Of all the questions I’m asked it’s this one I hear the most: “How did you break into journalism?” normally followed by: “Tell me how to do it too!” and I don’t know why I’ve never thought to write it all in a post, because whenever you’re planning content — literally answering a question someone’s asked you is a pretty good start right?
Actually, I know exactly why I’ve held back. Because I feel like a fraud I guess. I’ve written before about imposter syndrome, and so many people reached out after that post and said they felt exactly the same I know you’ll understand when I say I feel like a big fat fraudster.
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But ever since I started sharing more posts about blogging, about my journey, my tips and advice I’ve had such a brilliant response from all of you. People have commented on here, on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram wanting to know more, to say thanks and even sharing the post. Don’t ever underestimate how much that means to me — it’s more than just a massive ego boost (which, of course, it is!), it’s a validation that I have something useful to share.
So here we go.
From small acorns….
Alternative title: from broke backpackers, slightly less broke flashpackers grow.
It’s not remotely glamorous, so don’t get too excited. While Oli and I were travelling we came home for a wedding. In that time, we were back in London with zero cash, so Oli did catering work for rich people (seriously rich people, the tips pretty much paid for our plane tickets to Bali!) and I carried on with the freelance work I’d been doing while we were away. Which was fine when we were living in a cheap country like India, or Thailand…..not so fine when we were trying to live in London. So I topped it up with temping for Office Angels (reception and admin work mainly). As it goes, non-idiots with an overpriced degree in their thirties are hot property in the admin world so I got stacks of work and was repeatedly asked back to certain places.
One of those places was Immediate Media, a publishing house home to the Radio Times, Match of The Day, Olive Magazine and….Lonely Planet Traveller. I was at reception, so had access to the entire staff database as I had the exciting job of operating the switchboard. On my last day, the security guard I’d got chatting to (and kinda took me under his wing) told me I’d always regret it if I didn’t just pick up the phone and call one of the team at LPT. So I did.
And that one call landed me a two week placement. At the end of the two weeks, I’d made connections, learned a little of what it was like to work in a busy editorial team and got my very first byline. After another placement at Marie Claire over London Fashion Week (lots of transcription, dull as fook, no byline) I had enough experience under my belt to start pitching.
From freelancer to staff writer
Obviously, I didn’t do that at all though. Instead, I moved to Koh Tao, scrapped the idea of wearing shoes, tried to plan a wedding and worked as a social media manager (wow, smart career move Luce).
Although I continued to keep my finger in the freelance writing pie, as it were, it was only last year my bylines started to become ‘impressive.’
I landed a staff writer role on the travel desk at the Daily Express which is where I really learned how to be a ‘proper’ journalist. I had the most amazing editor, who boosted my confidence and reminded me I’m a good writer, with fab story ideas. Although I was famously pretty sketchy at headlines……she still laughs at some of the headlines I’d turn out (‘The island so beautiful your EYES will hurt’ was a classic!). It was a brilliant education and I even got nominated for an award for an article I wrote about Slovenia.
Am I a journalist?
I left when I got pregnant, as I already knew I needed to boost my freelance writing career before maternity leave (I was paid a day rate at the Express). So boost my freelance career I did, and alongside my Express bylines I now have the Telegraph, Red and Mother & Baby to my name too. The commissioning editor at Stylist invited me for coffee, and we are still trying to find a space for one of my stories, and the Daily Mail offered me £1,000 for a story (which I turned down, because of the direction they wanted to take it in).
That was all a bit braggy wasn’t it? Yep. The reason I’m sharing it is to tell you that if you want a banging byline too — it can be done. I did it, and I have no formal qualifications at all.
All it took, was a bit of chutzpah, a lot of hard work and a sprinkling of talent too. You wouldn’t know it from the hella typos you likely read on this blog but I’m a pretty good writer, and I am really good at coming up with good story ideas too.
There’s loads of stuff I’m not as good at, so for those things, I seek out ways to learn how to get better. Like I mentioned before, my ability to encapsulate my fab story idea into an eye-grabbing headline isn’t top-notch….but I’m getting better.
So there you have it. That’s my story and how I made the leap from blogger to full time freelance journalist.
I know you’ll probably have questions, and if you do — please just drop me an email or pop something in the comments.
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