Journalism: Full-time or Freelance?

Image: Shawn via Flickr
Image: Shawn via Flickr

Declining print media has reduced the amount of work available for writers, while the rise of digital ensures there are exciting new opportunities in the rapidly changing industry. So what kind of writing work works right for you – one full-time job or a series of short-term commissions? Lauren Razavi finds out.

Working full-time

“Working in an editorial team is a great source of experience,” says Jonny Payne, a commissioning editor for World Travel Guide. “Learning from others in the team can only improve your skills. You also learn more about processes and issues you may not necessarily be aware of as a freelance writer.”

Money can also be a significant factor. “With newspaper staff levels diminishing rather than growing, having a full-time position means the amount of work you have and your job security are not dependent on an industry that’s struggling and facing widespread cuts across the board,” says Chris King, a sub editor at The Sun. “There is always a risk that freelance work will be plentiful one week and scarce the next two. Having a staff role offers guaranteed hours and the potential for promotion within a specific company, but it does remove the element of choice in terms of when, and for how long, you’re working.” Jonny agrees: “Staffed positions generally offer more financial security – although freelancing can be prosperous if you really work at it.”

Working freelance

Lucy Grewcock is a full-time freelance writer whose clients include The Independent, TNT Magazine and Virgin Media. Her decision to take the plunge and go freelance was an easy one. “I was feeling unsatisfied and bored in my job at the time and knew I was a very self-motivated person, so freelancing seemed like a natural fit.” One of the biggest benefits of freelancing is its flexibility, as Lucy points out: “You get to be your own boss, pick your own work and fit in the rest of your life around your job; if I want to take an afternoon off to do my Christmas shopping, I can do.”

But in the same vein, the drawbacks and challenges can be intense. “Twelve-hour days and seven-day weeks are not uncommon, whether you’re working to get a project done or are desperately marketing yourself to find new work. And certainly don’t expect any paid sick days or holidays!” Lucy warns. “You have to be constantly working ahead to market yourself and network with the right people – any freelancer who sits there waiting for work to arrive on their desk without putting themselves out there won’t last long.” Personal qualities are an important consideration in assessing whether freelancing is a good fit for you. “Self-motivation, resilience and the ability to market yourself are all essential skills,” adds Lucy.

Best of both?

Of course, it’s a myth that you have to pick just one path to pursue. In fact, freelance work can complement a staffing role or, in some cases, actually lead to one, as Jonny and Chris’s experience proves. “I spent a while interning at a range of publications. I then went on to freelance for a couple of them, including becoming the weekend news editor for one website. I then secured my current role, which is a staff job,” says Jonny. “I’ve done freelance work for a number of local newspapers and sports websites. I continue to write for some of these alongside my position at The Sun, but I wanted to take up a permanent job as it offers a guaranteed salary, fixed working hours and job security,” says Chris.

“I wouldn’t say a staff job has more benefits over freelancing – or vice versa – as everyone seeks something different from their job,” Jonny summarises. So if there’s one lesson to be learnt from our experts, it’s that there’s no right way to build your career; if you want something enough, you’ll find your own way to make it work.

This feature was originally published on

Norwich: Explore the UK’s most creative city

Image: Nick Garrod via Flickr
Image: Nick Garrod via Flickr

Lauren Razavi gives us a tour of her creative home city.

Another September, another group of university freshers descend upon the city.

Half of them will tip-toe through their time here, rarely leaving campus and concluding that Norwich is a concrete place with two monotonous shopping malls and a range of unreliable bus services. The other half will quickly discover a city bursting with bohemian spirit. These are the ones who’ll stay here long beyond their degree, because from the first time they stumble into a cafe-bar with awesome lampshades and an undiscovered band on stage, they’ll feel like they’ve found home.

The Norwich Lanes is the first of the city’s many unique highlights. This historic district is full of cobbled stone streets and beautiful storefronts. Take a walk around and you’ll find a collection of independent shops filled with vintage clothes, pre-loved records and quirky knick-knacks. Dotted between are cafes, bars and restaurants with shabby chic décor and different events every night.

