Mobile phone: How can you call yourself a fair dinkum freelance journalist if your contacts, your interviewees or your editors can’t immediately call you?
Message service / voicemail on mobile: Sometimes you must turn off your mobile. Always extend the courtesy of allowing your caller to leave a message at your cost. It’s rude to make him/her pay to leave a message and rude to make him/her send just his/her phone number.
Phone camera: Get a phone with a decent camera. You almost always have your mobile phone on your person. For that thousand-in-one chance that you will unexpectedly come across a big news event.
Smartphone: iPhone or Android. Any of the top end phones will give you almost everything in this list in a compact but sometimes limited version. It can store your contacts, access the internet, take photos and even record video.
A quality digital camera: If you intend taking your own photos to make extra money. The camera on your phone is handy but a dedicated digital SLR will work with less light, take pictures faster and generally provide much better quality.
Dictionary and Thesaurus: You must own and constantly use a good dictionary and a good thesaurus. I strongly recommend against small “office” ones. I strongly recommend you buy “WordGenius” which incorporates The Macquarie Dictionary and the Macquarie Thesaurus. My advice on physical versions of these is almost redundant now. The electronic versions online and even in app form on smartphones are excellent and searchable.
Landline: This is not so important now but if you do have one, ensure you have voicemail on this too.
Broadband internet connection: ADSL or Cable. Yes, broadband is an expense. But can a freelancer depend on internet cafes or a connection through their mobile phone? You need fast access to information and broadband gets it to you fast.
Personal Computer: Get a laptop, it doesn’t have to be expensive. A journalist without a computer might as well be a journalist without a head.
Email: Impossible to contact many people and do research competently without it. Make sure it has your full name in the address, not something silly.
Laser printer: Anything other than laser printing looks unprofessional and amateurish. Inkjets have come a long way but for text quality and cost per page, laser is still best.
Digital recorder: If you intend to do interviews with interesting people, you must use a recorder and you must be competent at operating it. You can record from most phones these days but a dedicated recorder is best.
Businesslike letterheads: No need for thick colour paper and printed at an expensive printer. Compose your own simple black-and-white letterheads on your computer.
Business cards: When you need one, you desperately need one. Make sure after you’ve had them printed that you carry them in your purse or wallet at all times.
Notebook Pen/s: Obvious. But most of my students leave home not carrying them.
Diary / Address book of contacts: This is a must. Either an old “black book”, my favourite the Filofax or an electronic version in your phone / computer. Whatever works for you, but you must keep it up to date. Obvious. But most students are foolishly “still getting around to it”.
Pay-TV: For the news, magazine, information, infotainment, travel programs, etc.
Copies of target publications: You MUST read every edition of the publications you are targeting. Subscribe, go online or go to your library.
Highlighter, Red pen, Cutter: As you read and study your target publications, mark key words and phrases with a yellow highlighter or red pen, and then slice out the article to keep temporarily.
Calculator: Journalists are good at words, and often lousy at simple arithmetic. Make an arithmetical error and your editor will come down on you like a tonne of bricks.