When I tell people I write for a living, I get mixed reactions—usually, though, there’s awkward laughter. A lot of people think that what I choose to do professionally isn’t a realistic way to make money.
I grew up in a small city in Negros Oriental where most people still have traditional values. For them, success means being employed in the local government unit or working the normal eight-to-five grind in an office; they’re easily impressed by titles. I always get comments about how I wasted my education, having graduated with the highest honors. Sometimes, I tell them I’m a Content Manager, and of course, they sing a different tune. What they don’t know is that, in my universe, a Content Manager is essentially a writer.
Writing is not new to me. As early as grade school, I created poems and short essays—both for academic and recreational purposes. In high school, I wrote novels and features. I also joined provincial and regional journalism competitions and press conferences, but I didn’t think those experiences would grow into an actual career.
After graduation, I was desperate to get a job. Let me tell you: I applied everywhere. In utter disbelief, I got accepted as a search engine optimization (SEO) content writer for a British digital marketing firm. I didn’t know anything about the industry but with intensive training and crazy word count quota, I mastered the trade in no time.
In 2012, I decided to make freelance writing a full-time thing. What I thought would be a walk in the park turned out to be quite a pain in the head.
I made an account on Freelancer.com. Back then, I didn’t know any better, so I said yes to assignments that, in retrospect, were so unfair to me and my craft. There was a time when I agreed to P40 to P50 for a 500-word article. Yes, I dealt with crappy clients who drained all the creative juices in me only to earn between P6,000 to P10,000 every month. When it finally dawned on me that my work is worth more than that, I firmly told myself to never accept low-paying jobs again.
I knew that if I stayed at Freelancer.com, I’d be stuck in a financial limbo, so I tried to get my life in order before it was too late. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of employers there who pay reasonably. The platform just didn’t work for me.
I revamped my résumé and built portfolios designed to match any potential client’s niche. Luckily, I have written thousands of articles on every subject possible so sending samples wasn’t an issue for me. Next, I aggressively searched for jobs on Craigslist, checking writing and editing vacancies in various international locations. Although there are a number of good opportunities in the Philippine Craigslist site, the compensation offered by companies advertised in the US, UK, and Australia were a lot better. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it. I’ve found my main employer through this classified advertisement site, which pays me more than P40,000 a month for a variety of writing tasks that include blog posts, website content, PPC ads, whitepapers, etc.
I also research random businesses all over the world and send pitches to managers or owners. I inquire via e-mail, offering them content services to improve their firms’ online presence. Some would reply and ask me to write two to four blog posts per month worth $100 to $250 (P5,000 or P12,000) each. I’ve also contributed to different magazines, providing me with an additional stream of income between $20 to $100 (P1,500 to P5,000).
Establishing a good relationship with my clients is key to maintaining my earning target per month. I make sure I communicate regularly and submit top-notch content on time. I faithfully dedicate my time. Usually, my weekdays are exclusively for my main employer; but my weekends are for ad hoc assignments and contributions. On top of that, to show respect and value, I don’t accept projects if it means compromising work with my existing clients. Nobody wants a half-hearted freelancer under their wing.
I know some writers who earn six digits just by writing. But honestly, it’s hard to find clients who’d pay you $500 just for a single article, especially if you’re not a native English speaker! I could earn just as much if I want to, but I am happy with how much I bring home every month. I don’t go crazy with the schedule and I don’t have sleepless nights to finish projects. Most importantly, I am able to spend time with my family—and that’s the biggest blessing I have gotten out of this profession.