I’ve been connecting with a lot of newly-redundant journalists over the past few weeks. Most have been abruptly swept into freelancing through no fault of their own. Their first move is often to start pitching half-baked stories and accept any old gig, no matter how low paid. It’s an understandable response, but a terrible strategy.

Let’s be honest: few people make a living by writing the occasional longform feature for literary magazines like Joan Didion and co did in the heyday of the 1970s. Anyone who does probably doesn’t do it by writing listicles for fifty bucks a pop either.

My advice to frustrated former staffers is to take a step back and think carefully about what made you decide to write in the first place. Why are stories important? What does your work give you, on a human level? Next, I tell them to consider how their skills, knowledge and energy can be best applied in this new phase — and how they’ll use those things to create corners of the internet to thrive in.

People who’ve been on traditional career paths tend to think in very limited terms about their options, so this reflection time is essential. You have to identify what makes you unique, what you can do with it, and how you’ll create a “company of one” that’s meaningful to you and adds something valuable to the global conversation.

Journalists were once beholden to the whims of advertisers, but more of them will be accountable directly to the public in the 2020s. The talent that was locked away in newsrooms can now flourish in virtual environments. I’m looking forward to seeing what this fresh cohort of knowledge workers does with the opportunity.

PS: I wrote a Twitter thread last week (my first). People seemed to find it useful, and these emails are a bit like a scrapbook I hope to give my kids someday, so I wanted to share that little win here too:

Thanks so much to anyone who liked, RT’d or commented. This was a spontaneous (read: procrastination-driven) experiment, but it’s encouraged me to think about what else I can share in this format.

The Big Idea: Virtual Writing Communities

Writing might seem old-fashioned in the era of TikTok and YouTube, but the form is having a renaissance on the internet. With more people and companies turning to distributed work, mastery of asynchronous (non-instant) forms of communication like writing is now crucial to productivity, for individuals and teams.

So how can newbies get started with the craft of writing? And how can experienced practitioners keep developing? Enter London Writers’ Salon. Parul Bavishi and Matt Trinetti have created a virtual community of writers from across the globe, and it’s one of my favourites stories of the pivot to a digital operation.

Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, journalism, newsletters, blog posts or something else entirely, come to The Writers’ Hour on weekday mornings (UK time) and build your sustainable writing habit with the support of 100+ colleagues.

Maker of the Week: Anna Codrea-Rado

Anna is a journalist, podcaster and activist who has published with titles like The New York Times, The Paris Review, Wired and Monocle. She’s also co-host of the Is This Working? podcast and an ally to fellow freelancers, actively campaigning for fair pay and better policy.

There are only a handful of writers who take me outside myself when I read them, and Anna is one. Her stories are carefully chosen and crafted; her words are sharp and powerful; her perspective draws you in, makes you think, and teaches you something valuable about the world.

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Anna’s courageous and creative, and she motivates me to be smarter and more ambitious. We’ve been friends and collaborators for eight years now, and we always seem to reconnect at important moments in our careers.

Sign up for The Professional Freelancer, Anna's weekly newsletter about making a sustainable self-employed living as a writer.

Handpicked for You

📅 Finding Your Niche for a Profitable Freelance Business

We have a handful of tickets left for this week’s masterclass, so I have a last-minute discount exclusively for newsletter subscribers: use code CTF25 to reserve your spot for just £15. There’s also an early-bird ticket option for all three July sessions here.

🗞️ “The Writer as Influencer” by Allegra Hobbs

I became a Study Hall patron right away after reading this excellent culture piece from one of the collective’s staff writers. It asks whether we’ve reached the point where writers have to be influencers, or whether they have been all along.

🎧 Longform Podcast Meets Jeff Maysh

How do you tell winning stories every time? Longform writer Jeff Maysh — best known for this insane piece about the McDonalds Monopoly game, which is now a documentary series on HBO — deep-dives into pitching, writing and money.

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