Zoe Foster talks beauty writing

Posted November 21st, 2012 by in

She’s enjoyed ten years working in the beauty industry. She’s had an outstanding magazine career and worked for publications including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, primped.com.au and Mamamia. And she is an award-winning novelist.

She is Zoe Foster.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Zoe at a beauty workshop held by Revlon at Myer, Melbourne. I took the opportunity to have a chat to her about her career as a beauty journalist.

Beauty guru Zoe Foster speaking at the Revlon/Myer makeup workshop. | Photo: Sharon Green

Beauty guru Zoe Foster speaking at the Revlon/Myer makeup workshop. | Photo: Sharon Green

When Zoe first started out in her journalism career she did not know that she wanted to be a beauty writer. She studied media and communications at university and on graduating she landed her first magazine gig at kid’s title Mania, before moving on to Smash Hits. She was then approached by Mia Freedman and asked to work as a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, which Zoe says came about in an interesting way. “The reason Mia hired me was very telling – she said ‘you don’t know anything about this [beauty] and that’s going to bring a great tone to the magazine’.”

Zoe admits that this was the best way to start out with beauty writing, by knowing nothing about it at all, because it forced her to research harder and find out more about products. From her experience working in magazines, Zoe unveiled her passion for beauty and her willingness to share that information with others.

“I started my blog Fruity Beauty back in 2005, and blogging was very primitive back then. But it seemed to me like a good way to have a one-on-one conversation with women, because you learn so much as a beauty editor. You meet so many experts in the field and you learn so much. I just didn’t find there was enough space in the magazine [to explore all of this] so I took it online. You’re learning, you’re learning, you’re learning and as you go, you change what you think about things. So you’ve got to pick and choose what you think works for you.”

For those wanting to break into beauty writing Zoe advises keeping on top of the latest beauty trends, and attending makeup workshops and events is a great way to start. She recommends speaking to makeup artists as they are an excellent resource that aspiring beauty writers have access to at a makeup/beauty counter or at a department store. “A makeup artist can teach you so much, if you just sit down and have your makeup done. There are so many things you can learn from them.”

Zoe also believes it is vital to stay abreast with what is happening in the beauty industry. “Just keep writing. And keep reading – there are so many good blogs out there that you can read. To be a good writer, you’ve got to be a good reader.”

Me with the lovely Zoe Foster. | Photo: Sharon Green

Me with the lovely Zoe Foster. | Photo: Sharon Green

Following an exciting career working in magazines, Zoe seems to have carved her niche. She’s forged her own path, made a name for herself, and is now enjoying working on independent projects. “I’m always writing. I’m writing my sixth book at the moment. I’ve always wanted to have a column and write books and I’ve finally moved that way. So beauty is something I do for fun now. I write on Fruity Beauty and just have fun with it.”

Her book Amazing Face is a bible documenting all the tips and tricks Zoe has learned as a result of working in the beauty industry. “I wanted to realign how everyone was thinking about beauty. And it’s kind of got me back to basics. But a lot of women just need to get back to basics.”

But what is it about Zoe that makes her so likeable? Her quirky writing style, bubbly personality and impressive career undoubtedly have a lot to do with it. And, perhaps, the fact that she is taking things in her stride and is, as she puts it, “just having fun with it”.

Findings from the 2011 Freelance Industry Report

Posted September 15th, 2011 by in

Source: 2011 Freelance Industry Report by Ed Gandia

The 2011 Freelance Industry Report was released this month and shows some interesting findings about the nature of the profession. As most of my readers know, I have written about freelance journalism in the past and the topic has remained of interest to me. While the data in this report reflects the US freelance market, there’s no reason why we can’t learn a thing or two from the information gathered regardless of our geographical location. In a nutshell, I have put together a summary of the major findings with a specific focus on freelancing across the journalism and editorial spaces:

 

> Who are freelancers and what do they do?
Interestingly, writers composed the biggest professional category of freelancers (18%), followed by copywriters (12%) and editors/copyeditors (6%). Of the survey respondents, 72% of freelancers were based in North America, 13% lived in Europe, 6% lived in Asia and 3% were from South America. Australia accounted for only 1.2% of respondents while 0.3% of respondents were from Oceania.

While the freelancing profession attracted a wide age range, from teens through to people in their 60s, the largest represented group in the survey was the 30-39 year old segment (28%), closely followed by those in their 40s (25%) and 50s (24%).

An overwhelming ninety per cent of freelancers work from home while almost 8% work either in a private office away from home or in a shared work environment.

