By Nick Bragg
Stephanie Miles first got involved in journalism at Red Bluff High School, where she was the editor of her school newspaper. With Chico State being so close, Miles gained admiration for the university’s journalism program at a young age.
“My family would go to Chico pretty regularly as I was growing up and I remember seeing The Orion on newsstands around town and thinking it was so neat that Chico State had a great student newspaper,” Miles said.
Her job as a high school newspaper editor gave Miles the opportunity to meet a few of The Orion staff at local events and she was impressed by everything they had to say about the journalism department. Based on those interactions, Miles was sold on the idea of attending Chico State and pursuing journalism.
Once at Chico State, Miles spent her sophomore, junior and senior year writing and editing for The Orion. She bounced around from features writer to features editor, then to news writer and finally the opinion editor. During the summer between her sophomore and junior year, Miles interned at The Daily News in Red Bluff, which is where she narrowed down what she wanted to do in the future.
“Although the people I worked with were wonderful, that internship helped me discover that I ultimately didn't want to work in a traditional newsroom and that I wanted to do something with a little more creativity and flexibility,” Miles said.
Graduation rolled around and Miles was able to secure a paid internship with FHM Magazine, which was a competitor of Maxim. People who knew Miles had a hard time imagining her working at a men’s magazine, she said. But Miles instinctively made the decision to move to New York to see what putting together a major national magazine was all about.
“It turned out my instincts were right,” Miles said. “In addition to writing short blurbs and small articles in the magazine, I got the chance to work closely with both the editorial and photo departments.”
In 2006, the media industry was changing significantly; print was shifting to digital and many magazines went out of business. After Miles spent five months at FHM, the parent company shut the magazine down. She lucked out by getting an editorial assistant position at a news startup called CityFile. She spent a few years doing freelance writing for CityFile and met a lot of influential people.
Miles decided to quit her job at CityFile in 2009 because she wanted to travel and get out of New York for a while. This was when the founder of CityFile offered to let her work remotely, on a freelance basis for as long as she needed. Miles was ecstatic about this because she was finally able to unleash her creativity and have more flexibility in her career—her goal since the internship at The Daily News.
“That gave me a great safety net as I started looking for additional freelance gigs,” Miles said “I'd say it took me about six months to completely replace my old income with freelance income.”
For the first year of Miles’s new freelance career, she emailed editors at various outlets and pitched story ideas every week. Now she works on a 100 percent referral basis, meaning if someone needs an article written or content created for a website, they would need to be referred to Miles from a previous client of hers.
Now with 10 years of journalistic experience behind her, Miles considers herself a digital content creator rather than just a freelance writer. Along with her freelance gig, Miles is currently the senior editor at Street Fight, a media and research company.
One of the best parts about Miles’ job is that she can do her work from anywhere she wants, she said. Although she does have deadlines, she can pick and choose what she wants to do and for the most part, she can set her own schedule.
“Now that I'm a mom with two young kids, it's been great that I can continue working in the field I love without having to sacrifice time at home with my family,” Miles said. “On the other hand– when you work for yourself there is no maternity leave, no paid sick days and no employer-sponsored retirement plans.”
Miles doesn’t exactly know where she will be in five years, but it’s very unlikely she’ll ever return to a traditional newsroom.
“Don't feel like you need to be limited by the types of positions that are out there right now," she advised current students. "Journalism is an amazing field because you can adapt the skills you're learning to create whatever type of job you envision for yourself.”