The Great Unwashed’s Guide to Freelancing

Well, hello there…

I guess you’re on here because you’re either one of our friends, you’re unemployed, or you’ve just taken some time out to browse Facebook after a long, hard working week. If it’s the latter, I’d imagine you’re pretty bored now and are now doing something useful with your time, or looking at pictures of cats on the Internet.

I’m George, by the way. It’s good to meet you.

Anyway, given the purpose of this webpage is to help each other, provide support and contacts as well as making some new friends along the way, I thought I’d share some of the experiences I’ve had since I graduated in June last year.

I finished four years of Russian and Eastern European Studies at the University of Manchester, and by the time I’d done the whole rigmarole of dressing up like a far less wealthy Harry Potter, drank a lot of beer after the ceremony and inhaled the first vestiges of ‘real life’, I was ready to go out and become what is described on Peep Show as “a real person”.

Unfortunately, things haven’t quite turned out as I thought they would. There is no £20,000 job, I still live with my parents, and my overdraft still looks like a telephone number.

For all of you on here, I hope I can lend a sympathetic ear because since graduating with a language degree, everyone immediately presumes you can speak your designated language fluently. Well, unfortunately that isn’t the case, because I found Russian ludicrously hard and by the end of the degree, my energies were focussed on the writing and researching aspects of it; I figured there’s no point in wasting my time doing something I’m not good at, and should play to my strengths… a good point, given that I want to be a journalist, right?

This brings me nicely to my next point, because to an extent, I am a journalist. Since graduating, I’ve had the good fortune to have been published on a number of credible websites, blogs and also in nationally recognized print, but please let me advise you, this has not been easy. Simply, if you have any journalistic aspirations and don’t have a journalism degree/a first/Oxbridge credentials, then be prepared to be in for a long hard ride.

The first piece of advice I can give you, is to find your niche and don’t expect to get paid to start off with. My ‘thing’, if you will, is motorsport, and I quickly learnt that if you box yourself into one aspect of a field, then the doors close very quickly. I made the mistake of wanting to report on Formula One, and quickly learnt that if you go into something as high-profile as that, the opportunities quickly close as only a handful of people in the country do it, and trust me, they want to keep it for themselves. So, keep a broad range of interests (I’m currently writing about the World Rally Championship and haven’t been happier as a writer, actually) and keep abreast as to what’s going on in your chosen fields.

Secondly, get writing to publications you’re interested in, offer to work for free and get busy. Not in the sense of being a pain in the arse in the true sense, but forge contacts because these are what will help you out. My first experience of journalism was writing to Autosport magazine for some work experience, and since then, I’ve been back a fair few times and have made some friends there who have basically taught me the art of news writing and magazine design and layout without a formal qualification; Be nice, chum up in the tea-room with a mover and shaker from another department, start smoking (albeit temporarily, but it’s a great way of talking to people) and don’t be afraid to listen to advice and criticism. It’ll all help you in the end and if you do, people will be there to help you along the way, even when you aren’t in the office.

In short and to quote Journey (or Glee, if that’s how you choose to live your life), “don’t stop believing”. Whilst there will be times when you don’t want to go on, or are tempted to just throw it all in and find something that will pay a lot more and regularly, I would advise you not to, because it’ll quickly extinguish any creative urges you have. Just write and don’t stop doing it. Do some temping work to keep your bank balance healthy, but write to magazines for work experience (and be prepared to work for free for them for a while), start a blog, write articles for yourself, but don’t give up. Something will come good and you’ll soon have brass in your pockets from writing, as well as a phonebook brimming with journalists and race drivers.

Until next time,

–        G


(If you’d like to speak about this more, or share experiences and contacts, add me on Facebook or drop me an email at


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