Over the last five years, I've received lots of emails from people who want to be journalists. Some of them were students at school investigating a career they might like to pursue for a project. Others were mid-life career-changers looking for reassurance and tips on training.
My ebook 'Journalism Careers: Your questions answered' is inspired by the questions they asked - questions people like you would ask a busy, working journalist if you could grab a few minutes of his time.
Here's a full list of the main questions answered in the ebook, although the answers also address many other issues along the way.
About my career
- How did you start in journalism?
- Did you do any journalism training at university?
- How did you get your first job in journalism?
- What do you do now?
- Why should I care about this?
The basics of being a journalist
- What does a journalist do?
- I've been offered a job as an editor / editorial assistant / assistant editor / editorial manager/ journalist. What would that entail?
- Is there a big need for journalists?
- How hard is it to get a job as a journalist?
- If I want to start as a journalist/photo journalist do I need a press card, and could you possibly tell me how I go about obtaining one?
- What is the best thing about journalism?
- How do you cope with deadlines?
- I'd like to be a sports journalist, but I'm worried about the work-life balance. I'm a family-oriented guy but it seems that the jobs all require weekend and evening work. Do you have the same difficulty?
- How much do journalists get paid?
Training to be a journalist
- What skills do I need to be a journalist?
- What other skills should I acquire?
- How can I sharpen my writing?
- I'm 14 years old and I'm picking my exam subjects. What will be useful in my chosen career as a journalist? Should I pick history or geography?
- Should I take a course in journalism?
- Should I study for a degree in journalism?
- I'm thinking about quitting my degree studies to work as a journalist now. Is this a good idea?
- What about correspondance courses in journalism?
- Can you tell me if this [named] course is any good please?
- What else do I need to do while I'm training?
- What else do I need to do while I'm training?
- I have to write a 750 word article on why I want to be a journalist for my college application. I need something to make my application stand out from the millions of other applications such as a snappy ending or a different way of writing it that still looks professional. Any ideas?
- I've got a chance to go to a conference about media careers. Should I go?
- I'd like to be a journalist but I'm already well established in another career. Do I have to start from scratch?
- What is a freelance journalist?
- What's good about working freelance?
- What's the downside to being freelance?
- Should I start working freelance?
- How can I offer editors something unique?
- How can I build up a portfolio?
- I've had an article published but it was edited so much I hardly recognise it. Can I still include it in my portfolio?
- Being taken seriously is very often difficult for me once age is mentioned. I am 16 years old. What can I do about this?
- Where is the best opportunity to get published?
- How can I find new magazines to write for?
- What about online bidding systems?
- How can I avoid getting rejections?
- How can I stop magazines stealing my ideas?
- How do I pitch my idea to an editor?
- Which comes first, pitching an idea for an interview to a magazine or seeing if the artist will give you the interview?
- I've been commissioned to write 1000 words. What if I run over?
- I've been sent a contract that demands all copyrights in my article. What should I do?
- How much do freelancers get paid?
- Should I write an article and submit it 'on spec' to a magazine to look at?
- My work contract for my full time job says that I can't work for anyone else, even as a freelance writer. Freelance writing is a way to exercise my liberty and creativity but I took a staff job because it doesn't provide a steady wage. Is this a common contract term?
- Any tips on supplying photographs to go with articles I'm writing?
Promoting yourself online
- Is there a 'portal' site that takes your article and then sells it on to the relevant publication?
- I've set up a website to promote my work as a writer, but nobody's hired me. Why not?
- Has it been worthwhile building your own website?
- Any tips on setting up a website to promote myself as a freelancer?
- How much are music journalists paid?
- Can you give me any tips on how to write music reviews?
- What's music journalism like?
- How can I get into music journalism?
- I've just been appointed music editor of our student newspaper. Will record labels send us music to review? Who should I write to to get them to send us music: the record labels or distributors?
- How do I get other items for review or arrange an interview with a businessman?
- Next week I will be interviewing the manager of [two indie bands] for our local entertainment magazine. It's my biggest interview to date and my first major phone interview. Any advice?
- What's different about doing an interview face to face?
Research and writing
- How can I break writers' block?
- What should I read?
- How can I improve my writing?
- How can I find out..?