Ever dream of using your editorial skills to start your own blog? Or many a newsletter or even write a book? Well, Ed gathered a group of editors who did just and hosted an inspiring panel at his favorite hot spot, the Wix Lounge. These editors-turned-founders discussed how they launched their project, plus shared advice on how you can get started too. Here’s what we learned:
On Coming Up with The Idea:
The biggest thing when starting your own solo project is, “What are you going to talk about?” And it an inbox filled with LENNY Letters and Skimms, deciding on how to stand out from the crowd can be challenging.
Freelance writer, Claire Carusillo, decided to create My Second or Third Skin to make light of her bad habit of buying beauty products that don’t work for her. “Instead of texting my sister, pictures of my pimples and boils, I decided send it out and people reacted well,” says Carusillo. “It’s been a helpful platform instead of using Twitter or a personal website for people to easily forward my work. It’s like this nice little package as opposed to sending a bunch of links so they understand what I’m about.”
Casey Lewis, former TeenVogue.com editor and co-founder of Clover Letter, saw a missed opportunity in the teen space, because no one was creating long-form authentic content online. “We spent a lot of time in the traffic hustle of the Internet and learned that you don’t have to grab someone’s attention with a sensational headline,” says Lewis. “You can create thoughtful content and send it directly to someone’s inbox and it’s more personal.”
On Putting Yourself Out There:
“Believing in the an idea is one part, them putting yourself can be deeply uncomfortable,” says Lewis who was told that “Teens don’t read email” when she and her co-founder were developing Clover Letter. “Theres going to be backlash probably, but its still very uncomfortable. If you believe in something you have to go for it, just keep your head high.”
Khidekel used her job at Cosmopolitan as a platform to get the word out on her newsletter. “When I had the idea to do Undrrated, I started contacting really cool people that I worked with just to see if they wanted to participate,” says Khidekel.
And as for designing your concept, don’t be afraid to shoot an email how to people asking for advice suggests author Melissa Walker who had a newsletter called I Heart Daily.
“People are really open to sharing,” says Walker. “It’s a matter of looking around and seeing which different aspects you want to use [for your own newsletters].”
Despite these editor’s successes, it didn’t happen over night. “People ask if theres a silver bullet and there isn’t, adds Erica Cerulo. co-founder of Of a Kind. “It’s a slow burn and getting people exciting about what your doing.”
Their Biggest Learning Curve:
Starting your own project can be a nightmare from unexpected site crashes to figuring out how to use a new platform. Their advice? Take it all as a learning experience.
“I’m not a tech person, so it’s just me messing around on MailChimp,” says Marina Khidekel, deputy editor of Cosmopolitan and founder of Undrrated newsletter.
“I definitely regret not taking coding classes,” says Carusillo. “You’ll find that you’re just Googling little fixes to HTML.”
“We’ve had tons of tech issues and it was a real nightmare,” added Lewis. ” There are a lot of nights where my co-founder and I are g-chatting at 1 am. There’s a lot of html issues and we can’t afford a developer, so we learned a lot. It doesn’t mean it was fun but we’re better off.”
On Balancing Your Day Job and Your Solo Project
As your project gets bigger and more time consuming, do you quit our job or balance the two out?
“I think it sounds that companies are more understanding now of having side-hustles,” says Cerulo.
”If you could make the case that it’s actually good for your full-time job, you’ll have a better shot of your bosses being supportive,” adds Khidekel who also mentioned that her newsletter has helped her come up with more story ideas for Cosmopolitan.
Lewis, however, felt that she couldn’t handle juggling both jobs, especially since they were similar in genre.
“It would have been an enormous conflict of interest to do both” said Lewis who worked for TeenVogue.com at the time. “[My co-founder and I] felt so passionately about the idea, and we both have been freelance writers in the past and had that to rely on. The time we came up this idea, we put in our two weeks was within a day.”
On Making Money:
Everyone wants to make money right? The one valuable advice is to become a business person.
“I do think that what it would of taken to monotize is to have a business focused person,” says Walker. “You kind of hope that the right business partner come along, but you need to seek out those opportunities,” says Walker.
“It’s not an easy thing to learn,” added Lewis who plans to monetize in the future. “[Business] a whole crazy world that I didn’t consider before. It’s like a business school bootcamp.”
You Have to Be Super Passionate
If you haven’t figured it out, they key to what makes a really successful solo project is passion. You may have to sacrifice some sleep and nights out with your friends, but if you’re dedicated and really like what you’re doing the sky’s the limit. “It took us a while to say we’re doing this because we’re really excited about it. You’re just going to go with it, says Cerulo who recent sold Of a Kind to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. “We thought we started this business that we were really excited about. One of the things you learned that you never know what’s going to happen.”
Bianca Mendez is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who has contributed to Refinery29, TeenVogue.com and other publications. Her perfect day in NYC consists of trying the latest fitness class followed by a night of wining and dining. Check out more of her work at biancammendez.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.