In the heart of the Lanes is St Benedict’s Street where city favourite The Bicycle Shop is located. The multi-purpose space is set over three floors and hosts everything from magazine parties to book launches to conversation clubs, and its basement venue hosts touring acts several nights a week. Mismatched furniture, weird and wonderful cakes, and breakfast served until 3pm (dippy eggs with soldiers come highly recommended)… What more could you ask for?

A few doors down is Norwich Arts Centre. The converted church programmes an impressive array of music nights, resulting in the NME naming it best small venue in the east this year. Courses in creative writing, photography and design are offered here too, as well as its foyer and bar acting as a mini art gallery.

The Birdcage, Norwich’s hipster haunt, attracts twenty-something guys with sleeve tattoos and Elvis hairstyles. Its retro feel is complimented by cabaret, spoken word, poetry and music, brought to you by barmaids with forties style and flowers in their hair.

On St George’s Street is Norwich University College of the Arts and Norwich Playhouse. As well as a delicious programme of theatre, comedy and panto, the Playhouse has one of the best beer gardens in the city. The bar is staffed by NUCA students, and, come nightfall, Norwich’s finest DJs spin lo-fi and electronica while a merry audience dance their evenings away.

With table service, chalkboard menus and international cuisine, Frank’s Bar is another brilliant spot. Its walls are covered with paintings and photography, while Sundays see screenings of classic films and hangover-cure brunches served early till late.

Cinema City offers an eclectic collection from Hollywood blockbusters to acclaimed indie flicks and the latest in foreign cinema. Occasional screenings of Audrey Hepburn movies and mini-festivals celebrating legends like Woody Allen present just the right dose of nostalgia.

Just outside the city centre lies the University of East Anglia. Its Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is Norwich’s finest gallery, and its music venue – the LCR – hosts live acts from across the world, recently including Coldplay, Ben Howard and Nero.

UEA also boasts the UK’s most prestigious creative writing courses, and presents a seasonal literary festival with speakers like Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan and Pat Barker. It’s no surprise Norwich was named UNESCO City of Literature in 2012.

If that impressive selection of sites isn’t enough, other places worth a look include The Forum (incorporating the Millennium Library, BBC Look East and The Curve film studio), Norwich Writer’s Centre, independent store The Book Hive and quirky cafe-bar 42 King Street.

If you’re planning a visit, coincide it with the multi-arts Norfolk and Norwich Festival or the Norwich Sound and Vision Convention – you won’t be disappointed.

This feature was originally published on

Rachel Khoo on Making it in Food and TV


Rachel Khoo is a self-made fashion PR-turned-food star with a passion for vintage clothes and travel. Her cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen, and the accompanying BBC Two series have marked her out as one to watch in the world of food journalism. Lauren Razavi finds out the secret of making it in TV and publishing…

You gave up your fashion PR job and went to Paris to learn French and learn about pastry. Were you determined to make a career out of food at that point? 

I moved to go to Cordon Bleu and learn French. I knew I wanted to work in food on the creative side – photography, magazines and cookbooks. At the beginning it was about earning enough money to pay my rent and trying to get my foot in the door. I worked as an au pair, in a department store, in an art gallery, taught English. I did so many jobs just so I could build my portfolio as a food stylist.

My big break happened because I worked in a cookery book store, so I met cookbook authors and networked. It’s only the last four years things have really kicked off and I’ve been able to live off it.

How did your cookbook The Little Paris Kitchen and the subsequent BBC Two series come about?

I picked out my favourite publishers and found their details. I emailed them saying “I know you’re really busy, but do you have just 10 minutes for me to come in and pitch some ideas?” Out of those 10 emails, I got three meetings. From those three meetings, I got two offers, and I ended up going with Penguin. When I was writing the book I realised it would make a good TV show. I tracked down production companies and pitched my idea. BBC Two picked up the pilot.

