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Six weeks ago, whether intentional or not, you accepted my invitation to a special kind of dinner party. It was a buffet of the job variety, and everything and anything was on the menu.
Waiters walked around handing out a sampler platter of Accountant at the Big Four followed by the first course, a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. From there, after a rather strong cocktail of tequila and Special Education Teacher, we had our choice between a main course of Massage Therapist or Product Manager – so obviously we chose both. We chatted and drank and dipped french-fries in aioli whilst discussing dipping the pen in the company aioli (ink), silently lamenting over not having studied coding, or cooking for that matter – I mean did you taste the tuna tartare?!
That wasn’t all though! As our black ties and ball gowns grew tighter, we popped another bottle of bubbly and ordered dessert – chocolate cake a la Dynamic Positioning Officer.
Call me overly nostalgic, but hasn’t this been the best job buffet black-tie gala you’ve ever been to?! I know, me too.
The good news is, it’s not over quite yet. To close out our sixth and final course, the waiter just came around and, ever so kindly, asked if the table would like an after dinner drink, a parting gift in the form of belly-warming liquor, if you will. I mean, how could we not oblige? Not to end this party in the tipsy manner it deserves would be a disservice to our journey together.
So, to say thank you to all of you for coming to my first ever Job Interview Black Tie Buffet, I’ve pulled out all the stops and ordered the good stuff – an Editor (or “Internet Writer,” as you probably call them) at an online publication.
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t an entirely selfless act. I figure, if I ever decide to take this whole internet writing thing for real – I want to at least know how high the bar is set. Unfortunately for me, the answer is very very high.
He’s a writer, an editor, a content creator and curator and, quite frankly, an astoundingly nice guy. I wanted to know what on earth content people do every day and he gave this modest freelance writer girl a taste of the real stuff.
Please enjoy not so responsibly!
What is your job title and how did you get there?
Senior Editor. After starting my own website in 2013, shutting it down, starting it up again at the encouragement of some friends, and then restarting it months later, I started freelancing. Luckily, someone liked me enough to hire me to do full-time content.
Did you have any experience coding or building a website before you started in 2013?
No, all I had was a Tumblr page. I knew how to do graphic design work, but I had never built a website so I used Squarespace. It takes a bit of design prowess – but if you’re technologically savvy and have a good eye for design, then you can do it. People get intimidated by “coding,” but it mostly just takes time and commitment.
What does your day to day look like?
I wake up, drink a couple cups of coffee, and hit the editing road hard. If we’ve got freelancer stuff to publish, I try to get a few pieces up before writing my own things. If we don’t have any freelancer stuff to publish, I’ll either write myself or see if there’s anything else from writers who we don’t pay that could be publish-worthy.
A couple days, I record a podcast early in the morning so we can get it out that day. Those days are the biggest grind because the two of us who publish full-time to the site are both tied up for a few hours. Once things are published and promoted, it’s just about taking any and all measures to building out our audience — through Instagram posts, brainstorming, scheduling tweets, whatever. Luckily for me, I don’t get caught up in too many meetings. Routine is huge. If I’m caught up in meetings or something all morning, that means the readers, who come to our site every day for content, aren’t getting anything – and trust me, they’ll let you know.
A first, was it weird publishing content on the internet knowing your friends and family would read it? I don’t even want to think about my grandmother stumbling across some of my articles.
I didn’t write or publish under my own name until two years into writing, so I can understand the pseudonym struggle that you probably feel. Early on, my mom sat me down one night for a drink and announced to me that she had discovered my website. I thought she was going to tell me there was a death in the family with how serious she was acting. I just laughed and asked her what she wanted to know. My family is cool about it now though, they follow along and demand updates about certain characters or storylines.
So much of your site’s content comes from remote staff. What is the hardest part of handling so many remote writers?
I really don’t like telling people bad things they don’t want to hear. I don’t like breaking bad news. When people write and submit content, it means that they like the content, so I find it hard to be critical of people in that regard.
How is work-life balance?
It’s good. When you actually like your job, work-life balance isn’t something you have to think much about. There’s the whole “content is life” thing but at the end of the day, I like clocking out at five o’clock (six if this is the CEO reading) and letting the scheduling we did earlier in the day run the anchor stretch.
I like to wake up early and get started earlier. I’ve found that’s the time I’m most productive and creative but it often creates some long days. I’ll never complain about work-life balance at my current gig because 1. it’s fun and 2. if there’s ever an issue, people would rather solve it than let it fester.
Personally, I find the social media aspect of content exhausting. It was a steep learning curve for me in realizing I should probably have a Twitter and Instagram if I wanted to interact with readers. Does it ever feel ceaseless to you?
The biggest thing I have learned is that you have to compartmentalize. If I have to write, I write. If I have to schedule posts or push our brand via social media, then that’s what I do. With something as fluid as the internet, it’s really hard to put down entirely. Social media is a massive time suck though, and it can get addicting. If you can’t turn it off, it can take over your day.
Are people constantly reaching out to you via social media?
People do reach out a lot, and I try to interact with readers as much as I can. I think there’s this misconception that the guys and I have a ton of girls sliding into our DMs, but honestly, it’s mostly just dudes asking about sneakers or something.
Do you feel “fulfilled” in your job?
I do. What people forget about working a job you seriously, seriously like is that you still have duties that you have to fulfill every day that you don’t like. As long as the small tasks that bog you down don’t outweigh the things you love about your job, you’re probably enjoying your life.
