What skills do you need to run a magazine?

One of the most common questions I get asked is 'What skills do I need to run a magazine?', followed by 'What does an editor-in-chief do exactly'?

Me, an editor-in-chief … how did that actually happen? This career choice was never planned or on any goal list.

In fact, as I mentioned in my why-I-self-published-a-magazine’  post, I would have laughed had someone predicted my future. But here I am and loving every minute.

I did have a ‘light bulb’ moment when I decided to self-publish a magazine but I didn’t really think about the rest of it. Yes, I was lucky to have worked with the editors at Maybe Magazine, so, I sort of ‘got’ what went on (ish) but I was more on the front line with teaching and designing rather than the logistics.

So, I guess you could say I went on a HUGE learning journey, and, wow, there was a lot to learn back then … and fast. I was about to launch my first magazine and I needed to know what it was to be an editor-in-chief, and well … how to publish a magazine.

This is one of the main reasons I set up the ‘Magazine Publishing Academy’, to help newbie editors-in-chief, achieve in a short amount of time what I learnt over six years … the hard way. So, let’s take a snapshot from my course about what skills do you need to run a magazine and what it takes to be an editor-in-chief.

But first … congratulations! You are (or soon going to be) the proud owner of a magazine and if you’re going to look after the day-to-day management of your publication and team (even a small one). Guess what … that makes you an ‘editor-in-chief’.

What is an Editor-in-Chief?

An editor-in-chief (also referred to as lead editor, chief editor or executive editor), holds the highest position for a publication. They determine what is and what isn’t published and lead the publication’s team of editors, copy editors, and writers to ensure a smooth publication.

What are the main duties of an Editor-in-Chief?

As an editor-in-chief, you oversee the whole publication process from start to finish. This, of course, comes with a wide range of responsibilities, which vary, depending on the size of your publication and team.

Ensure content guidelines
It is your responsibility as editor-in-chief to ensure that all content meets the guidelines for your publication. It’s also important for everyone involved, to understand the ‘voice’ of your magazine, for consistency.

Flat Plan
Mapping out the content and layout of the magazine is your responsibility. You need to ensure the next issue is consistent with content spread evenly across the issue.

Manage content
Depending on the size of the magazine, you could be involved in the editing and writing process and you would review the final publication before publishing.

Team leader
As the leader of your publication, it’s your job to manage your team. These could be individuals that are based in your office, freelancers or virtual assistants, depending on your set-up.

Write editorials
You could contribute to some of the editorials or write an introductory editorial piece at the front of the issue.

Manage finances
Dealing with the finances of your magazines and budget, you are responsible for allocating resources and revenue where needed, to pay your team members, systems or services used.

Represent the publication
As editor-in-chief, your role is to represent and be the ‘face’ of your magazine at conferences, social and networking events.

If you were going to work for a large magazine HQ, then, of course, the criteria would be different and you may need an armful of qualifications and experience. But, as this is you and maybe just a couple of others (like I had back then to start), you don’t necessarily have to have all the skill-set, as you could find someone that has.

The 7 Skills You Need to Become an Editor-in-Chief

What skills do you need to run a magazine?  

One of the most important skills is to able to communicate effectively. As editor-in-chief, you have to communicate with your team, along with business owners, marketing managers and, possibly your contributors. You will also need to represent your magazine (if required) at shows, events and networking meetings.

Creative and Visionary
It’s essential for you to be creative, which you probably are, being as you are interested in media. You need to brainstorm, research and bring interesting content for each issue. You also need to work through difficult problems and find solutions to promote your magazine without a huge budget (if any).

Knowledge and Credibility
Ideally, being a good writer does help, especially when you need to communicate confidently with others. However, if writing isn’t your strong point, you can get help (proof-readers) and use other systems. In my opinion, knowledge and experience in your niche, equals credibility. Your readers want to know that you ‘know your stuff’, rather than being presented with a perfect thesis … unless of course, your magazine is about literacy 😉

Attention to Detail and Organised
As editor-in-chief, you need to be organised and have good project management skills. You need to meet deadlines and ensure that your team are on track and have enough time and information to work effectively. Having systems and processes set up and running smoothly ensure everyone is on the right track.

Above all, it’s so important to be professional and maintain a good image both offline and online.

The following skills are handy to have but of course, they can be delegated:

IT Skills
Having some IT skills are handy, especially using email and a typing program. Of course, you may be lucky enough to have a PA.

Website design
You can, of course, delegate this skill by using a website designer. Even if you don’t have the technical skills to build your own website, I suggest you at least learn how to update it. This ensures that you have control and can edit when needed. I teach ‘How to Build a Website for your Magazine’, on my Magazine Publishing Academy, as an add-on module.

There is so much to do to set up for self-publishing your magazine and getting your first issue out there but with careful planning and focus it can be a smooth journey.

Magazine Publishing Academy [MPA]

Learn in 6 months what took me over 6 years to learn and self-publish your magazine with my six-step to self-publishing success.