If you’re a BBC fan, you may already know Julie Bensman. Her show, “RSVP Abroad,” featured her adventures as she hosted dinner parties in foreign cities with the help of locals sourced from social media.
“RSVP Abroad” remains one of Julie’s favorite career highlights. Not only was she the face of the show, but she was also responsible for pitching, selling and producing it.
“That was during a particular sweet spot in the timeline of digital content,” she says, “one when influencers weren’t the primary content creators, and everyday people like me could pitch projects that didn’t rely so heavily on the talent’s built-in audience.”
Her time at the BBC, while extraordinary, is just one of the standout experiences in Julie’s career. Her portfolio is diverse and includes copywriting and production skills, which Julie sees as complementary. While writing can at times be isolating and solitary, Julie finds that video and photo production work puts her in collaborative, creative settings where she can quickly see the results of her hard work.
From Newspaper Intern to Happily Self-Employed
The summer after Julie’s freshman year of college, she asked her hometown newspaper if she could start an internship program. They agreed, and she secured several front-page bylines, effectively kicking off her portfolio.
After college, she took on a number of roles for magazines, fashion designers and creative agencies — the latter being the deciding factor in her freelance trajectory.
“I hooked up with a well-known creative agency at the time called Gin Lane, who was helping Adidas launch a global digital magazine for teen girls,” Julie recalls. “They hired me in a contract editor-in-chief role, and I worked on that project for two years.”
Contract work forced Julie into working for herself. At first, she worried about job security and having to manage her own health insurance, retirement savings, and taxes. But she discovered she loved the freedom that freelancing provided. After the Gin Lane project wrapped, she decided to stay on the freelance path.
Natural Storytelling and Necessary Embellishments
Julie always knew she wanted to be a writer, and she describes herself as a natural storyteller. “My husband actually gets frustrated with me when I’m telling a story at a dinner party and start embellishing details for narrative effect,” she says.
“For instance, I’m telling a story where we’re running through the airport with 30 minutes left to catch a flight. I tend to shorten that timeline to 15 minutes, just to add some extra ‘oomph.’
“Nothing gives me more satisfaction than delivering a great punchline that gets a reaction from our dinner guests,” Julie continues. “Sometimes I wonder if that’s the only reason I like having people over — just to have an audience.”
How Do People Find Cool Products These Days?
Julie shares the frustration of many consumers who struggle to find brands and products that aren’t paid ads. In a world dominated by listicles and sponsored influencers, it can be hard to “stumble upon” the right items.
“My husband and I just moved into a new house in Los Angeles and have been shopping for all the stuff that comes with that: furniture, pillows, artwork, table linens, filtered shower heads, you name it,” she explains. “And every time I search ‘best [fill in the blank],’ I just seem to get listicles from outdated media companies who are desperate for ad dollars or influencers who do product reviews for money.”
Like many people, Julie finds the best recommendations in organic, unsolicited formats, like newsletters or podcasts. In general, those content producers are just trying to be helpful and share their experiences, rather than generating clicks or meeting advertising goals.
‘Always Have a Creative Project Going That’s Just For You’
Julie’s advice for all marketers is to make time for personal passion projects and avenues of creative expression that aren’t tied to money.
Four years ago, she enrolled in creative writing classes at UCLA Extension, with the goal to — “maybe, someday” — write a book. “I falsely assumed that, coming from a journalism/copywriting background, writing a book would be a walk in the park. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t,” she says.
After years of persistence, Julie finished the book. The journey taught her a lot about creative writing and gave her a reprieve from paid client work. She enjoyed having a project that was strictly for her. The follow-up? Julie is taking screenwriting classes and working on a screenplay, and she’ll see what that leads to.