• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight On - Freddie Paxton

This week at Spotlight, we got the opportunity to speak to Freddie Paxton, Sports Journalist, Mentor and Marketer at WOAW, who told us about dealing with impostor syndrome and learning from the success of others.

I work as a sports journalist and also have a full-time position in the really exciting and growing space that is personal branding. On the personal branding front, I work for an exciting company called WOAW with a group of the nicest people you could wish to meet, where I am being given the opportunity to use my skills and expertise to have a direct impact on the growth of the business.

I’ve always been keen on mentoring and have recently had the chance to put that into practice thanks to an initiative which was brought to my attention at work. Working with other young people to help them make better decisions when they’re at college / sixth form is something I’m really passionate about, so I’m excited to continue with this over the next academic year.

What is your biggest influence?

I’ve always been a naturally entrepreneurial person, setting up a couple of ventures including a successful tuition business when I was younger. I have been incredibly fortunate to grow up with the influence of someone so hard-working and supportive as my mum. From a young age, I learned the importance of grafting and going the extra mile, and I’m motivated by how proud she is when I achieve something.

Those experiences equipped me with the tools I needed to fend for myself professionally and subsequently allowed me to build a name for myself and an extensive portfolio in journalism - which is an incredibly crowded space - despite not having the qualifications that others do.

Have You Had Any Setbacks?

On a general note, a set back that I’ve faced is impostor syndrome. Being a young guy it can be difficult to shake the niggling feeling that you’re not going to be well received. Why would this world famous person give me their time? Why would anyone with so much more experience want to listen to me? That’s one thing.

In regards to working as a journalist, you tend to face a lot of distrust from people - in my case from footballers and their agents - who are unsure of your intentions. It leads to a lot of challenging situations as you can imagine. Holding myself to high standards and trying not to beat myself up when I don’t meet them is definitely challenging, especially as I’m someone who tends to overthink things and often it’s easy to dwell on where you’ve made a mistake, or failed to achieve something you were set on.

How Did You Overcome Them?

With regards to impostor syndrome, for me, it’s been all about trying to learn new techniques to help me mentally, to keep focus on what value I can add when I communicate with people. I try to take inspiration from people who made a name for themselves when they were young, and apply some of their tips to my own life.

Secondly, on the distrust issue, the key has been persistency and working on my communication skills. It’s easy to get discouraged but sticking at it has shown me that you can achieve what you want in time. Communicatively, I try to think about how I can adapt to different people and what I can say that they’ll resonate with. Recently, Sports journalism has suffered for obvious reasons so, in that sense, it’s been about being as creative as possible to create big stories and stay relevant.

What Is Your Advice To People Starting A Business?

This also applies to fending for yourself in a crowded industry - be industrious and network. If you get past the initial fear of putting yourself out there and talking to people, you’ll be surprised at how many opportunities will come your way. In both journalism and personal branding I get to tell the stories of highly successful people. This of course presents a really big learning opportunity for me which I relish and has been so helpful to me.

I’ve heard from a lot of really successful people that waiting until you feel ‘ready’ to start your business is where most people go wrong. You’re never going to truly feel ready to take such a big step because nothing is guaranteed, so it’s best to throw yourself into things that you’re passionate about. I think this is really important.

What Advice Would You Give To Those Starting Their Careers?

Be bold in your decisions and go with your gut feeling, think about ways you can be different from others, instead of looking to emulate the crowd. Seek comfort in the fact that you can do absolutely anything you want to and remember that people need to make their own mistakes.

Praise is just as important as constructive criticism, and that only a certain amount of information is digestible in one dose. I often come across people who seem to like the sound of their own voice more than the developmental aspect of leading a team of people, which is a shame.

Finally, I think when you’re managing a team, doing something that you can actually learn from is really important. I was never really much of a podcast person but I’ve started to get more into those, particularly ones focused on wellbeing. A lot of the pointers I’ve taken from pods like Feel Better Live More with Rangan Chatterjee have been invaluable.

Check out Freddie’s portfolio here, or to find out more about him, check out his Twitter. If you enjoyed Freddie’s blog, there’s lots more to read here.

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