Current employer: Self-employed
Current job title: Freelance writer and journalist
Current location: Southampton
“My degree and my lecturers taught me to take responsibility for my creative output, and my work ethic since graduating has become rock solid… Studying at Plymouth was like someone opening a door and saying ‘go explore; go see what you can do.’”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.
I worked for Waterstones after graduation, organising author events and managing the travel department before jumping into the deep end and becoming a freelance copywriter. In 2013 I bought a small yacht with my partner and in 2014 we left the UK to spend two years sailing to Panama and back. During this adventure, I have been writing extensively for Yachting Monthly magazine as well as The Huffington Post and other magazines and blogs.
How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?
My degree taught me a very crucial thing: if I don’t do my work, no one is going to do it for me. As a freelancer, time is money and if I put my work off or do it poorly I won’t get paid and I’d give myself a bad reputation. My degree and my lecturers taught me to take responsibility for my creative output, and my work ethic since graduating has become rock solid.
Has your career path changed since graduation?
While books and literature are huge parts of my life, I didn’t want to get stuck in the rut of just selling other people’s work. I learnt a lot about literature during my 18 months at Waterstones and it was a comfortable and enjoyable job; but I knew I needed to kick start my own career. When I quit working and took the risk of going freelance, I knew instantly that it was the best decision I could have ever made. It gave me freedom and the determination to make it work and now I’ve gone from sales assistant to sailing journalist in just a few years.
What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?
Believing in myself. When I first submitted an article to Yachting Monthly, I thought I’d never hear back from them and that it was pointless. I couldn’t have been more surprised when they loved it and I’ve been writing for them ever since.
What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?
I get paid to write about sailing to exotic islands! Sometimes, though, we sail in terrifying weather through the mid-Atlantic on a small boat…
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?
Everything you read online is written by someone and most of those people are paid to write it. If you want to be a copywriter, there’s a huge excess of work out there and so much demand for good writers. If you want to write for magazines, don’t be afraid of editors: they’re just normal people who want to sell interesting writing. Make your writing interesting.
How did studying at Plymouth help you?
With such a diverse student body, I met a huge range of people across many different subjects. I joined the Adventure and Expedition Society and the activities and people within it helped to not only expand my outdoor interests, but also helped influence my writing. The freedom my course offered to me was also a real bonus, especially the creative writing side of it. While my lecturers and I didn’t always agree on the best style or format for my writing, they were always encouraging my fellow students and I to pursue real creativity. Studying at Plymouth was like someone opening a door and saying ‘go explore; go see what you can do.’
What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?
I learned how to take feedback, which can be a difficult but crucial skill for any writer. I also developed the research skills that have really helped me in my copywriting work and the analytical skills that allow me to see different forms of literature and writing from a more critical point of view.
What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?
I once gave a presentation to my modern poetry class about the poem I’d been assigned. I went through each line, showing the structure and theme and what I thought it meant. Then, at the end, I told them all what it actually meant because I’d emailed the poet the day before, after finding her on Google. The whole class laughed, and the disparity between my analysis and the poet’s showed how poetry means different things to different people.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?
The interesting thing about the University of Plymouth is that it has no pretension and invites students to explore their subject without judgement, just guidance. I would recommend taking a course at Plymouth to anyone who wants to be creative with their interests and is open to new ways of thinking and learning.
Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?
The University of Plymouth provides so many opportunities outside of the courses available, from language clubs to sport clubs, from financial awards to help you with outlandish projects to financial aid for those struggling; so make the most of your time there, because no help or opportunities will be so freely given once you graduate.
Inspired by this story?
For more information about studying BA (Hons) English please visit our BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Society and Culture, please visit the school page.
Want to find similar alumni?
If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business are currently doing, please visit the humanities and languages interest area.