Why being a freelance (entrepreneurial) journalist in my early years helped my career


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I’m not that old, but I’m not that young either. I have a career that has spanned 14 years now, and sometimes, I feel the urge to share my experiences with people.

And that’s why I like giving advice to young people. That’s one of the reasons why I love teaching (I’ve been teaching undergrads for 10 years now and conducted numerous workshops).

One of the most common advice I dish out to young journalists (whether they like it or not!) is that they need to put themselves out in the world. Go out and be a freelance journalist.

Too many young journalists like to begin their career as full time staff at news organisations. I’m not saying that this is wrong. In fact, I started out as a full time rookie journalist too.

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But I soon left the comfort of full time employment and became a freelance journalist. I actually prefer the term entrepreneurial journalist. I was self-employed for 10 years and the benefits I have gained is just invaluable.

1. I learned that you have to always stay on your toes and keep your journalistic and storytelling skills sharp. If you don’t have your nose on the ground or don’t tell your story effectively, you won’t have any clients wanting your stories. That also goes for staying in tune with the latest methods.

2. I learned to be effective and efficient in what I do. I discovered that being a solo-journalist meant that I could do my work faster and achieve the best results based on my own set standards. I also learned to be multi-skilled (I can write, present, shoot video, photos and edit). And that has helped to keep my costs low too!

3. I learned that you always have to respect people and never burn bridges. The industry isn’t big and you need to always treat people how you want to be treated. Anyway, the bigger your clientele, the better your business.

5. I discovered that I have my own unique voice and to believe in myself.

6. I learned that most often times, satisfaction and happiness always come up tops compared to money.

7. I learned to be entrepreneurial. I learned to market and promote myself and my work. I learned never to give up and be persistent. I learned that I should never rest on my laurels because there are many people much better than you out there.

8. I learned to be resourceful and managed to only do the stories and projects that I wanted to.

So, it irks me to see so many young journalists who immediately got a full time job and then start getting complacent. They shirk at any additional duties or tasks they are given. They resist anything new that they have to do. They don’t try to expand themselves and grow. They don’t push themselves.

I’m not saying that all of them are like that. Some have thrived, progressed and grown even if they have never gone entrepreneurial. But in my observations, these people are far and few between.

But hey, one can only base things on one’s experience. And I doubt that I would have grown as much as I have if I didn’t have that 10 years of entrepreneurial experience.

I’m just saying!

And if you’ve read right down to the bottom of this post… then be rewarded by clicking on this hyperlink to an article I wrote a couple of years ago about being an entrepreneurial journalist!

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