Interviews / Journalists

Balancing the Grind with Nikki Stefanoff, Freelance Journalist & Copywriter

Nikki Stefanoff is a freelance journalist and copywriter who works to tell the stories of purpose-led brands, businesses and individuals. 

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I started as a reporter for a daily newspaper in northern England, where I’m from, before being called by the bright lights (and no money) of London to work as an editor for the British Airways inflight magazines.

I edited by day and freelanced as a writer for titles like Elle, The Independent and (the now defunct) London Paper by night. After moving to Melbourne, nine years ago and with no journalism contacts, I started freelancing full-time and helped create, launch, and edit, Matters Journal — a biannual print and weekly digital magazine looking at art, design food, health and tech through the eyes of purpose-led business.

That’s where I first learnt about the B Corp movement and have spent the last five years focused on telling the stories of purpose-driven brands through my copywriting business — Yarn Studio. I also freelance as a ‘business for good’ journalist for Pro Bono News — a news organisation for the social sector, and a B Corp. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

The only thing that remains constant about my daily routine is a 7am cup of coffee and then it can descend into something I would only describe as ‘organised chaos’. 

After the coffee comes a mad dash of lunch-making, teeth-brushing and shoe-finding and then I do the school run. I’m at my desk by 9.30am every morning and will have started my day by 10am with either an editorial meeting or, if it’s a freelance day, email reading. 

I find that I write better before lunch so if I’m writing a feature then I’ll try and get that done in the morning and schedule any interviews for the afternoon. If I’m freelancing, and not writing,  then I might start to research ideas and reach out to editors or if it’s a news day I’ll be working towards a 2pm deadline.

I then do school pick-up, head home and either jump on the Peloton, take the dogs for a walk or wander around the corner to my local Pilates studio. Some form of daily exercise is so important to me from a mental health perspective. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My whole life is built around flexibility and remote working and I am super clear about that whenever I start to work with a new organisation or client. I think it helps that I’ve been freelance for almost 11 years and so am very good at managing my time — I know how long things take me and I’ve worked out how to work with the rhythm of the day.  

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

To me, work-life balance is finding equilibrium. Sometimes work needs a bit more attention, sometimes life does. I don’t think you can really get it right unless you take it day-by-day or week-by-week. I have a lot of diaries and spreadsheets that help.

I sit down with my husband on a Sunday night and we look at our diaries and see who has what on work-wise and what our son needs that week and then we work out who can do what — it’s very romantic! Having kids, working and having a life is definitely a team effort. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Peloton has changed my life, or rather, my habit of sitting down and watching reality television. It was an expensive purchase that we ummed and ahhed about last year but by the time Melbourne went into its third lockdown, we figured we had to do something as walking the 5km around our house was getting old.  It was definitely worth it and gave me a routine when one was hard to find.  

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I listen to so many podcasts. I’m a bit of a news junkie and so I listen to Pod Save America, The Daily and Pod Save the World. I love learning about tech and so listen to Pivot and Sway with Kara Swisher every week.

I’m obsessed with SmartLess and WTF with Marc Maron but my favourite podcast last year was Once Upon a Time at Bennington College, a 14-part look into Donna Tartt, Brett Easton Ellis and Jonathon Lethem’s time at Bennington College together and how it inspired all their books.

I love them all as authors so this was my idea of heaven. From a newsletter perspective I subscribe to a few Substacks – David Farrier, Casey Newton and Roxanne Gay. And, bookwise, I would highly recommend Stolen Focus. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I’ve just finished reading Stolen Focus, so I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t live without my phone but I use it for everything — timers, alarms, medication reminders, my meditation app, Spotify, too many newspapers to mention.

However, I AM slowly working through how to have a more healthy relationship with it. And I do use the focus setting so it’s pretty useless between 10am and 4pm and I have set it so it switches everything off at 9pm until 6am. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

Donna Tartt. She releases a book every 10-years so I figure she’s probably got it about right.  

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think balance is a bit of a myth.  I don’t know anyone that feels like they’re getting it right and I think that’s because when it comes to the right balance, it’s a personal thing. I think it’s less about a certain percentage of time going to ‘life’ and a certain percentage to ‘work’ and more important to think about where you’re putting your focus.

If you have kids, focus on them when you’re with them. If you’re out with friends for dinner, turn your phone off and enjoy the conversation and if you’re at work, put as much focus as you need to on the job you need to do. And remember that no one knows what they’re doing — we’re all just winging it. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.