In this week’s Meet the Media, we meet Janell M. Hickman, a communications strategist and beauty copywriter based in Brooklyn, New York. A self-proclaimed vacation enthusiast and product minimalist, Janell has over 10+ years of experience working with companies including Essence, Ebony, Gilt and BET, in addition to freelancing with Intermix, Cosmopolitan, Birchbox and Revlon. Please welcome Janell to the blog!
I am a digital communications strategist, copywriter and beauty editor. I’ve been in the industry for 12 years now. Day-to-day, I work directly with brands, writing for online websites, but originally I worked in PR when I first started out.
How did you get into journalism? Was this always where you saw yourself?
I always knew I wanted to work in the industry, but I didn’t know exactly how. I started off working at a local newspaper in my hometown of Minneapolis. In college, I applied for a bunch of internships and ended up landing at Women’s Wear Daily, which really opened my eyes. I was able to see the different facets and options available in the fashion industry. That inspired me to keep pushing and explore different avenues.
From your experience, what makes a great story?
I think a great story is something with a mix of point of view, expertise and information. POV because if you can relate to what you’re writing about, it comes across in a more authentic manner. For expertise, I like to use experts, whether it’s a dermatologist or makeup artist, they do this day in and day out. They test more products than I ever could and have industry experience. I want to be able to provide people with the information they need to feel empowered and make a decision for themselves. Ultimately, I want to share info to others so select the proper products for themselves.
What’s an accomplishment you consider to be the most significant in your career so far?
Transitioning into full-time freelance. I was really scared about it at the beginning —it’s a lot of legwork thinking about how much you’ll be paid, will you get stories, will your relationships make it. It’s been two full years now and I have the space to work with who I want and create stories I really believe in. If I was on staff, there’s a lot of parameters I’d have to work within. There’s a lot of stories I’m proud of, but being able to work for myself and come up with my own ideas is an amazing feeling.
What is one thing you wish the public knew about your job?
I hope people by now recognize it’s not as glamorous as people may think. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of isolated long hours. With freelance, sometimes it feels really slow and other times it’s really busy. It’s very fast-paced, there’s a lot of research and emails involved to gather enough information to write stories you feel good about.
It’s been varying since COVID-19/quarantine started. At first, I was on a very strict schedule and now I’m trying to give myself grace. I usually wake up between 7am and 7:45am. I have a really weird habit of checking my bank accounts every morning. After that, I may scroll Instagram to see if there’s anything cool or interesting or DMs that I need to answer. Next, I get up, brush my teeth and always make my bed. I change out of my pajamas and into loungewear, it gets me in the mindset that it’s time to go to work. I’ve been really loyal to wearing colorful Hanes sweatshirts and sweatpants daily. I make myself coffee and check my email.
If I’m working on freelance stories, it’s generating questions, sending updates to my editors, and then the rest of the day is writing and research. I may block out my time based off of what stories I’m working on. I usually try to break for lunch but if it is a busy day I may not leave my desk. I do try to take a 30-minute walk each day. I also try to workout, whether it’s playing tennis or doing an online pilates class. I try to wrap my work day at 6, but sometimes it’s more like 7 or 8 depending on everything going on.
What’s one piece of career advice you’d give a young person looking to follow in your footsteps?
There’s not a direct path to where you want to go. My story in particular had a weird winding path, starting in PR, going to digital, back to PR, then going to freelance. Before you decide you want to be an editor, experience different facets of the industry to make sure it’s right for you. And be able to take feedback. A lot of young people think if they’re getting edits, it’s bad. I’ve been in the industry a long time and I still get edits. Every editor needs a great editor. It’s not always a negative experience, getting feedback doesn’t need to be bad and can help you grow.
When you’re not writing, what can we find you doing?
A lot of at home cooking. At first I was resentful about this and now I’ve really leaned in. Taking walks in the neighborhood and enjoying to-go drinks which is a new thing [in New York]. There is time now to connect with others in a different manner, definitely taking advantage of that with being home rather than in a remote office. Having time throughout the day to catch up with a friend has been really nice.
Three words that describe you? That’s so hard! Organized, patient, and loyal.
#1 place on your travel bucket list? Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah.
Go to drink order? A Negroni.
Favorite restaurant? In the world, I’d say Pujol in Mexico City. That was an amazing experience. In New York, it’s tough…there’s so many good restaurants it’s hard to pick one.
Where can people follow you? On Instagram @jmargaretbeauty and also my website at janellmhickman.com