Getting on My Game Face: a Behind-the-scenes Look at Starting a Digital Magazine by Melissa Van Hoorne
The following article is a guest post by Melissa Van Hoorne. Melissa is a freelance Executive Assistant and Editor and Co-founder of “This Freelancer Life”, an innovative mobile digital magazine for freelancers, by freelancers. She’ll go over an important aspects of digital magazine preparation, and what you should consider when starting a digital magazine from scratch.
I’m not going to lie, the last two months have been quite the challenge. Why? Because my friend and co-worker and I decided to venture into scary and unknown territory of starting a small business. This formidable task required a substantial amount of thought and preparation. What is this extraordinary adventure we decided to embark on you ask?
I set out to start my own digital magazine
Apparently I had a “story to tell the world”, but I had no idea how many decisions I had to face to get that story out there. Previously, I worked on a magazine that had already been established, so this uncharted territory made me understandingly apprehensive. The important thing to remember, when faced with a daunting task or responsibility, always break the whole into parts.
I broke preparation for the magazine down into 26 parts, and my co-founder and I were surprised at the amount of things we were able to check off so quickly. In this article, I’ll go over a few aspects of digital magazine preparation and what you should consider. For me, I’ve already been through these phases, and now I must put on my “game face” for our launch in July.
For me, this was the most difficult aspect of the preparation process. The artwork quality of the magazine is extremely important to me, and it must match my own artistic style and vision. Obviously, price also plays a part in artist choice. I placed a job posting on Odesk.com, as I intended to find most of my staff writers through there and, I assure you, it is much easier to manage a team if you obtain them from the same source. You must review each candidate’s portfolio, as this conveys more than their talent, it embodies their personality as well. Finally, seek out at least one reference from a prior employer; for Odesk, this simply involved looking at past ratings from clients. Once you’ve completed these steps, you should be prepared to make a hiring decision.
When selecting writers, consider posting the job at a flat rate. One writer may take two hours to write an article that another writer could write in a half hour. Though the rapidity of article turnaround time is key, the most important thing is the quality of the article. Paying a flat rate assures both monetary value and quality. If a candidate is not within your budget, then politely decline and move on to another person; if the candidate is within your budget, then continue the conversation.
Make sure that you obtain a writing sample if they have not already included one in their job query. You want to ensure that they take the time to edit their own articles, as I’ve seen people with blatant spelling errors that obviously overlook spell check screaming at them with the “red squigglies of death” (I use this as an example because I’ve been accosted by someone who didn’t like me confronting him about that). How could one not see that? If they then make excuses for errors like “most writers have editors that edit their articles” (Yeah right! I wish! What fantasy world do you live in sir?), then move on to other candidates.
Make sure that you seek out the lowest initial capital investment possible. We chose to select our publishing platform first, as this would dictate our monthly budget. Press Pad proved the wisest choice, as the app requires little to no initial capital investment. Even though this $299 a month app is at a similar price point to other magazine apps, you don’t pay that amount until you make that amount.
That’s right, if you don’t gross over $299 during a month, you owe them nothing. Cool, right? That factor, coupled with the amazing customer service at PressPad, and this unique platform with an innovative vision is certainly the future of mobile publishing. I highly recommend considering ato cover your first year’s expenses. My Kickstarter for “This Freelancer Life” starts on May 12th, and we’re confident that we’ll be able to achieve the funding and launch This Freelancer Life into exciting territory.
How do we make the magazine both familiar to loyal subscribers but have dynamic content that doesn’t bore people to tears? The answer was to have monthly columns with the same artwork, but rotating content each month. We have eight monthly columns, and we then chose to have four or five other articles that were not part of the monthly columns, with varying artwork. As far as page count goes, in running the magazine at my current full-time job, 30 pages seemed to be the “sweet spot”. I estimated article length as two pages per article, so do the math from there. You need to consider your price point vs. the value of the content. Are they getting too much? Not enough? Successfully answer this question, and you’ll sleep much better at night…I promise you.
I recommend giving yourself 2-3 months between your amazing idea for your magazine and your launch. Why? Because you need to allow yourself enough time to generate hype through press releases and social media.
As of right now, I’ve received about ten resumes from people wanting to be contributors and our Google+ page has almost 3,000 views in about two months.
The magazine has already generated so much hype that we have no doubts about our Kickstarter success. I recommend making friends with bloggers in your niche for maximum exposure. Also, you can add part of your magazine as free content on Issuu or Scribd, and watch the views to your site and your app soar. By using some of these tips, people will be begging you to feature your magazine in their blogs.
I’m not going to lie, the challenges we’ve faced starting a digital magazine from scratch surprised us, but the fact that we got through them will make our success stronger and sweeter. You’re not alone though, as the people at PressPad have answered any questions I’ve had and have made this process much smoother for us.