I first read one of Diana Hubbell’s articles in Virgin’s Voyeur magazine, as I was travelling home on a flight from Perth. It was an article about the revitalisation of Oktoberfest. Her writing was instantly captivating and I wanted to know more about the person behind the article.
Meet Diana Hubbell
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Boston-born freelance journalist currently splitting my time between Southeast Asia and Europe.
How did you come to be a freelance writer?
It’s funny, but I honestly never expected it to work out as well as it did. When I left my job as an editor at Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia in Bangkok and moved to Berlin, I kept freelancing for the publication. I realized pretty quickly both that I could make this work full-time and that I loved the flexibility that it offered. As with anything, there are trade-offs, but I’ve found that I get to travel and write more than when I worked at a magazine.
What sort of stories do you write?
My background is in travel journalism, but my range has broadened quite a bit with time. I tend to gravitate towards food, design, art and music, in part because of my personal interests.
Who do you predominantly write for?
These days, I primarily write for Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Travel + Leisure, The Guardian, and VICE’s food and electronic music channels. I’ve also contributed to magazines for a number of airlines, including Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Do you have a favourite story?
I have so many. I’m particularly attached to this piece about Ibiza that I wrote for The Guardian, both because it was one of my first longer articles for the publication and because (as you might imagine) it was a blast to research. I left with a completely different perception of the island than when I started. No one believes me when I tell them this, but there’s so much more to it than nightlife.
I was part of a sheep slaughter at a family gathering in Kenya earlier this year, which I documented for MUNCHIES. It was a remarkable experience that changed the way I think about food. My hosts were incredibly gracious.
Finally, I just came back from a trip to Java for Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia. The artists I interviewed there were the coolest, most down-to-Earth bunch of people and the island itself is gorgeous.
What does your freelancing week look like?
That depends on whether or not I’m traveling, which happens at least once or twice a month. When I’m not on the road, I stick pretty closely to office hours. I also never work at home, mostly because I find hanging around in pajamas pretty depressing. When I was just starting out, I only worked for a couple publications and my work rhythms would closely mirror their editorial cycles. In other words, I’d go through a pitching period, followed by researching and writing, then start over. At this point, I’m usually working on so many different things simultaneously that I do a little bit of everything on any given day.
How has your experience as an editor helped you as a freelance writer?
It was essential. I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing colleagues who have helped me grow as both an editor and a writer. I think being on the other side of the desk also gives you a much more well-rounded perspective. I’m not offended if an editor doesn’t respond to an email or needs to tweak the focus of a piece, because I’ve been in their shoes and I know what it’s like.
What advice would you give to a freelance writer wanting to make the leap into full-time freelancing?
Before you quit your day job, set aside a significant chunk of savings and try to build up a strong, diverse client base. Even under the best of circumstances, it takes time to get momentum going. Be patient, be persistent, and learn not to let setbacks get you down.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you freelancing is easy. If you’re proactive, good at structuring your own time, and enjoy a challenge, you just might love it though.
How can people get in touch with you?