Becoming a football journalist is seen as the dream job of many a football enthusiast. The demand for the role far outweighs availability, and writers often need to have worked unpaid internships in order to prove their suitability before getting paid work. It is a heavily saturated market, for all the difficulties in “making it”, the fact is that some do.
Here are some key factors to succeeding in football journalism:
1) Get experience – lots of it!
The key to proving to potential employers that you are the best football journalist for the job, you will need much more than a qualification or a good example piece to accompany your application. With demand for the roles so high, employers will be looking for people who have proven their ability to write to a high standard, consistently, both in terms of number of articles per day, and over a good period of time (6 months +).
The good news is that the opportunity is there for everyone. There are many football websites that are looking for volunteer writers who are willing to exchange their skills and knowledge for the websites visibility on the web – it is a priceless opportunity for a writer to create an online portfolio of work for a respected outlet, proving to potential employers that you have been trusted to have your work displayed in front of 100,000’s of readers on that website.
Writing for established football websites can often be much more beneficial than writing for a personal football blog, for a number of reasons. You will have been accepted by the football website, whereas anyone can make a blog. You will get used to writing to deadlines, and understand how the industry works better. You will get opportunities that would not present themselves if you ran a blog, like meeting players for interviews. Lastly, you will get the invaluable benefit that you will likely receive feedback on your work, meaning you know where to improve.
2) Get qualified if possible
Although not a must, getting some kind of qualification in journalism would be beneficial as it shows employers that you have a good understanding of the industry, and what would be expected of you. People who have studied maths may go for a football writing job thinking they would write a comfortable 2 articles a day, whereas the more realistic number of articles may be 15+. (Although with the rise in popularity for football data and statistics, anyone with a maths degree and an interests in football would probably be better off looking for a job Football Data Analysis!)
Also, a qualification to degree level in a humanities/journalism subject would prove a good level of English which is of course crucial to the role.
3) Get a USP
With a saturated market like football journalism, you need a unique selling point, something that gives you a benefit over other potential applicants. For example, the chances of someone getting a job as a general football journalist if they only know the Premier League in depth, is zero. If you can specialise in a less known area, you are more likely to be able to get into the industry – from there you can work towards your favourite area. Possible unique selling points could be:
- Non-league football
- Italian/Spanish/French/Russian/Scandinavian football
- Foreign languages – Italian/Spanish/Portuguese/French/Russian
- Football business
4) Get computer literate
The days of handing in an article are generally gone for most football journalists. You will need to have a good understand of a number of different areas, experience of which can be gained by going on a course or getting promoted within voluntary football job roles. Areas to consider:
1 – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
This is the process of making an article as visible on search engines like Google as possible. To do this you will need to learn to pick out keywords, a description from the text (not a description of the article), and to ensure that the keywords you use with that article are also found within the article itself.
2 – Content Management Systems (CMS)
These are the programs online where you would enter your article, keywords, descriptions and pictures, and from where the article goes online. An understanding of how these work will mean the employer will not have to train you to use theirs correctly.
3 – Internet and email
The fact you are reading this suggests you have a sufficient knowledge of using the internet. The importance of the internet cannot be understated, as every article you write will likely require some kind of research or statistic checking, no matter how good the writers knowledge on the subject.
Additionally, a use of email and attachments will be necessary in order to send in your work successfully and on time.
5) Work hard
Last but not least, you must work hard. Many people get to the firs stages of the above, but very few do all fully, and give 100%. If you do, you will be far more likely to find paid football writing employment. It may take a year or two part time to do the previous steps justice, but that is what it takes to reach the promised land of a football journalism job.