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Interview: Freelance Journalist

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Why did you choose this path: journalism? When did you realise in your life this was your true calling?

When I was a little girl, I actually wanted to become a policewoman. I never really had a dream profession after that, it was only when I was applying to college that I decided to choose Journalism as my first option. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I just knew I wanted to do this, but I guess it was somewhere between my second and third year in high school, in one of those special school days, in which you can try a job for a day and see what things you have to do and how to do them. I was very excited but also very nervous to ask the local newspaper if I could visit them on this day. And I did, along with another journalist, and I remember one of the reporters there having a chat with some cool mums whom used recyclable diapers, and then we went to a new hip restaurant that was about to open and I vividly remember thinking what a cool job this was. In the end, I got to write a column about this day for the newspaper, and obviously as a 14-15 year-old this was an incredible opportunity so fast-forward to the applications’ day, I remembered this day and decided this was the most appealing course and university for me. I applied and I entered!

When did you decide you wanted to be a freelance journalist?

You probably got this from the first question, but I’m not a very future-oriented person, so I just kind of went with the flow in what concerns freelancing. While still studying, I work for local but also bigger newspapers in summer, and some winters too. I participated in some super interesting projects like writing an important unauthorized biography about an influential person in Finland. And with my mates we founded a pop-up local newspaper in Northern Finland, so I always had these many things happening at the same time. When I was graduating, I already some clients I was working for and even one project coming up that was combining academical research and investigation journalism. I really liked the freedom which allowed me to be in charge of my own days. I found this really motivating, and I saw these many opportunities I could work in, and again, thinking there’s not a strict schedule I need to follow, I don’t have to go to work at a certain time. Of course, freelancing is also boring, but there’s the freedom. So I guess my decision happened when I graduated in 2015 and I already had a base of clients I worked for and then it all really materialized in 2016 with the founding of my own small, one-person-company, when I felt like this was really professional and full time. Just like with my career choice, this just slowly got into place… and I’m not saying I’ll do this forever, but so far, it’s been working well for me, and if one day it doesn’t anymore, I’ll change into something else. There are so many opportunities for full time workers and freelancers. The world is changing and I like it!

So, is it difficult being a freelancer? What problems do you face every day, every month?

Yes, just like any other job, freelancing has its own difficulties. And I can divide them into 3 types of difficulties. The first one is just working on your own. You have to figure out all on your own. You have to find what schedules work best for you, when you’re the most productive, find the motivation to actually work (even if you have to bribe yourself into working). So, you basically have to really know yourself. These qualities didn’t just appear, I had to learn them and myself as I went but these qualities help me not only in freelancing but even if I was working in corporate. The second thing is you need to find work. You are in charge of finding your own clients. In my case, I’ve been lucky and have had longer contracts at a time, but it depends on many factors. Of course this is difficult because you may not know where the money will come from the following week or for the entire month. It’s not as certain as other jobs for sure. And number three, if you’re as sociable as I am, it can get lonely. So you need to find something that will suit you and your personality. For me, I had to find a workroom where I have a space that we all share and I can chat with them and go for coffee or something. I created my own net of coworkers so this makes the job easier.

How do you get jobs?

I get my own assignments through people that I now know or new clients. Networking is really the key here and if you’re good at what you do, you’ll get new assignments from that. I also joined websites and associations so I can share what I’m looking for and my work, so that others can also find me. I brainstorm and think of people/media outlets that are interesting and I also offer them stories. There are multiple ways to find jobs, and I try my best to exploit them all.

How do you plan your own schedule? How do you make sure you meet deadlines?

Like I said before, I think the key to this is to know yourself. To know how long it’ll take you to do things, to overcome procrastination (this is very important and will happen…often). I’ve learnt to know myself and my work days are normal work days, and if I have 8 hours days, I know I still have the energy the following day to get up and do some work again. But what I also like about freelancing is that I can do more work if I need to, or less if I don’t have as much to do that day. It really is flexible. So even though I try to keep a schedule, it will vary every day. And I like to keep my weekends free but I don’t get upset if I have to work sometimes on weekends too. And I also plan beforehand. When I have a certain deadline, I plan it so I finish it 2ish days in advance because you know, you can get sick or have something exciting happening during that time of work, so plan ahead and be realistic with your goals and time allotment.

