Did you know there is such a person as a “removalist”? – and I don’t mean someone who helps you pack up your house and move on. No, a removalist is someone who specializes in cleaning up your internet presence. Your digital footprint can help or harm you in your career.
According to some surveys, the majority of employers will search Google for background on prospective employees before interviewing them.
That could be scary for someone who posts regularly on social media and doesn’t mind their p’s and q’s. Here’s the advice from one American legal firm called MincLaw:
How to Maintain Your Digital Footprint
Delete unprofessional content
Create a personal or professional website or blog
Share relevant industry news and articles via social media
Keep all online posts and comments positive
Use proper grammar and punctuation
Review your privacy settings
Stop and think before you post
Create a Google Alert for your name
De-index dead links and outdated content from search results
A removalist seeks out your damning digital records and erases them from history.
Or that’s the plan.
To be realistic, the internet has an infinite memory, and so efforts to scrub your reputation squeaky clean may ultimately fail. Tucked away in the recesses of some forgotten twitter controversy your words condemn you. Stored in some maniacal databank is your entire life of sin, for sale to any bidder who wants to know.
I came across the term removalist while figuring out how to build a new training course that I’ve decided to call Media Freelancing. As recently as a decade ago it might still have been called Freelance Journalism but the internet has transformed what self-employed writers do. We are now media producers.
All my working life I’ve regarded myself as a journalist, and since the 1990’s I’ve been freelancing. Writing for the press and magazines began to decline. Some time ago I changed direction. When I really looked at what I do for money (and love), I realised that most of my work is not really classical journalism at all. It’s media work covering some strange combinations of blogging, teaching, researching, ghost writing, tourism marketing, news release writing, website development, tweeting and writing advisory emails to people who can’t afford to pay for useless tips.
(All my attempts to advise would-be authors of the Great South African Novel have failed. This is because I have only three words for them: Write, Write, and Write. It is a true fact of literary composition that if you tell someone what you aim to write you will never write it.)
So, to journalism.
I’m not afraid of what’s on the internet about me, in fact, I welcome it. My presence is the basis of the work I get these days.
Most of what I do is light years away from the role of the hallowed Watchdog on Government, the champion of the Fourth Estate, the Press as Opposition. Been there, done that.
Yet it takes journalism skills to succeed in the diverse multitasking fields where the media freelance feeds and hopefully thrives. Without experience in reporting and sub-editing, news-gathering and interviewing, questioning and doubting, creating and crap-detecting, one can’t really stitch together the threads of a modern media career.
When I look at the work I do it’s none of IT PR and all of it digging for meaning and insights. What follows is the packaging online to deliver knowledge to users who don’t want fluff. Optimizing the text for search engines, developing meta-paragraphs (what we used to call “blurbs”), and placing links where they will be found is all part of the job. There are, of course, lots of other skills sets that make up media freelancing today.
I just love the term removalist and have been thinking of other neologisms to describe what I and many other recycled journos do for a living. What about clickist for planting so many links in so many places that users must finally click to discover who’s behind it?
I like fadulation. This describes the craft of turning someone into a celebrity by placing them at the head of the latest fad. As promotional ideas go I may give that a try, I just need a fad and a faddist to serve with glittering words.
No! There’s too much worthwhile work out there to waste time on rubbish. Contrary to the doomsayers who think journalism is dead, there’s much to do in media.
The online course in Media Freelancing delves into the real ways and means whereby one can make an income from a bundle of word skills. My job as an editorial trainer has always involved teaching how to ferret out the facts and cast them in simple language. That’s the basic thing about all the specialities that make up the freelance’s brace of skills.
There’s more, most of it digital. For example, one can be a freelance internet presence manager. This takes know-how in collating the many channels ranging from Instagram to Tik-Tok, Wikipedia to Google Scholar. In cyberspace, there are whole continents of floating information that the average person scarcely touches.
In the old days, freelance journalism involved finding great ideas, pitching them at editors, writing the piece with lots of color and surprises, enjoying it in print (or broadcast format), and happily billing for the work.
A lot has changed.
The target is seldom any longer an editor but someone needing media services. They often seek you out rather than you them. The people who come to me want topics researched and written up that are content-rich and fascinating to pursue.
One must use social media to promote one’s services and personal brand. That’s part of media freelancing. Far from wanting to be removed digitally, it’s vital to stay visible.