I currently work alongside trade body CEW(UK) which means that I get to attend most of their talks and events geared towards women working in the beauty industry. The latest was the ‘Freelancers Guide to Flourishing in Beauty’ held on Thursday, which saw freelance beauty journalists Beatrice Aidin, Bella Blissett and Sarah-Jane Corfield Smith talk about what it means to be a freelance beauty writer in a competitive and rapidly changing media industry. Here’s what they had to say…
With the global beauty industry estimated to be worth £378 billion and projected to grow by 29%, the question was raised as to whether the future of beauty is freelance. The numbers of independent professionals has grown in the UK by 63% between 2004-2013 and it seems now more than ever it is essential to differentiate between types of freelancers as well as bloggers.
Each journalist began by providing a brief overview of their career trajectories and identifying the differences between themselves. Financial Times writer Beatrice spent five years in New York before moving back to London and now specialises in ‘intelligent beauty’, luxury and interviews for the FT’s Style pages and How To Spend It. Bella’s foray into beauty writing came during her time at the London College of Fashion where she was encouraged to die her long, brown hair blonde for a feature to be published in the Evening Standard. Now she works from home combining her role as YOU magazine Beauty Columnist with freelance features. Sarah-Jane has had ten years’ experience in the industry and now freelances in various magazine offices for varying lengths of time, getting a unique view of their different functions and processes.
The first discussion revolved around pitching. Sarah-Jane identified that there were no definitive rules when pitching as a freelancer to an editor but that it can help if you demonstrate knowledge of who you are pitching to, any buzzwords or ideas the editor is known to like, the key brands in the title and most importantly, the readership of that title. The best type of pitch was agreed to be ‘short and sweet’ and can always be followed up by a gentle email or a phone call.
Sarah-Jane then moved onto the pitching process for PRs to journalists and recognised that it can be overwhelming for a PR to keep track of all freelancers’ movements. With this in mind, she said that it helps if freelancers are kept on all call-out/media lists and that the small things count, such as getting the name of the freelancer right and being honest in an email if unsure of their work. Again, she agreed that a gentle nudging email from a PR is acceptable but never to hound, as a writer will be sure to be in touch if they find a story interesting.
Bella then discussed the pragmatism of life as a freelance writer, stating that the most important facets are reliability and being able to develop good relationships within the industry. She acknowledged that everyone works differently so it becomes important to design your own structure that works best for you, for example, she works best earlier in the morning and enjoys changing her scenery and location depending on the type of feature she is writing. She also recommended a well-rounded work/life balance in order to keep calm, making sure to separate work and play time as even leisure time can inspire new ideas. She finished by stating that although freelancing can take a lot of energy, the benefits of being released from monotony, working on your own terms and being the master of your own life are worth it.
Beatrice finished the session by discussing the relationships with PR professionals, identifying that the best relationships work when there is integrity, respect, positivity and manners on both sides. Beatrice agreed that each writer works differently and that she herself prefers a phone call and setting up meetings rather than arranging interviews over email. In regards to press launches, she argued that prompt meetings in convenient locations no longer than thirty minutes are ideal, as well as one-to-ones. She believed it is important for a freelancer to notify ahead if they absolutely have to cancel and also to be clear about what coverage is going to be generated, especially with press trips. If an editor rejects a feature, she suggested that best practice is to notify the PR with as much information as possible with a PR respecting the decision. She finished with her maxim: ‘Always apologise, always explain’.