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    Taking the Plunge: The Shift to Freelancing

    I did it! I took the plunge. I resigned from an eight-to-five job, left behind a wonderful boss, good pay and a company that had been my second home for 14 years. Armed with only my passion for writing and lots of determination, I wandered into the dynamic world of freelance writing. As an accounting graduate, my knowledge of writing was rather raw. The only grammar rules I know were from my grade school English classes. As for creativity, I have my genes to thank for, I suppose.

    I was "forced" to resign from my job because of my mother's failing health. At first I tried venturing into business. But it just wasn't in my system. After three months, a room full of unsold school and office supplies and novelty items, I gave up on the thought of owning a bookstore.

    I also tried my hands at handicrafts. (The creative bug in me just had to be freed!) Again, nothing came up. I ended up with boxes of popsicle sticks, rolls of ribbon, glue guns of different sizes, swatches of fabric, beads of every shape, size and color. Our house looked like a kindergarten classroom! Then reality hit me hard: I had to have direction! Losing a fixed monthly income was such a big risk. I had bills to pay, an ailing, aging mother to look after and an ancestral house that was ready to fall apart. There was no more cash advance or company loan to fall back on. For the first time, I was on my own! I felt desperate.

    While staring at the moon one sleepless night, I asked myself what would make me happy and at the same time earn money. The answer came in a flash: FREELANCE WRITING. I loved writing since I was a child. I could have taken up any course related to writing had I not obliged to my father's request for me to take up accounting. By freelance writing, I can manage my own time. I can take care of my mother and at the same time, earn from doing what I love to do.

    There was no turning back from then on.

    Getting started was very difficult. I had to study on my own. I read writing books. I attended writing workshops right and left. I took the risk and spent the money left from my aborted business. I bought the equipment I needed to go fulltime writing. At first I just bought an electric typewriter. I thought I didn't have to live up to the advancement of technology. I didn't even have a landline phone at that time. Since cell phones were not yet the phenomenon that they are today, I managed with a Jurassic pager. It took a while before I realized that a landline phone is a must for a freelancer. Armed with my self-acquired knowledge in writing and lots of guts, I started exploring my dream world. Within the first year, I found - rather, created - writing opportunities in magazines, radio and even comics.

    As I gained more experience and continued learning, I tried my hand at other mediums: film writing, translating, writing supplemental reading materials for schools, press releases, and of course, literary pieces. My eagerness to learn more about writing never waned. I approached people who could teach me. I joined writing groups to interact with fellow writers. What I read combined with the actual experiences my co-writers and I had taught me valuable lessons about the realities of freelance writing in the local setting. Being a veteran of writing workshops, I got together with a co-writer and planned our very own creative writing workshop. We came up with a formula that we ourselves -- as workshoppers -- looked for in a writing workshop. The success of our first batch was very encouraging. We organized other workshops from then on. To this day, several of our workshoppers have become good friends. We help one another in whatever way we can. Writing has become even more fun being with other people who share my passion.

    Shifting from an eight-to-five job into freelance writing is one of the best decisions I made in my life. Freelance writing has given me a different level of fulfillment. I manage my own time. I get credit when I deserve it. I earn as if I have a full-time job. I do not have to go against the principles I believe in. I can express and impress -- or both -- depending on my purpose. I reach out to people in many ways.

    The shift I made may be a plunge. But it was worth the risk. It jolted me to my senses: I was born to write!


    If You're Serious About Freelancing...

    • Invest in the necessary equipment. A computer is a must these days. So is a telephone (landline). Have your PC installed with a fax and Internet modem. It's worth the investtment!

    • Diversify. Write both in English and in your native language, in different mediums and genres. If you write ONLY in your native language or in only one form (purely poetry, purely short stories, etc.), you limit your market.

    • Keep Learning. There's always something new to learn, new to try.

    • Do not wait for, but rather, Create Opportunities. Call up publications. Ask if you can contribute articles. Most publications do not advertise that. Think of other ways to earn from writing. Be creative!

    • Take Risks. Submit your articles. You won't earn if you keep your works to yourself!

    • Establish Contacts. Interact with people in the writing world and in related fields. Remember that there are many ways to create contacts. Helping people is one.

    • Be Systematic. Maintain an orderly record of your articles. Keep a financial record too. Have a notebook where you can jot bits of information that may come handy in the future.

    • Be Professional. Freelance writing is like selling yourself. You have to establish credibility. Follow deadlines and guidelines. Respect people and be respectable too.

    • Be Honest with yourself. Do you really have the passion and interest to write? You won't last long if all you're after is money. Get real!

    Copyright © 2002 Lizzie Santos

    Lizzie Santos writes features, literary pieces, scripts and other writing projects both in English and Pilipino. She also lectures at creative writing workshops. Her first book, The Laughter of the Leaves and Other Musings, was published by Giraffe Books. She is working on her second book. Contact her at liz_pages@yahoo.com.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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