One of the perks of working at a trend forecasting company is the brilliant people you’re surrounded by. Everyone tends to be open minded and falls across the spectrum of innovator to early adopter. With their quick minds and wide variety of interests conversations are never a bore.
Sara Radin is one such person. We first met through work when she joined WGSN as a travel associate editor before she applied for an internal promotion to become a youth editor. I always enjoyed reading her reports. But, as bright lights go they tend wander off to better pastures when the time is right.
Having left the company in the spring, I see her updates on Instagram and find she is going for her dreams which is inspiring. It's easy to go for the adulthood realm of shoulds but instead she has opted for could.
Now working as a freelance writer covering culture, youth, mental health and identity she also speaks at events and organizes her own, one of which was featured in The New York Times. Keep reading below for her personal reflections on her career and life.
Can you walk us through how your personal interest, personality, education and work experience led you to writing?
I never really considered or planned for a career in writing. I like to think writing found me. Sometimes I even wonder if I really am a writer? Maybe that sounds ridiculous or perhaps it's my impostor syndrome, but I guess it's really more about storytelling for me. This is just a channel that allows me to be me. It's a way for me to tell my own stories, and use my voice to lift up other people's stories too.
When I was younger I struggled to pick a creative medium that would allow me to explore all of my different interests. I went to school for art and design, but realized I wasn't an artist, maker or designer. At the same time, I was full of ideas and fascinated by the world around me. I'm an Aquarius and I live with chronic anxiety, so I'm innately an incredibly curious person who has to know the WHY behind everything. Whenever I can't sleep, I like to spend hours on Wikipedia reading up on random topics (mainly the career trajectories of different celebrities or historical movements). But for a long time, I didn't know how to translate a creative mindset and the desire to ask questions and find answers into an actual career.
I wound up working in the fashion industry when I first graduated college, doing concept design and trend forecasting for Converse, the footwear company. Once I left that job, I decided I wanted to share some of the art that was inspiring me, so I launched a personal blog back in 2015. I desperately needed a space to learn about the things inspiring me. So, I started interviewing artists and designers, and also began reflecting on my own creative process through blogging. From there I eventually started writing for some publications (mainly for free!), and then ultimately landed a job at WGSN as the Youth Culture Editor. Over time, I realized that writing really suited me in a lot of different ways, and got more serious about it in the last year or so. I went freelance full-time in April. It's been a challenging but amazing experience. I'm still really figuring things out, but I love waking up everyday knowing that I am able to turn my diverse interests into shareable and monetizable content.
How did you decide to focus on culture, youth, mental health and identity?
I've always been interested in how culture is shifting, and I think the youth are more often than not the people who are really pushing it forward. As someone who learned they were living with mental illness fairly recently, I try to use my voice to challenge some of the stigma around it. Writing about this topic and approaching it in different ways has helped me heal, and it is my hope that sharing my experiences and learnings can also help other people heal too.
What are the positives and negatives are being a freelance writer?
I love how much freedom I have to create my own schedule and pitch all of my own ideas. When I first went freelance I was worried I would feel alone, but I've actually found a lot of community. There are some amazing resources out there for freelance writers - like Facebook groups and newsletters that share opportunities and contacts. Managing the financial aspect of this lifestyle has been hard, though! I mean, I'm basically running my own company. I'm my own HR person, finance department, CEO, marketing team and so on. Figuring it out as I go, and staying patient though!
You've managed write for several well-known publications since going freelance, can you tell us how that happened?
There isn’t a simple or straight-forward answer to this question. Honestly I think it’s been due (very luckily) to a lot of different things… In the last few months, I’ve been honing my pitching and writing skills, and also discovering the work of some amazing creatives who use their platforms to discuss critical, intersectional issues. Connecting the dots to help these individuals get their stories out there in a larger way has become my mission, and I’ve grown more fearless in my pursuit of this type of work. This is my calling.
Beyond this, I’ve been finding creative ways to track down editors’ email addresses, cold pitching them, as well as connecting with other writers, who have graciously taught me everything they know about the freelance pitching and writing process. Finding community and believing in yourself are so necessary to following this type of alternative path.
You also organize events, could you let us know how those happened?
In the past, I was organizing events every month but I recently have been slowing down on this to focus more on my writing. I think both are a way of fostering community. Planning events can be physically and emotionally draining, so taking this break has been really nice.
What's your favorite part of organizing events?
Giving people a platform to share their own experiences. Bringing people together to help them feel less alone.
Do you have any upcoming ones planned?
Not right now but I have something in mind for next year!
What is your advice for aspiring creatives?
I think often the hardest step in doing anything is starting somewhere, so try and start with what you know.
You're very open about your personal struggles on Instagram, as a mental health advocate why is this important for you?
I try to be vulnerable and open about my life as much as I can, on and offline because I'd love to see more people doing that on the platform and in real life. I'm tired of seeing overly-filtered posts and content on Instagram. It's an amazing tool for connecting people, and I believe showing our full spectrum of emotions and experiences could help us foster more empathy.
What are some of your favorite places in New York?