 

> What are the biggest challenges facing freelancers today?
Twenty two per cent of participants said finding clients was their biggest challenge. Interestingly, obstacles such as getting paid on time (4%) and competing against lower-cost freelancers (3%), which are commonly cited as having reached alarming levels, were not among the top-ranking concerns for freelancers in 2011. Looking deeper into the data, copywriters (32%), cited that they were more likely to struggle finding clients than peers in other fields. Staying productive is also a big concern for writers (13%) and editors named “getting out of the feast-or-famine cycle” as a top challenge. European (26%) and African (25%) freelancers cited finding clients as a top challenge while maintaining work/life balance is a top issue for freelancers in Oceania (50%).

 

> How do freelancers find work and source clients?
Freelancers cited the most effective methods for sourcing and landing work was via word of mouth (23%), referrals, and tapping into their own personal and professional networks (17%). Online job boards (9%) such as Elance and oDesk ranked above networking (7%), social media (3%) and cold-calling (2%).

“When it comes to clients, the overwhelming majority of freelancers (75%) go after businesses. However, 16% work mainly for individual consumers, 6% work for non-profits, 2% pursue government work and 1% focus on associations.”

 

Source: 2011 Freelance Industry Report

 

> Fact: Freelancers are more satisfied with their lifestyle
Forty-eight per cent of freelancers have more free time now than they did as an employee and 59 per cent are happier now than they were before becoming self-employed. In fact, 54 per cent said that they wouldn’t even consider working as an employee again, regardless of what the job paid or what it entailed. But don’t be fooled, freelancers are hardworking professionals. One-third of them work more than 40 hours per week and another 26% work 31-40 hours per week.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents said they chose to freelance to have more freedom and flexibility, while 21% said it was mostly about following their passion. Almost 16% said they wanted to be their own boss. Interestingly, almost half of the respondents reported having more free time as a freelancer. Fifty-nine per cent of writers and fifty-seven per cent of copywriters reported getting the most free time after going solo.

 

> Freelancers earn healthy rates for their work.
Although the range varies widely, 45% of freelancers earn between $20-59 per hour. Furthermore, 26% earn $80 or more per hour and 17% earn $100 or more per hour. When it comes to pricing and billing for their services, 60% of freelancers quote and charge flat project fees. One-third bill by the hour, 5% work mostly on retainer and 1.7% employ more creative performance-based models. Hourly rates vary however, writers (18%) and editors/copyeditors (22%) cited earning between the $50-59 per-hour range while copywriters fell into the $100-150 per-hour range.

 

> Social media ranks as top tactic for freelancers
In the coming year, freelancers plan to engage in social media (46%), utilise their own personal/professional networks (46%) and encourage more business via word of mouth (43%). It’s interesting to see social media climb to the top of this list for future marketing plans – perhaps an indication of its value when it comes to self-promotion, exposure and using innovative ways to source clients?

To download a free copy of the 2011 Freelance Industry Report, visit: http://www.internationalfreelancersday.com/2011report/

Creating an online presence: tools for journalists

Posted June 9th, 2011 by in

Launching your online presence. Image credit: lapideo

The launching your online presence session at the Walkleys 2011 Freelance Conference looked at how freelance journalists can create and maintain a successful online presence. The panel discussed effective use of social media platforms and how you can harness it for story ideas as well as important things to consider when using online tools to market yourself and your services.

Renee Barnes, an online journalism lecturer at RMIT, opened the session with a look at the top online tools used by journalists. Renee said it’s important for journalists to understand the online world because this is where the industry is heading, and in order to understand it, we must operate in it. Here are her top 6 online tools to assist with your day-to-day job as a journalist:

1. Twitter
Connection and engagement are key. Twitter enables journalists to tap into a huge network of other journalists, editors and potential sources. It also allows you to create and build your own audience. Twitter can be used to find stories and leads but can also be used as an effective marketing tool to drive readers to your stories.

2. Google Reader
Subscribe to RSS feeds and keep up to date with all your favourite blogs with Google Reader. Renee referred to Google Reader as her “personal media monitoring service” because rather than visiting hundreds of different websites each day, you can have them all delivered to one site.

3. Delicious
Also known as social bookmarking. It works in conjunction with Google Reader in that it saves stories and static websites to one account. It eliminates a large list of browser favourites and can be accessed from any computer. Renee said the most important feature is being able to save the bookmarks under relevant tags so they can be easily searched at a later time.

4. Flickr
The image sharing service could prove invaluable for freelance journalists seeking licensed images to use alongside blog posts and articles. It’s also a great tool to get high resolution images to editors without overloading their inbox.

