Wednesday, April 22, 2009...7:00 am

Ways to survive the media recession, part 1

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Part 1;   Part 2;   Part 3;   Part 4;   Part 5;

Sometime between September and Christmas last year, my business plan fell apart and I was faced with the grim prospect of actually having not enough money coming in this year.

It happened to a lot of freelancers I know, all at the same time. I started to get a lot of emails along the lines of “I’m going to get a job stacking shelves at Tesco if things don’t improve”.

I say “business plan”. Actually it was a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how things looked for the next six-to-eight months or so. And you know what? It looked pretty good last summer.

I had a six-month stint doing maternity cover on the production desk at a financial publisher working on mags about hedge funds, plus some regular writing work that I could fit in around it. There were steady monthly features for two Haymarket titles, plus some country report-type articles for the kind of advertising supplements that fall out of the Sunday papers straight into the bin.

And then Lehman Brothers collapsed and everything changed.

As I noted before, Haymarket stopped printing one of the titles I wrote for entirely. Promotions & Incentives is still a “web brand” – but there’s no budget for freelance writing anymore.

And while Packaging News is still going strong (well, still going, certainly), it suddenly took all its feature-writing in-house. And the advertising supplement work mysteriously vanished along with the world’s supply of credit.

Which left the production work (and my enjoyable 3.25 hour daily commute into London). But if anyone has been following the financial pages at all, you’ll know that hedge funds have been getting a hammering over the past six months. So much so, in fact, that I was convinced the publisher was in imminent danger of shutting up shop along with the hedge fund industry.

Which left me with only one option – I had to start hustling for work.

It’s not something I’ve had to do a lot of over the past 15 years. Mainly by luck and with a bit of judgement I’ve generally been in the right place at the right time to pick up new work when I needed to. Not this time though.

So I decided to get organised and figure out a plan to bring the work in. And now, because it worked better than I had anticipated, I thought I’d try to boil it down into some general tips for handling recession as a jobbing freelancer in publishing. Because it’s turned out very long, I’m going to break it down into several parts. Stay tuned, as they say…

Part 1;   Part 2;   Part 3;   Part 4;   Part 5;


  • I eagerly anticipate your next blog post. I am due to graduate from Cardiff School of Journalism in June and some are prophesising a shaky road for us fledgling journalists. There is a very real possibility the class of 2009 will be trying their hardest get work and money through freelancing. And to the inexperienced, what a minefield that world seems. Any tips and pointers you can share will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Esther

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