After a start at Matchesfashion.com, Sunday Times Style and then a freelance stint, Katherine Ormerod joined Grazia and, later, Lyst while launching a successful editorial and content consultancy on the side as well as Work Work Work – “an anti-perfectionism project which aims to reveal and explore the non-edited challenges that women face behind the fantasy of social media”. Read on to find out exactly how this digital maven hustled her way up and out on her own, plus her four biggest lessons learned.
Psst… We are hosting Katherine on Thursday at 16th March for an exclusive conversation and Q&A (including bubbles and nibbles) at Frame Queen’s Park. Book tickets here.
That dreaded first interview question… Tell us about yourself 😉
After I finished my degree in History, I moved to London to pursue fashion journalism. While studying for my Master’s in Fashion History & Theory, I started interning at magazines and assisting on photo shoots. I interned—for free—for two years, then as I completed my Master’s I got my first full time job as Staff Writer at Matchesfashion.com.
The site had just launched and it felt like a brave new world of digital fashion. It was 2007/8 and blogs were just starting to make their mark on the industry. About 8 months in, Sunday Times Style approached me for a full-time position as fashion assistant, first to Sara Hassan then to Senior Fashion Editor, Natalie Hartley. I learnt so much over the 18 months I worked for Natalie, but also realised my future wasn’t in styling and that I really wanted to write. I managed to sidestep on to the features team and that’s really where my career began to take shape.
After another 18 months I decided it was time to change things up and moved to Cape Town for a stint in the sunshine. While the freelance opportunities were great, I quickly realised that I wasn’t suited to the beachside pace of life. While I don’t like to be so busy I can’t think, I need to feel dynamic and stimulated—I find underemployment really depressing. I came back to London and got a job as Fashion & Beauty editor for a trend forecasting agency which involved travelling the world and bringing back insights across all creative industries. It was an amazing year which certainly made me an independent and confident lone traveller.
You then moved on to probably the defining moment of your career. How did the Grazia opp come about?
On one of my trips—it was Tel Aviv—I met Paula Reed, then Fashion Director of Grazia and a few months later she offered me the role of Senior Fashion News & Features editor. I did that job for three years and it completely made my career. Week in, week out I was hustling for news, interviewing designers like Dolce & Gabbana or Victoria Beckham and out four nights out of five building relationships across the industry.
During my time there I split with my husband and embarked on a ‘year of yes’ when I diligently said yes to every opportunity and invite. That allowed me to travel even more, meet hundreds of people and really learn everything about how the industry was shifting towards a digital future.
I decided I wanted to set up my own company to help brands build their editorial offer online, but I didn’t really know what my day to day would look like. Within a month I was booked pretty much every day and I worked on a host of short and long term projects for a range of household names for about nine months. At this point global fashion affiliate site LYST.com recruited me to be their Editorial Director. I decided to take the role because I knew I need some bonafide tech experience and while I didn’t love everything about the job, I learnt so much over my 14 months at the business.
And then you finally made the great entrepreneurial leap?
Towards the end of last year, I knew I wanted to go back to working for myself —but this time I wanted to combine my agency work with the activity I’d been doing on the side as an influencer. I decided to launch a platform—called workworkwork.co to share unfiltered experiences. So many of my friends and I who work in the lifestyle industries have built social followings and because we’re all so close we often talk about the discrepancy between the lives we live in social media and our realities. I wanted to create a space which wasn’t perfect or filtered, and let other women know that they’re not the only ones struggling. No matter what it looks like on social media no-one’s life is perfect.
The commercial side of my business is focused on helping brands editorialise marketing messages across social and digital platforms—but the principles of workworkwork go through every project in involved in. It has to be authentic and feel organic. I help brands with influencer projects, social and digital content including shoots and copywriting, social captioning, tone of voice and really help labels drill down to find their digital and social niche.
Building a successful business has been potentially my greatest achievement in life—simply because I would NEVER have believed that I would do it. I’m incredibly terrified of money and financial security has shaped a lot of decisions that I’ve made in life—and certainly limited my aspirations in the past. The fact that I’ve made it work still kind of blows my mind to be honest as I definitely didn’t believe I was suited to entrepreneurialism!
KATHERINE’S 4 BIGGEST LESSONS LEARNED
Risks always pay off. Maybe not in the way you would have hoped or imagined, but something good always comes from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and putting yourself out there.
Finding downtime and making space for pleasure is so important. I often feel incredibly guilty for not pushing it full pelt. But really if you don’t take time to exercise your brain in another way you will burn out. Then you really will start worrying about money. It’s hard not to be greedy and so tough to say, ‘Im going to watch TV instead of take this commission.’ But if you’ve already pushed yourself to the edge you have to listen to your body and take the time to rebalance yourself.
Money comes and goes. While a solid grasp of your financial position is vital—you can’t ever bury your head in the sand—you can’t expect every month to be as successful as the previous one. I do believe that you have to make hay when the sun shines then recharge when the demand lessens—that switch on and off has been very tricky for me to come to terms with, but it’s a vital lesson to learn.
When I was in a full-time job I exercised about five times a week. Now I work for myself it’s more like two or three. It’s something that bothers me because exercise is a huge part of how I find my equilibrium, but you have to be realistic. If you’re waking up at 6am and finishing work at 8pm to finish a project, there is no time to do a class. It’s a sacrifice you make when you’re building your business. But then when you do have the time, you have to keep motivated to take the windows to exercise when you can. It’s very easy to fall off the wagon due to workload then not manage to get back up on it!
Join Frame and Katherine on Thursday at 16th March for an exclusive conversation and Q&A (including bubbles and nibbles) at Frame Queen’s Park. Book tickets here.