Shitika Anand is the ultimate magazine-writing multi-tasker with an impressive list of web sites, newspapers and magazines to her name. When she's not penning articles for the likes of Cosmo magazine and beauty web site, PRIMPED, she's attending Fashion Week and sharing fashion and lifestyle thoughts on her site, Sweet Dreams in My World. Here, she shares her experiences to help you follow in her freelancing footsteps.
If you ask her what she’s doing at this very second, first she’ll whinge (only a little) and then list out all the looming deadlines. She’s been published in Cosmopolitan magazine, CNNGo, CNN International, Fashionising, Courier-Mail online, mX newspaper, Frock Paper Scissors, The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide, MyLookBook, PRIMPED, Coco Lee, Sassi Sam and others.
But as of today, she’s the contributing editor of Fashionising.com, a regular contributor of CNN’s travel and lifestyle website - CNNGo.com, and a health columnist at MWSG.
1. How did you discover you wanted to be a writer?
You put it very aptly here; it was a discovery, if anything. I used to religiously watch the Style Network as a teenager and knew fashion and lifestyle was the industry I wanted to be in. It elated me to another world. I started studying fashion theory and history in uni, which also coincided with a few writing classes. My journalism teachers deserve a big shout out because they talked me into changing my degree to a 'Bachelor of Journalism'. This was five years ago... and the rest is history.
2. In which other fields have you worked? How did you transition into becoming a freelancer?
Depends what you classify as 'fields', but apart from the current status of my frivolous reporting, I have done court, politics and hard-core news in the past. I didn't just fall into fashion, health and lifestyle journalism. It all started with interviewing Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman in Queensland. Freelancing became the next obvious step for me, only because I moved to Sydney and couldn't find that magical doorway into the printing press world. I did all the infamous internships everyone talks of and while doing so, I sent out several shameless emails and pitches to editors. They started getting approved, I started eating more than chickpeas from a can and quit all my internships to freelance on a full-time basis. Having said that, if an opportunity arises, I would still take up a full-time writing job in a newspaper or magazine. I have a crazy craving for an office.
3. What were your first goals as a writer? For which publications did you aim to write?
Getting a by-line. It was my very first goal and I haven't changed much. Anywhere, anyhow, I just want to keep getting published. My first published story was for Quest Newspapers in Brisbane, and I didn't make my sub-editor very happy because it was a very badly-written story. But I didn't aim too high back then, it was always looking one step ahead. After suburban newspapers, Courier-Mail was the next stop, then mX, followed by a Brisbane-based magazine and now an international published story.
4. What was your first paid (or breakthrough) article? How did it come about?
My first paid article was an opinion piece for CNN's travel and lifestyle website, CNNGo.com. Obviously, because it's an international publication at CNN (a big deal for my family), I was pretty chuffed when it came around. How did I get it? Once again, shameless emails with story ideas to the editor -- it's the only way to go in this industry. Lots of amazing opportunities opened up for me from there on, I started writing for an international fashion website, Fashionising.com, got a story in Cosmopolitan, SMH.com.au and Cosmo Latin America.
5. Tell us about attending Rosemount Australian Fashion Week. How did you apply for access? What did you see and do while you were there?
I attended RAFW as an intern in 2011, and pretty much lived on-site or backstage for the five days of Fashion Week. I wasn't paid to do that last year, which was alright, because I made connections and met all my favourite models and journo-idols. This year, I attended MBFWA for Fashionising.com (I'm the contributing editor there) and it was an even more rewarding experience.
For me, it's that magical second after the lights in the room dim and right before the models step on the runway. It just makes me go, 'Wow! this is real and is all I want'. Of course, working from the media centre, with all other writers, gives you an insight into how they work in their space. For example, this year, I saw Paula Joye working on her laptop, while someone did her hair and her team of photographers photographed her typing away. You'd never see this outside Fashion Week. But if you're really there to report and write about what's going on the runway and behind it, then nothing seems glamourous. It's all about deadlines and intelligent content. Fashion Week is bloody hard work, especially if you're affiliated with an online publication. It's really the magazine peeps who get look pretty just for the name of it, because they work on a 3-month publishing cycle. They have no pressure to instantly churn out a story.
6. What is the most enjoyable article you have written?
This is a tough (and unfair) one; it's like asking a mum who her favourite child is. I might cheat a little. I am HUGE fan of Audrey Hepburn, to the point that I worship her before an important meeting or event. Don't judge. So when Breakfast at Tiffany's hit its 50 year mark, I had to write about it. Best ever.
Also, really enjoyed doing the spa reviews for this CNNGo story. Incredibly relaxing... I mean, rewarding!
7. How can a beginner writer compose a winning query letter?
Well, I've already said it, but be shameless. Shameless in the sense of not being afraid to list out what unique factor you can bring to the story, your previous by-lines and why you need to write the story. The editors get crazy number of emails per day, so you need to make yours stand out. If you have found your own writing style, this will be very easy to do. Make sure it's your voice though and you aren't 'channelling' your writer-idol. Be kind, don't come across as too ruthless and don't put in smiley faces or 'xo's.
8. What are your best tips for beginner freelance writers?
Network like a crazy person and don't suck up. When the editors see an email pitch from you, they should recognise your name and not link it to some crazy Twitter behaviour of yours. Also make sure you have a strong support system to back you up. Freelancing is incredibly fast-paced and competitive, so there's no time to self-loathe and feel sorry for yourself. Work hard and keep trying till you get what you truly want. Another tip: always drink wine after sending a killer pitch across. Such a good reward.