For many, becoming a beauty editor seems like a career straight out of the movies, filled with luxe parties, gorgeous gifts, and a closet full of enviable outfits. It also can seem like a dream job that isn’t easily obtainable to just anyone.
In fact—despite how much the industry has changed—it is a path that has continued to hang on to its mystery and allure. Maybe because at the end of the day, editors are gatekeepers deciding daily what to include and what not to include within the pages of their publication. It’s a job that historically has been held by social tastemakers who were responsible for discovering and featuring only the best of the best.
But the job isn’t all Devil Wears Prada, and with the rise in online blogs and publications, getting into the writing industry has become a viable career for many and an excellent work-from-home opportunity.
Here, we chat with Sarah Lim, who has worked with major beauty brands like Kevyn Aucoin and has been published in national magazines like Nylon, to learn more about what a day in the life of a beauty editor and writer is really like.
How did you get started as a beauty writer?
I was unhappy with my office job working for an e-commerce startup as the hours were rough, my boss was straight-up mean, and I dreaded the hour-long commute each way. I was desperate for flexibility and more personal time.
Around the same time, I was constantly researching skincare and obsessing over formulas because my skin was breaking out, dry, and oily at the same time. I pored over research so intensely I was eventually able to read a full ingredients list on a bottle and recognize nearly everything!
One day, back around 2015, I woke up and decided to marry my love for writing and beauty. I researched 50 spas and skincare brands and pitched them my services—cold.
I didn’t have any experience, so I created advertisements and blog posts for fictitious companies so I could share writing clips. Eventually, one company gave me a chance and asked me to write monthly blog posts for them. That got the ball rolling, and I haven’t looked back since.
What does your typical day look like?
I start the workday by checking my meeting calendar and upcoming projects, and then I make a list of must-dos for the day. That means in a day, I may be editing, writing, and/or researching.
I’ll also periodically check my email so I can promptly respond to important messages, such as notes from magazine and website editors who want to assign me articles or inquiries from prospective clients.
What are your favorite brands you have worked with and how was the experience?
I love working for Image Skincare, a skincare company that creates super-thoughtful, clinically studied formulas (their founders are a dermatologist and an esthetician, so it’s no wonder!).
The main reason I like writing for them is that I believe in their products 100%. I use their vitamin C serum every day, and it’s made a huge difference on my skin. And then there are the people I work with: they’re organized, friendly, respectful, and all-around good humans.
If you could go back five years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself not to take projects just for the money or, even worse, to accept lower rates than what I wanted or deserved. This only causes resentment, which makes completing an assignment extremely painful to do. In the same vein, I would tell myself not to take projects that didn’t interest me.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers and editors?
Clients who try to lowball you are the worst. This has been a fact for most of my career: people who don’t want to pay your stated price tend to also be the most demanding clients.
I had a client once who called me at all hours of the day, even well past bedtime, and would ring me several times in a row and leave dozens of messages. I made it very clear in the contract that phone calls are by appointment only, but they acted as they owned me and that I owed them.
Conversely, the best clients I’ve ever had were willing to pay premium prices and did not micromanage. They trusted me to do the job, communicated clearly, and respected my space.
What advice would you give to someone who wants a job as a writer or editor?
Like any job you are interviewing for, you should be prepared to go above and beyond in your application.
If you’re applying for a job or are pitching a certain company, research more than just their website. Go to the store and try their products, read their press releases, research their competitors. Then, come up with one amazing suggestion on an area of need.
You should also always ensure your writing samples are relevant and that you can write in that particular brand’s tone of voice. If you don’t have a sample that matches, create one for a fictitious brand.
When you’re not writing or editing, how do you like to spend your time?
I’m a big lover of contemporary fiction, and I also love a wet brunch.
You can find Sarah here at Ageless Glow Skin.