What it's like to launch a new print magazine in a pandemic
As told by Sophia Waterfield, Editor-in-Chief of Paranting Magazine
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Pinch, punch, first of the month and happy 1st of June. I hope you all had lovely weekends and for those reading in the UK, a sun-filled bank holiday Monday. After what has been a washout of a month, I think we were all ready for some sunshine and normality. I even had a non-alcoholic gin and tonic in a pub and went to the cinema. (Peter Rabbit 2 if you were wondering).
In the world of this newsletter, I’ve also been speaking to some brilliant people and organising interviews with them before I pause things before baby comes. I can’t wait to share their stories with you and leave on a high before I waddle around the garden and bounce around on a yoga ball. I still have a few weeks yet but it’s strange how it feels like such a short amount of time when you have lots to cram in beforehand.
One of the people that has been high on my list to interview was Sophia Waterfield, a mum, freelance journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Paranting Magazine. Sophia is a reader of the newsletter and one of the people I’ve met through The Freelance Parent. So, when I heard that she was launching a new print magazine for fellow parents, I emailed her immediately to find out more.
I admire Sophia so much for launching not just a magazine but a print title in such challenging times, and for having the self-belief to follow a long-held dream. Not to mention encouraging independent journalism while paying its writers industry standard rates. Hurrah! I’m so looking forward to finally having a copy in my hands when it’s published in June and encourage you all to subscribe and buy an issue too. (Details of how to do that are at the end of the newsletter).
So, without further ado, here’s what I found out when I chatted to Sophia earlier last week. I hope you enjoy the interview and it eases you back into another working week – or a sunny half term if you’re off with the kids.
Sophia Waterfield: Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Paranting Magazine
CAT: First of all, can you tell me a bit about your career so far and how long you've been freelance?
SOPHIA: I've been writing professionally since the age of 15—I wrote two reviews for the East Riding Gazette and got to keep the books I reviewed. I actually still have them. I finished my A-Levels and went to university at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, studying Journalism. Once I graduated, I went into public relations and stayed in that career for eight years, working mainly in B2B and corporate communication for agencies like Weber Shandwick and Racepoint Global. I went freelance in 2017 after I had a breakdown and a mental health crisis (I'm diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and am a recovering alcoholic) and never looked back. I've been a freelance journalist exclusively for three years after I had my son—I couldn't do media relations anymore as my son's sleeping schedule was... sporadic to say the least.
I've written for Newsweek, The Sun Online, Wired UK, SexTechGuide, New Scientist, Metro UK, Mamabella UK, Forbes.com and trade tech B2B publications such as Infosecurity, Enterprise IoT Insights and more.
CAT: What do you love most about being a freelance parent and what are the challenges?
SOPHIA: I love the flexibility and actually being able to do what I've always wanted to do. Choosing what days I work and when I spend time exclusively with my son and dog means I can plan things a lot better—appointments for example only happen on certain days and I always know which days those will be.
The actual challenges come when clients try to reign you in a bit and take flexibility away—as a parent you have to choose your family over a contract. I also don't resonate with many of the people who are in charge of me—don't get me wrong they're lovely, but they're not parents and it can often show. In terms of working from home, I get sad when people in the office get doughnuts or pizza and I don't get anything 'coz I'm not there.
CAT: Where did the idea for Paranting Magazine come from and what are your hopes and aims for it?
SOPHIA: The initial thoughts started when I was pregnant with my son and I was on my way to meet a university friend in London. One of my favourite things to do is read glossy magazines on the train—it's a three and a bit hour train ride from Hull so loads of time to kill. But when I was reading through, nothing spoke to me. I couldn't really afford or fit into any of the clothes and the stories didn't really hit the spot. I was sad that I couldn't actually buy anything pretty. I told my friend over afternoon tea that I wanted to create a maternity magazine... but then I had my baby and took full-time work with Newsweek for 18 months.
Fast forward to 2021, I was having a chat with a peer who is a parent. They said the same things that I thought three years before—they couldn't find stories that resonated with them. And so, motivation hit me and Paranting was born. The name is a mix of "parenting" and "ranting." I often have parent-related rants, thus "I am a paranter" or "I parant." I am absolutely planning a range of t-shirts saying exactly these phrases.
