A news entrepreneur discovers her raison d’être

(NOTE: Following is a guest post from Julia Scott, who makes a living writing the savvy-spending blog, BargainBabe.com.)

Four months ago I gave up my job as a reporter, blogger and columnist at a mid-size newspaper to launch my own personal finance blog. I knew in my gut that this career path, though uncertain, held more promise.

I prepared for longer hours and brainstormed creative ways to make ends meet. But I didn’t account for a 180-degree shift in perspective about what it means to practice journalism in the Internet age.

My new perspective came about while attending an intense, week-long training program at the Knight Digital Media Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. I was one of 15 mid-career journalists eager to soak up the business skills needed to practice our craft independent of mainstream news organizations.

One of my main tasks at the program, called News Entrepreneur Boot Camp, was to craft a 15-second elevator pitch for my business, BargainBabe.com. I revised my pitch a dozen times before realizing I was using it to recruit new readers. But really, the purpose of the pitch was to land me a paying client.

It mattered less why people should read my blog than why businesses could make money by advertising on it. This was a hard nut to swallow. Here’s my pitch:

Does your business have enough customers? For many businesses, the answer is no. BargainBabe.com connects them with people who are ready to spend.

Independent journalists (the fancy term is news entrepreneur), must think as businessmen. My readers don’t pay me so my business side dictates they are no longer my primary focus. But for the journalist inside me, typing those words is sacrilege. For years I have endured long hours for little pay in the service of readers.

I am not dismissing the needs of my readers because without them I have nothing to offer paying customers. But my new perspective means I must balance the needs of my business with my calling as a journalist. For anyone else considering working as an independent journalist, walking this line will be one of your first challenges, too.

Transparency is essential, as is a commitment to produce high-quality content that meets reader needs. A willingness to spend as many hours – or more – developing your business as you do writing is also essential. My job is still creative, but oftentimes that means using my creativity to make money, not words.

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