How are the clients you work with? How do you contact that? Do you always send a draft first and they do the editing?

I’d say that clients are different. Some will be happy to receive the texts and not comment at all and just publish them, others might give a few ideas on how to make them better, and others want to go through the first draft and comment thoroughly, and then we’ll develop the story together. Personally, I like to edit them because every writer knows that no text will be as good as after it’s edited. I really appreciate the clients who take the time to comment and give suggestions, but it also depends on how long the story is, of course.

How do you do taxes? Is it difficult?

The taxes in Finland are not difficult actually. Every freelancer does them with a specific card that was made to help freelancers. You can easily add every single employer and source of income. And to my company, I’ll do them in advance and it’s also quite simple. The good thing about this is that the government is (supposedly πŸ˜…) changing things again and it’ll be even simpler to do taxes, which I can enjoy, obviously.

If someone wants to become a freelancer, what tips would you give them? What things do you wish you knew before?

Absolutely! I enjoy freelancing, I think it’s super fun. It’s hard for me to speak about other countries, but I think it’s also doable. If you want and can find different types of jobs, I think that’s the best to do too. If you want to just write stories for magazines, go for it! There’s no right way, but know yourself and see what you’re able to do at your best. And do your work on time, do your best at it, if you’re late, let the client know straight away and keep a good relationship with them too.

What do you imagine yourself doing in 5 years?

This is a question so hard to answer! I see myself doing something entrepreneurial, hopefully with bigger projects, whatever those might be. New things. Hopefully, I’ll have more regular clients. And I’d like to find a bigger group of like-minded people and develop something important with them. And I’ll accomplish these by doing what I’m doing now but with more planning! Actually thinking about each step.

If you could have any other job, what job would you have and why?

Well, if I could choose more freely, I guess I’d be an amazing teacher who everyone would love. Or I would be a fiction writer! *Mari was very undecided when answering this question, which I found adorable! πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹*

What style of writing between all different one would you choose?

This isn’t a fair question because I love everything, that’s why I’m a freelancer. I like to try new things all the time! I love that I can write smaller stories, or bigger stories. Research or an actual book. I can’t choose one.

In my interviews, I want to try to have a civic side too. This is something that has always been close to my heart, so my question to you is, how did you get involved with helping children as you’ve been doing? Tell us a little about it!

Well, I’ve been talking a lot about time managing, there were times when I really had to learn how to manage my own time. I had a period in my life where I found myself busy all the time and didn’t feel like I had the time for anything, but I also knew I was not really busy at all, I was just over-scheduling and making myself stressed for no reason. So, I decided I’d like to do something with my free time. Once at a market, I saw this bulletin board that had a paper saying ‘Red Cross in Finland is looking for volunteers in homework clubs, working with people who have an emigration background’, so basically these students might have parents who are not native Finnish or even know Finnish at all. Our goal is to help them a few times a week, near their schools. So, I thought that would be perfect because I love children and I love homework! *haha* I had worked with children many years before that and I truly love kids and helping them. I contacted the Red Cross and in 3 weeks, they contacted me again and they told me they were starting a new club and I started going there. It’s been a challenge sometimes because you realise you forgot things you should kind of know, for example, in math, but it’s been fun too!

What tips would you give someone wanting to start helping others but not knowing where to start?

And my advice to anyone wanting to help is find an organization that you appreciate and contact them to ask them what kind of help they need. And go for it! It’ll be very important for your life and your own self! Trust me!

Well, thank you very much, lovely Mari, for being the very first guest in my interview series! I loved doing this! I think I was a bit all over my head when I decided to interview a person who does interviews for a living, but hey, she did not complain! πŸ‘ I hope you all enjoyed this, even though it has taken me a veeeery long time to upload it here. I wanted it to be good, but I also wanted to share it with you because I truly believe the world will be a much better place when we get to know each other and maybe listen to each other more often. So, there you go! This was my first ever interview and with one of my best friends, so I guess I can say this was fun too! Let me know in the comments if you’ve loved it and come back soon!

Thank you, Mari!

Happy interviewing, catreaders!

 

Featured photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chat away!