How I Got Into Content Writing at 19 (Back in 2009)

I was turning 20 and was still in my second year at university. Back then, it felt like I couldn’t wait to go out into the real world. I’ve been in school since I was four and it didn’t make sense to me that I’d be turning 20 and still be learning about things that would never really be applied in real life.

The Decision

On the second semester of that academic year, I decided not to enroll and looked for a job instead. I saw a job posting online for a content writer. I had no idea what content writers wrote about but I felt confident about my grasp of the English language so I went ahead and sent my application.

A couple of days later, I got a reply on my email and I was being invited for an interview! It got me really excited because it was the only application I sent out. What were the chances, right? It may have had something to do with the resume and the name of the university but I still had a lot to prove. I didn’t have any experience as a content writer.

The Interview

The office of the company was located at the 14th (really, 13th) floor of a downtown building. I went there with a copy of my resume which I struggled to fill. I included all the workshops and seminars I’ve attended just so I could have something there apart from my education and personal information.

That meeting was going to be my first face-to-face interview. Before the decision to apply as a content writer, I was a part-time online English tutor to Japanese professionals. I had some experience on being asked basic interview questions but that was done over the internet. This one was the real thing.

During the interview proper, the content manager/HR invited me to sit on a couch. It was very casual and a little less intimidating. She looked at my resume and appeared impressed at the long list of seminars I’ve attended. Of course, I only had one previous job experience which was as an English tutor.

I think the whole point of the interview was to assess my spoken English. I may have faked my confidence the whole time but it worked. My elementary school also had this “English Only” policy that forced me and other pupils to speak in that language. It’s just this switch that turns on automatically, especially when I’m nervous. So, I guess I have my school to thank for that.

The next step was a sample writing task. The content manager asked me to choose a desk and write a sample article about non-stick frying pans. It was a simple topic, right? It’s not rocket science. But I can still remember how cold my hands were. Remember, I had no idea what it meant to be a content writer. The best thing I could do was to imagine myself as the reader and ask myself what I wanted to know about non-stick frying pans.

Getting Hired

And it worked! Somehow, my grasp of the language, my fake confidence, and the way I wrote the sample article got me my first job. I was absolutely excited at the thought of finally earning money. This was it. While my classmates at university were slaving away at their readings and books, I was in the real world. It felt like I was finally getting ahead.

I was given the option to work at home or in the office. As a closet introvert, of course I chose to work from home. That way, I didn’t have to interact with people or think about where I was going to eat lunch or spend money for transport. It was an exciting thought to work in the 13th/14th floor of a downtown building but even then, I knew that I’d never be as comfortable in an office as I would be if I were to work in my own space at home.

Doing the Job

Being a content writer was easy and challenging at the same time. It was easy in the sense that I had no problems writing in English and every information I needed to write any article can be found on the internet. But it was challenging because I didn’t know Search Engine Optimization (SEO) yet. I didn’t even fully understand what it meant to “optimize” something.

So, whenever I didn’t know something, Google was my friend. “What is SEO?” “What is a keyword?” “How many times should I use a keyword?” These were just some of the questions I had to figure out for myself. There were no handbooks or tutorials for me to use back then. For every article I wrote, I was given the topic, the required word count, and the number of times I needed to use a keyword.

Keep in mind that this was in 2009 so “keyword stuffing” was still a thing. This was a technique where the writer would keep on using a certain word to manipulate the website’s rank in Google. For example, when a search engine like Google reads an article that’s filled with the word “non-stick frying pans,” it would think that the website has the best information about that topic. Clearly, search engines are a lot smarter now so keyword stuffing is a thing of the past.

The First Paycheck

After a month of working and figuring things out on how to be a content writer, I finally got my first paycheck. Well, it wasn’t a check. I was given cash. The amount was 7,000 PHP or roughly 156 USD if a dollar was equal to 45 pesos.

I know that’s crazy low if I were to compare that with what I’m earning now. Imagine, I wrote a good number of articles for a whole month and earned only that. I think my rate per word at that time was 25 centavos, so a 1000-word article would only get me 250 pesos. That’s not too bad if I wanted to buy myself a Happy Meal. 😀

Even though the rates were low, I didn’t care really. What I had in mind was that I had a job, I was working as a writer, and I was getting paid! That’s all that mattered to me at that time and I was genuinely happy about having a job at 19.

How to Take the Leap

If you want to be a content writer and start earning, it’s very easy to do that. You just have to decide for yourself that you’re a good writer. You don’t need to have a college degree to be one.

Note: After a year in the “real world,” I decided to go back to university to pursue a degree in Anthropology. I kind of missed all the readings and books and lectures so I just paused working for a bit and continue where I left off.

The next step is to look for writing jobs. There are tons of job postings you can check everyday. Refine your resume and put all the relevant skills and experiences you can think of.

Of course, you have to prove yourself. It wouldn’t matter how impressive your resume is, if you can’t show that you have the skills that you claim you have, you’re not going to get anywhere.

If you’re starting out as a content writer and you don’t have any experience whatsoever, be open to any opportunity. It may not pay as much but you’ll have the chance to learn and improve your writing skills. It’s not the time yet to be picky about which jobs to take.

Just get your foot at the door and start learning. Ask questions. If you don’t want to ask those around you, then Google it. Google is the oracle. 😀

Takeaway

So, that’s how everything started for me. Our motivations and circumstances might be different but I hope you can get something out of this post. It’s really just a matter of deciding that you want to be a writer or you want to earn from writing.

I never thought I’d be a writer because I didn’t have a clue how writers got paid. But anyway, I rode the waves and now I’m here, 12 years later, still writing and having a blast doing so.

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