By Mackenzie Henshaw
I recently conducted an e-mail interview with Ashley Oerman, a freelance women’s health and lifestyle writer who runs her own blog called “Fit, Fab, Fearless.” With work experience at magazine’s like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health and TheBlush.com, Oerman answered questions about her background in media and what it takes to succeed as a women’s health and lifestyle writer.
How long have you been working in journalism/ what is your background?
I’ve been a journalist since my junior year of high school when I started on the school paper… In college, I continued to pursue journalism when I was accepted into the University of Iowa’s school of journalism. Then I worked as a metro reporter for the Daily Iowan, the university’s newspaper, for about 6 months…After that, I wrote for Collegefasionista.com. That was my first digital experience and I really loved it… I also worked for this investigative news website called IowaWatch.org… During my senior year of college I realized that if I wanted to work in magazines (my childhood dream) I needed to get a serious internship. So I applied for 3 or 4 internships and ended up getting one at Cosmo. It was the best experience ever… I found that magazines could be the perfect outlet for me to use my nerdy investigative journalism passion and impact lots of people. After that, I worked really hard and applied for 50 or more jobs from my bedroom at my parents’ house and got really lucky with a job as an editorial assistant at TheBlush.com, which was a style, celeb and beauty site (similar to Refinery 29). Unfortunately, that closed in March and so I’ve been giving my blog a little more attention while freelancing for Women’s Health (my dream magazine).
Why did you start your blog Fit, Fab, Fearless? How did you go about gaining followers?
I actually started it as my senior honors project. We had to write a paper and do a study/experiment/ or project about something related to journalism. I decided to use my project as a way to market myself and my skills to editors and future employers using social media and my blog. So I created a blog in an area that interested me already and would appeal to editors in the women’s health and lifestyle field.
What steps do you think are necessary to take to find a job like yours in media?
- Get as many internships as you can. Not only do these give you experience but they also verify if this is really the field for you…
- Stay connected with the people from those internships. Whether they’re the staff from the college newspaper or big wigs you met during an internship like Cosmo, these people will be essential to getting anywhere…
- Don’t underestimate the power of your cover letter. This is as much of a writing sample as your clips. Make sure it sounds like the magazine’s or website’s tone.
- Triple check your resume for mistakes…
- Be open minded to all types of media. I don’t necessarily think that print is going down the drain, but I do think that print’s websites are getting bigger. Be open to doing either print or web. You should also consider social media because social media editors are becoming increasingly common.
- Make a portfolio online. This is great when you’re cold emailing someone about a job opening or asking them to keep an ear out for you. This way you can just send them a link and they can judge for themselves how great you are. This could also be a blog like mine.
- Do as many informational interviews as you can. These are interviews that you set up with editors or human resources to gain some knowledge about their jobs and their experiences (kind of like what this project you’re working on is).
- Don’t give up.
How does it feel when you see your work published?
Really, really exciting. In web, it’s a little different though because you control when it goes up in the site and so you get instant gratification, unlike print where you have to wait a couple months.
What are your tips for aspiring writers in women’s health and lifestyle?
Stay up to date on the latest research by reading studies published on Huffington Post, ScienceDaily, EurekaAlert, and Reuters. Think about how you can turn that dry research into something exciting for a women’s publication. Also, be sure to read as many magazines and websites as you can. It will help your writing and help you come up with great ideas that you can pitch during edit tests or if you end up freelancing, like me.