By Liezl Formilleza-Dunuan
Unlike most of the freelance writers who are part of the Guild, my freelancing journey began quite recently. I have only been a freelancer for less than 10 years, having started only in 2015.
I was thrust into this industry not out of choice, but out of necessity. When I moved to Baguio in the middle of 2014, I had to leave a full-time program management job at a non-profit organization, a job I’d had for over 12 years (!). Prior to the move, I was shuffling my daughter from Manila to Baguio and back so that she could spend time with her dad, who was based in Baguio. It became tiring and very impractical, leading to the decision for us to just settle in the City of Pines.
I did not immediately leave my job, though. In fact, I tried a telecommuting arrangement for a few months. However, the organization felt that this kind of arrangement was not working for them, so I had to tender my resignation. I was working as a Senior Program Manager which, for them, required my physical presence in Manila. During that time, telecommuting was not as widely accepted as it is now.
So there I was—unemployed, with no personal network in a new city. What was I to do? Although I was a Journalism graduate, I lacked experience in print media because I chose to use my writing skills for development communication and non-profit advocacy. Local media work was not an option for me. I tried applying to similar roles in program management, but the opportunities were not that many, either.
May kwentong freelancer ka ba? Share mo na yan!
Send your 400 to 500-word story to inspire others and share your tips or the lessons you learned as a freelancer.
I was lucky at this point to have renewed ties with a high school batchmate, Aimee Morales, who, by then, had already been doing freelance writing work for more than 10 years. Thanks to her, I learned about the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines (FWGP) and its advocacy for freelance writers. My exposure to the guild and its activities was mainly through social media and online. Aimee, however, would provide generous tips whenever I asked her for them. And because of this, I was encouraged to rediscover my writing skills.
When I started out, I admit that I was guilty of not knowing what my work would be worth. Out of desperation to get a gig, I would agree to lowball rates. I would, later on, learn that this is one of the reasons why this practice of unfair rates persists. As long as there are writers who accept these rates blindly, clients will continue to insist on these exploitative rates. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.
I was definitely a newbie despite my journalism background. I began writing for online news sites, churning out trending entertainment and technology news. After a while, I shifted to longer travel features, which paid slightly better and allowed me to write original content. It was no surprise that I stayed in this stint for over a year.
What followed was a flurry of writing gigs that would pay better. They also helped me get a taste of different genres of writing—from copywriting and marketing for websites and social media, to news features on local events and businesses. My experiences helped me rediscover my love for writing. Eventually, I found my niche. At this point, although I was doing a lot of writing, I still was not earning enough to sustain a growing family.
Even though I moved to Baguio, I still kept in touch with friends and colleagues whom I worked with when I was still in Manila. Little did I know that maintaining this network would bring me into a more specialized genre of writing that would be the answer to my financial needs.
A former colleague called me and asked if I could do feasibility research for a non-profit foundation. Having done this before in my previous job, I did not hesitate to accept. This experience taught me how to compute the value of my work, which was not just about writing, but also the long process of preparing to write. This includes preliminary research, doing interviews, and analyzing all the data I had on hand.
It was after this that I began to take on and seek out similar technical writing projects. I also made sure that the work I put out was one that would be up to the standards my clients required. And this would also mean that clients would keep coming back or would refer me to other potential clients.
Knowing the struggles of starting out as a freelance writer, I would like to help out those that need help. Being a member of the Guild, I would like to share with fellow writers, especially those who are just starting out, how they can break into the genre of technical writing.
Liezl is a freelance writer based in Baguio. She currently consults with a technology start-up Connected Women, while writing about Baguio culture and events on different platforms. You can contact her at email@example.com.