Why do you really want to be a journalist?

It might not be because you love writing



Welcome to The Professional Freelancer, a newsletter that will make your freelance life richer. In this issue: 
     
* Why do you really want to be a journalist?   
* Freelance journalist meetup in London   
* No-office office dog of the week: Charlie   
* Why are more people ditching the 9-5?

I'm one of those journalists who doesn't actually like writing.

A university professor once told me my writing is like a bulldozer and I took it as a compliment. I don't think my writing style is particularly elegant and I'm fine with that. My aim isn't to turn beautiful phrases and to agonise over the beat of my sentence structure. 

I see writing as a means to an end. It's a vehicle to transmit the information I've gathered – if that vehicle's a bulldozer, even better because it means my point is coming across strong. For me, writing is the part of the journalistic process that I have to just get through, something to tick off the to-do list. 

I was interviewing an academic recently for a story I'm working on and at the end of the call, she told me I'd asked good questions and that she'd really enjoyed our discussion. Apart from just getting a kick out of being told I did the job well, I realised that I'd also been enthralled in our talk. That was when it finally dawned on me that, after more than ten years of doing journalism, I finally figured out that my favourite part of putting a story together is the reporting. Finding information, piecing things together, interviewing sources – that's what I love.  

Talking to a source, getting to spend uninterrupted time immersed in their lives, hearing what they have to say is why I do what I do. Learning something about another person, the world and myself all at the same time and all in the space of a half-hour conversation is thrilling. The only way I can describe it is the antithesis of small talk; reporting is big talk. As such, I find writing hard because I have to do justice to someone else's story. In fact, I don't really see the stories I write as "mine" because they have nothing to do with me.

Now there is one caveat to all of what I've just said because there is one particular kind of writing that I do really love: this newsletter. When it comes to putting this together, the writing part just flows. I suspect that's because I basically am the story and the reporting is happening as I'm writing. Not to sound too navel-gazing, but it's like I'm reporting on myself.

We're not taught to interrogate why we want to do the things we're drawn to do. It's all well and good doing what you love, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you really love it? If you did, you might find you're actually doing something that you're good at that's only tangentially related to what you love.  

That happened to me – I started down my career path without ever stopping to ask myself what was it about journalism that drew me to it. So for about five years of my career, I worked as an editor because that was technically journalism and I didn't understand why I was unhappy. Had I realised the reporting and interviewing part was what I really wanted to do, I might have started a career in audio sooner and not bothered with the writing part. 

The same goes for journalists who do in fact just want to be writers. I know plenty of people who work in journalism who have no interest in reporting and just want to write. That's totally and completely fine, but they'd be better served if they spent some time thinking about what being a writer means for them. 

Something I get asked quite a bit these days is how I find balancing writing this newsletter with doing journalism. It's a funny question because I see this newsletter as a form of journalism. It's service journalism. If the New York Times can print recipes that help you cook dinner, I can publish newsletters that help you further your freelance career. 

I think the reason I get asked this question is that we don't all have the same definition of journalism. Or that many of us haven't stopped to think about why we’re in this profession. I understand journalism as providing citizens with the information they need to make better decisions. Those decisions, however, can be as big as "whom to vote for" or as specific as "what accounting software should I use to file my tax return".    

Spend some time figuring out why you really want to be a journalist, the answer might really surprise you.

Happy freelancing professional freelancers,
–Anna, FJ&Co. Founder


The FJ&Co noticeboard

Freelance journalists meetup n London:  The next FJ&Co event is a launch for my Is This Working podcast, followed by a meetup for freelance journalists. The evening will begin with a brief Q&A between my podcast co-host Tiffany Philippou and me, followed by no-lame networking. It’s on September 10th at 6PM at the Ace Hotel in London and tickets are free, but you must register in advance to attend.

What do you say when someone asks to see copy before you publish it? The question on this week’s #FreelanceHelpline is about copy approval and what you can tell someone who wants to see their quotes before you use them. Make sure you’re following FJ&Co on Instagram to stay up-to-date with the community.


