I’m living at home with my parents in Sheffield at the moment, and every day my Mum comes home from work and asks ‘Have you had any £1,000 commissions today?’. I wish, Mum. While I secured a €1/word commission before Christmas last year, this is sadly not the standard sort of rate you can expect as a journalist.
If your parents are anything like mine then their understanding of ‘freelancing’ is wrapped up in the glamorous depictions of fictional journalists like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, who writes one article a week and somehow still manages to afford a New York apartment and a shoe addiction.
In reality, most UK-based publications are more likely to pay you £100-£200 depending on article length and the amount of reporting involved — but then you need to deduct 20–30% for tax so then, really, you’re only taking home £70-£140 for a piece that probably takes a couple of days to research and write. For a full list of rates, check out this great database from JournoResources.
But it’s not just my parents who think that it’s common to make a full-time living as a freelance journalist. Many of the early career-stage journalists who DM me on Twitter or ask for advice via email are often shocked to learn that I work in marketing 9–5, Mon-Fri. Some of them seem confused as to why my Twitter bio says I’m a freelance journalist when I have a full-time job alongside my journalism career.
But a lot of freelance journalists work full or part-time in parallel industries such as marketing, social media management, copywriting, ghostwriting or PR. Others work part-time in retail or hospitality-or top up their freelancing income with tutoring jobs. Very few self-described ‘freelance journalists’ secure enough commissions each month to have enough cashflow to be able to live off.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to this-there are some very talented journalists who have enough brilliant ideas to be able to make enough money to live off. I doth my cap to these people. But as someone in a position to send a message to early career-stage journalists, I want to stress that you are not failing at freelancing if you’re not covering your costs.
Writing for a living is an incredibly rewarding job, but it’s also bloody difficult. Pitching is a painstaking process, and don’t even get me started on trying to get paid for work once it’s published. Having a side job can be a great way to relieve anxiety about money. I enjoy freelancing because I know I only have to pitch and write things I want to write about; if I have a bad mental health week like I did a fortnight ago then I don’t need to worry about being able to afford to eat because I know my paycheck will clear in my account each month.
So if you’re trying to toss up whether to apply for a staff reporter role or choose the freelance pyjama life, then consider whether you can bring yourself to explain to your relatives the 10 different things you do for a living next Christmas. If you’re happy to try and explain to your nan what a social media manager is, then maybe the freelance life is for you after all.
… in editing
Emily Anderson’s piece on ‘ The problem with the ‘Deluxe’ album’ is an insightful look at some of the tensions between the artistic and financial aspects of releasing music. I also enjoyed editing Kat Smith’s ‘ Introducing ‘ feature on artist Gia Ford.
… in writing
Articles written: 3
Articles published: 3
I wrote a small news piece on Echo & the Bunnymen’s rescheduled UK tour, and then in my day job I did two interviews — one with Truth Be Told, and another with Bearnie, an Italo-Indonesian artist who has just released her debut single.
… in listening/watching
I enjoyed the second episode of ‘Indiependent Thinking’, where Olly, Tara and Jacob tackled royal drama, internet celebs bullying the undeserving, and the mad world of stock markets.
… in reading
- BOOKS: I devoured Megan Nolan’s novel Acts of Desperation in one sitting and I’m currently reading David Hepworth’s Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There: How a Few Skinny Brits with Bad Teeth Rocked America
- Tavi Gevinson’s ‘Britney Spears was never in control: Why did I ever believe a teen girl could hold all the power?’ for The Cut is powerful stuff
- Grace Dent’s food column ‘British grief centres mainly around the making of sandwiches’ was very emotive
- Imogen Brighty-Potts’ first-person Metro piece ‘After being hit by a car, I finally feel confident posting bare-faced selfies’ reminded me of the importance of being honest on social media
- Jasmine Andersson’s VICE piece on ‘How queer people get into straight relationships’ was really fascinating and I can definitely relate to some of the biphobic dating experiences
- It’s been a week on journalism Twitter, and Moya Lothian McLean’s gal-dem piece was much more articulate than anything I could’ve written on the events and discourse of the past week: ‘Don’t blame media startups for low budget, blame an industry refusing to invest in young diverse voices’
- My timeline is covered in love for WandaVision, and Jess Bacon’s emotive piece ‘I know grief all too well — watching WandaVision has been like therapy’ for i News was a powerful take
- Nana Baah’s Noisey/VICE piece ‘How TikTok turned into a viral popstar factory’ was super interesting stuff
- At the risk of turning this newsletter into a Diyora Shadijanova fanzine, I loved her gal-dem piece ‘I miss airports more than anything else in the pandemic’
- Big fan of Grace Oram’s VICE feature ‘What it was really like to go on ‘Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow’ as a kid’ — such good morning telly
- Here’s an important and troubling VICE piece by Josh Gabert-Doyon on ‘How the government spies on welfare claimants’
- I thought this gal-dem piece by Zoya Raza-Sheikh raised a very important issue: ‘Is our obsession with queering the likes of Harry Styles costing LGBTQI+ artists of colour?’
Originally published at https://thepeakdistrict.substack.com.