Whether it’s picking olives in occupied regions of Palestine or neutering cooked snails, Petra Jacobs knows just what it takes to hone that competitive edge and get published.
Working fulltime as a freelance journalist since 2014, Petra shared with me some of her best career advice for a budding freelance journalist. A lifetime of writing and being published donned Petra with a unique perspective on how to get setup shop in a highly competitive field.
Today, Petra mostly writes in German for publications in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. A specialty in agricultural journalism has taken Petra around the world and back. Sometimes she’s in Tajikistan trying to get up close and personal with yaks other times she’s explores the desert gardens of the Sinai peninsula in Egypt.
Curiosity will put you on the map
The most important thing to me is that you have to be curious. Curious about people, curious about the world, the way it works. You have to want to have things explained to you and to be able to explain them.
Money is no reason to write
When I write with money in mind, which can happen sometimes; you know you have figures or bills in your head that you have to pay by the end of the month. I find I can never write as well with those incentives in mind.
It’s a completely different experience than when you write because you feel like you have to write. You’ve got storied that need telling, people relying on you to share their message.
It depends on it’s your attitude, your WHY do you do it. You ask yourself your ‘why?’ And I’ve learned that if your ‘why’ doesn’t make you cry, then it’s not your ‘why.’
It’s about hard work, consistency and networking
In the very early days because they don’t know you, you really have to study your publications, know their style, what they’ve done what they’re looking for. They need to see that you’ve made an effort and know what they’re looking for…
Now I can write stories and send them off without pitching them to clients because I know they will publish them. I’ve built up those relationship over years and years.
But in the beginning, I think it’s important to do it like me, have a fallback plan. Have a job like a bar job or something anything really where you don’t need to use your brain that much, do that while you build up your niche or clientele.
My best clients now were the ones who said no the most times in the beginning. The really are faithful.
You need to create fans, fans of you. It’s not so much about what do I want but what do they want need. To have the reader in mind. You are a brand; you will be somebody know for a certain field.
Mental health is wealth
One of the things I learned along the way through books and seminars is to really work on your mental health because you get a lot of rejection. Really work on not taking it personally. You have to just dust yourself off and be like next. Just keep going and pushing.