#AtoZChallenge: F is for Freelancing



I once worked intensely as a freelancing writer. For a period of eight months, I composed hundreds of search engine optimised articles for anyone and everyone who was willing to pay me. From technological innovations and scientific trends in Japan, to fundraising, multicultural marketing and recyclable containers in the United States, then to mobility vehicles, health products and construction materials in the United Kingdom — you name it. I did it purely for financial reasons, but from this experience I also learned a lot about writing.

I learned about deadlines and how to avoid that notorious whooshing sound. I learned about pressure and how it can turn one into a zombie. I learned how to force myself to stay awake when everyone else is sleeping. I learned that money is not everything.

I also learned how to do research, how to sift through mountains of information and quickly identify the bits that are truly worthy of your attention. How to purify and absorb them, merging them with what you already know, making them yours, be inspired. How to convey what you want to say, using your own voice, with the help of your intellectual new growth. It is an enriching and rewarding process.

The next lesson is variety. You want to reach search engine optimisation, but at the same time you want your writing to be both informative and entertaining, without repeating the same keywords over and over and boring your readers to death. Hence I learned never to use the same word or phrase in sentences nearby, and when I absolutely have to do so, to change my wording, style and rhythm so that nothing is repeated. This technique is also vital when I do translation.

I further learned the importance of word count. If the client wants 450 words, then 450 words they will get, no more, no less. I was lucky to get to practice on a diversity of length requirements, from 100, 250, 400, 450 to 500, 800 and 1,250 words per article. The trick is to pour out everything you have got, then start cutting and chopping mercilessly. Just think of how those cold-blooded politicians want to cut funding for everything you deem necessary and valuable, and you will see what I mean. This skill is tremendously helpful when you want to submit to journals and writing competitions. It is all about being precise and concise.

Finally, I learned how to ask for money. People are willing to give you a chance to write for them, and you need to appreciate that, but when it comes time to ask for money, which is rightfully yours, you need to take caution. Be professional and friendly — ask not what they should do for you, but what you could do for them. Offer to assist further, to address any questions and concerns they may have about your writing. Do so every week, not every day. After two weeks they will finally wake up to your call and pay up. And if they still refuse to pay, give them another chance. Only after that, you can start threatening them. Your time is precious so you should spend it wisely, not to sacrifice it for those who are not worth it.

I am glad that I have given up freelancing and concentrated instead on my own writing, translation and publishing career. With that said, the most precious lesson I have learned is this — if I ever have to work for money again, then I want to at least get something out of it for myself. The ability to write is a gift. Do not give it away cheaply.


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