12 Years of Writing: How is It as a Career?

After starting out as a content writer at 19, I had all sorts of jobs, mainly in the academe. I was a researcher for about five or six years, and I also taught social sciences at a university for a year. There was something that always pulled me back to writing. Maybe it was the enjoyment of solitude or the freedom of owning my time.

Writing While at University

When I went back to university after working for a year as a content writer, I didn’t really stop working. I juggled my studies and work. It’s nice to earn money, no matter how small it was. At least I had some cash so I could buy books at second-hand bookstores.

I looked for jobs online and this time, I learned the term “freelance.” Before, I was working at a digital marketing company so I had a somewhat fixed salary. But I discovered at this point that I could make more money if I wasn’t attached to just one company. If I could write content for several clients, then I’d be earning more.

At university, I took things slow so I just got 15 units every semester which was the minimum requirement. That’s just three courses so I had a lot of time in my hands. I had the chance to read what I wanted to read and learn about things that I was truly interested in. And yes, I worked whenever I had an internet connection.

Back then, I had a prepaid internet connection so it allowed me to work while at my apartment near campus. I had this first generation Acer Aspire notebook which I used for both my academic work and my writing work. I wrote in the evening mostly because there were no distractions.

I wrote articles for blogs, learned how to write CVs, and improved my understanding of SEO. I accepted any rate that the client wanted to pay me. Negotiating my rate was a skill I was yet to learn. But it was okay. I was earning my degree and I was earning money.

Pursuing Anthropology

At the end of 2011, I got the chance to work as a research assistant for a World Bank-funded research (I graduated in 2013). This was my first shot at actually practicing anthropology and I felt so lucky to be tapped by another university to work for them on this research.

I was to provide assistance to a lawyer who reviewed literature on land tenure instruments on the CARAGA Region. This was really cool. I didn’t know what land tenure instruments meant! But of course, Google is my friend so I read a lot about it on the internet.

When I signed my contract for this research, I was to be paid 75,000 PHP for a month of work. That was way beyond awesome! My first salary as a writer was 7,000 pesos a month. This was 972% bigger than that. (Yes, I did the math because I’m bad at numbers. I failed college algebra three times. I passed on my fourth because I think the professor took pity on me. 😀 )

After this project, I went on to join other research studies being conducted by my university and the other one. It was amazing because I was working with anthropologists who’ve written books that I’ve read as a student. (Yes, I asked them to sign my copies.) At that time, I really thought that it was my career path.

Creative Writing

Since I was too busy as a research assistant to take on writing jobs, I took the chance to learn more about how to write instead. I still had to take some elective courses so I chose two on creative writing. One was an introductory course and the other was writing for children. I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator when I was in high school, that’s why I chose the second one.

It was a fun time for me because creative writing was so different from the style I was so used to in academic writing. It was refreshing for me to write that way and to explore different styles of writing. What I learned from those courses helped me a great deal as a content writer. I learned how to write poetry, short stories, essays, and right now, I’m writing my first full-length novel.

There are many types of writers. But I suppose the most important thing to remember is that to be a writer, one must write. It’s not enough to call yourself a “writer.” You should be able to show some work. It doesn’t matter if it’s just your journal. That’s still writing. Practicing the craft is the most important thing.

Working as a University Lecturer

Research, field work, writing — these were all incredible for me. But somehow, I reached the point where I was exhausted. I traveled a great deal all over the archipelago as a researcher. It was fun, don’t get me wrong. But I got tired of long bus rides, rough roads, challenging treks, and sleeping on strange beds (if there were beds at all.)

Mentally, I was enjoying the work. It was the physical aspect of field work that got me thinking, “Is this what I’m going to do until I’m 60?” I wasn’t that committed to that kind of work. Even though I was earning well and I was practicing my discipline, I was just so tired. I think those six years were great but I could only climb so many mountains. (Yes, literal mountains.)

So, in 2018, I decided to work as a university lecturer. It was very brief — just a year. This one had it’s own set of challenges. The short of it was that I felt I wasn’t happy with it. And what good am I if I’m not passionate about what I’m doing? The most difficult part was teaching uninterested students. There’s no cure for that. So I left.

Writing as a Career

In 2019, I decided to go back to writing. Even though I wore different hats, all the jobs I had required me to write. So, even when I wasn’t earning as a content writer, I was practicing my craft and I was learning so many things along the way.

I took a job at a digital marketing company in my city and this time, I worked in an office. I started as the first content writer and when the company scaled, I was promoted to content manager. Having that role allowed me to practice my people skills. I was supervising about seven writers.

It was a fun time for me because I met new people and I learned more about SEO, new content marketing techniques, leadership skills, and others. The social aspect of working with a team made it really enjoyable, too.

Now, I’m working from home. The pandemic is still here and affecting how we all function. I work directly with clients now and I’m managing this site along with my other websites. While it can get quite lonely sometimes because I work alone in my home office, it’s okay. I can get more writing done.

Takeaway

As a career, writing has been a blast! It was a long route to finally decide that this is what I’m going to do long term. I’m enjoying how I can spend my time any way I want. I work at home and don’t have to spend on transport. Food is always available (Yay!) and I can work with clients directly. When it comes to earnings, let’s say life is comfortable. Everything else is a bonus.

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