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The Power of the Written Word – A Career in Writing

What kind of assignments do you take up as a freelance writer?
I started working as a freelance travel and features writer; so, clicking good photographs to substantiate the written word was critical. Then I moved to technical writing for finance-based software applications. Now, as an editor and proof-reader, I work on academic papers, dissertations, marketing collaterals, industry reports and sometimes I even undertake audio transcriptions.

Can you tell us how technology helps you? What kind of software are you proficient in?
I use MS Office and as a technical writer I would use Robohelp, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, Visio, Frontpage and Photoshop. It is technology that has enabled me to work from home. I do not commute to an ‘office’; instead, I use the Internet (Messengers and Online Chat) to liaise with my clients and Skype for video conferencing. There is always email and the telephone for conveying urgent messages.

What are some of the challenges of freelancing?
When you work with an organisation, there is a clear cut delegation of work, you get your money on time – never mind that there are two clients or six. The biggest challenge as a freelancer is that I have to manage everything. From bringing in new clients, to working on projects, to looking into quality control, project management and time estimation, to deciding on rates for assignments. And now that I have a small team of people to delegate work to, I also function as the accountant when it’s pay day!

As a freelancer, know that there will be months, at least initially, when the work load is tremendous and months when there is not sufficient work. So the earnings will also differ. Keep track of all your payments and hound the clients for what is due to you. There will be clients who pay you really late; some who do not pay you at all, so that can get frustrating. Manage your money well during the months of plenty so it lasts during your low phase. Network like there is no tomorrow. You never know which contact will help out when.

There is a perception that writing is a profession that does not pay well. What are your views?
There are different kinds of writing: Travel, Features, Editorials, Technical, Business, Academic, Popular Fiction/Commercial, Scientific, Finance-based. Payments vary for all of these. List your strengths and choose a domain wisely. You need not always be the stereotypical scribe working with a newspaper. You could be a ghost writer for someone, you could specialise in writing speeches, industry reports, market watch, even news stories. You could be the next commercial bestseller’s author! You could be a scriptwriter for a media house.


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