Director and Design Lead

January 30, 2019 (Updated )

Side hustles, I’ve had a few. And, if you haven’t got that reference, my puns are more terrible than I first thought. However, even if you aren’t a big Sinatra fan the point still stands – side hustles are one of the biggest wins you can make for yourself.

They might feel a little bit like you’re cheating on your full-time job, but really that couldn’t be further from the truth. Throughout the past few years, I’ve juggled so many side hustles, I’ve almost begun to lose count. But at the same time, I’ve also been happily employed at numerous national newsrooms such as The Sun, the Metro and the Evening Standard.

Side Hustles In Journalism Aren’t Just About Blogging

You can even be a clown if you like (Image Credit: Levi Saunders / Unsplash)

When you’re working as a journalist it’s tempting to think that everything you do has to revolve around writing, recording, or social media, depending on what your specialism is. And, while it’s true that blogging is a great outlet for some people, it certainly isn’t the be and end all of side hustles for journalists.

During the past few years, I’ve been determined to try everything. I successfully managed to make a miniature (yet functional) train station departure board I can use from my flat, decided to start up a podcast which looked at the stories behind famous sounds (who doesn’t want an excuse to interview the ‘you’ve got mail guy’), and also created an an app which tells you the status of London Underground lines using emoji. 

Having a spare time project might feel like you’re setting yourself homework and interrupting your Netflix time, but, for me, they’ve not only helped me progress, but improved my work-life balance and made me generally happier.

It Allows You To Keep Up With Change

It’s so hot things are melting, and there are some weird bits of confetti. (Image Credit: Aron Visuals)

Journalism’s new hotness is always changing. A few years ago every job advert was looking for social media skills. Before that it was data manipulation, and don’t get me started on the eternal discussion over whether journalists should learn to code (the definitive answer to which is obviously a very strong maybe).

Having a side hustle lets you hone your skills without having to get permission or funding from the boss, make mistakes and improvements without your full-time job’s logo and audience looming over your every move, and make a decision about whether its something you might like to do more regularly in your own time.

What you make doesn’t have to be perfect (nothing on my YouTube channel is even close to that), but it does help you show your potential, as well as allow you to keep up with an increasingly fickle industry.

An Ability To Empathise With Other Colleagues In The Newsroom

You may do different jobs, but you can still understand them both. (Image Credit: Thought Catalog / Unsplash)

My video editing skills are decades behind those of the people actually employed to do that sort of job in the newsrooms I’ve been in. And I’m not even that many decades old. But, crucially, we’ve both been there when Premiere eats up a day’s worth of work, or an interview’s audio is slowly getting out of sync on export for no reason whatsoever.

If you’re looking to learn a skill there are millions of places to start on the internet. Our advice section can give you a flavour of various different parts of the industry, while Code Academy offers free advice on coding, Facebook has it’s own learning suite called Blueprint, and Coursera offers thousands of free courses. The BBC also have shed tonnes of resources in about a million different places. NPR’s training site is also pretty rad too.

Having at least a basic understanding of what’s involved with someone else’s processes can make working with them so much easier. Vaguely ‘speaking their language’ also makes it more likely that you’ll get what you ask for when giving feedback. AND if you ask nicely, they’ll give you some tips about how to make your side-project better.

It Might Even Turn Out To Be Relaxing. No, Really.

Okay, maybe not quite as relaxing as this… (Image Credit: Robson Hatsukami Morgan / Unsplash)

One of the reasons I don’t tweet a lot is because if I’ve spent an entire workday working on social content, I like to avoid it in my spare time. I’d much rather find a nice cafe and sink a couple of hours into Xcode than involve myself in some random Twitter war. 

Sure, it might be more productive than eating ice cream and watching Sex Education, but it’s a way of completely switching off from work, while also getting a feel-good buzz of having done something worthwhile.

Having a project that’s completely separate from your ‘proper job’ also means you have something other than shop talk to chat about with your friends and colleagues. We all love a bit of office gossip, but maybe it’s good to have something else to share?

It’s important to find something that you *want* to do, not something that feels like an obligation. It’s a side hustle, not your main hustle, so don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t work on it every single week or it’s not perfect immediately. It should be about finding an outlet for your creativity and doing something cool.

The Magical Internet Makes Learning Easy(ish)

You can learn all the tech on the magical internet (Image Credit: RawPixel / Unsplash)

I learnt to code and built my apps by sifting through miles of Stack Overflow posts. I learnt how to use Adobe Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects by watching a lot of YouTube tutorials. And there are literally no stupid questions in the world of Google, especially when you can clear your browsing history.

Whatever you’re stuck with, I guarantee someone in the world has had the exact same problem six months ago and someone else has helpfully solved it and written up the answer for free. Gone are the days when you’d need to be sent on a week-long, ridiculously expensive, course to learn a minor new skill. Plus, it’s also really nice to see the internet do something good for a change.

It Could Even Help You In Your Main Job

So, see that picture up there with Tim Farron checking his tie? That’s a thing I made thanks to faffing around in my spare time. The Sun’s 2017 election night coverage just wouldn’t have included a live updating cartoon Jeremy Corbyn cartoon attempting to walk to Downing Street on the website’s Facebook page if I hadn’t started playing around with Adobe Character Animator six months previously. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, would have been a massive tragedy.

Several of the publication’s Facebook pages also wouldn’t have subtlety run themselves automatically if I hadn’t taught myself some NodeJS (don’t worry, the editor of this piece has no idea what that is either). It’s not about doing homework for work though – it’s more giving you inspiration when the time arises.

Using skills beyond what you were originally hired for gives you more variety at work and opens up opportunities you might never have considered. It can be a shaky climate at times for journalism, so having the ability to move around organisations thanks to multiple skills is a massive advantage. 

There’s No Shame In Being Terrible, As Long As You’re Trying

Here’s a dog which is 100% trying. (Image Credit: Darinka-Kievskaya / Unsplash)

The routes to publishing your unabated creativity for the world to see are more accessible than ever. And you don’t even have to publish to the world. There’s no shame in trying something new, no matter how terrible it might be when you start. It could be the start of a glorious new career, or it could be nothing, and neither of those outcomes ultimately matter, as long as you’re happy.

Jack has worked in newsrooms across the country including The Sun, The Evening Standard, Metro and the BBC, and is currently a mentor for the Student Publication Association. He also makes apps in his spare time, so if you’re interested in the tube and emojis, Tubemoji might be your kind of thing. He’s on Twitter @JackDearlove and would love for you to tell him about your side project.