Credit: Imogen Holland (above)
Journalism graduates are no doubt feeling the stress of an uncertain job market. But instead of waiting for your big break, could you be working for yourself and getting paid?
There are plenty of opportunities out there in the creative industries according to Imogen Holland, a recent multimedia journalism graduate from Salford University. Since finishing her course, she has secured freelance shifts with Metro Radio, a commercial radio station owned by Bauer Media and based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She has even ventured into content creation and web marketing work.
At Metro Radio, she pays close attention to breaking news and reports on how wider national issues are affecting communities in the North East of England.
Holland spoke to Journalism.co.uk about what advice she would give fresh graduates to stand out in a crowded job market and what it takes to find work as a freelance journalist today.
Use your network to get started
The hardest part of freelancing is taking the first step. For this, use the contacts you have built in the industry during previous work experience.
Holland did two weeks work experience with Metro Radio in August 2019 and that led to more freelance day shifts the next week.
The radio station later decided to keep her on with freelance shifts and the plan is to take her on full-time in the future. This shows the importance of maintaining strong contacts to increase your job prospects.
Getting commissioned and being pitch-perfect
Ideally, journalism graduates want to get to a place of regular commissioning to have a steady income. The added benefit of commissioned work, Holland said, is getting feedback from editors.
When pitching to editors, she advised to keep it tight and packed with detail because editors get heaps of pitches. State what the story is, who you have lined up for an interview and who the intended audience is.
Some journalists like to develop a specialist beat but Holland is keeping her pitches broad for now because editors are always on the hunt for a variety of stories.
The Young Journalist Community Facebook group has also been a valued resource for gaining advice on pitching and commissioning.
"Young journalists can ask any questions they have about commissions. For those who are looking to get into journalism, this group is perfect because everyone is in the same boat," she says.
Preparation and portfolios
Nothing sells you to an editor quite like a tidy portfolio of work.
In her second year of university, Holland started a blog with informal posts before using it to showcase her professional portfolio and the experience she has gained. It means employers can see all her work with a single link.
Be confident and proactive, as even a few bylines during the pandemic will show employers you are engaged and determined.
"Make sure you get everything you’ve done in [your application], even some of the niche things - make sure you stand out from other people."
Dealing with setbacks and rejections
The job market is in a tough place and it is easy to want to give up. Holland had reached this point too but she found inspiration in the crisis to keep reporting on such an important moment in history. Inevitably though, you will face rejections and must be prepared to cope.
"Dealing with rejections is hard and I have received a fair few during the pandemic," she says, adding that it never harms to ask for feedback.
"Some days are harder than others and I think I speak for most people when I say that covid-19 has not helped that. But don't give up straight away. Keep working towards that end goal and don’t be afraid to ask for help from people in a similar situation."
Treat the freelancing process like any other day in the office. Strive for a healthy work-life balance, make a plan each week, set out your work hours, your break times and when to clock off.
Looking for a job in the media? Subscribe to our daily newsletter and keep an eye on our jobs board for the latest announcements.
Free daily newsletter
- Amy Lewin, deputy editor of Sifted, on smart ways to diversify tech journalism
- Tip: Editor’s golden rules for working with freelancers
- Tip: Getting your foot in the door of the industry
- Journalism students in Bangladesh are getting ready for the digital-first future with free online tools
- Tip: A freelancer's guide to solutions journalism