The no-office office pet

This is the show-stopping Charlie, who belongs to journalist Lydia Wilkins

If you have a Good Pet who keeps you company as you work from home, send me a picture of them to feature here and bring joy to the lives of thousands of freelancers.


Calls for pitches


The list

  • What’s driving the rise in freelancing? Might it be how broken work and office culture is? I think so. On this week’s episode of Is This Working, Tiffany and I ask why more of us are ditching the 9-5

Listen now

  • I’ve written a guide to navigating pensions for freelancers. Despite what freelance urban myths will have you believe, there are plenty of manageable ways to save for retirement if you’re self-employed. Take advantage of that compound interest!

  • Much of my knowledge about how to run a freelance business comes from learning how online content creators make a living. Sarah Nourse is one of my favourite YouTubers because she makes videos about her different income streams and talks candidly about making money on the internet

  • As much as I’m not a writer’s writer, I do love a good heated grammar debate, especially about em dashes

  • “If your workforce is stressed enough that you think they need therapy puppies, you’ve probably got more work to do than just organising a drop-in petting session.” Vicki Turk on why a lot of workplace wellness is BS is spot on

  • “Do you just wear pyjamas all day?” Refinery29 has done a funny piece on what it’s like working from home


Testimonials


The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
If you're new to freelancing, download First Aid for Freelancers, my free e-book on handling the early days of self-employment. You need to put your email address in to download it; you won’t be signed up to the newsletter twice. Also check over the archives for past issues
If you want to advertise a part-time job or work opportunity to a community of over 3,500 freelance writers, click here
Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe to it here

Why you shouldn't monetise all your hobbies as a freelancer

The case for keeping some passions private



Welcome to The Professional Freelancer, a newsletter that will make your freelance life richer. In this issue:  
    
* The case for keeping some passions private   
* LAST CHANCE: 15% off FJ&Co membership   
* How long should you tell an editor it will you take to turn in your story? 
* Pippin the creative pup
* What does success look like in the Instagram age?

Not a lot of people know this about me, but I can draw.

You might be thinking – if you can draw, why aren’t you the one making the doodles at the top of this newsletter every week?

For the unheard of reason that I want to keep some of my hobbies entirely for me.

I bang on about diversifying your income all the time and I’m pro the side-hustle, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to monetise all of your interests outside of work. 

The side-hustle industry is estimated to generate £72 billion for the UK economy – we live in a weird time where it’s easier than ever to make (good) money out of your passion. But at the same time, it’s just as easy to lose sight of where your career ends and where you begin. In these hyper-commercial times, it’s more important than ever to maintain an identity outside of work. 

Take my drawing. I’m already pretty decent at it but I could, of course, be better; having to produce a cartoon a week would definitely help improve my skill drastically. But I don’t want to force it like that or put that kind of pressure on myself. I want to keep my cartoons just for me (and the handful of close friends who occasionally receive a hand-drawn card for their birthdays). 

I also keep drawings private because they are one of the few lo-fi, offline creative activities I do. I spend all day looking at screens. By contrast, I draw in a notebook with pencils and pens. As digitally native as I might be, I don’t want buy a smart pen to draw on my iPad and start posting them on Instagram. 

I also know that there’s a double-edged to sword to the millennial mantra of “doing what you love” that we’ve pledged blind allegiance to. I’ve always loved writing and am filled with gratitude that it’s what pays my bills. But making money out of it has been an exercise in finding a balance between knowing when to treat writing as the means to a paycheque, and when I write simply for the love of it. 

As woo-woo as it sounds, the older I get the more I appreciate the importance of intrinsic motivation. Nonetheless, there will inevitably be times in which we have to do things for external reasons, like, I don’t know, having to pay rent. Making money out of your passion isn’t always as cushty as the slogans on a mug in a trendy co-working space might have you believe. 

I can see ways to monetise pretty much any hobby I or anyone else has. I don’t know why my brain is hardwired for commercialisation, but it just is. That’s not a reason, however, to act on all of those ideas. Just because we can monetise all aspects of our lives, doesn’t mean we should.

Keep that hobby just for you.

