How To Become a Magazine Editor: Advice from Bustle’s Olivia Muenter

Someday, do you want to be a magazine editor? I always have. Maybe because I religiously watched Ugly Betty as a preteen. And today, with print going the way of dinosaurs, digital has become the uncontested leader and future of the magazine industry. Anyone who’s anyone is going digital. Teen Vogue doesn’t even produce print magazines anymore. 

In the world of digital magazines, Bustle, an American online women’s magazine that gets over 40 million monthly global hits in traffic, is one of the industry’s leading publications. Written “for and by women who are moving forward as fast as you are” the magazine posts on every topic under the sun; running the gamut from politics to tech. With that girl-power, digital brand in mind, I wanted to know: what does it take to work for a magazine like Bustle

For advice, I was able to conduct a Q&A with Bustle fashion and beauty editor, Olivia Muenter. She shared her career path, her promotion from intern to paid employee and for our readers who’d one day like to work in digital, how to get the upper hand while still in college.

Blush: You’ve had experience as a photographer, writer, working in PR and as a Style Guru for College Fashionista. When and why did you decide you wanted to work as a writer for a magazine?

Olivia Muenter: I didn’t ever make a concrete decision what I wanted to do before I graduated. Instead, I was planning on applying for a variety of types of jobs given my experience and seeing what worked out. I ended up as an editor at a website/online magazine, so in a way this career chose me rather than the other way around.

B: What led you to Bustle? What’s your favorite part about the company? I love that it’s an online magazine for women written by women. And since everyone says the future of print is digital, Bustle seems like the place to work!

OM: I first heard about Bustle when it first launched back in early 2014. I started as writer for the fashion & beauty vertical during my junior and senior years of college. I was able to watch the company grow and eventually become a full-time employee, so I definitely got lucky! Digital is definitely a great place to be right now.

B: You started as an intern there before being promoted to fashion & beauty writer and then associate editor to now fashion & beauty editor. How did you go from being an intern to a paid employee?

OM: I gradually took on more opportunities, hours, and stories.

B: In 2014, you wrote Bustle’s most-viewed article in six months about Instagram only showing the side of the story you want the world to see – my favorite parts being, “I buy peonies! I read books! I am well-rounded! I have shoes!” Hilarious. Did that achievement help your career?

OM: Thanks so much! Yes, I think that that definitely helped me in the sense that it helped me stand out amongst other writers at Bustle and ultimately get the full-time job.

B: As an editor, you edit and publish 75 stories every week – how do you manage that? Do you have a favorite story or feature you’ve ever written? I personally love that you’ve interviewed Sutton Foster because I watch Younger religiously!

OM: This number is a little lower now as I oversee fewer writers, but I think having good time management skills is key. You have to know when to prioritize something and when something else can wait. In terms of my favorite I’ve ever written, I loved two pieces I wrote recently — one being an essay I wrote about my friend’s death (How To Get Ready For Your Best Friend’s Funeral) and a feature about Bath & Body Works super fans. Those were two very different pieces, but I’m very proud of both of them!

B: How busy is your workweek? What’s a typical day like as an editor at Bustle?

OM: It’s fairly busy! I usually work 9 – 6 give or take, and then every few weeks we’ll have a weekend evening that we have to do live coverage for an award show or event. It’s often busy from 9-6, but I try to shut off when I go home and focus on personal projects instead!

B: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?

OM: My favorite part of my job is that it allows me to be creative and define my own career.

B: How can you make yourself a standout applicant for somewhere like Bustle to hire you? Would having experience writing for a digital magazine help?

OM: It definitely helps if you’ve been a writer for Bustle before, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary. For me, I look for people to have a clear voice throughout their cover letter, resume, and any other email attached to an application. Don’t be afraid to show your personality!

B: Are magazine/editorial internships important? Is social media important?

OM: Yes! If someone has a super strong personal brand and social media presence, this makes a big difference to me. Internships help, but freelance writing would be more impressive to me. Don’t be afraid to pitch to places when you’re in college; I wish I did more often!


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