Jon Card

Credit: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The credit crunch helped me into self-employment. Before the global financial meltdown, I was a full time employee and the deputy editor of Growing Business magazine. But then the banks fell over and the ad money dried up. In the summer of 2009, I was made redundant and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I have been self-employed for over a decade now, and have worked for dozens of different titles, publishers and broadcasters, plus many non-media clients, too. I will never be an employee again and I do not want to depend on someone else for my income. For me, prospering as a journalist means being an entrepreneur. Here is what I have learned.

Find your number one skill

Journalists require a wide array of skills, from writing headlines to spotting a story in a database.

Everyone working in media should take time to understand their own strengths and weaknesses keenly. Then build their career or business on what they do best.

Expand your job title

Surviving as a freelance journalist, for example, typically means diversifying your skillset outside of journalism. For me, contract publishing, advertorials and advertising copy have provided decent cashflow.

Most of all, I work as a speaker and consultant as these roles play to my strengths. Developing skills that fix other people's problems is key. Expand your 'slash' job titie: become a journalist/videographer/data expert, for example.

Be a risk taker

Entrepreneurs take risks and succeed because of it. They launch new ventures, experiment with new ideas and regularly learn new skills, with no certainty of how they will pan out. 

A couple of years ago, I started my own event series: 'How to Make your Company Famous', and have now written a book of the same name. I started by hiring a room and selling tickets on Eventbrite. Would anyone come? How would my talk be received? Just 12 people came to my first event but the feedback was really encouraging. Things went from strength to strength and the rest is history.

Accept that journalism has changed

There might well be some purists who dislike using the word 'promote', but it is exactly what we do.

The work of journalists is now tracked in terms of page impressions and social media shares. Journalists have become marketers without even realising it. Developing a social media presence is a must.

Use social media wisely

Social media is a major part of a journalist's role. It is a treasure trove of information, a super-fast way to find contacts and, of course, the #journorequest hashtag. But social media comes with many perils, not least its ability to suck us in and waste our time.

Those who use social media well know which platforms work for them. I am focused on entrepreneurs, so my main network is LinkedIn, while Twitter has limited value.

The future of the media is uncertain and no-one can remotely predict where we will be in 2030. My advice: adapt, change and be entrepreneurial if you want to survive or, better still, thrive.

Jon Card is the author of How to Make Your Company Famous and has worked as a business journalist for the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and The Times. He is a public speaker and has delivered talks and workshops on business storytelling, media and press for entrepreneurial audiences at Innovate UK, University College London and The Supper Club.

This article was updated on 4 January 2023

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