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Where did the idea for About Time Magazine come from?
“The idea for About Time came of out frustration. I was always going on lifestyle websites looking for where to go for dinner. I found that I was so overwhelmed with choice that I came away with no idea what to pick so I wouldn’t do anything. What I wanted was something that was authoritative and scaled down so it told you ‘this is worth your time’ to make the whole process much easier.
How did you going about starting the business?
“What I did to start About Time Magazine was to first work on the concept for a few weeks and really flesh out what it was that I wanted to do, what I wanted the site to look like and what kind of content we would produce. From there, I went about enlisting everyone I knew that could be of use to the site, so friends that were graphic designers, videographers, photographers - anyone I knew that might want to help me. I tried to find some way to do it slightly more cheaply, perhaps swapping skills or being able to help them out in some other way. So I built this network of people around me that were creative and could help.”
What has been the biggest challenge for you when starting the business?
“One of the biggest challenges wasn’t actually in starting the business, but in the running of it. Launching the website with hindsight wasn’t that difficult – it’s quite easy to launch a website. But actually running it, maintaining it, posting multiple times a day – that’s quite challenging. To have a content structure in mind to know exactly what you’re going to do on what day of the week and getting really organised in that way. That was probably one of the biggest struggles.”
Why is ‘About Time’ different to other lifestyle publications?
“I think it’s different to other publications because it’s a lot more direct and more personal. Because we’re quite a small team, and people often know that I started it, people know that there’s a face behind it so there’s someone you can ask if you want a recommendation for dinner or for afternoon tea. I suppose that personal element of the website is maybe what sets us apart. And beyond that it’s just a bit more bossy – we’re not scared of telling people ‘this is worth your time, this is worth your money, this is what you should be doing this weekend.’ That slightly bossy tone is what our readers like, so I suppose that’s what makes us different to other sites.”
How important is financial planning to the business? Is running an online magazine expensive?
“Financial planning is important to any business – specifically in your first years when you’re trying to grow and you’re trying to develop. It’s really important to figure out your finances and find out exactly what’s making you money with different avenues. Especially with online because there are so many different ways in which we can monetise. Whether it’s sponsored content, advertising, advertorials, events, supper clubs, branded collaboration – there’s a whole host of things, so planning where your money is coming in from, what’s doing well, what’s not and figuring out how you can expand in ways that will help you. That’s really important. But running an online magazine isn’t that expensive – we don’t have a huge amount of overheads. We pay for our server, and for hosting, and for a bit of admin month-to-month.”
What have you learnt about building and financing a time team of staff?
“One of the most important things I’ve learnt is just to start slow. I think it’s quite ambitious for start-ups to think in your second year you’re going to have 20 employees and a huge office. It’s OK to grow slowly and grow at a speed you’re comfortable with. That’s been really important for us figuring out when we can take on more people. And with offices that’s really challenging - being able to find an office we can afford whilst trying to grow the team is important.”
How has the business grown over the years?
“We’ve grown quite a lot over the years. We’ve only been going for two and a half years, and it’s been quite a whirlwind. The first year was more about focussing on building the website, so it was about building content and contacts in PR or in media. Our second year has been more about building a brand and figuring out what we can do now we have a platform and a readership. We’ve been working on new and exciting ways to learn to expand the brand, for example supper clubs or reader events. We’ve focussed not just on the running of it, but more on the building and perception of the brand.”
What do you love most about your job?
I love having the freedom of your own time, and just being able to say ‘it’s really sunny today let’s take the team and go work outside somewhere or site in the park for hour’. Not being stuck to the 9-5 is really liberating - you feel like you’re in control of your own time. And travelling - it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to travel across the world and try different restaurants and resorts. It’s a really fantastic perk.”
What next for About Time Magazine?
“This year we’re working a lot on reader events and figuring out new ways to meet our audience. It’s fantastic having online readers, but we’re trying to build new ways to move About Time into the physical more.
We’ve done a couple of events we’re working with D&D which is an amazing restaurant group in London, and we’re working on female focussed brunches. So they’re educational talks on all kinds of things from social media, to how to start your own business and to food which has been really successful.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
- The first thing I’d say is to plan, and to really figure out what it is you’re trying to do. Often when you start you have so many ideas, so scale it down and figure out what’s possible within your skillset and what can you afford to do.
- Surround yourself with positive people and start-ups and other people that are on similar journeys because it can be quite lonely when you start your business – especially if you start it alone. Finding other people that are on a similar trajectory is really important for moral and for ideas, and it’s a good community. Co-working spaces are something that we’ve done a lot, and it’s really great if you want to meet other start-ups.
- Accept that there will be lows, and it’s the price you pay for having amazing highs, and freedom, and time to fulfil your pursuits. Just take some time out and use those lows to try to figure out things again.
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Money Means is a news and information series written by independent financial and consumer journalists and experts. FSCS launched Money Means in 2016 to help give people clear and useful information about personal finance, to increase their understanding and confidence when dealing with money.