During the five days I spent in New York in last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Jenni Beckstrom, a professional in the freelance industry. We sat together in Cadillac House, a gallery and open work space in Soho, where she explained how she has made it in the journalism industry.
At twenty-one years old, Jenni was a marketing director for an eCommerce company in San Diego. With a degree in speech organisational communication and public relations, she found herself latching on to social media at the same time that Facebook was born. She became involved in the social media scene, and subsequently moved from the US to London. Keeping her job in California, she simultaneously worked from London with the assistance of online media; being regularly updated with news and media trends, making long-distance work more accessible.
During her time in London, Jenni attended design school at Regent’s University. ‘While I was doing that, I also met a guy and we opened up a bike shop together,’ she tells me. She was responsible for marketing the bike business and promoting her partner’s social media and branding: ‘The more experience I got, the better I got and I just kept going.’
After her relationship came to and end, Jenni was forced the leave the UK and move back to California. Using her newly found skills in online marketing, however, she came across an agency on Craig’s List who hired her as a marketing director. Now living and working in the US, Jenni’s role is to create a social media presence for her clients and promote their online brand. ‘I work with this woman in California and she has this little boutique advertising agency. She gives me all of her social media clients – I have five right now.’
The content she produces ranges from interior design to naturopathic clinics as well as Subaru and other mechanic shops. She generates content for their Facebook and Instagram pages, and writes blog articles to promote her clients. ‘I don’t get paid a ton,’ Jenni tells me, ‘but I’m free, I can travel. I prefer this lifestyle from going into a job every single day from nine till five.’
Due to the use of social media for everyday work, Jenni never uses it for wind-down time. ‘I’m not obsessed with it [social media] like most people,’ she explains, ‘I’m sick of it by the end of the day.’ Instead, Jenni makes the most of what New York has to offer by way of gym spaces and art galleries to break free from the Internet. ‘I do force myself to shut down at five o’clock and not look at it till the next day. I think that’s important or you’re always just going to be switched on.’
“It was more about their experience than the degree they had.”
With her scope of experience, Jenni was able to give advice to people who are about to embark on their journalistic careers. ‘You have to put yourself out there’, she says. A good way to do this is to market yourself online through LinkedIn, blogs and Instagram accounts, which seem to be trending more than Facebook at present. As social media encompasses a large percentage of today’s journalism, she says it is important to ‘keep a pulse on everything’. Having a unique skillset will also get you noticed – Jenni recommends online tutorials such as Canva, a graphic design service for people to add a simple yet crucial skill to their portfolio.
I asked Jenni what final piece of advice she could give for young journalists to pocket away for the future. She said: ‘be creative about what you want.’ If there is a company you love and they’re not hiring, send them an email anyway and ‘get in their brain.’
‘It’s all about the experience,’ she continues, ‘you have to hustle.’ She tells me that taking as many internships as you can will also benefit. When she was hiring clients ‘it was more about their experience than the degree they had.’