Happy freelancing professional freelancers,
–Anna, FJ&Co. Founder


FJ&Co: making the lives of freelance journalists richer

***15% off membership ends today***: FJ&Co members get two additional newsletters a month (which include in-depth freelancing guides and interviews with editors), as well as access to the panel events in London for only £7.65 a month for the first three months. 

Become a member for 15% off

How long should you tell an editor it will take you to turn copy around? This week’s question on the #freelancehelpline is about how much time you should you ask an editor for when agreeing to a commission. If you have a freelancing question you need help with, DM FJ&Co’s Instagram account or email them to freelancehelpline@fjand.co.


The no-office office dog of the week

Meet Pippin, who belongs to Paul Evans of Fourth Estate Creative – what a beaut.

If you have a Good Dog who keeps you company as you work from home, send me a picture of them to feature here and bring joy to the lives of thousands of freelancers.


Calls for pitches


The list

  • This week on Is This Working, the podcast I co-host about the impact of work on our lives, we talk about what success means in the Instagram age. We ask why we get so jealous as we scroll past other people’s achievements and try to come up with a new definition of what it means to be successful.

Listen now


Testimonials

Sophie Hines: Relating very hard to @annacod's latest newsletter about the rollercoaster of emotion that is a freelancer's inbox.


The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
If you're new to freelancing, download First Aid for Freelancers, my free e-book on handling the early days of self-employment. You need to put your email address in to download it; you won’t be signed up to the newsletter twice. Also check over the archives for past issues
If you want to advertise a part-time job or work opportunity to a community of over 3,500 freelance writers, click here
Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe to it here

The emotional rollercoaster that is the freelancer's inbox

A lesson from Love Island on how to deal with the swinging pendulum of self-employment



Welcome to The Professional Freelancer, a newsletter that will make your freelance life richer. In this issue:
     
* The emotional rollercoaster of the freelancer's inbox   
* NEW: The #freelancehelpline   
* Ancho the rescue pup    
* How to be less awkward about money

For anyone else who spent the summer watching Love Island, you’ll know how emotions can turn on a dime.

There was a moment in an episode (which for anyone who doesn’t know what Love Island is, it’s a cult dating show in the UK – I recommend reading Lena Dunham on it) when Amber said that she couldn’t believe how dramatically her emotions could go up and down.

She was in a toxic situation with an ex who’d recently told her he wanted her back; and she’d just had a great date with new-guy Greg when she received a text message moments later informing her she had to make a decision which guy to pick. She went from elation to anxiety in the length of time it took her to read a couple of sentences on her phone.

Speaking direct-to-camera, Amber was articulating straight to me exactly how I often feel. Except not about love triangles, but about freelancing. Your whole day can be thrown – in any number of directions – by one single email.

Earlier this week, I received a shitty email from a company who wanted to piggyback on my #FairPayForFreelancers campaign. I’ve already ranted about why his email was awful on my Instagram, but the point here is that it threw me into a really bad mood. 

About an hour later, though, I received a reply to a pitch I’d sent over a week ago green-lighting my idea. I was over the moon because it was for a piece I’m really excited about; one of those I’m-dying-to-write kind of stories.

Oscillating between two extreme emotions off the back of emails like this happens all the time to me. And I used to think that the moral of the story was about the importance of taking rejection on chin. While one email can bring you down, you’re only another one away from everything turning back around. In other words, the natural ebb and flow of freelancing.

And while I do still think that’s true and important to remember in those moments when you’re on the receiving end of a disappointing (or infuriating) email, I’ve started seeing things a little differently now.

Because, if I’m really honest, the control freak in me doesn’t always jibe with self-employment’s swinging pendulum. My emotional reserves aren’t always at their optimum for dealing with these ups and downs. I don’t like being thrown all over the place in just one day because I’m a sucker for consistency. So what can I do about it, given that the rollercoaster of freelancing is kind of a given? 

Well, I think the moral of this story is actually about the importance of boundaries. It was a reminder to me to only look at my emails in those moments when I’m better placed to deal with them.

