What is the Biggest Lesson You’ve Learned Along the Way?
With Austen Tosone
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m Austen, a former magazine editor and full-time freelance writer, editor, blogger, and digital content creator living in New York City.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received came from one of my internship supervisors in college. He said that everyone I met at the internship would turn out to be someone in the fashion industry, whether I realized it or not, and he advised me to always stay in touch and to never burn any bridges. He was right! Publishing and fashion are such small industries and everyone talks, so it’s always important to be polite and gracious to everyone.
What would you say to 16 year old you?
Calm down! But really, I’d say not to be afraid to take a day off and to make time for you. Work is great and being passionate is great, but it’s important to take time to reflect and reset, too.
What is your greatest fear?
Living outside of New York City.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
That you can do anything and everything that you want if you’re willing to work for it.
What is it like to be a businesswoman?
I remember growing up constantly inventing businesses like a card shop outside of my bedroom and a backpack decorating business in middle school because I loved the idea of earning my own money. When you work a 9-5 job and someone hands you a paycheck every week, it’s nice because you know how much is coming and when. But being a businesswoman is actually more fun because every dollar I earn is something I’ve gone out and found myself, and it makes it feel worth even more.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I’ve lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the last two and a half years and I absolutely love it. It’s easy access to Manhattan for when I attend previews or meetings, but it’s nice to come back to a more relaxed area at the end of the day. There are some great small shops and cafés that I love that I often spend hours in.
What do you love most about yourself?
I think I most love how passionate I am about my work. I love the feeling I get when I publish a blog post that really helps someone or when a brand tells me they loved the video I did about their product. I’m a storyteller at heart and to be able to tell stories in so many different ways and through different mediums is something that I think is a huge strength of mine.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
Well, when NYLON folded last year and I got laid off I was extremely confused. I had a very detailed plan of how I was going to climb the ranks at magazines and move higher up on the masthead over the years and so losing that job really put things in perspective. Thanks to some good luck and good timing I got another job at Interview pretty soon after that, but then got laid off again this past May when that magazine folded. Now that I freelance full-time I feel like in some ways I overcome adversity every day, just by doing my work.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Be willing to adapt to new circumstances because things change so quickly in both the fashion and media industries. If Instagram changes their algorithm again or if a publication I’m freelancing for folds, I need to accept that change quickly and find a way to move forward.
What motivates you most?
I think ultimately I just want to help other people and whether I do that by creating a YouTube video about how to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your website or I can save someone time shopping by rounding up the best blazers for this season on my blog, I think everything I do should give back in some way.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I think since I’ve gone freelance there’s less of a balance than ever, but I’m actually lucky that my work and life fit together so seamlessly. I will sometimes end up working for more than 12 hours a day but there are things like coffee meetings or press previews that qualify as “work” but are also times to catch up with my friends who work in the industry and get out of the house. But I usually try to schedule in a dinner with a friend or drinks with a former co-worker where my phone stays in my bag and I can enjoy what I’m doing in the moment.
What is your favorite meal?
Pizza from Forcella in Williamsburg with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
Something I read in Kate White’s book I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This really stuck out to me. She heard this old Southern expression that refers to “draining the swamp” where you’re trying to drain the swamp (achieve a long-term goal) but as you’re draining it you keep running into alligators (day-to-day tasks like emails, meetings, deadlines, etc.) and you lose sight of actually draining the swamp, which was your initial objective. So even if it’s for half an hour a week I like to take a step back and think about why I’m doing what I’m doing—and what writing that article or taking that copywriting job or publishing that video is doing for my career long-term and try new things if the things I’ve already tried aren’t producing results that contribute to that bigger picture.
Do you have a mentor? If so, what did they teach you?
I feel lucky to have several mentors in my life and I think the best thing that they’ve taught me is to not be afraid to ask them for help. I’m generally a very self-sufficient person and sometimes I forget that even though I’m pretty much a one-woman show now, it doesn’t mean that I can’t call up a friend and ask for an introduction to an editor I want to write for or have a peer I trust to proofread my pitch email. I have such an incredible network here in New York, so why not use it?
Why did you decide to start the journey of becoming an independent content creator?
My story is a little bit different because I didn’t really decide to become an independent content creator—I really just fell into it. When NYLON folded I felt like I had to find another full-time position right away, and when Interview folded I was feeling a bit more conflicted about it. As you can probably guess, I wasn’t too excited about the idea of taking another at a print magazine and digital full-time roles felt so few and far between. I applied for tons of jobs that I was perfectly qualified for, but as I started to pick up more assignments from different publications and arrange more brand deals for my blog, I decided to embrace them and treat this like a full-time position.
Were you scared to start this journey?
Definitely a little! Not having job security or a salary can be scary but the last six months of being a freelancer has taught me so much, including that everything always works itself out.
What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The freedom and flexibility are unbelievable. I love that if a travel opportunity arises I don’t have to ask anyone to take off from work and that I can go grocery shopping and do my laundry in the middle of the day when no one is around. I also don’t have to take on any assignments that I don’t feel super passionate about, unless it’s a slower month. But I think the best part is that I love every part of my job—even the most boring, administrative tasks that I do for myself are still rewarding in their own way.
If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
Maybe I’d have some sort of career consulting business for college students where I could give them feedback on their resumes and cover letters or help them find an internship. Otherwise I’d like to think I’d be doing something that involves travel.
Who is your biggest role model? Why?
I don’t think I could have asked for better role models than my parents. Both are brilliant, funny, and really great at giving advice. I turn to my mom a lot for advice on publishing since she was a magazine editor too and my dad is someone I can ask about the entrepreneurial side because he has his own business.
What is something on your bucket list?
After going to Thailand I’d love to do another long-haul trip somewhere! Japan, South Africa, and Morocco are all on my list.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration on every single street corner of New York, in fashion coffee table books, and of course, on Pinterest.
More About Austen
Austen Tosone is a writer, editor and blogger living in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to running Keep Calm and Chiffon, her fashion and beauty blog, she writes for publications like Refinery29, The Zoe Report, Fashionista, Bustle, and more.