The whole aim of Paranting is to make the attainable aspirational. Parents I spoke to are fed up of reading magazines that are just pure aspiration—how to get your dream job (after spending loads of money retraining), buy this gorgeous bag (that's worth more than my house) and here are some hotels in a far off land (which will cost an arm and a leg, take hours to get there and they're only available in term time). Paranting will change that—we want to represent all parents in the UK whether you're Black, a POC, working-class, disabled, part of the LGBTQ+ community and so on. We're also gender non-conforming in that our articles should hit the spot with men, women and non-binary readers. My hope is that we're successful in getting the magazine to print.
CAT: Can you explain about how it's being funded through your crowdfunding campaign/ advertising etc?
SOPHIA: One of the biggest barriers we've found is that there is no funding for journalism unless you're a) young / under 30 or b) you've already funded things yourself. So I started the Kickstarter campaign to cover the production costs and fees for freelancers—to be transparent, I'll be paying freelance fees regardless of whether the Kickstarter succeeds, it'll just be from my own pocket. We're also looking for advertisers for a mixture of full-page ads or directory listings as well as looking at government-backed loans. Obviously, my own money is going into this one way or another.
CAT: It takes a fair bit of courage and tenacity to create a brand-new print magazine. How has it been so far and have there been any unexpected challenges?
SOPHIA: Thank you for saying so. Paranting being print-only is *very* important to me. Reading magazines is my form of meditation and it was my dream as a teenager to work for one. It would probably be easier to start a website or have both, but for me, it defeats the object of giving parents back 5 - 10 minutes of their day reading the news and finding things they can buy without a third thought.
In terms of the launch itself, it's been interesting in all honesty. I would be lying if I said I've been positive every single minute since I set off to launch the magazine but I have more good days than bad. It's frustrating to see people complain about "the media" but then not back independent journalism—not just Paranting, but others too. The Kickstarter has been the main challenge—we've had no cut-through since the first week. It's an "all or nothing" campaign so it's been hard to accept that we might not get funding from the campaign. But that's why we're putting efforts into advertising and securing government-backed loans. I refuse to give up on something that's so needed.
When you're working from home, not with a team next to you, it can also get lonely and I miss the days of camaraderie from colleagues and peers in the office. But there's a reason I work the way I do and I wouldn't change it. As well, my friends and boyfriend have been a great support.
CAT: The first issue is due to be printed in June. What can readers expect and when will you start work on the second?
SOPHIA: I'm very excited about the first issue mainly because of the talent we've had the honour of working with. We have features on discrimination against breastfeeding, the reasons behind the second wave of COVID-19 in India, the exclusion of dads when it comes to homeschooling, holidays that are accessible, how to be creative in the garden and columns on summer body myths, antenatal classes and sex and relationships. We're also planning and getting ready to shoot our fashion spread which is championing local businesses in Hull (my home city) and second-hand retro and vintage clothing. Our cover star, who I'll announce soon, is also someone who I admire greatly. Many wouldn't consider them an "influencer" but the majority of parents aren't. They are a parent, living in a council house and doing something creative. That's what Paranting is all about.
The second issue will come out in July / August—depending on when we get the first issue out of the door.
CAT: How are you juggling the mag alongside your other work and being a mum?
SOPHIA: *looks at the toddler kicking her side while she's typing* Yeah it's been fine.
Ha ha, it's a challenge. My son is currently going through SEND assessments, goes to preschool in the middle of nowhere and I work a regular contract with Sun Selects two days a week. I'm also a single working-class mum with disabilities, so I have my own issues to overcome on a daily basis. Life is busy—sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. But I'm happier now than I was living in London earning in the next tax bracket. So I'll take the little inconveniences if it means I can have cuddles with my son at the end of the day.
You can support, subscribe and buy a copy of Paranting Magazine here. And give them a follow on Instagram too. I’m also very proud to say I’m one of the contributors so you’ll also find an article from me in there too. Please support the magazine if you can.
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