And it’s at this point that I have to confess that I read both of those emails at times when I know I shouldn’t have been in my inbox. The first I read while I was in the pub – my partner was buying us drinks at the bar and I checked my emails. The second, I read at 10 pm when I sat down on the sofa and in a moment of having nothing to do I just grabbed my phone because it was there. In other words, I’d not paid heed to the boundaries I usually have in place around my inbox. 

I talk a lot about boundaries, but often I slip up. We all do. But this is a pledge to try again. I’m hoping that if I write about my commitment to building resilience against the tyranny of my inbox, maybe I’ll hold myself accountable to take my own advice. 

Boundaries, after all, are liberating. Look at Amber – when she finally set a boundary with Michael, she quite literally won.  

Happy freelancing professional freelancers,
– Anna, FJ&Co. founder


FJ&Co: making the lives of freelance journalists richer

The #freelancehelpline: I’m super excited to announce that I’ve launched a new project for FJ&Co – the #freelancehelpine. The idea is to create a space for freelancers to ask questions and get help from the rest of the community. For now, the project lives on FJ&Co’s Instagram. To ask a question you can DM the account, post a question on socials using #freelancehelpline or email freelancehelpline@fjand.co. We'll post questions once a week on Insta and anyone who has a helpful answer can leave it in the comments below. I'll keep answering questions personally as well, but this way more people can chime in and we can all benefit from the answers. 

15% off FJ&Co membership ends next week: To celebrate my two-year freelanciverasy, you can get 15% off a monthly FJ&Co subscription for the first three months. FJ&Co members get two additional newsletters a month (which include in-depth freelancing guides and interviews with editors), as well as access to the panel events in London for only £7.65 a month for the first three months. The offer expires on August 7 so grab it while you still can! 


The no-office office dog

This is Ancho, a rescue who belongs to Khrista Rypl. She recently went full-time in-house but we can forgive her given how adorable her pupper is.

If you have a Good Dog who keeps you company as you work from home, send me a picture of them to feature here and bring joy to the lives of thousands of freelancers.


Calls for pitches


The list

  • This week’s episode of Is This Working, the work-culture podcast I co-host with Tiffany Philippou, is all about money and how to be less awkward about it. It’s a juicy one because Tiffany shares what it’s like to wake up one morning with a six-figure sum in your bank account (it’s actually a lot more stressful than you might think). We also give tips on how to be more transparent about pay and how to negotiate a salary. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Acast, Spotify or wherever you listen to your poddys.

  • There was a great debate this week on Twitter about what’s driving women to go freelance. This is something I’ve written about before but it’s a topic that needs a lot more attention and conversation imo.

  • Sian Meades-Williams, who writes the Freelance Writing Jobs newsletter, is writing a book! It’s a survival guide for freelance writers and she’s publishing it with Unbound, the crowdfunded publisher. I made my pledge for it this week and I highly encourage anyone else who reads Sian’s newsletter to do so as well. 

  • Wired have published a brilliant long read on the toxic growth at Culture Trip. I’ve long been inherently skeptical of media outlets whose model is based on rapid growth, so I can’t say I was surprised to read this story.

  • Vice has published a deep-dive into a complicated and murky tax screw-up known as the loan charge that is costing some freelancers tens of thousands of pounds. As one freelancer told Vice: “HMRC has completely broken me. All I did was follow professional advice, but they’re going after individuals, not the people who created these schemes in the first place.” (Hat tip to Rose Stokes, FJ&Co’s new events boss for sending me that one).

  • And lastly, I’m a big fan of journaling and also a big fan of Anna Goldfarb’s writing, so when I saw she’s written a guide to journaling, I had to share it. If you’re anything like me and can’t get on board with mediating but want to find a way to calm your mind, journaling might just be the answer.  


Testimonials

Lauren McMenemy: I love reading this newsletter every week, and find myself nodding in agreement more often than not (or giving myself a freelance hug for discovering I'm not alone).


The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
If you're new to freelancing, download First Aid for Freelancers, my free e-book on handling the early days of self-employment. You need to put your email address in to download it; you won’t be signed up to the newsletter twice. Also check over the archives for past issues
If you want to advertise a part-time job or work opportunity to a community of over 3,000 freelance writers, click here
Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe to it here

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