I am always fascinated to read and learn about people’s careers.
I, by trade, am a graphic designer, although I now term myself a portfolio career person. I am a designer, writer, blogger and, on occasion, lecturer. I trained as a designer and the front end of my career was as a designer but I have never been happy staying put in that box. I evolved from designer to dual roles as Senior Designer/Business Development Manager and began to reach out tentatively to include writing PR pieces for the agency I worked for under that role as my MA in Design Management renewed my passion for getting words down.
I reached a crunch point in my career when I had a turning point just before I hit 30. I had a nervous breakdown, something I talk openly about here on the blog as it served as a pivotal moment in my life in so many ways. Whilst I had the great job, the great flat, the boyfriend and the money in London, I had begun dreaming of a way to work on my own, to be my own boss and I didn’t know how to make that leap. Well, sometimes the universe does it for you. When you are left with nothing after leaving said job, boyfriend, flat, and life in London, you can pretty much do anything you wish.
I don’t for one moment assume that anyone’s career should take as drastic a turn as mine, it just so happened to be that way. I will do other posts on how I developed other aspects of my career, but I am often asked how the heck a graphic designer starts getting writing commissions. Well, it went like this.
I realised, thanks to my MA that I am a geek and I love writing. I began to submit ideas for article for a now defunct website called Nuts4chic.com. Sadly the site is no longer up and I don’t have records of my articles, but I began to write, unpaid, some pieces on consumer trends and culture to cut my teeth. When my first articles went live I was so pleased; I had no idea about guest posting, how I could have had a blog to build my own traffic, blah blah…I was just starting to learn.
At this time my old employers kindly kept me on writing PR and case studies for the design agency I worked for previously so I was getting more experienced writing copy in a different arena from editorial pieces too.
With some published web articles now under my belt I began to write for Le Cool. I have written for them ever since (unpaid) simply for the benefits of working with great people, being in the loop of what is going on, and the practice of writing. I used to keep a blog which served as my published clips portfolio, but sadly got rid of it a while ago, as most links were out of date. However, you can see some of my old Le Cool articles here, here and here to get an idea.
Around this time I also began to write for Se7en Magazine, again unpaid, and again to learn more about writing. One of my old posts I saved here on the blog from a sure archive death (note to self, keep copies for ref).
With more articles now under my belt from Le Cool, Se7en and Nuts4chic I now began to pitch ideas to editors and make myself known as a writer. It still seemed incredulous to do this, but I had ideas and some tangible proof, so why not?
At this stage, I should point out, writing was never my only income stream, as I was still working as a freelance designer ( and still run my agency so I don’t write full time at all), and I would hate to imply that suddenly hey presto I was writing and earning a fortune, but I was gaining momentum.
So, I made contact with Daily Candy and was thrilled to start working with them, writing maybe 4 or 5 articles a month. It was never going to pay the bills but I loved writing for Daily Candy and again, it’s good practise for coming up with pitch ideas and writing to a style. I still contribute for them from time to time but as they are so huge getting the right ideas in is getting harder and harder.
Around this time I began to blog. I was fascinated with Belle du Jour and the blog phenomenon – we were all wondering who she was at that stage – and as I was at a key stage of change in my life I started to document this journey under Leap and the net will appear – the diary of a leaper. Sadly, a year or two in I deleted the blog as at the time I was nervous of my personal life affecting my writing opportunites (oh, how the oversharing times change!). The blog was on Blogger, and in those heady MySpace days before Twitter and Facebook, was kind of like writing in a void. I wish I had kept it up for posterity, but hey, I dabbled a bit and left it at that.
I also at this time worked on copy for the lovely brand Floris, a contact through a friend and colleague who recommended me, and suddenly being paid – actually paid – to write for real proper money had happened. Odd. But great.
I took on a lot more on site freelance design work for the next year or so ( you know, to eat and stuff), but carried on writing for Le Cool and Daily Candy. I became re-inspired again to get some travel pieces in print after going on a series of short trips to Milan, Rome, New York, Barcelona and Budapest, which re-ignited my creative spark for travel writing pieces.
I pitched an article idea in Summer 2007 to Easyjet magazine, and it got commissioned straight away. Not only that, but it was the centre spread which was fantastic. You can download the article here if you want to see my first ever centre spread editorial glory: p66-70 PhotostoryIbizaRocksLM
I have been trying to find the original pitch email to share with you as it’s often helpful to see what worked, but I have been over zealous with my Gmail deletion recently to save space so I am afraid I can’t. Sending the pitch was easy; I had a strong idea about an interesting story so I wrote the first paragraph, bullet pointed how the rest would go and sent it off to the editor by email.
It has often been the case in that instance and in other cases since, that the ideas that come instinctively and that I send off without over thinking them or trying too hard get commissioned straight away. The others that are too laboured or over-thought just don’t work.
I continued to work on and off with the travel magazine guys at Ink Publishing whenever my ideas got commissioned for the next 3 years and I still occasionally think of a story and bat it over. If you are in the least bit interested, here are more travel articles here, here and here.
In 2008 I had some time away from on-site jobs due to endometriosis (same old story), so I was at home and turned to writing a lot more. I did my first piece for my lovely buddy Cate at BitchBuzz,com (which I have since written for extensively in 2010 and 2012), and was Arts Editor for Open Magazine (now Culture Compass) for a while. I also guested on We Heart and continued to write for Le Cool, all the above unpaid, but all keeping me in the loop of events and culture, meeting great people and building PR relationships.
In 2009 I had twins, so was a little bit busy with newborns, and came back to work in 2010 when I founded Cherry Sorbet and began blogging again as The Scoop. I have since found real solace in sharing my journeys here in Dexterous Diva in it’s current form, so with the Cherry Sorbet site, Dex Diva and the Mini Divas I have a few blogging plates to spin, and I absolutely love it.
I would recommend any writers wanting to get started to blog. It gets you writing regularly, builds an audience and makes your mark on the web.
Stick at it, I only wish I still had my 2006 archives to show you and see how far I have come.
Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas to editors to get a story out there. They can only say no, or nothing at all, but you will learn what works and make so much progress in the process.
I guess my moral of the story is to have courage, do what you do and keep at it. The commissions will come in time.
I hope my little journey helps.