Making the decision to walk away from a regular paycheck to start an online travel magazine is no easy task. Will it work? Is it possible to make a real living from being a travel journalist and editor? And how the hell can you stand out in such a saturated industry? If these thoughts have run through your head on more than one occasion, take note from Natasha Colyer. She left her comfortable career in marketing to follow her dream of launching the online travel and lifestyle magazine Seen in the City three years ago.
Name: Natasha Colyer
Job title: Editor and founder of Seen in the City
Years since changing path: 3
TAP: You’re the founder and editor of the travel and lifestyle site Seen In the City. What exactly does your job entail?
NC: As the editor of Seen in the City, my job involves a whole host of different tasks that vary from day to day. On any given day, I can be found planning content for the month ahead (I always try to make sure we’re working a month in advance), contacting PR’s and companies about stories I am writing, and commissioning and editing work done by our different freelance writers. On a not so day to day basis, my job also involves travelling all around the world to dig out the most interesting travel journalism and lifestyle stories, and reporting on new hotel launches and destinations to travel to.
TAP: You haven’t always worked in this field. Tell us about your previous career. What were the defining steps and opportunities that helped you transition from marketing to editing/running your own business?
NC: I always knew that I wanted to write, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I started a small personal blog when I was about 14 and this led to me getting a part-time internship with a magazine in London, and then an internship on the digital features desk at Vogue. Those experiences helped me know what I wanted to do; however, I thought I wanted to be more of a fashion writer than a travel journalist. Because of this, I got a job doing marketing and model booking at Vision Models, a London- and Brighton-based modelling agency.
That position helped me to pick up some truly invaluable marketing skills along the way and really ignited my passion for all things digital marketing. That was when I started to wonder if digital marketing was more the career for me.
My next job was as a marketing manager for a Brighton-based marketing company which taught me all about the necessary skills for building and launching a website – which I had wanted to do for some time. During this period, I created Seen in the City and started to split my time between my full-time marketing job and running the online magazine.
TAP: What did you do to transition from marketing to editing/running your own travel journalism magazine?
NC: Seen in the City took off quicker than I had imagined and soon the workload was becoming unmanageable. I would work from 9.00 am to 5.30 pm at one job, then I’d work on the magazine when I got home until midnight… and on weekends too. I was using my annual leave to go to press events and meetings in London. This is when I knew it was getting too much and something had to change.
Taking the plunge from being employed to being self-employed was the scariest moment of my life, but I think that if you wait until the day you’re 100% certain you’re ready, you’ll be waiting a long time. I had a million doubts when I started Seen in the City, but I figured that if I didn’t do it now, I’d always look back and wonder “what if?”. I knew I would prefer to have given it my best shot and know that I tried everything I could to succeed.
TAP: What would you say was the most important thing you did/didn’t do to succeed?
NC: Not give up. It gets tough – really tough – and I was so close to giving up multiple times. I had regular breakdowns and so many times when I wondered if it was all worth it. But then I would sit back, look at what I had achieved and knew I could achieve more by pushing and working harder than I would by moping and not believing in myself.
Another thing I did was ensure I kept the heart of my brand with me all the time. It takes a bit longer and means you have to turn down certain opportunities that come your way (for example, I’ve been offered quite a bit to promote things, such as gambling sites, which don’t match my ethos or that of the brand, so I’ve turned them down). I met up with as many people as I could from all different businesses, networked everywhere and never stopped working!
TAP: Let’s talk about money. Starting your own magazine or business isn’t just risky, it’s expensive. How did you prepare for going from being an employee to being your own employer?
NC: I saved up for quite a while before taking the leap so I knew I had a bit of a cushion in case things went wrong. I also made myself a detailed plan of how much money I wanted to earn and how I was going to do that. I made sure I had other freelance writing jobs lined up to bring in extra revenue and I ensured I was earning enough to actually quit my job before I did so! I think it’s so important to be realistic and plan ahead of time so you can see where you’ll be in a few months’ time. Obviously plans change, but it would be unwise to leave a job if you’re heading to no other income and have bills and rent to pay.
TAP: What advice would you give to anyone thinking of following in your footsteps?
NC: Believe in yourself – always. And make sure you have a niche. You need to give people a reason to want to read what you are saying. Ensure you know your audience, if you don’t know who is reading your posts, how will you know how to tailor them? Keep in mind who you are writing for, and write for them. For example, if you have a fashion blog that is read by teens or young adults, don’t write solely about really expensive designer brands as these aren’t necessarily affordable for this age bracket.
I would also say to always be prepared to improve, ask for criticism and take it on board – ask your friends and family what they think of your business, or send out a survey so you can get opinions on things to work on or do. Also, be prepared for set-backs – it isn’t easy! But just know that you can get through it. Keep going and if you work hard enough, anything is possible!
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TAP: Can you share three resources that you think are invaluable for starting your own lifestyle/travel site or becoming a travel journalist?
1. WordPress – it’s invaluable. You have such freedom to create a look that you love and it is so easy to customise and grow with you as your brand progresses.
2. Creative cloud – I use programmes such as Photoshop and Indesign every day. Look online for different guides to using these as they will be some of the most useful programmes you ever use.
3. Moz’s Open Site Explorer – with this you can keep an eye on your SEO and see how you compare with other sites as well as find opportunities to improve. This is one of the most important tools and one I use all the time. The better chance you have of being found on Google, the more opportunities you’ll find come your way!
TAP: What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
NC: There are quite a lot of perks that come with being a travel journalist and editor, such as free items to review or free travel. Because of this a lot of people see the job as easy and don’t realise the immense workload that comes with it. Even when away on a press trip you are constantly in “work mode.” It’s not like a normal trip away when you can fully relax, you are constantly making notes for the review, giving off the best impression of yourself and your business and taking photos.
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