I am contacted a lot by beauty bloggers who would like to write beauty for print and on-line media and asking the best way to find a way into beauty writing.
I do not say it is an art that I have perfected, but it is something that I love doing, and most regularly write for Metro. Otherwise, apart from occasional on-line features, the blog takes up most of my time. In the past though, I’ve written for The Daily Mail (I know and I’m sorry), The Daily Express, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, Vogue Russia and Vanity Fair to name a few.
My way into beauty writing was an unusual one, so while the landscape for freelance beauty writers has certainly changed since I started, it might give hope that you don’t need masses of qualifications and lack of qualifications should never be the thing that stops you having a go. I started off writing about parenting and sent full features (against advice) until someone said yes. I blundered through that until I had an idea for a women’s magazine that they wanted to commission but didn’t quite trust me enough to do it alone. I set up a stall in Greenwich Market in London based on the Advice Ladies from Greenwich Village, NY (who set up a weekend stall and gave out free advice) and taking a leaf from their book, had signs offering free advice about absolutely anything. We were asked everything from where to find the Post Office to how to get over grieving for a lost twin brother to meeting a new partner and were even asked what linen is and whether it was really essential for a man to have a linen shirt (we said yes!). The chance meeting of Ruth (my minder) was a stepping stone as she was a great friend of the beauty editor of a national newspaper. She made an introduction and it goes from there. So, my line into beauty is not typical. But even then, I did love beauty so I knew an awful lot about it and one rule of writing is that it is far easier to write about what you know.
Social media and on-line has changed everything. I remember being asked by a certain paper to write a beauty feature with a political angle. I didn’t do it in the end because at the time, I really couldn’t think of the point of intellectualising beauty cream when all anyone wanted was to look a bit younger or prettier. There’s many a fancy way to say it but that’s the bottom line.
On-line writing is more immediate, more open to less formal styles of writing and far more willing to embrace ‘real’ writing. I am not educated past GCSE standard – I have no degree and no A Levels. I read a very great deal as a child and as a result I have a good command of the English language – and that’s about all I’m good at, but it is enough. If your spelling and grammar are weak, those are the first areas to work on. Having the ability to say what you want to say through writing is built on the key stones of good spelling and grammar.
When it comes to blogs, I am loathe to criticize anyone’s spelling or grammar and do not let mistakes get in the way of content because a blog is a personal space and you can do as you please in it. But, if you want to use your blog as a show-case for your beauty ideas and thoughts, use spell-check every single time, without fail. Your blog is your on-line CV for the world to see, so if you have further plans for your beauty writing, it all starts there and if it means an English language evening class, then do it.
As more brands start to build websites, they’ll need content. Several bloggers that I know have gone on to earn money writing blogs and content for brand sites and it is a very good way to begin. The best thing to do is send a cover letter (e-mail) asking if they are looking for beauty content creators and let them know what you are good at. Highlight what you love writing about – passion for your subject will shine through and send examples of the posts you are most proud of and those that got a lot of comments or feedback.
Writing for sites is a good way to start to feel more relaxed with beauty writing. But that alone isn’t enough. Research the internet – look at trends and products that you haven’t seen before and if you think you have something to say on it, compile an email to magazine or site editors saying you have noticed this new trend and would like to report on it. Also include sections of your work. Your idea might well be novel and exciting enough for them to take a chance. However, bear in mind that writing for print or print-sites is a very different thing to writing for your own blog. It is rare that your opinion will matter and you will be required to present the facts in an engaging way that doesn’t rely on personal opinion. On your blog, your opinion is everything.
It’s old fashioned, but your manners are crucial. You should know how to write an email that doesn’t start with ‘Hi’, you should bother to find out the name of the person who makes the decisions (i.e. the beauty editor) and use it. If you face rejection, you thank them for their time and leave it at that until you have a new idea to present. You never argue about anything.
Deadlines are crucial; there is no excuse that counts when you are writing a feature destined for tomorrow’s paper – other than actual death – and you can pretty much guarantee that they will never use you again if you let them down. So, in writing your covering email, let the editor know that you anticipate and can meet deadlines.
I’m divided about internships – there is no doubt that they can lead to permanent jobs further down the line but as things currently stand, unless you have the very good fortune to be funded by your parents, which automatically excludes a huge proportion of would-be beauty writers, they remain unrealistic for many. Some magazines do pay their interns though, so always explore the options and send your CV anyway.
Beauty writing is one of the very few writing options where you don’t really need an extensive educational background. It’s a narrow field that very often requires you to have more skills in identifying trends, hot products and things that will look beautiful on a page intuitively than having amazing general knowledge. And if beauty is your hobby, chances are you will have already have very good beauty eye and knowledge. Little quirks in print apply that wouldn’t in blogging. Page designers hate white candles for example – it’s really hard to make them look beautiful on a white page; so looks do matter.
Some beauty writers have a huge wealth of science knowledge that really helps them to construct an in-depth feature; others specialise in fragrance – again very technical, but it is something that can be gathered over time. Nobody expects you to understand the many technicalities of skin structures or detailed ingredient listings, but you will have to learn it over time, and learn it well to take your writing to the next stage.
Remember that there are levels of publication for every level of reader; there are fun and basic beauty features, lists of top tens, brief features that focus on a particular aspect such as trend blush or how mascara brushes work all the way through to detailed reviews of products or long, long features on a variety of subjects, such as anti-ageing.
Your job as a beauty writer is to inform your readers – to let them know what is available and to then help them make a decision through your words. They need to know what one product does over another and what condition their skin is in to make it the right one for them. You need to second guess for every eventuality and yet not over-use your words. Very often, beauty writers are given a word count which means hacking out all but the bare bones.
Use mind maps to take your ideas to the next level – I still use them now to make ideas different and a level on from the usual. I would suggest taking something like a lipstick as your starter and shoot off from every angle about that lipstick. Is it fragranced? What goes into lipstick fragrances? Is it healthy to ingest fragrance from lipsticks? Are they tested for ingestion? The lipstick lid – who makes the lids? Why is the lid that shape? What would happen if it wasn’t that shape? Do you need specialist machinery to make a special lid? Who makes those and where do their ideas come from? Anything and everything has a creative off shoot and while lipstick lids might not rock your world, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a feature about them! There might be nothing at all to say, but explore all the avenues.
Take any and every chance to showcase your writing: even if it is unpaid. These are the opportunities that will build your writing portfolio. Once you have a selection, you can then start to look at charging a fee because you have proved that people will read what you write and therefore it has a value.
I’ve already seen the writing achievements by beauty bloggers who have taken their blogging skill and applied it beautifully to other media. People are listening to on-line writers and if you want to seriously make beauty writing your career, you need to start shouting out. Real people, real writing – it’s hot now.