Most business advice guides suggest that you need an “elevator pitch”. This is a short statement that descsribes your job, your business or whatever you are known for in just a couple of minutes. In the online world, this can be the sort of brief description that appears on an “About Me” page or widget but it’s named for the sort of description you can deliver to somene during an elevator ride. It’s short and direct.
Last night I had the privelege of talking about my work as a freelance journalist to students from my daughter’s school as part of their annual career’s fair. I thought I’d share my notes with you so you can get an idea of how I describe my work. It’s a bit longer than an elevator pitch but I was asked to address some specific questions.
What your job involves, what a typical day might be like
- A typical work day starts at about 9.00 AM. I work from home and have a dedicated home office with all the stuff I need. It’s not part of the house so I can separate work from home (important if you’re self-employed)
- I have a workflow system so I can track work that I have coming up so that I can prioritise what’s coming up. At any one time I may have up to 20 tasks in the queue.
- Depending on the day I might spend the day writing, interviewing people either on phone or in person or putting some time into boring stuff like office admin (accounts, etc)
- Usually finish working between 5 and 6 but take time out to pick up kids from school or meet with friends to break things up
Your journey into your career (some take interesting and unusual paths)
- I got my job sort of by accident – it was never planned
- A friend was freelancing for APC and was too busy to hit a deadline so I subbed in (I’d been doing some work for free on a couple of websites to build a reputation)
- Then I started to pitch my own work
- Made contact with other freelancers and expanded my network
- Some of my friends in the business came to the job through traditional university/cadetship paths. That works well and equips you with the skills you need. I had to learn on the job.
- For the first few years I had a full-time job and freelancer on the side
What you like about your job, what attracted you to into the area
- I meet interesting people
- I write about stuff I’m interested in
- Because I write about technology I get lots of cool toys to play with
- I have a lot of freedom
- I get to travel
What the challenges are
- Cash-flow: you don’t always know where your next job is coming from
- Prioritizing and time management: when you’re on your own schedule you need a lot of self discipline (and that takes time and practice)
- Loneliness; although that might depend on your personality type
- In some niches, pay rates are falling (the global economy is a huge factor)
The types of skills/personal attributes you think are important for you to be effective in your role
- You have to like writing. There’s no point doing a job where you’re not going to enjoy the main activity
- Motivation and self-confidence: if you can’t sell yourself you’ll starve
- Organization so that you don’t miss tasks or deadline
- As a freelancer, if you can’t solve your editor’s problem then you’re not doing your job
Any advice you would give to someone considering this career
- It’s not for everyone.
- It can take a while to establish your reputation
- Listen to all that stuff your english teacher tells you about grammar, construction, spelling and language
- Read a lot so you expand your vocabulary
Career opportunities available
- Lots but go in your eyes open