This is the fifth post in a series from an anonymous UK-based journalist recently made redundant. To follow the series, you can subscribe to this feed.
Six weeks after being made redundant from a staff post on a consumer magazine I’ve managed to secure some online shifts at a national newspaper.
I don’t consider myself permanently employed as it’s casual work, although it’s a huge relief to be earning again.
Shift work is a double-edged sword: you’ll never do a normal nine-to-five and there’s no guarantee of work, but you have greater flexibility to pursue other freelance work and time to keep up the job applications.
Casual shifts aren’t generally advertised. I got the gig through a friend who already worked at the paper and put me in touch with the managing editor. I sent in my CV and then hounded her every day for two weeks before she agreed to see me.
Mind you, constant harassment alone won’t get you through the door – you’ll need experience of using content management systems if you’re looking to work online or reporting experience for writing shifts.
You have to be prepared to work nights and weekends as these are the shifts that are unpopular and therefore available. As you prove yourself, it’s likely that you’ll be given a few day shifts.
Days involve more writing as you’re taking agency copy and re-writing and subbing it before publishing to the web. You’ll need to keep your wits about you when it comes to legal issues as copy is usually subbed after the story goes live.
Nights are about uploading staff copy, so there’s less writing. They are also relentless.
Despite this, I’d thoroughly recommend taking up shift work. Not only are you earning, you’re also gaining experience.
Working for the online section of a national newspaper teaches you invaluable lessons in writing for the web, subbing, linking and dealing with reader comments. It will look great on your CV too.
A lot of my fellow shift workers also do casual work for other newspapers and you soon find there’s a circuit for this kind of work.
You could do worse than cold-calling a news desk and tracking down the relevant editor to see if they have any shifts going, but be warned: you will need relevant experience in the field as you have to hit the ground running.