You became known as the vintage girl with the tiny Paris kitchen. Is it important to have a gimmick to set you apart?

Gimmick’s the wrong word – it’s a unique selling point. All it comes down to is having a strong personality and identity, and knowing what your angle is on food. I don’t think you need some quirky story – I mean, it helps – but you have to back it up. Your USP can change: it was The Little Paris Kitchen for me but now it’s going to be Rachel Khoo.

Do you find blogging and social media useful in your career?

Definitely! What I love about my online platforms is that I have control over them. When I write on my blog, it’s always what I want to say. It’s everything from food to travel to fashion to anything else. It’s a great way to connect with your audience in a quick and immediate way.

Does accepting hospitality from tourism boards create a conflict in your mind?

I wanted to do a piece in Sweden, and The Sunday Times had a miniscule budget. So I pitched to the tourism board for them to pay for the flights and asked a friend to put up the whole team. Without support from the tourism board, it wouldn’t have been possible to create that beautiful piece. It can be very positive, but you need the freedom to review honestly.

You have to be clear when you start the project: OK, you’re offering me this, but I’m not guaranteeing a positive review. As long as that’s clear, I don’t think there’s a problem.

What are your top tips for young creatives who might want to follow a similar career path to your own?

Have a really nice blog – it’s your window. A lot of bloggers gain newspaper and magazine work through their blog. If you’re looking to write a cookbook, you need to show a publisher you have an audience. It’s rare for publishers to pick up writers who don’t have some kind of online platform these days.

Newspapers like certain pieces and angles; make sure you do your homework and tailor your pitch. When you email an editor, get their name right. Then it’s about persistence, and not letting it get to you if you don’t hear back. I’ve always been proactive. A lot of the doors I was knocking on didn’t open. It’s a tough market out there, but nothing comes from nothing. The people who make it are the ones who are persistent.

Check out Rachel’s latest cookbook, ‘Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook’, here.

This feature was originally published on

2 Inspirational Travel Films You Must See

Before Midnight Still - Borrowed from

I watch a lot of films. I think telling stories on screen is one of the most engaging, astounding and beautiful ways to learn about something or find inspiration or experience the feeling of being understood. If it’s done well, of course. I can’t say I was that blown away by the legendary mess that is 2003’s The Room – a film so dire you can’t even seem to buy it on Amazon anymore, new or secondhand.

Over the course of last weekend, when I came back from Italy with what’s officially referred to as the Italian lurgy (or should that be lergy?), I took the opportunity to indulge in some film-watching.

Before Midnight (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy)

There are very few characters created in any art form that compel fans to follow them for eighteen years. In this instance, I don’t mean eighteen years in the space of one two-hour movie either; I mean eighteen long real-time years between when you meet the characters and their story concludes. That’s quite a feat for any actor, actress, writer or direct to add to their CV.

The ‘Before’ trilogy follows Celine and Jesse, a young couple who meet on a train in 1995. Romance blossoms and they spend a night walking around Vienna together, believing this will be their only encounter. Nine years later, Jesse has written a book about their night together and Celine appears at his Paris book-signing. They spend the day walking around Paris and talking – the film ends with Jesse sitting in Celine’s apartment, about to miss his plane back to the US.

Fast forward nine more years to the present day, and Before Midnight concludes the eighteen-year tale of true love. The third and final instalment in the trilogy, like the other two films, is exceptionally well-written and boasts incredibly acting from both Delpy and Hawke. With more of a bittersweet message than the previous two stories, Celine and Jesse are having some relationship issues in a film that tells us love isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t diminish it.

Click here for more info or to buy a copy of ‘Before Midnight’.

