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Podcasts, newsletters, Medium publications, vlogs – these are just some examples of formats that lend themselves to becoming journalism side projects.

But, you may wonder, why should you consider investing time and effort in such a project, especially if you already have a job in journalism?

To learn a new skill

One of the reasons is that side projects can be a good way to learn a new skill at your own pace, whether it's one you can apply in your current job or a future one. For example graduates looking to get a foot in the door can use it as an opportunity to gain experience in what could become their beat or specialism later on, even more so if they studied a non-journalism degree.

This is what motivated Alex Laughlin, now social media editor at The Washington Post, to start her journalism side project, The Ladycast.

Laughlin started toying with the idea while she was still at university, because she realised she needed more than her degree to get into journalism, she told in a recent podcast.

However, she was initially afraid of taking this step, as prior to launching The Ladycast in August 2015, she did not have much experience working with audio. What made her finally take the plunge was that she had a topic she was passionate about and which she felt was not really discussed elsewhere.

"The Ladycast is a show where I interview women about their experiences, about their careers, and I wanted to do that because I felt like there was a lot of focus on men who were doing great things, and I really wanted to create a platform that celebrated not just women who are doing great things in their careers, but also in their lives.

"So [on the podcast] I have people who are mothers and poets [...] but I also have people who are award-winning musicians and women who have run for office. I really try to capture a wide range of what success can mean to so many people."

To take pressure away from your job

Her podcast goes out every other week and she pointed out it is important to ensure you can commit a certain amount of time to such an initiative before taking it on, to show consistency. But it's also worth remembering that there is flexibility in what you can do with the format and the schedule of your side project.

Laughlin devotes some four hours to producing The Ladycast on Sundays and there have been times when she has allowed herself a break or to put out an episode in a more narrative style than the interview format her listeners have grown accustomed to.

"One of the biggest things for me and one of the reasons why I think it's most important to have a side project is that it takes pressure away from your nine-to-five job to give you fulfilment in every way.

"So if you're not totally happy in your nine-to-five, that's ok, because you have this other thing that makes you happy and maybe it makes you money too, or maybe it's your path to a new position," she explained.

To be more creative at work

For Julia Carpenter, also social media editor at The Washington Post, launching her side project in 2015, a daily newsletter called A woman to know, has enabled her to write more frequently than she is able to do so in her role.

But it has also brought more value to what she is able to contribute at work, helping her diversify her ideas and connect with communities who are passionate about the same issue – the lives of inspirational women worth knowing about.

"I feel like all of my reporting and my writing about women is improved, all of my ideas about women and women's writing that I bring to work have improved, it just benefits me so much," she explained in the podcast.

Not only can the experience of having a side project feed ideas back into your day-to-day job, but it could eventually lead you to work on such a project as part of your role.

In April, Laughlin and Carpenter launched Pay Up, a Slack-based community hosted under the Washington Post umbrella.

They invited Post readers who are women working in technology to join the group to network, provide career advice and discuss the issues they face in their jobs, such as the gender pay gap. Pay Up acts as a safe space for discussion, as well as a way for Laughlin and Carpenter to source relevant stories from the community to make their issues more widely known.

"I think it's helpful when you can start a side project at work, because you will get greater buy-in from your employer and they will be less threatened if you're starting a side project that's going to benefit the company rather than take you away from it," Laughlin said.

"It really helps build your reputation within the newsroom too, people have come to us to ask for help in building a community on Slack the way we did.

"And you also get the weight and the resources from your company, which really helps push your project forward. If Julia and I had just started Pay Up on our own, it would've been fine, but we would've had a harder time finding people, and frankly, I don't think it would be as successful as it is."

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