3 months ago

How to Make a Journalism Career Work Alongside Your Full-Time Job – Advice From Those Who’ve Done It

Senior Staff Writer

Are you working a part-time or full-time job while freelancing in journalism on the side? Well, you’re not alone – and chances are you have some questions about how to make sure you’re making the most of your free time without compromising your sanity or other work loads.

So, at our latest event, we spoke to three brilliant journalists who juggle family life and other full-time and part-time jobs alongside their freelancing journalism career. Our panel included Lorraine Gibson, who has worked as a teaching assistant alongside her journalism for more than a decade, Michele Theil, who previously juggled a marketing job and freelancing, and Rik Worth, a journalist and comic book writer who also works part-time.

Managing Your Time Effectively Is Crucial

Picture of Michele outside
Michele Theil, who previously juggled a marketing job and freelancing, and now works at MyLondon (Image Credit: Michele Theil)

Michele told Journo Resources: “It takes a lot of organisation to make sure that your time is spent well. I know someone who did their main job from 7am till noon and then they did their journo job from 12.

“With me, I spend two hours or so after my day job ends at 5pm to focus on freelance work. I try not to overload myself. If there’s a lot to do at my other work place, I’ll take it easy with the freelancing and vice versa. It can be difficult but definitely make sure you have that work life balance, and keep a track of your time.”

“I spend two hours or so after my day job ends at 5pm to focus on freelance work. I try not to overload myself. If there’s a lot to do at my other workplace, I’ll take it easy with the freelancing and vice versa.”

Michele Theil

Rik added that while it’s unlikely you’ll get 9-5 shifts in areas like retail or hospitality, you can make this work for you. “I used to work Tuesday to Saturday but I used my weekends to pitch.

“Sundays and Mondays were good working days for me as there were no distractions. If you have a part time job, know what your limits are. If you finish at midnight, you might not want to work afterwords, so find out what works for you.

“It’s important to not cut into your personal headspace and personal life. You can also chat to your manager about shifting your hours to suit your optimum working times. Identify your strengths and work around it.”

 

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Lorraine, who used to work at a primary school also didn’t work normal 9-5 hours. Before she started working on her book, she would focus on freelancing after her school job.

Selfie of Lorraine Gibson
Lorraine Gibson, who has worked as a teaching assistant alongside her journalism for a decade (Image Credit: Lorraine Gibson)

“I used to be a teaching assistant at a school but I could come home and do my freelancing,” she explained. “So I was lucky that I had the short days, then I had the rest of my evening to do anything else.

“Sometimes, things would come in with a really quick turnaround. That used to work until I got the book. Now I juggle freelance and my book as I have to do 70k words by the summer.

“I probably used to do too much before, but because it was so hard to be established, I wanted to prove myself. I had a lot of regional newspaper experience, so I wanted to do more, I used to take whatever was offered. But I don’t advocate that and don’t do it anymore.”

Michele and Rik also added that it’s about knowing your own working habits. “I know how much work I am able to produce,” says Michele. “In an hour and a half, I can smash out 1000-1500 words. So I’ll set a goal of just writing that many words, it doesn’t matter if it’s crap and I won’t edit it.

“In that time, you can step away from it, go to your day job, have a drink, have a meal. Then I’ll come back another day to look at it again.”

Top Tips From Our Panel On Managing Your Time

  • If you work irregular shifts, use quiet, distraction free times when others are working to send off pitches and work on your freelance work.
  • A free time tracker like Clockify can help you to keep track of how long it takes to do tasks, so you know exactly how long jobs will take you.
  • Know your limits – ease off on freelancing if things get heavy at your day job and make sure you still safeguard time to decompress and socialise.

Rik added that it’s important to keep both (or more gigs) separate. He said: “I have two writing jobs – as a comic writer and journalist, but I have to make sure they don’t slip into each other because otherwise you don’t do either one of them well, I have to be strict with yourself.”

Navigating Conflicts Of Interest Clauses

The panel also touched on other friction points, such as how to prove to managers your freelancing doesn’t conflict with the work you do for them, or make you seem like you’re dying to leave.

Picture of Rik
Rik Worth, a journalist and comic book writer (Image Credit: Rik Worth)

Michele said: “When I got my full-time job [in marketing], I went through my full contract and it said ‘no-compete work’ but my freelance isn’t to do with [the company at all] so I told them there was no conflict of interest.

“It’s about communication. Most managers should be okay as long as it doesn’t deviate from your current job. Keep open communication.

Don’t worry about promoting your Linkedin to promote your freelance. Past the recruitment stage, your recruiter probably won’t be on your Linkedin page. You can even have catchups with managers to show your freelance work and show it doesn’t clash.”

“Treat both jobs as something to be proud of, it’s amazing you’re doing more than one thing. You’re always better than you think.”

Lorraine Gibson

Lorraine added the importance of having peers as a freelancer, especially as you don’t have colleagues as a freelancer.

“Join as many journalist groups you can – the support is amazing. I almost gave up and went back to my full time job. I lost confidence but then I was really frank on my Facebook and someone who appreciated the work I did as a regional reporter gave me a commission. Now, I don’t apologise for my regional past anymore, I’m proud of it now, (it’s a really good basis for other reporting).”

an alarm clock
Time can be the biggest barrier to juggling two jobs. (Image Credit: Icons8 Team / Unsplash)

Our panelists also spoke about being compassionate to yourself. Lorraine said: “Treat both jobs as something to be proud of, it’s amazing you’re doing more than one thing, you’re always better than you think.”

Michele continued: “It is a struggle, we do all juggle different things, the fact that you’re doing something to support yourself, whatever it might be, and you’re freelancing on the side is brilliant. It also helps to have those like-minded communities for support, people who are doing the same thing as you.

“Most of what I know of freelancing is by talking to other people, journalist and editors. So many people will give you advice for free or [at a] low cost! You don’t always need to fork out thousands for a masters. I learned through trial and error as well.”

“I realised I didn’t need to put myself in a box, I would like to write full time one day, but I’m not sure that would be as a journalist. It’s okay to still be figuring it out.”

Rik Worth

Rik added that it’s also fine to take the time to work out what you want to do in future – it’s not about picking just one thing. “I struggled to find out what kind of journalist I want to be. I realised I didn’t need to put myself into a box, I would like to write full time one day but I’m not sure that would be as a journalist. It’s okay to still be figuring it out.”

But, Michele urged writers to remember that they are more than their work. “You are more than just a journalist. Your work is not your whole identity. It’s not who you are as a person. You’re a daughter, sister, friend, a swimmer, a singer. Don’t feel like being a journalist is the be all and end all. Because we are much more than that. Being a journalist is not an identity, it’s not a personality, it’s just what you do.” Preach!