What I’m thinking right now


My most obvious option, given what I want to do, would be to just leave and go freelance. I could do a mixture of freelance editing and b2b writing, and tutoring, to pay my bills, while blogging and pitching stories. This would hopefully lead to stories getting accepted, commissions, and within a few months I could be a fully-functioning news journalist writing stories I’ve come up with myself.

Sounds nice.

But there are a host of little problems in the way, or not so little.

1. Freelancers need connections. I have none.
2. Freelancers need the kind of sources that enable them to see stories no-one else has seen. Right now, I don’t have those kind of sources. I could develop them, going to conferences and meetings and chatting to people, but it takes time – time when I wouldn’t be selling stories.

All these are issues I’d need to address – a bit at least – before leaving my current job. But it’s not easy to do any of this on top of my job; I’ve been trying. I don’t want to resolve to stay as long as it takes to publish a couple of freelance pieces, and find I’m still there in a year.

I do sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for freelancing at all. I’m an experienced feature writer, but I’ve never done news reporting. I already have problems in my current job thinking in terms of gripping stories and not just analysis. Could I really find interesting enough ideas to get editors’ attention? Nerdy old me? Deep down, don’t I just want to make boring reports for think tanks?

Also, a freelancer can never really relax – he should always be working on a story. At least with a salaried job, once you go home, you can relax. But then, if I’m trying to do general pieces on top of a job, I can’t relax in the evenings at all – that’s a bit like the last few years, where I’ve always been at least theoretically ‘working on something’ in the background.

But assuming I do want to become a freelancer, I also see various reasons why it might not be the best time to do it now.

1. Money. Money is of course the primary reason I’ve stayed in my current job so long; I had to pay off the personal loan I took out to sort out my credit cards and loans. Even now, I still have a £2000 overdraft. Fine if I have a salary. But going freelance would involve probably earning very little for the first few months. I need really not just to be out of debt, but to have some savings.
2. I need to learn to drive. This is a prerequisite for all sorts of journalism work. But, it costs money (see 1).
3. I kind of want some stuff. I know that may seem a little silly. But I’ve only been earning a reasonable amount since I paid off my big loan last year, and I haven’t had a chance yet to actually have cool stuff. You know, an iPhone. An iPad, for god’s sake. Some new clothes. As a freelancer I could be scrimping on everything for another year or two.
4. I need to get a mortgage. A salary could be useful with that.

What all this is leading to is that I think I may have to play a long game, and get another job in business journalism. Another year or so of salaried work will help me improve the financial situation, and teach me some useful reporting skills. Then I could aim to move to a newspaper’s business desk, and then ultimately out to broader reporting.

But I don’t want to wake up at 40 and find I’m a business journalist. It’s miles away from what I wanted to be a journalist for.

I need to think about this some more.


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