Its time for the next once daily chic inspirational interview! This week I'm talking with writer & editor Jodie Mcleod. Jodie and i met a little while back and i worked with her on the page i styled for Complete Wedding magazine. I found her answers so interesting as its a field i don't have much insight into. She also shares some of the trials & tribulations of working solo, which i can totally relate to! if your self employed you should check out the website she edits 'Flying solo'. Hope you enjoy our chat as much as i did.
Name: Jodie Mcleod
Job description/ Role:
Freelance writer and editor; currently editor of the website Flying Solo, Complete Wedding Sydney magazine, Cheap Eats Sydney 2011-12, and the soon-to-be published bookazine, Shop Like a Chef.
I went to high school in Wagga Wagga (Kooringal High) and uni at University of Wollongong, Bachelor (Hons) Creative Arts (Creative Writing).
Does what you studied at university relate to what you currently do?
Kind of but not really… I always wanted to write, which is why I did my degree, but quickly realised that writing fiction for a living wasn’t going to happen straight away. I needed a bit of money behind me first, and so I got into the kind of writing that makes money (well, some at least!) – which is journalism. My degree didn’t really relate exactly. I wrote short stories for four years – fiction, not journalistic articles – although I did do two subjects in journalism and editing during the degree. That was my only insight into the world of magazines and feature writing, and I liked it. I liked telling stories. University basically taught me how to tell a good yarn.
If not, how did you learn the skills required to do what you do?!
I learnt how to write features by reading them in newspapers and magazines. I read a lot – and when I liked something, I worked out what the writer had done to make it good, and I tried to emulate that. Even now, when I read the paper, I often focus on the writing techniques and who the journalist is more so than the subject of the article! I also learnt by getting a job in the industry and slowly, very slowly, learning the ropes.
What was your first job out of uni? and/or did you work in the industry during your degree?
After my degree I went on a work-experience binge – one week at one magazine, the next week at another. All were magazines that I ideally wanted to work for (arty, music-related magazines). I think I did work experience at four magazines before applying for my first job as a writer for a B2B magazine for the human resources industry. (I had to look up “human resources” in the dictionary before writing my application – that’s how little I knew about it!)
I didn’t work in the industry during my degree, so I was fairly lucky to land a job straight out of uni. The reason I got that first job was because they asked me to write a feature article as part of the application process – and it must have been okay.
What advice would you give others wanting to get into the writing or magazine industry?
Wow, there’s so much advice I could give! Work experience is really the key. Focus on the publishing company or magazine you want to write for, and try to land a work-experience gig there. Not only will you make connections and have the chance to make an impression on future employers – you’ll get to see what the office is really like, and what the people are like. It’s such a massive transition moving into full-time work, and if the environment is not supportive, you have to question if it’s really something you want to get yourself into long term. I know “beggars can’t be choosers” when you desperately want a job after uni – but make sure it’s the right fit for you in more respects than just the magazine content.
Essentially, you need to offer to do work for a magazine for free first (note: this industry is very tight!), just until they know you and trust you; and if you’re good, they will come back to you with a position or with freelance work. It’s in an employer’s best interests to hire someone who already knows the way the office works and who gets along with the team than risk employing someone who might not fit.
The other entry point is to freelance for a magazine first – but it’s so much harder to get on an editor’s side early in your career when a) they haven’t met you in person, and b) you haven’t got a portfolio of published work yet. An editor is more likely to choose freelancers they or their work colleagues know than to take on a fresh-out-of-uni freelancer. Again – with freelancing – a possibly entry point is to offer to write something for free first (especially if the magazine is on an insanely tight budget), or at least on spec, so the editor can gauge your passion and skill. And if they like you, they’ll come back to you.
Did you start off doing freelance writing while you worked full time?
Yes. No matter what job I’ve had, I’ve always freelanced on the side, which can make for very long working days! I pitched a lot, and got rejected a lot, but the key is not to take rejections personally. There are so many reasons why an editor might not take on your idea – maybe they’ve got all the writers they need, maybe their budget is too small and they’re embarrassed to say, or maybe your idea wasn’t the right fit for the magazine. Try to find out, in any case, but otherwise – take rejections on the chin.
