Radio Reporter Turned Freelancer Adam Westbrook on Entrepreneurial Journalism

Adam Westbrook headshotIn 2009, UK-based Adam Westbrook quit his full-time job as a radio reporter to freelance. Since then, he has lectured at Kingston University’s journalism department, published three ebooks on journalism, spoken at dozens of conferences across Europe, and started his own production business. Ebyline recently caught up with Adam to talk about entrepreneurial journalism and his advice for freelancers.

What exactly is entrepreneurial journalism? How did you begin down this path?
Entrepreneurial Journalism is a term given to discuss the people (not all of whom are journalists) who are seeking new ways to create, publish and fund journalism in the 21st century. It’s a response to the turmoil in the mainstream media, all of which is irrevocable, plus the relative ease of creating and publishing content. I began my career as a radio reporter with struggling companies and decided several years ago that there must be more sustainable ways of doing what we do. I’ve been fascinated with it ever since.

What differentiates a freelancer from an entrepreneurial journalist?
Lots of people say they’re the same thing, but I disagree. Entrepreneurship is about wealth creation – it’s about ultimately creating jobs, building standalone businesses, often with a product or service distinct from one person. Although there are some similarities, freelance writers still work by hiring out their time to someone else.

Why should/would a freelancer consider this career path?
What it ultimately comes down to for many is freedom. It’s about being your own boss, designing your own career and life, rather than having everything governed by social conventions. At the same time, we live in the Age of the Online Publisher: it is so much easier to create content, publish it, share it and build a community around it, that it feels almost strange not to give it a try. There’s a myth that having a “proper job” is the more secure and stable route, but I think the recession has proven that wrong for many people. Instead, people who take charge of their career and income are always in control.

What are the biggest challenges and risks for freelancers who want to start their own business?
It’s a career choice that still very much flies in the face of convention so expect lots of resistance from friends, colleagues and the like. In fact, your biggest enemy will probably be yourself, and you’ll want to give up many times along the route..DON’T.

If a freelance journalist wants to start their own business, where should they start?
All business ideas should start by working out what it is you love to do and are good at..and then thinking of ways those talents can help other people. It always comes down to helping others – that’s where the value in a business is. You might love writing haikus but if you can’t figure out how that makes other peoples’ or other businesses’ lives better then you’ll struggle. If your background is in journalism, you’ll likely find dealing with money uncomfortable – get comfortable with asking for money quickly.

Finally, what advice do you have for freelancers – even if they aren’t ready to begin a career in entrepreneurial journalism?
Starting businesses and being more entrepreneurial is a big learning curve, so start learning right away. Hoover up books about business, creativity, and publishing. Figure out how to blog and even make real websites from scratch. Subscribe to the best blogs in your area of interest. Finally, start now – even if you start small. That’s the only way you’ll really learn anything.

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