How much you earn will depend entirely on how large your audience is, how established you are, and what publication you’re pitching. Technically you can get your work published in a big name from the get-go, but the article needs to be impressive, fact-checked, and overall incredible. First-time publications like these are usually written by experts in their field, not journalists. 

Just because it’s unlikely you’ll see your first article in the New York Times, however, does not mean that you cannot get published. Go online and pitch your articles to various relevant publishers, and get your name out there. As time goes on, your name will have a backing that will help you get published in more renowned publications – or even get hired as part of their staff. 



Collaboration is essential for journalists. One of the most simple, common forms of collaboration is interviewing. People want to hear from experts, stars, and even those with interesting stories. Interviewing, however, is just the start. You’ll want to try to write articles with other journalists, work on projects like a podcast together, and so on. Collaborating is a great way to not only introduce yourself to new audiences, it’s how you can boost your reputation by sharing in the spotlight with someone who is more established. 


Collaborating, networking, and interviewing – all of these require you to get out there and really establish yourself as a journalist both in the eyes of the industry, but also in the eyes of your audience. 


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