5. Linked In
In it’s essence, Linked In is an online CV. But it’s real value lies in the ability to keep in contact with previous and future professional contacts in your field.

6. WordPress
A free blogging platform that is really easy to use. It allows you to create a blog and therefore an online presence in a few minutes. Now there’s no excuse not to be online!

Renee has complied a more comprehensive look at how the above online tools can assist freelance journalists: A journalist’s guide to developing an online presence

Editor-in-chief and founder of Anthill James Tuckerman, shared four key tips for journalists and content creators looking to develop an online venture. If starting anything online, Tuckerman suggests making it:

>Measureable: Don’t do anything online unless it can be measured. Measurement tools and metrics allow you to constantly improve what you do online. This largely refers to tracking web traffic, and learning how to produce more traffic via out-going links, for example.

>Findable: Your website or online presence needs to be easily found via search engines so building Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics into everything you do is crucial for developing and maintaining your online presence. According to Tuckerman, 40% of traffic comes directly from Google searches.

>Shareable: Gain an understanding of social networking tools to grow your freelance business. Make it really easy for your readers or your audience to share your links and content. Provide social media sharing buttons on your stories and blog posts so it makes it simple for your readers to share your content quickly. Get your followers to assist with your marketing efforts through online sharing.

> Manageable: Tuckerman said we need to create processes to automate our online activities, especially if you are someone who has several social media accounts and a website. Use available tools and technology to save time and help you with managing your online presence.

Do you agree with the above points? Are there other online tools that journalists can benefit from using?

Successful freelancing: tips and advice from freelance journalist Leon Gettler

Posted May 31st, 2011 by in

Image credit: Walkleys

About a week ago I attended the Walkleys Cash for Content: 2011 Freelance Journalism Conference. I tweeted live from the event and subsequently received numerous requests from my followers to write a blog post on what I had learned from the conference. Given that the day covered a lot of ground, I’ve decided to stick to key points and discussions about making it as a freelance journalist. This is the first post from a small series I will write based on information shared at the conference.

I found the keynote address by Leon Gettler one of the most valuable sessions at the conference. With six blogs to manage, fortnightly columns to write, a weekly podcast and two books to his name, Leon is one of Australia’s most successful freelancers. So I figured taking on board some of his advice would be a good move.

Here are some key points Leon advises for successful freelancing:

  • Don’t work for free. “There are no freebies when you freelance. You charge and you charge as much as you can,” says Leon Gettler.
  • Freelancers need a niche. Define yourself in the freelance writing market. Your niche can still be broad (such as business writing) but it is important to establish yourself in the industry as a journalist with a specialist background of some kind.
  • Approach freelancing with a business mind. Being a freelance journalist is not all about doing the writing. If you’re a freelancer, you’re effectively running your own small business.
  • Manage your admin. Send an invoice with every completed story and make sure it includes your name, Australian Business Number (ABN), home/office address, bank details, and your terms of trade (e.g. payment required within 14 days etc)
  • Make life easy for your editor. Pitch interesting and new ideas. Give them stories they can’t get anybody else to do.
  • Maintain relationships. Communicate with your editors frequently; don’t leave them in the dark then expect them to offer you ongoing work/commissions.
  • Embrace multimedia. This is a growing area and large corporations are willing and prepared to pay a lot for digital and multimedia content. See if your skills can be used across multiple platforms including blogs, podcasts, videos and online content.
  • Discipline is key. Set up a schedule for yourself to stay productive, meet deadlines and have a routine. Use to-do lists. Give yourself deadlines if one hasn’t been stipulated. Discipline is a key requirement for freelancers. If you don’t get this right your freelancing career will fail.
  • All about volume. Freelancing is very much a ‘volume game’. It’s all about how much work you can get in the pipeline and sustaining it.
  • Allow for quiet periods. January is typically a very slow month for media in Australia. Therefore, expect to receive little work during this month. Have a back up fund for this time of year and other quiet work periods.
  • Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t miss deadlines. Got it?
  • Be flexible. Only work for less where an organisation can promise to give you ongoing or regular work. For example, frequent work at a lower pay rate will be more worthwhile in the long run than infrequent higher paying work.
  • Be prepared to work very hard. Freelancing is not for those seeking an easy or leisurely career. Leon says some of his hardest working years have occurred while freelancing.

Is this advice from Leon useful? If you have any helpful tips for successful freelancing then please share them by posting a comment below.

