Sandi Sieger is the founder of www.onyamagazine.com
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
Initially, necessity. I’d graduated from University and wanted to establish a career as a freelance writer. I was pitching to publications most days, and finding the process tedious – it was repetitive, lengthy and I was getting little to no uptake. I thought ‘there has to be a better way than flooding the inboxes of Editors with Word attachments filled with examples of my work’. And there was. I set up a free WordPress blog and used it as an online portfolio of my work. It made the pitching process more efficient, and I started getting writing gigs with local newspapers, magazines and international websites. This was 2006 and the online landscape was fresh, new and fairly unchartered.
What that online portfolio turned into, however, was unexpected. People starting finding my blog. People started commenting on my posts. So I started blogging more. Anecdotes. Stories. Opinions. Moments. Just because I wanted to. For me. For them. Just because I liked it. And, without realising it at the time, I was growing community. A following. I fell in love with it.
The truth is I fell into digital media in much the same way you fall in love; head first, fast, tumbling, starry eyed, chasing feel good moments. It was love, at first keystroke.
That blog led to my first digital publishing opportunity – as Editor of a magazine in Sydney. I was 23 and had no idea what I was doing. So, of course, I said yes, despite being petrified of the road ahead, and I then spent eighteen months working really hard; learning code, learning the editing process, building a team, managing a team, managing a website, writing. I absorbed as much as I could. It was a hectic, mad, overwhelming, exciting, brilliant time. Three years after launching my online portfolio turned blog, a year and a half after landing a gig as Editor in Sydney, I launched my own media outlet, my own magazine, my own platform; Onya Magazine.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I’m a fairly early riser, so I’m generally up around 6 am, if not earlier, depending on the day. On a perfect day, I spend some time journaling and then map out my to-do list and tasks. On an imperfect day, I juggle five things at once, generally having just accidentally poured coffee down the front of my dress. What I’ve come to learn is there’s a time for a perfect morning routine of meditation and journaling and exercise, and there’s a time for absolutely mad mornings and both are ok.
My days aren’t very typical, because my life isn’t typical. My job isn’t typical. Some days I work from home, other days from the office. Some days I’ve got back to back meetings, some days I’m at an event, or luncheon, or appearing as a guest on a panel. Some days I’m interviewing someone, or on a shoot, or travelling for work. There’s no typical day, but there are typical tasks – writing, emailing, planning, creating content, managing social media channels.
I get the most work done when I’m on my own – that’s why I love working from home. I’m conscious of not letting that be the norm, which is why I shake it up with all the things listed above that keep me moving and interacting.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
I keep it fairly basic and mobile because that’s what I need in my life. To be able to pick it all up at a moment’s notice and work from a café, or my Mum’s place, or from an apartment in the West Village, New York.
When I’m home, I generally work from my desktop – an iMac. Otherwise, I’m on my MacBook.
I use Google Drive to sync documents. Sprout Social for all things social media. And monday.com for planning my publishing schedule, tasks etc. I also use notes on my iPhone most days – to jot down ideas on the run or little moments or anecdotes I plan on using in my writing.
My Moleskine notebook goes with me everywhere – I follow the bullet journal method and it honestly keeps my varied jobs and tasks on track. I like using pen to paper when I can and I like having something I can hold and flick back through.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
Or listen to music.
Or do both at the same time.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE OR WRITTEN PIECE?
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” – Mary Oliver
There are many, many quotes I love, quotes that move me, and quotes that resonate. There are hundreds of written pieces – from Oscar Wilde to Ezra Pound, Jack Kerouac to Nikki Gemmell – that have changed parts of who I am.
The Mary Oliver quote above stands out because a few times in my life – where I’ve needed to make a choice, maybe on a job vs. a calling, maybe on money vs. the things I love – I have gone back to it, as a reminder of who I am, and what I do, and why I can never be afraid, and why I must honour that.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Quality, consistency, quantity. It’s a juggling act. How do I provide my readers with the best of me – with authenticity and honesty? How do I keep advertisers happy? How do I balance the mix of content? Is there enough content? Too much? How much effort do I put into social media channels?
This is why I take a walk.
IS THERE A PRODUCT, SOLUTION, OR TOOL THAT YOU THINK IS A GOOD MATCH FOR YOUR DIGITAL PUBLISHING EFFORTS?
monday.com is an easy to use, clean platform that does what I need and syncs across all my devices. I love it.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
One of the best pieces of advice I got when starting out was to have coffee with three different people each week. To reach out to total strangers and say, ‘Hey, I’d love to grab a coffee sometime.’
What that did for me was build a network – in real life – because when I started out I knew no one. What it also did was teach me how to reach out to people I didn’t know (it’s scary, and that’s ok), how to accept knock backs (because not everyone will make the time to have a coffee with you, and that’s ok), and how to talk to total strangers (some of them you won’t gel with, and that’s ok).
What I found was most people are happy to have a coffee with you – particularly the ones you think might not be.
To this day, I still reach out to total strangers and ask to have a coffee with them. It’s been one of the biggest advantages in my life, something I have gained so much from – friends, work, and more. Admittedly, it’s more like once or twice a month than a few times a week these days, but I run a magazine, write freelance, write creatively, manage social media accounts for my clients, co-ordinate a youth program, and have a family. Once or twice a month works well for me, twelve years on.
My other piece of advice – and this is a little harder to adopt – is to develop unwavering self-belief. Your resolve and will and attitude and work ethic will get tested, time and again.
Your friends are going to move into jobs where their paths are well trodden and laid out before them. They’ll have managers and HR and mentors and bosses and programs and conferences and all sorts of advantages. That type of career offers its own type of challenges, too, but also an unimaginable level of comfort.
You will have none of that. You’ll have to find your own mentor. You’ll have to navigate an industry that, in the scheme of things, is still relatively new. You’ll have to do most things alone. There’ll be no map, no path, no fallback.
What will get you through – besides putting your head down and your bum up – is unwavering self-belief.
I started getting traction eight years in. I started getting wins ten years down the track. I started getting noticed eleven years in.
I don’t know what the path ahead has on it – and I love that. I don’t want to walk down someone else’s path. I like cutting through the scrub and making my own.
That’s not for everyone.
You’ve got to figure out what’s for you.
Go somewhere, alone. Let things get really, really quiet.
Then listen to what your heart, your soul, your gut is saying.
Or, as I recently wrote, ‘Find what makes your heart speed up. Then chase it.’