The first try didn’t go so well. After having being let go by S&P in 2014 due to unresolvable (I still dispute this) visa issues in Canada, I was stuck in Quebec, newly married, without a valid visa to live/reside/work in the country. In desperation, I did all the wrong things: wildly emailed editors with no specific story ideas, let my fear of rejection stand in the way of pitching actual stories I had, and sent snarky emails to the HR manager trying to hire for my position (the last bit worked. Since my old boss was re-assigned, the new one was more inclined to find a solution, and I would report for them for another year).
But living in Canada from 2013-16, with its seemingly never-ending announcements of journalism layoffs and publication shutdowns, scared me. I thought two things: one, I need to live somewhere where I can legally work, and two, I need to try something else.
For the past two years in London, I tried something else. Some things, actually. I tried a Big Four firm, which I found deeply unsatisfying. Then I tried working for an organisation as part of their comms team. If I had been given more leeway to do the things I had been hired to do, it would have been great. For various reasons, I wasn’t. You’ve all seen the blog post, no need to rehash.
Now, we’ve moved to France, and I’ve committed to getting my freelance career up in running – not least because finding English-speaking writing gigs in France is a giant waste of my time, as very few exist.
To make this work, I figured out what flipped me out the most about the last freelance go-round. And that was the lack of any sort of stable income. I just couldn’t see myself (or my ego, or my bank balance) surviving for very long on the endless pitch, write, revise, pitch somewhere else merry-go-round. I needed something more sustainable.
When I started out, and even when I was in j-school, it was still considered some kind of sacrilege for a journalist do anything non-journalistic on the side to make ends meet. Some activities falling under this category still make sense – volunteering for political campaigns being top among them.
But this idea that doing *anything* outside of journalism to supplement your income meant you weren’t a true journalist smacked of elitism. Back in 2014-5, I was still under the influence of this pernicious assumption, so I didn’t bother to develop a steady income alongside my articles.
Now, thankfully, there seems to be a more open approach to journalists taking on a variety of roles to pay their bills. And I’m no longer feeling ashamed that I have to do the same, and nor do I feel like it makes me any less of a journalist for doing so.
That being said, my steady income now will be reporting on international arbitration cases – so, I’m not strolling too far from the path.
This steady work gives me the freedom to pitch to other publications, and not obsess too much if I don’t succeed at first. And that is a glorious freedom to have.
On the pitching front, I recognise that I need a lot of work. So I’ve found a few mini-courses offered by working journalists, and will take one of them in the next month.
I was also inspired by a tweet I had seen by a writer, who wrote about her goal of obtaining 100 rejections from publications, and how it actually gave her bylines in reach publications she never thought she’d be published in. (Wish I could find the tweet in question). You can bet that I’ll be trying the same in the next few months.
It’s also dawned on me that while emailing editors I don’t know and pitching for work has worked a surprising number of times, it’s still much better to get to know people face-to-face. In that vein, I met a business journalist who works for Usine Nouvelle last night, and we hit it off.
So I’ll be doing more of that.
That’s my starting point. I’m sure I’ll make a lot of mistakes (and hopefully, learn something) along the way. Thanks to everyone who’s given me any kind of support – whether a like, a RT, advice, or an offer to work on a project – you’ve given me loads of encouragement to keep going, and brought a smile to my face.
In the meantime, enjoy the Magnus photos. :)