Fashion Torque: a discussion about fashion journalism

Posted March 15th, 2011 by in

Fashion Torque's Jenny Bannister and Philip Boon. Image credit: Fashion Torque

I finally managed to get to a Fashion Torque event last week for the first time. I was waiting for a topic of interest to come up and thought fashion journalism was quite possibly the best combination of two interests I am equally passionate about.

Held at the back room of Globe Café in Prahran, the event presented an intimate discussion centred on the topic of fashion journalism hosted by fashion designer Jenny Bannister and stylist Philip Boon. The event also attracted two guest panelists – both fashion journalists working in Melbourne. The Herald Sun’s Fashion Editor Anna Byrne and Style Melbourne’s Sarah Willcocks were both there to tell us about their journey through a career in fashion journalism.

 

L-R: Jenny Bannister, Sarah Willcocks, Anna Byrne. Image credit: Business Chic

Anna Byrne began her journalism career by studying a professional writing and editing degree at Deakin University. When she completed her studies, she decided to take a year off to travel and freelance and found herself writing for mylusciouslife.com which launched her into the world of fashion writing. After completing a month-long internship at the Herald Sun, Anna kept in touch with contacts at the paper for months before a role came up that gave her the opportunity to do journalism full time. She also did a stint of volunteering backstage at fashion week to add to her fashion credibility.

Sarah Willcocks encountered a rather different experience prior to entering fashion journalism. She studied a media degree at La Trobe University before writing for The Scene, an online lifestyle publication. About two years ago she started Style Melbourne, her very own online magazine focusing on Melbourne fashion and designers. She notes that while it’s great to follow fashion coverage from Milan, Paris and New York, she felt there was nothing highlighting the talent and emerging designers in her own city. “Style Melbourne fills a niche,” she said. Sarah’s writing career has also leaned towards a lot of copywriting because, she admits, this is an area that tends to pay. “A lot of online start ups can’t pay,” she noted.

Philip Boon leads the discussion on fashion journalism. Image credit: Business Chic

In terms of breaking into the industry and building name for yourself, both Anna and Sarah note that networking has been vital in driving their career. Sarah said she was invited to fashion week where she sat next to an editor who later hired her writing services, while Anna mentioned the importance of connecting with readers and industry insiders via social networks as a way to keep in touch.

Anna suggests that those wanting to break into fashion journalism should start by simply attending events where you can network, meet people within the industry and gather business cards. “Fashion is not just about the writing, it’s about doing the hard work and socialising. So little of my time is actually spent writing the story,” she adds.

What about the big question about working for free that plagues so many breaking into what is a competitive industry, especially nowadays where anyone can publish on the internet? Anna suggests getting the unpaid work out of the way as early into your career as possible, such as when you are still completing your studies. But there does come a time when doing unpaid work must stop, notes Sarah: “When people are approaching you to work for them for free… that’s where you draw the line.”

Sarah Willcocks (middle) and Anna Byrne (far right) share details about their journalism career. Image credit: Business Chic

Both girls work quite differently even though they are essentially doing a similar job; Anna works within the constraints of limited newspaper space and catering to a mass commercial audience across a specific demographic while Sarah caters to a niche group of online readers who are often time-poor. Sarah also oversees more aspects of the role as editor of Style Melbourne and is responsible for everything from story selection to the writing, editing and proofing of content as well as ensuring her SEO is up to scratch to guarantee her website returns results that rank high on Google.

Of course, there’s also the question around main stream media and blogging that entered the conversation – something that is becoming more prevalent among fashion circles. Anna believes readers and advertisers will always need main stream media and that there will always be a need for printed publications because they are tactile and readers love looking at glossy fashion pages. Sarah notes that there is a lot of talk surrounding how fashion blogging has become a threat to traditional forms of fashion media but says that both can co-exist independently because they are two separate products. Sarah notes that while there are fashion bloggers (like former newspaper journalist Patty Huntington) offering new and valuable information directly from the industry, there are very few bloggers offering “top notch, investigative and original content.”

While the discussion wasn’t ground-breaking, it did offer an insight into an aspect of the fashion industry. As a journalist myself, who has done a fair share of fashion reporting, I was hoping to discover something a little more innovative about the workings of the industry or how to secure your first break in the industry.  The discussion did however, offer those new to the industry an idea about what to expect, the nature of the job and some challenges encountered along the way.

Fashion Torque is held every Thursday evening at Globe Café in Prahran. Details, visit: www.facebook.com/FashionTorqueShow or http://twitter.com/fashiontorque

Images thanks to Business Chic