No-Bullshit Career Talk With... An Editor-in-Chief
How Angelica Malin turned her love for writing into a business
Many people talk about creating their own jobs, but Angelica Malin actually did it. She's the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of About Time Magazine, a London-based publication with a penchant for food, travel and making the most out of life. Here, she discusses being fired, deciding to control her own fate and turning her love for content and writing into a successful business. This post originally featured in my newsletter, but I loved it so much I had to feature it here.
Impressively, you’ve created an amazing online publication, About Time Magazine, and built a team of full-time staff and freelancers all at a young age. What have you learnt about yourself through that process, both professionally and personally?
Wow. I’ve learnt so much, I really don’t know where to begin. On a professional level, I’ve learnt that your natural skill set isn’t always the one you’ll be using day-to-day when running a business; I’ve had to learn on the job, understanding things like advertising, marketing, finance, even pensions, when in truth all I ever set out to do after university was write.
But if you want to make something like writing - producing content - into a business, you have to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself professionally every day.On a personal level, I’ve learnt a huge amount about being a boss, being a good girlfriend (that means switching off my emails at dinner!) and a fair amount about stress and time management.
I would be lying if I had it all figured out - and I totally still have days when I think, what on earth am I doing, go get a job now - but I come to understand that our inner critic, the voice in our head, is just a story-teller. We tell ourselves stories. That we’re not good enough. That’s we’re not capable. That we’re not ready. You just have to choose which stories are those worth listening to.
What advice would you give to someone who may be considering starting their own creative business, but doesn't quite know where to begin?
One word: begin. It’s so easy to spend so long planning, sketching, thinking about a project, that our own thoughts engulf us, and the project becomes too intimidating before we begin. I didn’t really know how to run a magazine when I launched About Time, and I certainly didn’t know how to manage staff, projects, pitch for business or work a business model, but, the truth is, you don’t need any of the skills you think you do when you start. The best thing you can do is ditch the to-do list and the financial forecasting, and just get cracking. Figure things out as you go along - start your journey now.
Do you have any tips about getting your very first readers? Where were your initial sources of traffic coming from?
Your first readers are almost always friends and family, but if the content is good - and shareable - then over time your audience will grow naturally. I would say focus away from the numbers when you first start, it can be a put-off. Just concentrate on creating the best content possible, and away from the numbers game - I watched it grow day-by-day, and then one day I turned around and we were reaching over 80,000 people a month in 163 countries, but I honestly hadn’t really noticed because I was having too much fun making the content!
Twitter’s always been a huge source of traffic for us, around 70% as it happens (life hack: when naming a magazine, try not to pick one with “Time” in the title, you’ll complete with every other lifestyle magazine on Google). Although Instagram and Pinterest are very pretty to look at, it terms of pure conversion, it’s just not the same for us. I will fight going on Snapchat for at least another decade.
As someone who has achieved a lot, quickly, how do you keep yourself healthy, inspired and continually having great ideas?
The last 2 years have been a bit of a whirlwind, to put it mildly, and I still haven’t really caught up with any of it! Inspiration always comes and goes, but I find if I’m stressed then I can never come up with any good content ideas (read: London’s best apple strudels, world’s worst round-up idea), so learning to de-stress after work is key. Yoga, Netflix, quinoa and homemade stew - simple, comforting processes bring me back to myself and help me find inspiration.
To keep healthy, I try to limit drinking during the week and I’ll do a couple of different exercise classes throughout the week - at the moment I’m loving TRX at Heartcore, yoga at Another Space and Fierce Grace. I always work out before work, though - I just don’t have the motivation at the end of the day, and I would rather be going out for dinner with my boyfriend or tucked up in bed! In the last year, I’ve tried to regain a sense of work/life balance (I think of it more as work/life integration, as I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive) by reclaiming my weekends. It’s really easy if you’re freelance or self-employed to ditch the 9-5, 5 days a week, concept, but I think it’s helpful to stick to a work routine, even when you don’t have a boss. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.
On the weekend, I’ll go to Primrose Hill with my other half and get a Ripe Kitchen soya latte, and we’ll chat about the week that’s just past. It’s my calm space, where we can reflect, focus and plan. It’s crucial for my emotional wellbeing - and they make the best lattes around!
Do you have any career mistakes you can share? What did they teach you?
Oh man, so many. I’ve been fired too many times to count - it’s one of the main reasons I started About Time, I just realised I couldn’t work for someone else! I’ve learnt that in a work context, you really can’t hide anything - it all comes out in the wash. If you’re not happy, you’re going to start working badly and relationships will deteriorate. I think it’s really important to tell your boss if you’re not feeling challenged or stimulated, after all, life’s too short to work without motivation beyond money - we have to love what we do.
Lastly, what’s next for About Time? Do you have any upcoming projects you're particularly excited about?
Right now, I’m working on my sanity and we’re building an e-commerce platform into the website, so lots of the content will be shoppable. We’ve started doing reader events for the first time this year, and we’re pretty excited about some upcoming ones. At the moment, we’re working with D&D London on a female empowerment series - hosting a number of ‘how to’ brunches at some amazing venues around London, including German Gynamisum, Sartoria and 100 Wardour Street, on everything from how to crack social media to how to build a personal brand. It’s cool to do something for women that’s more than just make-up tutorials and workout classes, something that highlights the huge range of female talent and skill in London. Girl power.