Creatively, it’s just about as fulfilling as a job could get which I’m thankful for. I complain to my girlfriend sometimes but then I remember she’s in the medical field so my losses in ping-pong don’t carry as much weight as when their team loses a patient. It’s all about perspective, so even my complaints need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Where do you write best? Do you have any writing habits you stick by? I listen to “Juke Jam” Chance the Rapper on repeat no matter what I’m writing (I have no idea why, btw).
I write best in my own environment (bedroom, bed or desk) with a jazz playlist on. If I know a song too well or my brain can sing along with words, it makes it impossible to get any work done.
Mostly, I write first thing in the morning or later at night. Any other time, there just seem to be too many distractions.
What do you fucking hate about your job?
People don’t realize that living the #bloglife (I hate that phrase but people are familiar with its meaning) has more pressure than you’d think. You can’t mail it in on a daily basis. You can’t come to work hungover every day because editing / writing / reading thousands of word on end with a hangover is worse than doing manual labour with a hangover (I have no proof behind this because I’ve never done manual labour, but try writing a coherent 1,500 word column every Wednesday with a hangover — it’s tough). Again, it’s all about perspective, though. With our good freelance team, sometimes you can have that extra beer at the end of the night and be fine.
I may be putting what we do on a pedestal too much, but your audience is your boss. If you mail it in or suck at something, they tell you. If you’re doing a good job, they’ll applaud you and reassure you. At the end of the day, you want to make those bosses happy and keep contributing in any way that keeps them involved and engaged.
Is the money good?
We’re treated well — not like struggling writers and all that. I’ve speculated that people who read our site or follow us think that we make more than we do, but by no means are we underpaid.
Where do you see yourself in five years professionally?
That’s a nearly impossible question to answer. Had you told me five years ago that I’d be doing what I do today, I would’ve laughed in your face. Getting a job like this is difficult so I’ll do whatever I need to do in order to keep it and grow in the position.
I want to keep being creative — writing, recording, designing. My position is “Senior Editor,” but that’s probably a misnomer. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing something, creating something out of the box, and interacting with the people who follow along. As long as that’s happening, we’re good.
Have you ever dipped your pen in the company ink?
No — It’s lazy and irresponsible. Just get on a dating app and have that whole awkward “when should I text back” thing like everyone else does. It’s more fun that way and you can’t get fired for drunk texts. Meeting someone at work isn’t romantic and I’ve watched too many romantic comedies to not meet someone like that.
Speaking of dating, I’ve been struggling with the question of whether or not I should bring up my whole internet writing side hustle after a few dates. Any thoughts?
If you’re like me, you’ll just get to the point with people you’re close with that you can’t help but talk about it. I kind of miss the feeling of being anonymous, but it’s also fun to get feedback from people you trust.
What do you get to wear to work?
Admittedly, I dress like every day is Sunday. Unless we have a meeting with an outside company or are going to be on camera, I’m wearing a combination of the following: Outdoor Voices joggers, Outdoor Voices Sunday Shorts, a slightly oversized cotton tee-shirt that hides the weight I’ve put on since I started sitting in front of a computer for ten hours a day, a pullover or crewneck, and a pair of Adidas or Sabahs. I like to be comfortable and I sweat a lot in high temperatures, so I rarely stray from that formula. It works.
If someone came up to you on the street and told you they wanted to get into your industry, what are three tips you would give them?
1. Start your own website. It forces you to learn things you never thought you needed to learn: the importance of design, *how* to design something in Photoshop so a serviceable end product comes out, and what it takes to properly package something that will reach eyes in the most interesting way possible. Had I just submitted columns I had written, I likely wouldn’t have gotten the job. Knowing how to use design programs, run my own site, and run social accounts got me this job. Being a decent writer just made it easier for me to convince them to make the decision to pay me full-time.
And besides, Squarespace makes it way too easy to make a good looking website. $90 a year isn’t a big investment if you’re trying to make it your future. Let your site act as your resume.
2. Send emails and interact as much as possible. I cringe when I think about emails I probably sent out trying to get on someone’s radar to do something like this. But today, people like to interact with you. I attribute part of the reason I kept writing was because of encouragement I got from people in the industry along the way. Whether they were friends, “internet friends,” or people I reached out to in an attempt to entertain myself, this is a fun industry. As long as you’re having fun, people are down.
3. Believe in what you do and don’t stop doing. Yes, that’s as cheesy as a Gary Vaynerchuk quote, but I’ve always thought what I do is worth doing. When I started my own site at 26, I’d go home after work and work on it until I went to sleep most nights out of the week. Sure, I’d have a glass of wine around and the TV on like normal, but I did everything I could to treat it like a second job. Outworking people works, and it’s easy to work hard when you’re enjoying it. Had I not been hired here, I would’ve kept doing what I was doing until I could either 1. get another job offer or 2. do it myself without anyone’s help. Just before I got hired, it looked like the second possibility was becoming the best possibility. Glad it worked out like it did, though.
There we have it, our sixth course has come to an end.
This final interview affirmed, at least for me, that while the internet is a wild place, there are some really good people out there running it. We consume content at an exceptional rate and I feel relief in knowing that this particular interviewee is cultivating content with as much good intention and commitment to the readers as he can muster. He’s all in and stoked about it – you know, some could say he’s riding the wave.
And with that, ladies and gentleman, the venue is kicking us out. We’ve officially shut this place down.
Now, call yourself an Uber and get home, you crazy kids. We’ve got work in the morning, after all. .