The Shift: Issue #25

Finding freelance work; The rise of the media artisan; Creative Coalition 2020; Interview with TikTok star Kirsteen Atom. ⚡️

November’s NUJ meeting was on surviving and thriving as a freelancer – tips on finding new work and diversifying with trainers Louise Bolotin and Steve Mathieson. Steve works as a freelancer mainly on tech and government – both growth areas and runs data journalism and freelance courses. He’s had steady work during lockdown and has taught himself how to teach online.
In some ways, the world has been catching up with how many freelancers work, and arguably that has given us a head start. We are often used to working remotely.
Louise has worked for BBC Radio Manchester and launched a local news site. She now works as a sub-editor mostly, doing commercial editing work. She was laid off from her local paper just before lockdown and lost her commercial work so was left with nothing. She’s busy trying to bring work back and has invested in a new website, logo and training.
Most of it has involved spending my way out of the mire, on the basis that you sometimes need to spend a bit to earn a bit.
She pledged to do two things a day to find new work and her efforts have paid off – she was fully booked this month for the first time since March.
We had a huge turnout so there’s an appetite for practical sessions and knowledge sharing. I came away feeling inspired with a pile of stuff to read, see below – there’s a lot of digital work out there; it’s just a case of being persistent and putting yourself about.
It’s Project YOU: use this time to work on your business rather than in it.
- Paid B2B newsletters with job opps: The Professional Freelancer, Freelance Pitch Calls Patreon, Freelance Writing Jobs,, Write At Home.
- On freelancing: Out of Office, Borderland, The Friendly Freelancer, One Man and his Blog, The Hyphen.
- Free (or cheap) training: FEU training. “I can’t stress enough the brilliance of FEU courses and they’re free!” Louise did courses on cash flow & financial planning, and editing & proofreading with She’s running a course on Going Freelance on November 26. Also check out Udemy, LinkedIn, Open Classrooms, Future Learn, & Coursera.
- Online networks: Freelance Journalism Assembly offers free training and a community in Europe; Society of Freelance Journalists – a friendly support group for freelancers; Women in Journalism – events, training and a mentorship scheme which got one of our members a job on The Sunday Times.
- LinkedIn for Journalists – explains how to make the most of LinkedIn and you get a free upgrade to Premium for a year – InMails, free training, analytics, & newsletter feature (invite-only).
- Get pitching: Louise realised she hadn’t pitched for two years so got really active and wrote a piece for The Telegraph on not being able to see her husband during lockdown.
- Try freelancer platforms like Upwork. connects freelancers with brands. I use it for my portfolio but haven’t found work through it yet. See The New Rules for Pitching; Forget the Big Fish, Go for the Guppies to get more work; The Art of the Quick Turnaround.
- Join trade associations in your field – e.g. Medical Journalists’ Association collate requests for corporate work.
- Look after yourself: The, The Eisenhower Matrix, and @Headline_2020 for stress management, mental health & wellbeing. You are the business!


“Everyone has a Substack these days.” – Daniel Giacopelli, editorial director of Courier Media said recently. I can see why – it feels like the early days of blogging - low tech, ezine vibe, a growing community, direct relationship with your reader, and the chance to make some money. This week I’ve met several writers who are on the platform and subscribed to their newsletters.
It would be great to have some sort of collective so we can support each other – interviews, podcasts, sharing posts, ideas, resources etc. It seems to be male and pale at the top so it would be good to hear some diverse voices - see Q&A below with Kirsteen Atom. Email me if you fancy joining.
Gary Andrews – why journalists may have a big problem making money through newsletters (not as negative as you might think ;-)
The rise of the media artisan by Isabelle Roughol.
Man cannot live by newsletter alone – the realities of going solo as a journalist – Media Voices 🎧
Adam Tinworth on paid vs free offerings and a course on how to create compelling newsletters.


A 3-day festival bringing together the UK’s finest creators, makers, leaders and innovators at a time when we need it most, to reimagine, redefine and reignite our creative industries. I dipped in and out of this - lots of inspiring talks, panels, live performances, practical workshops and networking.
Highlights: a reading from George the Poet; Bruce Daisley on workplace culture and remote teamwork; tips on freelancing with Alison Grade, author of The Freelance Bible; Q&A with Sir Steve McQueen (Small Axe starts tonight); the culture of content creation with Netflix; the rise of TikTok – it’s reached 12.9 million UK adults in April, up from 5.4 million in January. You can read the highlights on their blog.


I interviewed Kirsteen Atom who’s taking over TikTok catfishing her catfish {& other stories}. Top tips on how to identify and deal with a catfish (& potentially any online scammer ;) and how to grow a following on the platform. Grab a coffee and settle in, it’s seriously addictive…
What inspired you to start Catfishing a Catfish on TikTok? 

