Headshot of Dan Bishop, freelance journalism graduate
Dan Bishop

Turning a hobby into a career

I had been writing as a hobby for a number of years, but when I saw the British College of Journalism’s Professional Freelance Journalism Course, it was the first time I thought I could use my writing skills to earn money.  I had recently been made redundant when I stumbled across the course online and saw it as a way to formalise my writing credentials, gain new qualifications, as well as a simple way of feeling a sense of achievement.

Taking every opportunity

I did take a little longer than most to finish the course (around two years) but there was a very good reason for this. Not long after starting the course, I saw an advert in my local Job Centre for a copy writer, and although they were seeking someone more qualified than myself, I decided to go for it.  I had already learned a little about how to professionally structure my work since starting the BCJ course, and was able to suitably impress the company who posted the advert.  They had recently established a motor sales website called www.carsite.co.uk, and required someone to write car reviews and motoring advice articles for a few months.  So, having only just started the course, I was already a full time journalist!

Once that project was complete we parted amicably, so much so, that when the company decided to start a daily motoring news section on the website about a year later, I was the first person they called to ask if I would be prepared to contribute on a freelance basis as their primary news content writer.  I had found full time employment elsewhere by this stage, outside the industry, but jumped at the chance of a second income doing something I enjoyed for a client I trusted.  I have been writing 5-10 news articles per week on a freelance basis for www.carsite.co.uk for around three years now under the pseudonym, George Thompson.

I have been involved in local football for a number of years, and even before starting the course, I had written match reports as a hobby and supplied them to the local newspaper.  However, once I started the course I learned more about how newspaper editors like the copy they receive to be structure and laid out.  As a result of this, the sports editor of my local paper, the Burton Mail, asked me to cover other football matches as a paid freelancer when required.  My work is available to read on www.burtonmail.co.uk.  It was great earning money from something I had gladly done for free previously.

Getting recognition

When a new free local newspaper, the Swadlincote Post, was launched, I was still only around midway through my course.  The newspaper’s owner had learned of my work through a mutual contact, and asked me to join as a general reporter on a freelance basis, working around my other commitments.

This was another interesting venture, as the general nature of the role tested my skills greatly, as I had to write about subject I knew little or nothing about.  In many ways, I enjoy writing about new subjects as I get to learn things I previously did not know.  I was even able to use some of the articles published in the Swadlincote Post to pass my remaining course assignments.  Digital issues containing my work can be found at www.swadlincotepost.co.uk.

I have also run social media accounts for a number of small businesses and organisations.  I am press officer for the Midlands Regional Alliance football league, which carries a small honorarium, and with my two assistants, I have created and managed a new website, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram accounts over the past two seasons.  I now work for the Chameleon School of Construction.

A primary factor in my appointment was my writing skills, and a large part of my duties revolve around keeping the company’s social media profile high.  You can find the Chameleon School of Construction on twitter or on Facebook.

Completing the BCJ course has taken my career in some very interesting and unexpected directions, and I am sure there are still many more to come.

Dan Bishop


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