Weekend (Tom Cullen, Chris New)

Friends had mentioned Weekend to me, but it took me a long old time to finally sit down and watch it. Boy, am I glad that I did. This beautifully-crafted modern love story is British independent film at its very best. Two guys living in Nottingham, England meet at a nightclub and spend a weekend together, talking about life and falling in love. It’s a simple premise, but executed perfectly. You wouldn’t even know it was created on a low budget. The characters are incredible and it’s not a surprise to learn it picked up much critical acclaim at the film festivals when it was released.

As well as using Nottingham as a gorgeous backdrop to the story, there’s a travel element to the story which will be familiar to anyone who’s ever fallen in love quickly before they’re meant to leave a place.

Click here for more info or to buy a copy of ‘Weekend’.


Jay Leighton’s Album Launch

Last week the lovely Jay Leighton paid us a visit in Norwich to launch his new album ‘Hours’. The first single from the album is called ‘Wish I Was Springsteen’ and you can hear it below.

We started off the day by heading to BBC Norfolk for a live radio session with the legendary Stephen Bumfrey. Ushered into the studio alongside an artist, it’s always a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

After drinks and dinner, it was time for the launch party! The Bicycle Shop is one of Norwich’s finest spots for food, drink, music and more. On the bill supporting Jay were the wonderful Jess Morgan and Georgios Hadji.

Excellent music was followed by a White Russian or two, a tradition whenever Jay and I get together! Jess and Georgios got involved too…

I’m already looking forward to next time. Order a copy of Jay’s new record here.

Printmaking with Jess Morgan

Jess Morgan

To celebrate the beginning of March (with perhaps even some warmer weather on the horizon…), rising folk star Jess Morgan shares with us some tips for easy DIY printmaking. So hit play on the Soundcloud player below to have a listen to Jess’s music as she teaches you a seriously nifty new craft skill. Over to you, Jess…

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If you’re not already in the habit of allowing yourself a bit of a foodie splurge now and again, then please forgive me for this. You don’t have to be a serious artist to give this a go, in fact, the great thing about print-making is that you can produce great looking images with really only a few marks and a few simple techniques. So here’s one more reason to let the ditch the diet for just one night, load up on grease and carbs folks because after all… calories don’t count if you’re being creative!

First things first – you’ll need to get hold of a sheet of foam to be your first tile. This can be any size. You could cut out the middle of a foam picnic plate, the top and bottom squares of a take-away burger box or as I did, use the foam disk that comes underneath a frozen pizza. You will need to eat the pizza first of course.

Then you’ll need something to draw your picture and make your marks with – a biro or a sharp-ish (but not totally sharp) pencil will do. You can use printing ink or acrylic paint in just about any colour you like and you need to get hold of some sort of a roller to apply the colour – I’ve used an ink roller but have had great results in the past with a cheap and cheerful sponge roller. If all else fails a humble sponge brush will do the trick.

Use your biro or pencil (or any tools you can adapt) to press down a design onto your foam. I’ve had fun with simple abstract patterns as well as drawings of things and people.

If you manage to collect up enough foam you could also try making multiple tiles to make a panel print or a comic strip.

Now you’re ready to ink-up. Different types of foam will soak up different amounts of ink – so will need more inking than others in order to get a strong bold print. Practise with different amounts on some scrap paper.

Acrylic paint won’t give you as bold a print as printing ink (such as Speedball) but it’ll be easy to touch up in photoshop!

When the tile is covered in ink or paint simply turn it butter-side-down and press it onto your paper. Ordinary printer paper is fine but you can have even better results with very thin paper or newsprint if you can get it. Give it a good press and try not to wiggle the tile as this may skew the image. Then just peel the tile away from the paper carefully. If you do opt for thinner paper you may be best to print paper over instead of tile over paper.

I made a very simple set of 4 images – its meant to be a baby sneezing! Its not too bad for a first draft but I might need to eat another pizza and have another go before it goes on my fridge.

If you really enjoy this kind of print-making you might choose to get yourself a few tools and have a crack at a lino cut or a wood cut. This is how I’ve made all my album covers and bits of merchandise so far.

Happy printing!

Find out more about Jess Morgan on her own website here.