Hi Faye, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Firstly, can you tell our readers about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
I’m a freelance journalist working in print and broadcast, across both news and sport, and love the variety each week brings. After completing Cardiff University’s postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism, I started my career reporting for daily regional newspapers, which gave me a great insight into pretty much everything in news and sport.
I then moved into broadcasting to work as a producer and reporter for the BBC, which I now balance with writing for various football-related publications, sports-related PR work and writing and editing live football match blogs online.
When did you know you wanted to work in football?
I had a really inspirational teacher at school who told us: “find something you love doing and find someone to pay you to do it”. I knew I wanted to spend my life travelling the world watching sport, so journalism seemed the best way to be paid to do it.
Can you explain what a ‘typical’ week looks like?
I usually have deadlines to meet for articles I’ve pitched to magazines or websites and a mixture of day and evening shifts reporting or producing for BBC local radio and writing online blogs on live football games. My sports-related BBC work tends to involve interviews at more of a grassroots or non-league level, whereas the live blogs are at the other end of the scale, covering the highest levels of European and international football, so it’s a real mix. Football at any level produces drama and inspirational stories and I love the variety and characters you meet along the way.
I also manage the PR for a football charity and we have a big tournament coming up next month, so I’m currently busy coordinating the press coverage for that as well.
When you decided to go freelance, what were the initial challenges or worries you faced?
Before becoming a mum, I always had continuing contracted jobs in journalism because I wanted stability. But now, I’m fitting work in around family life — freelancing gives me the flexibility I need to take on opportunities that don’t sacrifice my time with my children. I find I’m at my most productive in the evenings, so tend to do a lot of my writing and interviews then as I’m in control of my own schedule. When I left my last contracted position to go freelance, I did worry about how challenging and time-consuming finding sufficient work would be. But now I have a few regular roles I can rely on for shifts and assignments, my main concern is ensuring I don’t take on too much. As a freelancer, it’s tempting to say yes to everything as you want to be reliable and available so you carry on being considered for future work. But it’s important to say no sometimes to ensure you can give 100 per cent to each role you do without spreading yourself too thinly.
How do you generally go about finding new work/clients?
Social media is a great place to find freelance work, especially LinkedIn and X, where there are dedicated accounts sharing opportunities. I also subscribe to a few freelancing newsletters that do a lot of the hard work for you — including Freelance Football Opps, through which I’ve successfully found work writing blogs and articles for a few different outlets.
Networking is really important in journalism and I am part of various forums and groups that are great for contacts and story ideas. You never know when a connection you make could turn out to be a valuable one and a lot of opportunities have come my way through chance conversations that turned into something unexpected. As a student, I did work experience at the Sunday Times Sport and one of the days I was sent to shadow the legendary football writer Brian Glanville in the press box at Upton Park. He was so inspiring and supportive and when I thanked him at the end of the match, I remember him saying how important he felt it was to give everyone he encountered his time and attention on their way up, as there’s a good chance they might one day become his boss. That really stuck with me and I’ve always believed that if people respect your work and enjoy your company, you’ll be remembered and opportunities will come your way in return.
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far in your career? Any standout projects or memories you wish to share?
There have been many “pinch me” moments when I’ve felt extremely lucky to call what I do a job. Covering events like the Olympic Games, Champions League and Ryder Cup are all up there and, although I’m 16 years into my career, I’m still breaking new ground doing some things for the first time now — like reading out the classified football results on the radio. But I think my biggest achievement has been getting back into working in the media after taking several years out to have children and go through breast cancer treatment. I wasn’t sure how much of an impact the break would have on my career, but I’ve very much managed to pick up where I left off, with renewed confidence, and the experience has motivated me to achieve all the ambitions I feared I might not have the chance to fulfil when I was diagnosed with cancer.
Who are your favourite football writers/journalists at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?
Henry Winter is one of my favourite football writers and, as a broadcaster, I enjoy watching Kelly Somers, who always develops a brilliant rapport with the players and managers she interviews, and Laura Woods for her sense of humour, which she always brings into her warm and relaxed presentation style. I’m very much an advocate of “seeing is believing” and, growing up as a girl aspiring to work in football journalism, there were nowhere near as many female role models in the mainstream sports media as there are today. Gabby Logan and Sue Mott were two of the few prominent women I had to look up to. So it’s an incredibly positive evolution that now young girls can regularly see women as football presenters and pundits on television, hear them commentating on the radio and read their words in the press. There’s a visible career path there for them to pursue if they want to — regardless of their gender.
What general advice would you give to individuals looking to pursue a similar career path as yours?
If you have the time and capacity to, volunteer your time to work out what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Non-league football clubs are a great place to learn on the job — writing match reports, updating social media during games and editing videos and photos. If there’s a big sporting event coming up you can get to, see if they need volunteers to help run their media operations. When I was starting out, I sought out paid jobs or voluntary roles at events in everything from athletics and tennis to rowing and triathlon and have amazing memories of summers spent working at Wimbledon and chilly January afternoons stewarding at football stadiums. The best thing about being a press volunteer at big events is you usually get the best view in the house and opportunities to help coordinate interview zones and press conferences, so it can give a great insight into sports journalism on the biggest stage. The other thing I’d advise is to always be open-minded and not hold back from applying for work you might not tick all the boxes for. Going outside your comfort zone is the only way you are going to develop your skill set and widen your experience to open up more opportunities in the future.
Can you share 3 useful tools or resources which you find helpful to fulfil your role?
3) Explore the careers of successful sports journalists through reading their biographies and listening to podcasts like Alison Bender’s Talent Takes Time.
Working in sport can be hectic, so what do you do to switch off outside of work?
As well as enjoying time with my family, I love exercising, DIY (we are currently renovating our house — very slowly…) and watching sport (it’s impossible to switch off from it when you’re a fan as well).
And finally, Faye, where can people find you on social media to connect?
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