June 15, 2021 (Updated )
The stats are in – last year Journo Resources turned over £19,651 and 26 pence. When I think about how it all started – five years ago this month – sat in my bedroom at 2am on a laptop that was soon to give up, I would never have dreamt we’d ever have enough to hit four figures, let alone five.
I still remember filling out the form that registers you as a business and struggling to fill it out because it asked how much capital your business was starting up with, and there just wasn’t an option to say you were starting out with naff all. But since then, a lot of wonderful people have taken a chance on us and believed in the mission, from our first ever sponsorship deal with the wonderful Nicola Millington of FP Communications to the amazing team at News Associates who propped up our first crowd funder.
It’s never been about the money for us, but the fact is that cash does make things happen. You need money to pay people fairly, to design a website that works, and to buy yourself a laptop when yours finally does conk out (shout out to The Printing Charity who paid for that for us).
100,000 People Have Used Journo Resources This Year Alone
Unlike some other ‘start up’ media businesses from the establishment for us, there were never any savings and I certainly didn’t know how to find rich people to bung us a couple of thousand quid. It might sound like small fry to some people, but I feel incredibly proud that we’ve made it here. Even during an actual pandemic, we’ve been able to double our revenue – something I didn’t even think was possible at the best of times.
“I feel empowered and encouraged to pursue my dream of working in media thanks to the team’s commitment to widening access and visibility of roles which I wouldn’t come across if not for their platform”
Journo Resources User
Not that these are the numbers that matter. The ones that matter to me are 100,000 people who have used the site this year alone, the 12 fellows we’ve helped onto the employment ladder, and the emails I get when someone finally lands that job or commission. They’re the point of Journo Resources – to actually move the needle in this industry once and for all.
I started this journey five years ago, but the statistics remain depressingly similar. More than 90 percent of the industry is white, 75 percent of journalists have a parent in the three highest occupational groups, compared to 45 percent of all UK workers. Nearly two thirds of reporters are based in London or the South East. Journalism doesn’t look like the rest of the country.
Caught In A Catch-22 That Never Ends
The truth is though, that we’re increasingly caught in a Catch 22. As my partner called it this week, we’re too big to fail, too small to fly. The site has grown immensely over the past few years, yet our staff team has not matched the pace. We hired our first ever employee this year, thanks to the generous donations from our users, and it’s been such a pinch myself moment. But the fact remains – even if you add all of us up together, there still isn’t a full time employee between us, because, well, £20,000 doesn’t stretch to that.
Currently, myself and Faima are paid for two days a week each. Our admin assistant works five hours a week. When I put it to myself that way, if anything, I feel even more proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve this year. From our new reporting to guides to our inaugural fellowship, our new pitching library to our dozens of online events, I can’t believe how much we’ve managed to get done with such a small team behind us, and I’m so incredibly grateful to every single person who has helped us get this far.
“I did not – still cannot really – believe I could break into this industry and allow my voice to be heard. Journo Resources have played a major part in that success”
Journo Resources User
I’m committed to running Journo Resources for as long as it takes, but over the last year it’s felt increasingly hard. Running a site for 100,000 people is, in reality, an impossible for a team without any full-time staff. I put as many hours into this website as I can, filling up the rest of my hours with four other part-time jobs to pay the rent. Inevitably, we’re cutting corners that I don’t want to cut, I miss the emails from young people who really need our advice, and we’re not creating all the things we know we can and should be doing to speed up the pace of change in this industry. I’m tired, in a way that I can’t even really explain anymore, but that comes from my core every single day.
In other businesses, this is where corporate investment comes in – the privilege to have a clear run at something with a properly staffed team. We know we can be sustainable. Sales to our jobs board are increasingly steadily, and we’ve got a growing roster of sponsors. But there’s only so much we can do on two days a week and none of these deals alone will allow us to make the jump that pays our rent, so instead, we bootstrap along slowly and steadily, while those who already have the advantage take the shortcut.
It isn’t just us, it’s a systematic problem within business. When Robyn Vinter, the editor of The Overtake closed the site earlier this year, this sentence stuck with me: “But no matter how much great, unique stuff we published, the numbers didn’t add up. We were growing — both our revenue and page views were climbing every month — but so slowly that it could have been a decade before we had enough income to pay everyone fairly for the work they did.” Or, to put it another way, there’s a reason nearly half of UK entrepreneurs are privately educated and that the majority of those with dreams of setting up their own business put off by the financial reality.
Chipping Away At What We’ve Created
Of course, we could start chasing investors. But fundamentally, these are very rarely people who understand our ethos, and always have a primary purpose of profit. They’re the same people who told me at a Dragon’s Den style event three years ago that the only way this would work out is if we started to monetise our content, that the commitment to only advertising jobs with salaries holds us back. It’s the kind of culture that ultimately chips away the heart of what we’ve created and builds the foundations of a gated community.
“Journo Resources does the job of a journalism school for free. It’s an invaluable asset for all of us from marginalised communities who can’t afford to do a degree or self-censor due to lack of confidence”
Journo Resources User
Ultimately, of course, no one owes us anything. I don’t expect anything from anyone, and it goes without saying that I’m incredibly grateful for every single person who has ever shared one of our pieces or given us money. I still feel an overwhelming sense of disbelief every time someone signs up to our memberships scheme or recommends us on Twitter. Especially when you work from home every day, it’s incredible to know there are people out there who actually read what we do.
However, as my partner pointed out to me this week, while I was in the midst of yet another business-fuelled crisis, there’s a benefit to just being honest. Especially in 2021, where some fancy looking branding and a few thousand Twitter followers makes you look like a multi-national, no one really knows where you’re at unless you tell them. I don’t really have a neat ending or answer to this piece, but, in short, we’re open to any and all suggestions. As a start, we’ve relaunched our membership scheme this week, with the aim of raising another £500 a month. We’re also drawing up a list or organisations and people to approach for help. Everyone on our tiny team is committed to this for the long haul, but we need the long haul to happen ever so slightly quicker.