After that discussion with my former mentor, Tracy, about finding my story, I decided to give it a shot. So I wrote down my journey. It went something like this…
When I became pregnant with my first baby, I was working as a full-time copywriter for a film company. I was self-employed, but on a rolling contract and felt like part of the company. Unfortunately when I left to have my baby, the contract was terminated.
I spent the first nine months getting to know my new baby – living off maternity allowance and savings – but as new ‘mum friends’ returned to employment, now that maternity leave was ending, I started panicking about what I was going to do for money. I was writing the odd freelance article but didn’t have regular work.
When my daughter turned one, I decided to stop fretting and start ‘doing’ so I launched an online magazine called The Early Hour, for parents who were up early. It was using my skills as a writer and editor, and everything I’d learned from blogging about reaching people online.
A (free) Prince’s Trust business course taught me to see this digital magazine as a proper business – not just a hobby, or ‘mummy blog’. And with their support, I found ways to monetise the website through sponsored content.
There is sometimes a suggestion that motherhood makes us somehow weaker, or less able, in the workplace but I found the opposite true: it gave me drive and determination. Now I’ve designed a work-life situation that enables me to be around for my daughter – and my career is back in my own hands.
I had made a connection with Harriet Minter, who was then editor of Women in Leadership for the Guardian. We’d connected on Twitter when she’d been looking for case studies for an article she was writing and I’d put myself forward (it was about sexual discrimination in the workplace; so not the focus of my work at all but something I’d experienced previously).
I’d found this opportunity by following the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter. Journalists often put out requests for case studies – with a high range of criteria – so it’s worth checking this out quite regularly, to see if you can ‘help’ them with their story. They might be looking for a woman of a certain age running her own business, or someone who’s faced a particular challenge as a freelancer, for instance.
You might have to think hard about fitting yourself into their criteria at first, but you’ll get better over time. Soon, you’ll have your journey and story so fine-tuned that you’ll know exactly how you can contribute to a whole range of ‘journo requests’. But basically, responding to the tweets is about building relationships with journalists and editors so that you’ll be on their minds for other features.
Harriet quoted me in her sexual harassment in the workplace article and started following me on Twitter, so I made use of having access to her inbox by sending her a pitch similar to the one I’ve written out above. I said I’d love to write about my journey for the Guardian. She was keen and – after a few reminders – commissioned me to write my first Guardian article.
You can read it here.