So, You Want To Be A Writer? Retail V Magazines

Sunday, 26 February 2017

I never thought I'd end up in the job I'm in today. I always knew I wanted to write, but I had my heart set on magazines. As a kid I used to make my own magazines out of folded A4 sheets and stickers, and as I grew older films like 13 Going on 30, Sex and the City and Devil Wears Prada only spurred me on. Some people watched Devil Wears Prada and shuddered at the thought of working for a Miranda Priestly, whereas all I could think about was how fabulous her coats and office were.  I worked so hard towards my goal, interning at all the big names I could and racking up contacts and portfolio experience for the day I graduated (in Journalism and Politics, FYI).

Skip forward 3 years and I work in fashion retail instead, in the Digital Content team. A totally different job which I had never considered, but I wish I had known that it existed when I was at uni because not only do I enjoy it, but it's a great alternative for someone who wants to be a fashion writer and can't break into the publishing industry.

 I thought I'd help out anyone who might find themselves in a similar position and is unsure of all the options available to them, as well as the pros and cons of each industry. (I wish I'd had a list like this when I was a graduate.)

Working in Retail...

  • Amazing sample sales
  • Broader experience - write blog posts, feature pages, magazine articles, catalogues, product descriptions, website copy, marketing emails, apps, social.... you'll be an expert writer across platforms
  • Nice hours - I'm in a very comfortable 9-5 - plenty of time for a social life!
  • Writing with a goal - you are ultimately there to sell product, and could be seen as a content marketer more than a writer
  • Stable career, especially if you're working in e-commerce-only companies like Boohoo, Missguided or ASOS. The future is digital, after all...
  • Male models to check out in reception if you're in a brand that sells menswear
  • Surrounded by all sorts of people, from marketers to buyers to finance guys 
  • Staff discount!
  • Generally terrible pay - I work evenings and weekends freelancing to try to keep up with London rent, so don't expect to have any disposable income at the start - but don't worry, you'll probably get enough free samples from work to keep your wardrobe in-season! 
  • Generally a bit easier (in my experience) to get an entry-level role as a retail writer if you have the work experience and portfolio to get you through that interview door
  • Lots of fab fashion events, especially if all your friends also work in retail. (They will - you will meet them all at talks, industry parties etc. The retail world is very incestuous!)

Working at Magazines...

  • Amazing freebies, pretty much all the time depending on what department you work in
  • Less structured hours - you might have to work weekends if you're at a shift job, and you'll be expected to attend and cover events in the evenings (not always a bad thing...) 
  • Writing for entertainment - you get to write for the pure love of writing and to entertain your readers. You are a real writer! (Ofc, you do still have to cover press releases etc too...)
  • Less stable career unless you go to a digital-only platform like Debrief - unfortunately less people are reading magazines now and they're losing the funding to carry on printing :( I advise to stick with digital
  • Celebrities! Interviews, photoshoots, and all sorts of other celeb-related joys 
  • Surrounded by creative minds everywhere - perfect for brainstorming
  • Press discount - this tops any staff discount card by a mile as you can use it loads of places and it's often pretty hefty
  • Generally even worse pay than retail unless you make it to a top-dog editor or director position.  On the plus side, you probably have enough industry contacts to comfortably freelance frequently for extra pennies if you want to
  • Impossible (in my experience) to get a job in unless you're Anna Wintour's daughter. No amount of internships, experience and contacts seem to be enough - it's currently a world that seems to revolve around nepotism. When you do get there though, it feels so well deserved!
  • Lots of amazing events, even more so than retail. You'll be invited to everything

  I hope this has helped paint a clearer picture of the opportunities available out there, and don't forget - if like me you do end up in Retail, the door is always open to pitch to magazines and freelance on the side, so you can have the best of both worlds if you just get a thrill from seeing your name in print.

If you want to take a peek at the sort of stuff I do in my day-to-day job and freelancing for a bigger picture, my portfolio is here

**I realise this post is slightly biased, which I couldn't really help in this instance... my final advice would be to get as much experience writing as you can whichever route you decide to go down - and weight out the type of lifestyle you want as that's the biggest difference between the two worlds in my opinon. 

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