Seen from an outsider’s perspective, the situation might seem a little desperate: an elitist, dog eat dog profession, inaccessible without the right connections. Yet the fact is that 90% of journalists don't even have a degree in Journalism. The profession is thus more accessible than it would appear…Is there a chance to make your dream reality? Only if you have the patience of a saint and nerves of steel.
1) Possess some basic skills
You will be required to write impeccable English (except for jobs in TV and radio obviously) and to have a basic sense of management. Most of the time, you work alone. The joys, the stress, the independence (even editing) are all yours alone. You have to be bursting with ideas, have an active imagination, organisation skills and, crucially, useful contacts in all lines of work. Nothing less than superhuman basically!
2) Possess some specific skills
Journalist colledges consist of a majority of teacher’s children, from the middle class, wealthy and exceptionally unexceptional. The profession is really lacking knowledge in: finance, economics, science, administration, industry, etc. Not very glamorous? Granted, but in geopolitics or literature, you are up against those already over-qualified for the profession. Instead, take the different paths: it is among these that you will find a job.
3) Start little or local (or online!)
For a while, without connections, you’ll have to accept anything. Your local council’s paper or that of the company around the corner… anything to build up your CV. You might think you risk burying yourself in this type of work forever, but soon you will find yourself at the same events as regional journalists, or even national: then it’s time to build your network!
4) Or, start with a blog
You’re a hip hop or theatre fan…like thousands of other journalists. You’re just going to have to be better than them, ultra-special, imaginative, unbeatable. Or have an exceptional writing style. To make yourself stand out, a blog can work really well. But it means you have to have a decent job in the meantime…so reserve this strategy for your true passion!
5) Build up a network
Address books are obviously the key. The more journalist friends you have, the quicker you will hear about good plans, especially when one of them is promoted to the top! But don’t go thinking that the mileu is armoured with people who are motivated just by ambition: journalists can be nice and love to go out for a few too many drinks. Don’t forget to return the favour when you can !
6) Looking for a job
You will undoubtedly have the chance to occupy the less popular jobs: editorial secretary, community manager, image seeker for unknown magazines…All these are good to take. Anything that will help you to get a foot in the door; start by photocopying for a paper and you may just end up writing for it.
7) Become a freelance writer
The beginning of a path of wonders. But not the end. Even on a channel like France 3, you’ve got to have several years experience before being given a permanent status. Goodbye holidays, welcome to the jungle. Welcome also to a world where you don’t need to wake up in the mornings or rest on the weekends! You will earn something similar to an author’s income. The minimum wage for a freelance writer is around £50 per sheet (1500 characters). You will be asked at least ten times, mostly on the internet. It’s up to you to manage the workload.
8) Knowing your rights
Think about joining a union to will help you with this. Take note that commissioned work is - to the work relations boards, it’s for your employer to prove that he hasn’t asked anything of you. The law is on your side, know that! People cannot get away with treating you however they like just because you’re a freelance writer.
9) Becoming a freelance writer for the long term
It’s not unusual to still be a freelance writer at 75. That’s the joy of the job. Generally, you work with a regular pool of employers who will ask you again and again to collaborate with them, until that sacred day when you suggest they hire you. To be at the top of the freelance writers, you should always return your articles on time (most colleagues tend to hand things over days or even weeks late) and behave politely (but don’t suck up). Having ideas is also useful.
10) Signing your contract
Picking up a pen and crying over the ten, twenty, thirty years of insecurity, you have left behind you. Not too soon, eh? Thanks to this contract, you will at last be able to stop squatting on your aunt’s sofa. You will become an adult. And don’t forget to marry another journalist in order to pay homage to the formidable profession endogamy. That is important.