Rachel Hills is a London-based (via Sydney, Australia) journalist, blogger and digital media professional, who likes writing about big ideas in gender, sociology, tech and popular culture, in ways that connect with readers’ everyday lives.
Rachel has written over 100 feature articles, essays, opinion pieces and reviews for magazines, newspapers and websites across Australia, the US and the UK. Her blog, Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, was named Australia’s best feminist blog by the Weekend Australian Magazine (2009) and was nominated for Cosmopolitan‘s 2010 Fun Fearless Female awards. She is currently working on a book on sex, status and identity in Gen Y, and has worked as Homepage Editor for ninemsn, Associate Editor of newmatilda.com and managed politics and print projects for Vibewire. Someday, she’d like to be “the Simone de Beauvoir of the internet”. 1. How did you discover you wanted to be a writer?
I was always reading or writing in one form or another. As a child, I made little "newspapers" for fun, and as a teenager, I wrote long serial-like soap operas where I'd pass around the latest installment to my friends every Monday morning. It never really occurred to me that I could do it for a job though until I was in year 12 and had to choose my uni preferences. I'd been running a pop culture website for a year or so, and was always fantasising about the (generally pretty satirical) magazines I wanted to create. One evening I was going on about one such fantasy to my parents and they asked me, "Is this just a pipe dream, or is it something that you're actually going to do?" I decided I would do it. Or something close to it, anyway.
2. In which other fields have you worked? How did you transition into becoming a freelancer?
I started freelancing within a year of finishing university, so I didn't really have that many other jobs! Aside from the usual young people's jobs - retail, market research, tutoring - I did a couple of short stints at a PR firm and a trade magazine while I was at university, an internship at a think tank, and spent a year working as a communications officer in the not-for-profit sector. I decided to go freelance when I was volunteering at the youth media/arts organisation Vibewire, and was inspired by all the other young writers and creatives who were getting out there and making the kind of things happen that most people don't think they'll be able to do until they're older or more established. I've also spent around half the time I've been freelancing working concurrently as a staffer, for newmatilda.com and later for Ninemsn.
3. What were your first goals as a writer? For which publications did you aim to write?
My first goal as a freelancer was to get published in theSydney Morning Herald, and it was also the first goal I achieved - about two weeks after I set it. Other than that, I've just always aimed to write for publications I enjoy reading. Probably the most exciting ones to be published in were theAustralian Literary Review,The MonthlyandVogue, but I still get excited whenever I crack a new publication (and whenever I have a pitch accepted, for that matter).
4. What was your first paid (or breakthrough) article? How did it come about?
My first paid freelance article was for theSydney Morning Herald, at the beginning of 2005. I'd set it as my goal for the year to get an opinion piece published, and decided I'd write and send off one article per week until it happened. Luckily, they took the second article I sent them. They may have taken the first as well, but the editor had received a story on the same topic by a higher profile writer that morning, which taught me an important freelancing lesson: the early nerd gets their op ed in the Herald. So don't procrastinate.
5. What is the most enjoyable article you have written?
I really love the work I do forCleo. I get to write on thoughtful topics that I'm passionate about, and I work hard to make them as interesting and relevant to the readership as possible. I also really enjoy writing my blog,Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.
6. How has your blogging enhanced your freelancing career?
I'm not sure it has, actually! In a lot of ways, the two operate as separate spheres. What my blog has been good for is developing a more intimate, ongoing relationship with the people who are interested in the kinds of things I write about - people who might not read the publications I write for, or who might not pick them up on that particular day or month. It's a relationship I really value and appreciate. As far as freelancing goes, I guess blogging might make editors a bit more aware of what you stand for and what you're passionate about, which can help when they're thinking about who they want to commission. I think it helps to do the two in concert, though.
7. What's your best tip for beginner freelance writers?
Write a lot. Submit what you write for publication. And learn the publications you want to write for - their tone, their style, what sorts of articles they're interested in and how they frame them - as well as you possibly can. There are a lot of people out there who want to be writers, sure, but if you're good and you don't give up, you'll get there eventually. Despite getting my first clip in theSydney Morning Heraldafter two weeks of trying, and developing a pretty good relationship with them after that, it was quite difficult for me to get a response from other editors - especially in mags - for the first year I was writing especially. You've got to give it time.