Journalism skills / Lessons learned / Writing skills

5 things I didn’t know before becoming a journalist…

There were some things I DID know before entering into the scary world of journalism: It would involve writing, social media fits in well with an entry-level editorial role, the pay isn’t amazing, writing for free is almost inevitable and that the industry is extremely competitive. However, just as technology changes and advances, so does being a journalist. There are things you won’t know until you’re working full-time in the industry, no matter how much ‘experience’ you have. There are also aspects of this career path that will constantly be changing, and still are… so I’m sure writing this post in a years’ time will yield many different points!



Want to do a bit of extra writing now that you’re a qualified journalist? Well, you can, and you CAN get paid, but it’s just not as easy as that. Freelancing on top of a full-time job does give you a bit of extra cash, but remember, it’s not all yours! The complications of setting up as self employed, putting away money for tax and national insurance, claiming back any necessary expenses… obviously it’s worth it, but why don’t we get taught any of this!?


Yep, just waiting, on that one quote, that you said you’d get to me by Monday. WAITING for content from readers, experts or contributors to features and articles to give them reliability and balance can be a pain. Pressure of your own deadline might make you write the article quicker, but that doesn’t mean your reliable sources or reader quotes will get there any quicker. Depending on other people to make your feature complete can be tedious, with many emails, phone calls…. and more emails.


I had this vision, that once I was a full-time journalist, or working full time for a publication, I would somehow suddenly be GREAT at writing. I couldn’t possibly write something that was shit, or that needed heavy editing, because why would I have got the job? How arrogant of me. I’m actually pretty embarrassed. I’m young, just starting out in my career, and yes, some things I write, read back and think wow… that really is crap. Not to mention others have told me this, most likely more politely. I’m still learning, gaining writing experience, and I hope to be doing the same in ten years time.


If you’ve read my blog before you will KNOW that this has been mentioned. Quite a lot. But perhaps I didn’t emphasise it enough – you really have to be digitally-savvy nowadays, even if that means learning on the job. Working on a print magazine doesn’t mean you can avoid the web altogether, ohhhh no. I think it’s fair to say every print magazine will have presence online, and if you’re a smaller team then you’ll be mucking in across both platforms. Whether it’s a blog, website, or social media presence, it can’t be avoided. I learnt more about CMS in this year than I have since I ever started my blog. I know a bit of HTML, domains, SEO and the importance of sharing content digitally.


Did you read my recent post on changing your writing style for difference audiences? It seems like a really obvious point, but I gathered that once you were an experienced journalist, you had your own style and you stuck to it. Taking into account freelance journalists, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s drummed into you so much as an aspiring journalist that you have to ‘tailor your writing style and pitch to the publication you are approaching’. I’m surprised that I wasn’t expecting this a bit more. But writing for my day job, my work, my blog and my freelance writing, well, it changes a lot. Of course there are aspects that are similar but all in all, if I wrote the same way I did for parents and teachers, for a feature on the interior of a million-pound home, it just wouldn’t sit right!


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