On the April 30, 2010 I said goodbye to my career as a high school English teacher. I inherently knew that writing was my passion. I had been writing poetry since an early age but had never ventured beyond this art form. However, it wasn’t like I was completely new to writing – I obtained an MA from Stellenbosch University and had written many essays as a part of my studies.
But copywriting, journalism and proofreading were never part of my full-thesis degree. And I now had to start from scratch and utilise my skills in a marketable manner.
At first, I never knew where to start. Doubts hassled me at all hours of the day. Had I done the right thing by leaving and starting afresh? I dreamt of children pushing me towards my calling in the strangest of ways. And then, absurdly enough, I knew I was on track.
A month of surfing the Internet and researching job opportunities taught me that getting into the world of freelance writing was going to be harder than I thought. It also taught me that finding a full-time job was going to be nearly impossible since although I had more than adequate qualifications, I lacked experience in the writing field. I waded through ridiculously low-paying Gumtree adverts for writers, spoke to pessimistic individuals about freelancing and dwelled on increasingly high statistics of young, unemployed graduates. And then I became despondent.
It was a long few months of applying for jobs that I wasn’t really interested in, but more and more I felt a calling towards writing as a profession. As clichéd as it may sound, I uncovered my niche in those few months. And then luck landed spontaneously on my Facebook newsfeed. A friend had posted a writing job for a software company in Cape Town. It sounded too good to be true. I applied and the next thing I knew I was called in for a meeting where they offered me freelance writing work. I loved writing for them. I could work from home and at my own pace. And best of all, I was writing about topics that I deemed important – topics of a motivational and inspirational focus.
But after two months, the company no longer needed my services. I was upset. What would I do now? Would I ever find similar work again? Despondency crept into every aspect of my life as I prayed that job offers would roll in and money would miraculously enter my bank account. But like all worthwhile things in life, it took time. And I worked hard and searched extensively. I perused the writing markets in South Africa and abroad. I sent hundreds of emails with little response.
And then, by luck, I received a freelance job through a friend working for a nutraceutical company to edit their web copy and package inserts. Working for this company showed me a completely different slant to what I had been doing at the software company. Here I could engage with scientific information on a higher intellectual level and make it consumer-friendly for their website. A new market opened up before my eyes. I still freelance for this company.
Still, my most important achievement this year was having three articles published in the Christmas Magazine (currently available at CNA). It brought tears to my eyes to see my work in print as I tore open the plastic cover the magazine is sold in and rushed to brag to family and friends. Networking had once again paid off and now it was in a tangible form – more motivation for me!
I have only a bit of work lined up at present, but the New Year is calling and I know that 2012 will bring many more opportunities. It has however, been a tough few months and I had to make some sacrifices along the way. Whether I will be freelance writing on a full-time basis in the future is unknown. It may perhaps become a hobby of mine on the sideline parallel to a full-time position.
Nonetheless, this year, I have learnt that networking is key to one’s success as a freelancer. I have also learnt that mastering technology is crucial in today’s age, which is why I am constantly working on my website, Facebook page and Twitter account to improve my skills and get my name out there. Optimism and drive go hand in hand with one’s skills. I had to search deep down within myself, trust in my skills and abilities, and have faith in myself in order to stay positive. It hasn’t been easy. But looking back now, I am ready for all the world will throw at me in 2012.
Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @connect_write