Sandi Sieger, Onya Magazine’s editor-in-chief

Photo by Caitlin Dougherty
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“I’ve always said that networking is like online dating but without the dating. You should try and have a coffee with different people each week.” Sandi Sieger, director and editor-in-chief of Onya Magazine talks to Caitlin Dougherty.

Can you tell me a little bit about Onya Magazine?

I started Onya almost 10 years ago, in 2009. It really focuses on everything Australian and celebrating Australian people through arts, culture, travel, fashion, beauty and sometimes even politics. The magazine is only available online, as this is just the way of the future. I love print, but it’s really expensive. Online is also much easier to manage in terms of layouts and everything. There’s a lot more freedom. I knew for a while that I wanted to do something online-based, so this was perfect.

When did you know this is what you wanted to do?

Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a writer. Just the other day I was looking through old journals I found at my parents’ house from when I was just six. It said when I grow up I would like to write. I later went to Melbourne University and studied a Bachelor of Arts. I originally wanted to do just Journalism but I thought arts might be a bit better as I’m interested in a number of things, like history and politics, as well as editing and publishing. I loved doing arts, it had really broad base.

What were you doing previously?

I was previously working in Sydney as an editor for Mink Magazine. That was online as well but you can’t really find anything about it nowadays. I was working there for a few years but then sort of realized that I wanted to something of my own.

How did get to where you are now, being the founder of this great magazine?

I never really thought I would be doing anything but writing, so when I was offered the job at 23 at Mink it was great. It taught me a lot, especially about coding and htmls etc. In my spare time I was writing my own blogs, which also gave me some important tools and skills about the online world. But a few years later, I really felt like I could start something of my own, so I found a few other writers to collaborate with and create content. I knew it wanted to be related to Australia in a sense, as I’m really supportive of Australians and their stories. Then I just had to choose the name; I had a few in mind but they were too long. I needed something positive and colloquial, and then it came to me – Onya!

Take me through your day-to-day schedule:

The days vary a lot depending on what’s happening! I also have a five-year-old boy so my schedule will often revolve around him and what he’s doing. I’ll often start my day by checking my emails, as I get quite a lot overnight. I also have to forward emails and things to my other writers. Then the rest of the day is talking to advertisers, or organizing meetings. Other days I’ll have an event on that I need to attend, or a launch party or a lunch-all of these are very important for networking. The flexibility is really good and I love that I get time to myself to relax.

What do you most enjoy writing about?

I mostly like to write about personal stuff, like the topics on my personal blogs, but I also like the creative aspect as well. Opinion pieces are fun, as well as inspirational stuff-there’s no research for them so it makes it a bit easier too. I love finding out about other people’s ideas as well, from other writers. And obviously food. We’re really lucky in Melbourne to have such a vibrant community and to have such a wide range of dishes, so it’s really fun to write about.

What’s been your most memorable experience while writing?

Travelling has been amazing. I recently went to the Whitsundays which was really cool. I guess probably the most memorable but difficult piece I’ve written was a feature article on a woman who had discovered her husband was in a porn-ring. Everyone in their neighborhood believed that she had something to do with it. It really ruined her. That was probably the most memorable because it was different to anything the magazine had done before.

Any tips for students trying to make it as a journalist/writer?

Blog! Even if it’s just for yourself and you’re not getting paid, it’s these skills when you are just starting out that are really important. Remember that you and your writing skills are always learning and growing. Talk to like-minded people, so you can bounce ideas off each other-it’s great to join writing clubs or book clubs. And of course networking is extremely important, as it really helps to know certain people when looking for work. I’ve always said that networking is like online dating but without the dating. You should try and have a coffee with different people each week.