Many aspiring journalists have one common problem. How do I get my foot in the door? How do I start my career? Any journalist will tell you that starting off is hard, and it requires a lot of work. But how to begin? Freelance journalists Joanne Brooker, Andrew McMillen and Dean Saffron stress to keep it simple.
Have faith in your conviction and your ideas, says McMillen. “Curiosity is currency,” he adds, before continuing that the question you should be asking is ‘why?’ and it should be asked constantly. If you do this, he says, the stories should come easily. He imagines it’s much like Tarzan, swinging from tree to tree, but instead it’s from idea to idea.
Joanne Brooker also mentions that if choosing journalism, one has to keep in mind that it’s a life choice.
“It (freelancing) is how you’re going to make a living for the rest of your life.”
She adds that it’s something you can play with and mould to make it what you want to make of it: “You’re creating something that no one else can do.” Joanne started off working in a roadhouse, before she decided she had nothing to lose and jumped in the deep end. She explains that in order to gain the attention of the Courier Mail, she (as a caricaturist) decided to draw the Broncos naked. That “out of the box” thinking was what initially landed her a job at the courier mail.
Andrew McMillen started off not really knowing what he wanted to do, but having an intense passion for sharing stories. When he started writing reviews for bands, it was for the free tickets, not necessarily for the opportunity to write. Now, he has had his work published in Rolling Stone Australia, The Courier-Mail, Triple J Magazine and The Vine.
Curiosity is a reoccurring theme passed between all three of the journalists; they all agree that that you must be utterly absorbed in what you do, prepared to work day and night. They encourage young aspiring journalists to get out there and find out what’s happening in the world. “Just wing it,” informs Brooker. “Don’t worry about it, just do it. Take what you want to do, and do it.”
“With persistence, you can do what you want to do,” adds McMillen.
If you do something for the money, you will find yourself disappointed and upset with the outcome is the message Dean Saffron wants to put across. He also adds that you can judge your success by the quality of your enemies, and mentions that determination is a key element in succeeding.
“You can’t take no for an answer. If I had, then I would have given up a long time ago.” He goes on to explain that he once had a friend who wanted to work at Vogue, so they found out the editor’s name, “stalked” them, finding out where they had their morning coffee, then proceeded to spill their own coffee on them, just to start a conversation. He also mentions that his first mentor, whilst teaching him photography, told him that there were two types of people. Ones who looked at every detail, and ones who didn’t. The latter were the ones who would not make it. This is a lesson to be taken into account by everyone.
Another thing all three journalists stress is the difference that can be made. “I’m a nobody,” informed Saffron. “I just stand here, taking pictures. But I made a difference.”
“To sell the attitude that ‘hey, maybe you should care‘ is kind of hard,” Brooker warns fellow budding journalists. “You’re not going to save the world. You can only do a little bit.” They inform us to go out there and look around first. Write endlessly, continuously, constantly.
“Know your audience,” adds Saffron. “Make a name for yourself.”
“Start at the bottom, but always look up,” says McMillen.
Later on, all three offer tips on how to improve articles. Simple things like study whatever you’re going to attack, or make sure the article you’re writing suits the magazine you’re sending it to. Other words to the wise are to grab every opportunity as it passes, as all journalists find that it’s the things they don’t want to do that they learn the most from. They all suggest to read a lot and consume all forms of media.
Do you have any tips for making it in the worlds of journalism and freelancing?
(Image credit: 1.)