Monday, 14 February 2011

An interview with… Jane Cunningham, freelance beauty journalist and British Beauty Blogger

Years in industry – 10

Jane Cunningham is a freelance beauty journalist with her finger on the pulse of what is launching in the industry and when. Many people will also know Jane as British Beauty Blogger – her no-nonsense blog which gives her honest and open view of beauty products and the beauty industry. Jane talks to Your Beauty Industry about the challenges of freelance journalism, how to create a successful blog and gives her tops tips on how to have a successful freelance career.

Tell me a bit about your career background
I had my children when I was quite young so wanted something to do when they went to school. I enrolled in an adult education course on An Introduction to Journalism and just kind of discovered I could write. I then moved to doing ‘work experience’ at a parenting magazine after they commissioned one of my features, but left after a few months. It gave me a springboard however, and the confidence to start pitching ideas to newspapers and magazines.

What is a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day, but without fail every morning I walk my dogs! Thereafter, who knows what will happen! Some days it is just a question of getting onto the laptop and keeping my head down until all the writing is done, other days I’m in London at launches or meeting PRs. I also give presentations to brands and agencies on how to work best with bloggers although I’d say now there really are no rules.

“Any freelance will tell you that the Holy Grail is having a regular gig on a publication”

What are the advantages of being freelance? 
When my children were younger it allowed me to work without having to resort to regular childcare – school holidays were a nightmare, but we managed. I love not being tied to any one publication, although any freelance will tell you that the Holy Grail is having a regular gig on a publication. I mainly prefer to work online now, but my one print commitment is Metro, for which I compile a double page fashion spread called Style Extra. Occasionally they allow me to make it a beauty page! Being freelance also means that I can work in an unstructured way, which I prefer, and of course, I never have to be on the coffee run!

And the disadvantages?
I suppose mainly that I work on my own a lot. I do a lot of work with and feel like one of the team there, as I am in contact with several times a week and they’re kind enough to include me in things like Christmas celebrations, so that’s lovely. But, it’s easy to end up feeling very cut off from a work team. The other disadvantage of working from home is you never close the front door on the mess like you can when you leave for the office and also that friends and family think because you are at home you must be ‘available’.

What do you like most about the beauty industry?

That there is a constant stream of new products and innovations. It’s almost daily.

What would your top tips be for anyone wanting to be a freelance journalist?
These days it is harder and harder to make a living through freelance work. You have to be super flexible (for example, I’ve written packaging, newletters, press releases and a truly tedious book or two that aren’t at the sharp end of journalism but have paid the bills) and despite current advice never to send features in on spec, it is how I got many of my jobs initially, and particularly my first one.

How does blogging differ to journalism?
I am my own editor so I have nobody’s reputation to consider but my own. When you write for a publication, you have to abide by their rules and write to a certain style, but on a blog, you are far freer. I also don’t run spell checks or stick rigidly to correct grammar – I just write as I think and hope it flows out as though I was talking out loud sometimes.

How did you make your blog so successful?
Well, it’s a cheesy answer but happens to be true – it isn’t me that made it successful, it is the people who chose to read it. I had no idea that it would grow to the size it is now, but I think getting in right as the trend was about to hit the UK was a good move.

“It’s vital to be on Twitter if you have a blog so that you can let people know when you have posted”

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a beauty blog?
Go for it! Everyone should have blog, but don’t try and run before you can walk. Opt for a slow but steady reader increase and don’t be disheartened if it isn’t going as quickly as you would hope. There are so many blogs now vying for attention that it takes time to be discovered. It’s also vital to be on Twitter if you have a blog so that you can let people know when you’ve posted. Always run a stats-tracker such as Google Analytics to keep track of your progress and be a mindful blogger – post comments on other people’s blog that are thoughtful and interesting – then they’ll want to check out more of what you have to say.

What advice would you give to brands approaching you to be featured on your blog? 
Don’t send me your SEO team pretending to offer ‘content’ for my readers when I know it’s an ad, the SEOs know it’s an ad and the brand knows it’s an ad. We just don’t fall for that any more.

Who inspires you?
In my real life, my friend Krista Madden, who runs Handpicked Media, a blogger collective; another friend Lynnette Peck-Bateman, an amazing beauty journalist and on-line, I look up to DisneyRollerGirl and LibertyLondonGirl because they are so on it when it comes to Social Media and blogging. Navaz at DisneyRollerGirl is an empathetic blogger who is thoughtful and kind as well as being an amazing fashion blogger, and Sasha at LibertyLondonGirl is just, well, unstoppable and indomitable. I don’t have celebrity influencers… I wouldn’t (and don’t) recognize most of them if I fell over them.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received in your career?
This is going to sound terrible but when I was first starting out, a male friend said (in a boy’s way to help boost my confidence I think) ‘Just go for it; people will read any old crap!’ It totally took the pressure off me feeling I had to be perfect all the time and gave me a complete mind-switch – not to write crap, obviously, but more to feel the stuff I was writing was good enough. That was over ten years ago and I still thank him when I see him!

Visit Jane at


  1. Hi Jenni,

    Just discovered your new blog - great interview with Jane. Looking forward to all your future posts!

    Keep in touch, Tracey

  2. Hi Tracey, thanks so much - great to have you here :o)

    Let me know if there is anything in particular you would like to see on my blog and I will try and make it so!

  3. A fab new blog- can't wait to read more & see how it develops.

  4. This is an excellent and inspiring interview. Very well done. I write a beauty blog and my dream job is to be a freelance beauty writer. It is easy to get disheartened, but this interview gives me hope! Keep up the good work Your Beauty Industry :) xxxx

  5. Thank you so much Bubblefairy! Don't give up - only the most determined people make it in journalism so make sure you're one of them!

  6. I do like to check out what BBB says about products before I buy them and I'm sure she has saved me a fortune!