Once a month we will be hosting a Guest Voices slot in the newsletter. We’re on the look out for diverse and different takes, advice, tips and projects. We’ve already had quite a few submissions so please don’t think we’re ignoring you if you have sent an idea - we will be in touch. If you would like to put your name forward, there is a Google form at the end of the newsletter.
This week we have some tips from Rachael Davies. She is a freelance journalist and writer based in Edinburgh. In her weekly(ish) Failing Publicly newsletter, she tries to show a lighter side of failing and a more human side to freelancing. She is also the founder of the Independent Newsletter Awards, which will begin later this year.
My top 5 tips for learning from failure
1. Identify the root cause
So you’ve made a mistake. It happens. The first thing you can do to turn even the most epic of fails into a learning moment is to work out where it all went wrong. Perhaps you were missing a key piece of information, or you had too much on your plate at once. Whatever it was, you can only prevent it from happening again once you know the reason behind the failure.
Plus, when we only focus on the fallout of the failure, it makes it feel that much bigger and more catastrophic. Strip it back to the root cause and you’ll find it seems much more manageable to solve next time around.
2. Don’t push yourself in every direction at once
Everybody makes mistakes and we’re much better at handling them than we often give ourselves credit for. However, learning from failure does often mean relearning habits and taking on a lot of new information. If you’re being weighed down by a dozen different projects at once, you’re more likely to panic and make even more mistakes.
If something goes wrong, set aside a dedicated amount of time to focus on the problem at hand, rather than trying to split your time across everything at once. One concentrated day will do far more for your problem-solving than sporadic bursts across a whole week.
3. Keep track of your strengths and weaknesses
With every new project you take on, you’re learning a little bit more about your strengths and weaknesses. Often, we establish what we’re good at as early on as school and then never update those skills. But can you honestly say that your best skills are still the same as they were when you were 14 years old?
After every new challenge that you’ve overcome or the latest failure that you’ve experienced, update your list of strengths and weaknesses. This could be a mental list, but I also recommend making a physical one. This also comes in useful next time a client or job proposal asks ‘why are you right for this project?’ You have a ready-made list of pros and cons for your professional self that you can whip out to dazzle people with.
4. Be honest with yourself and others
Don’t be afraid of asking for help. Messing up is a sign that you’re stretched too tight or perhaps are working on something new or outside of your skillset. The best way to learn is to admit that you have something new to take on board here, and then reach out to someone for help if you need it.
That could mean asking your editor for an extension, or seeking out a journalist colleague to offer some advice. There’s no shame in admitting you need support. Any good editor will likely be happy to help, so long as you communicate clearly and honestly - and the ones that aren’t probably aren’t ones you want to be working with long-term anyway.
5. Not everything is a learning moment
Be prepared to laugh at yourself sometimes. Making mistakes is part of being human and is definitely part of being a freelancer. No matter how much you learn from people who went before you, the beauty of being a freelancer is that you’re independent and forging your own path. You can’t forge a new path through the long grass without tripping over a few weeds, so don’t sweat it when it happens. Pick yourself back up and don’t lose sight of your final destination.
You can find out more about Rachael on Twitter @rachdaviesetc or at her website https://rachdaviesetc.com.
If you would like to contribute an idea for our Guest Voices slot, we’d love to hear about it. You can get in touch by filling out this Google Form.
Last podcast episode of series 5!
In our final podcast episode of this series we get to grips with Crowdsourcing. We spoke to Charlotte Godart from Bellingcat who discusses how she used crowdsourced data in a recent investigation into police violence at the Black Lives Matter protests and Eric Reidy a freelance journalist involved in crowdsourcing information for migrant-related stories.
This series has been created in collaboration with the Freelance Journalism Assembly. Part of the European Journalism Centre, they offer a range of free resources on freelancing. Find out more at their website to see what is on offer.
What’s coming up
Our next event is How to find freelance work. Join us in this lunchtime webinar at 1pm on Wednesday 7th July to discover how to find paid freelance opportunities at websites, newspapers and magazines. This may be of particular interest to students looking to build their portfolio or boost their income over the summer. If you can’t make the live event you can pre-order a video recording instead.
Triumph of the week
Well there was the small matter of a 100k self-supported run in Wales but we’ve also been commissioned for an exciting new project that we need to get sorted before the big summer break we’re planning.
That feeling when…
You’re super excited about a painstakingly researched and important feature until the trolls descend on social media.
Do keep sending in your Listener Dilemmas for us to answer in series 6 of the podcast which we are starting to record very soon.
Either post a message in our Facebook Community or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bye for now!