I first started playing with catfish on Facebook. I had watched quite a few episodes of MTV’s catfish and found it fascinating. I realised the key factor in identifying them is how quickly they want to accelerate intimacy so that they can then start trying to get money out of you.
I’m usually quite a silly person, so when this guy seemed to be saying he was in love with me after four messages I just decided to play with him. I started saying ridiculous things to see if he would challenge them, but he didn’t. My Facebook friends joined in making suggestions of things to say and asking for updates.
It was my sister who suggested I film TikToks on my experiences. She is an author and active on TikTok and she said one day, ‘Why don’t you do a series on that time you catfished your catfish’ and I thought Why not?
You have almost 75k followers – how have you grown your following so quickly?
Cluelessly. I haven’t had any strategy. I had four followers before I posted the Catfishing content, largely because I hadn’t created any content. I posted the first six parts and woke up to 1000 followers.
I hadn’t used a caption or any hashtags at all. Over the next two days I uploaded all the ‘Mark’ catfishing stories and every day the views, likes and audience grew until it was up to nearly 40,000 followers in under a week.
I was shocked! It’s continued to grow but a lot slower and more steadily than the first big burst.
Who’s your audience?
They are mainly women – almost 90% are female. They are split between the UK and the US (with a smattering in Canada, New Zealand and Australia).
They have named themselves ‘blueberries’ in honour of one of the silly pet names I call catfish. (My little blueberry).
They tend to be from 20 to 60 and have either been scammed or had someone try to scam them in the past. They are really pleased to see the catfish get their comeuppance and they feel I’m doing service in educating people on how to identify and deal with catfish.
I respond to most comments on TikTok, and follow who I can, though that is becoming harder as my following grows.
Many of my followers have messaged me on Instagram or Facebook, as you can’t message anyone on TikTok unless they are following you.
I’ve got to know some of them very well – they turn up for Lives, when I go live on TikTok and write questions and comments for me.
They are great people – funny, intelligent, strong women.
Have you earned much? How does TikTok support creators? 
So far, not pots of gold. When you get to 10,000 followers you can join the creator fund, where you get small amounts of money depending on the activity on your posts. The number of views, how long they view, likes, comments and shares all contribute to what you earn.
In about six weeks I’ve earned nearly £150.
Once I reach 100,000 followers, I can join the TikTok marketplace. This is when sponsors can reach out to you if they are interested, and you can negotiate affiliate and marketing relationships. 
And the most creative catfish award goes to…?
The first catfish I catfished, Mark, was really fun. It was all new and I couldn’t believe the ridiculous things he believed. I told him he was my lobster (referencing Phoebe in Friends), that I collected porcelain dolls and that I needed a kidney. I dangled money in front of him and then snatched it away. When I finally revealed I knew all along he was a catfish he was very distressed, apologetic and worried I hated him!
In later conversations with catfish I’ve been telling them I’m a taxidermist and sharing the most dreadful examples of taxidermy I can find, including a buck-toothed hedgehog and a fox sitting on a chair.
I really enjoy that, and my blueberries send me pictures of taxidermy they find so that I can use them.
How will you grow the brand? Any projects in the pipeline or brands you'd like to work with? 
I have already launched my newsletter. I have nearly 500 subscribers in just one week. I have launched a Facebook group which is very busy and interesting. Women are posting their catfish stories and laughing together. I’m also starting a YouTube channel, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day!
I have started writing a book about my experience and am about to approach literary agents.
My blueberries got very excited when they found out that MTV Catfish is casting in the UK and begged me to apply. I have, though I don’t have the traditional type of story that they cover. After I applied a hoard of my followers went to the MTV UK Catfish page and told them in no uncertain terms that they should cast me!
Find her on TikTok @KirsteenAtom – let’s help her reach 100k followers.


BBC Scotland did a call out for freelancers who have had to do an automated interview where you’re asked questions online and you record your answers in reply. This is happening more now we’re all remote working. A friend of mine did one for a work coach role with the DWP. She did lots of prep, worked out what they would ask and gave concise answers – no time for waffle. She’s used to doing videos for her corporate work so it went well and she got the job. She said older, less tech-savvy colleagues would have struggled with it. Some tips on what video interviews involve and how to prepare.


Tonight: Small Axe, a new series of five films from Steve McQueen on collective struggle and black history – true stories and a celebration of friendship, family, food, & music.  
Hacks/Hackers London – a monthly gathering of journalists + technologists. Isabelle Roughol will be speaking about media artisans and growing Borderline on Weds 18th, 8 pm. Free and open to all, just register here.
I’ve joined the Journey Further book club for busy marketers – this week’s read is The Practice by Seth Godin. They’re hosting an all-day event on Thursday 19th, Clarity at Speed – bitesize talks from the sharpest minds in digital, startups and workplace culture. Seth Godin, Bruce Daisley, Anne Boden, & many more. Sign up here.

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