Entrepreneurial journalism (for want of a better name) is all the rage at the moment. ‘Create your own job’ is a nice idea in principle but, as The Student found out, it’s a lot tougher than people make out.
It was around the time I got my Telegraph application rejection that I started thinking about making Wannabe Hacks my personal project and career. I had read a few posts and began to entertain the idea of a career not only outside the mainstream media but working full-time on a project that I had helped to create. Having always wanted to be a news reporter or sport writer for a major media organisation, this was a sizeable shift in thinking. But the idea of trying to expand the site, grow the brand and, somewhere down the line, make a profit excited me.
The idea was particularly appealing because, around February, there didn’t seem to be a huge array of jobs going (mainly just because of the time of year, many have become available over recent weeks and months). In addition to that, I liked the romantic notion of working for myself when my Masters degree at City University finished in the summer and knew it would be the best opportunity to do something like this. Several of the other Hacks expressed an interest in taking the site forward but couldn’t be as committed to the idea due to already having jobs. So I set about exploring the logistics of it.
By chance, a journalist from the BBC On the Money programme got in touch with us after I had tweeted in one Sunday night. She had worked in start-ups before embarking on journalism and had a wealth of contracts which she kindly passed on. I subsequently met Alex Halliday, the young CEO of SocialGO, a social network platform and service, and he was very giving of his time, explaining how he came to run his own company (his story is a must read) and what Wannabe Hacks could do to move forward.
He asked some big questions about registering the site as a company (and the awkward conversation of who would own what), advertising and social media reach and, as I explained what we had, it became clear we weren’t anywhere near having a business. I left my chat with Alex a little intimidated about the idea of turning Wannabe Hacks from a blog into a profit-making replicable concept but with some clear ideas of how to drive more traffic and page impressions.
I wasn’t completely put off though and put the idea of working for myself to my family. This was a big obstacle as, for all I was convinced I could do it, my parents were not convinced. They didn’t like the idea of me working alone, the lack of regular income, the risk involved in such a business etc and thought it was a half-baked idea that, in the context of my student debt, was a luxury I couldn’t afford. A further blow to my idea of creating my own job in the spirit of entrepreneurialism.
Looking back at those few months when I wanted to make Wannabe Hacks my full-time job, three things are overwhelmingly apparent.
1. The timing wasn’t quite right in the sense that we didn’t have the traffic or the social media clout and, what with degrees and jobs, hadn’t really maximised the advertising opportunities available to us. Had we been a few more months down the line (we’ve had our best two months in May and June, with over 11,000 visits in both) there may have been more scope to progress.
2. The scepticism of my family, who I still live at home with and therefore rely on, meant I wasn’t able to really go for it. If they weren’t happy with me working and not paying rent for perhaps six months, it was hard for my to justify it.
3. I didn’t have the bottle of a good entrepreneur, I could have tried harder to raise some funds to enable me to work on the site as a full-time role but once I hit a brick wall, I stopped and reverted to applying for jobs in big media companies where you know where your next cheque is coming from.
In telling this story, I am perhaps explaining a scenario that many enterprising journalists go through, when they think they have an idea, product or service, but don’t follow it through because they don’t have the knowledge or the mentoring of how to make the next step, develop their brand and potentially acquire funding. I am skill keen to do so with Wannabe Hacks, perhaps some way in the future, but the support network will have to change and a mentoring-scheme will have to be put in place, like there is in the US, before anybody can realistically create their own job from scratch.
Let us know if you have had similar experiences or have any opinions on today’s piece – @wannabehacks or comment below.