Now you are freelance, who are you clients & how do you find them?
My days are taken up editing Flying Solo and Complete Wedding, and I am only just beginning to find a bit of time for some more freelance writing. For me, the way it works is: I have an idea, I think about what magazine might publish that idea, then I pitch that idea to the editor or deputy – whoever the decision-maker is. Sometimes you have to find out through a few emails and phone calls who is the best person to pitch to.
In the past I’ve developed relationships with some editors who then would give me a constant stream of work – which is fabulous if freelancing is your full time job. This is what you aim for in that situation – to build those reliable contacts and relationships that will ensure a steady flow of work.
How have you marketed yourself & your work?
I have some wonderful friends (Tim Lucas and Carla Hackett) who have helped me build a website (www.byjodiemcleod.com), which shows sample of my work, and also who helped me design business cards. These have come in handy.
I attempted to start a blog, which is an excellent tool for writers nowadays to promote themselves, but I have found it difficult to keep it running since I work so much! The best promotion for me has been getting my name into bylines and magazines as much as possible, and being able to recognise where those bylines/magazines can take me – “If I get that byline then it might make me more attractive to that editor, and if I get in that magazine I’ll get a foot in over there,” and so on. You can keep side stepping up the ladder (or to wherever you want to get) by doing that. I used to try and promote myself as an arts writer, but there are so many more interesting things to write about – I didn’t want to constrict my expertise in the end.
What is your favorite part about running your own business?
I have always been a very solo worker, which is not to say I can’t work in a team, but I’ve always thrived when working on my own. I’m my own boss, which I like, but I have very high expectations of myself, so if I don’t perform – the boss gets angry! I find I have a greater desire to meet my own expectations than those imposed on me by someone else. And I love working from my beautiful home!
With spots like this to sit & gain inspiration from, its no wonder jodie likes working from home!
What is the hardest part?
There have been times freelancing when the work hasn’t flowed in, and that can make you feel a bit panicky. Then there have been other times when the workload is so big and deadlines so tight that you wish you had a no-surprises, nine-to-five job. It’s learning how to deal with those peaks and troughs that can be hard.
What does your schedule on a typical day look like?
I’m a morning person, so I’ll get up early and sit at my desk at 7am, have a half hour lunch break, then knock off around 3.30pm. But sometimes I’ll break up my day with a bit of exercise or odd jobs. Some days I have to commute to Sydney (from the Blue Mountains), so my weeks have a lot of variety.
Do you ever get writer’s block? Any tips on conquering it?
I haven’t really had writer’s block when writing features, because there’s always a story to tell. There’s always a place to start. Certainly I’ve had it with fiction writing, though – and it’s all to do with confidence. You just have to accept that you’re going to write pages of shite before you get to the good stuff, and in accepting that, you can usually break past the writer’s block barrier.
Who or what inspires you?
Without wanting to sound soppy, my husband, Pete, inspires me – his enthusiasm for life, his work ethic, his creativity and humour are pretty incredible. I get inspiration from reading writers I love (non-fiction and fiction), or by listening to interesting interviews with fascinating people. The other way I get inspiration is by running – I love running on tracks and trails in the Blue Mountains. I find it clears the mind, and you can really nut out an idea just by putting one foot in front of the other, getting your heart rate up and getting out into nature.
Any favorite websites/blogs/magazines?
I religiously read the Good Weekend and Spectrum sections of The Sydney Morning Herald every Saturday. I like a big, meaty features. I’m also really into podcasts at the moment – Richard Fidler’s interviews on Radio National are fabulous.
What would be your dream writing job?
Any job that allows me to talk with and tell the stories of interesting people.
Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
In a similar position to where I am now, but with more feature writing.
And outside of work what do you love to do in your downtime?
So many things… Running, spending time with family and friends, eating good food, drinking good wine, writing music, yoga, travelling…
and climbing cliff faces by the looks of it!
Drink of choice?
It’s winter, so I’m really into red wine at the moment. In summer, it’s sparkling and good quality chardonnay.