After graduating from college a semester early in the fall of 2014, finishing a six-month internship while freelancing and soon landing a full-time job, I thought everything was going to be okay. It wasn’t.
Though I did the best I could, my first journalism job demanded long hours, the workplace environment wasn't great and the pay was well below market rate for my title and skill set. Due to the high stress, I soon began to experience health problems like heart palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pains—at 22 years old.
I was soon faced with a choice. I could stay in my current position, stick it out, and keep my office, benefits, and steady income at the risk of deteriorating my health. Or I could leave. But what would I do then? And how would it affect my reputation to leave my position in less than six months?
I chose to leave. I got a part-time communications gig and began aggressively pursuing freelance clients, a decision which gave pause to loved ones who were supportive but weren't particularly entrepreneurial. Nearly a year later, I’m happy to report that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve gone on to write for the following publications: DNAinfo Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business, The New York Times, and Harvard University’s Nieman Reports, among others.
Getting a freelance business off the ground was not easy. In fact, I’m far from getting to where I’d like to be, but I’m definitely better off now than when I first started. And that’s what I’ve told the handful of students and recent graduates who have confided in me about their fears of freelancing or obtaining a steady job.
I had an arts management minor in college. That coupled with my journalism major helped me prepare me for freelance journalism to an extent, but the rest, I’ve had to pick up on my own. In the past couple of months, I’ve heard similar concerns from recent grads and current students from various colleges, and I began to worry. With few jobs available for young journalists without “two to five years experience,” how are you supposed to make a living? Early career fellowships? Putting together several internships in hopes that they turn into a job? Take a brief detour into communications, marketing or another related field?
Sometimes, you must take a risk. Freelancing is a scary prospect, but taking a chance, or rather a leap of faith, brought me new obstacles, greater flexibility and a deeper sense of journalistic purpose.
With that said, I welcome you to come visit this blog for guidance, inspiration, and honesty. I’ll be posting here weekly about the tidbits of information I’ve picked up here and there along my journey to (hopefully) become a successful freelance journalist.
If you have questions, concerns, or stories to share, drop me a line.