Sian Lewis is the founder of The Girl Outdoors – a blog full of adventure and travel. As well as her passion for blogging, she studied magazine journalism as a post-graduate diploma, completely various internships, and managed to bag herself a full-time, paid staff writer role at Future Publishing. Find out how…
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in journalism, and why?
I always wrote diaries and read obsessively when I was growing up. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I studied Italian at the University of Bath, mainly so I could go and live in Rome for a year! But in my first year I took over the features section of the uni newspaper and absolutely loved writing and designing articles. A few years as the features editor was enough to get an internship with Bristol’s Venue Magazine one summer.
What journalism training did you have?
I really wanted to go to Cardiff Uni to study for a PGDip in Magazine Journalism but I couldn’t afford the fees. Luckily they offer a few different scholarships, so I applied for them all and managed to bag one! It was an amazing course – hard work but super creative and they gave us help with internships and contacts. Plus, I met some of my best mates there.
What was your first paid role in journalism, and where did you go from there?
After working at Venue Magazine for a few months, the editor started paying me for features and interviews. The brilliant Venue’s now closed but it covered local events and culture in Bristol and Bath and was a really friendly place to work. They chucked me in at the deep end though – for my first paid feature I had to interview a prostitute! My book full of clippings from Venue got me accepted onto the Cardiff course.
What is your current role now and how did you get it?
I’m the staff writer on N-Photo magazine. I started there on a three month paid internship when the magazine launched. Then I went travelling for a year, and when I came back the title had decided it needed a staff writer. Hiring me was probably the path of least resistance! I write features, organise photoshoots, take shots for the magazine and present our video tutorials. I’ve had to learn a lot about photography but I have a really supportive team.
Tell us a bit about your blog, The Girl Outdoors?
I started my blog about four years ago as part of my postgrad course – I wrote about the sports and outdoors stuff that I love to do and it’s grown from there! I focus on travel, extreme sport, outdoor gear, festivals… anything that lets you get outdoors and have a bit of an adventure!
What is your opinion on unpaid internships, and how can people excel on these?
I really hate that unpaid internships are the norm in journalism, but I’ve done my fair share of them and you’ve absolutely got to put the time before you go after the paid jobs. I’ve slept on a lot of sofas around the country whilst I spent weeks on magazines, and I’ve been asked to do some pretty menial things, including labelling envelopes, ironing and once spending a day trying to buy squid ink in central London, I kid you not. But I also met a lot of people and got lots of bylines. My rules are: do whatever you’re asked to do and do it cheerfully, ask politely for writing work but don’t push it, keep in touch with them after you’ve left and and DON’T CRY.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to break into the industry, but struggling to stand out?
Start a blog, absolutely. It’s an online, interactive CV that instantly proves you can write well. Do a masters in journalism, do tons of internships, learn to deal with rejection emails! Write about what you love whenever you can, your passion will shine through.