When people hear you’re majoring in Journalism, you usually get one of three reactions. The most common is doubt. They’ll say, “Do you really think you’ll make any money doing that?” Another is surprise. They’ll tell you how “unique” your choice is. Finally, there is well-intended guidance that comes off sounding condescending. They’ll tell you how unmarketable your degree is in the real world.
Last week in class, we had the chance to hear from two journalism graduates: John Hill and Julianne Pepitone. Despite the stereotypes, both have found success by chasing their passions down vastly different paths.
Julianne is a freelancer based in New York who chose to begin her own business as a freelancer when she moved out of the city and into the suburbs to raise a family. Over the past few years, she’s learned how to find work, negotiate prices and build the valuable connections you need to keep a business alive and well.
Freelancing is merely an inevitability for many journalists and writers. Some begin their careers as freelancers, embracing the life of hustle and unpredictability. Others choose to start their own business as freelancers after spending several years sharpening their skills in newsrooms, like Julianne. But many freelancers struggle to define their value and negotiate the rates they deserve.
Julianne knew how important her reputation was early on as a freelancer. She stressed that she has never missed a deadline, always thanks her contacts for the opportunities they provide and tries to make the process as easy as possible for editors. She found early on that her unique value was kindness, and that her demeanor served to advance her reputation and make her work shine. Instead of negotiating a price for each word or an hourly rate, she focused on pricing her projects based on the annual earnings she desired to reach. As a result, she makes as much as she did at NBC News, and has the power to change that for the better if she so pleases.
Unlike Julianne, John didn’t choose to freelance. He began his career as a reporter, but he began to find that his true talent was helping to connect people with resources through networking. He began working at Michigan State, helping students find internships and full-time jobs and connecting alumni through online platforms. His work caught the attention of Silicon Valley executives, and his passion and eye for networking soon landed him a position at LinkedIn. Today, he is the vice president of network at TechStars, a startup accelerator that connects entrepreneurs to a worldwide network of valuable resources.
It was easy to feel inspired after hearing the stories of John and Julianne. They show that journalism graduates can achieve anything they set their minds to. They show that anyone who believes journalism isn’t a valid degree and believes in the stereotypes is wrong.