Before this website became a Survival Guide for University Students, I was planning to turn it into a freelance writing blog. You see, when I’m not studying, I write. In fact, I’ve been blogging since 2011. But I never thought of writing as a way to make money on the side. That was until I got my first writing job with Vulcan Post.
This website didn’t end up as a freelance writing blog because I don’t have enough experience yet, as compared to my university experience. Nevertheless, I figured I should tell the story of how I got my first freelance writing job because it might help students who look for writing jobs during the semester and because it is a reminder that one should never stop trying.
Grab your cup of coffee/tea, sit back and read on.
It all started with an 8-year-old girl who had discovered the meaning of ‘writer’. It’s a job. They write stories and get published. She wanted to do that when she grew up. But she’d end up in the streets, her dad would say. Sure, she didn’t believe him.
Fast forward to her university days, she had decided on majoring in psychology, but she still dreamed of becoming an author. The busy life eventually took that dream away; it would fade, but sometimes it would come back to her.
She still wanted to be a writer, but she figured she’d do it after she had a stable income, a stable life. Maybe she’d just end up writing a memoir after she’d retire. She’d found out that there was no hurry; she had other dreams to catch.
However, this obsession with writing would often come back and nag at her.
She was obsessed with being recognised as a writer. She wanted to be paid for her dream work.
She wrote on, furiously.
Yes, I was obsessed with this idea that I should be paid for my stories right here right now. I had been writing all my life. People usually loved my stories. I wanted to prove myself, I guess.
So I started collecting all links to online fiction magazines that accepted story submissions from all around the world. And I started writing. The magazines I aimed from were mostly for flash and short fiction from 300-2,000 words.
I wasn’t entirely a fool; I knew it would take many submissions until I’d receive a YES WE WANT TO PUBLISH YOUR STORY. Even if I was good (which I don’t think I was; I still had a lot to learn and improve on).
I was so excited and ready to track my progress that I had a proper excel sheet and all that stuff, just like when you are applying for multiple jobs.
Eventually, I kept getting rejected.
When assignments started coming in, I had already given up.
But I had not even sent more than ten short stories. I did give up too early. If I had persisted, who knows what would have happened? I should have at least sent 20+ applications.
Anyway, as I said, the obsession with writing would nevertheless still come back to nag me. That itch at the tip of my fingers would still pull me toward the keyboard.
I can’t exactly remember how I stumbled upon Vulcan Post, but I remember that the ‘Submit Story’ tab had caught my eye.
(Okay now I do remember; this post on how one of their writers had decided to quit her Master’s had caught my attention and I ended up browsing through their articles. I was hooked.)
I checked out their requirements for submitting an article, and I thought one more.
I’ve never been slightly interested in writing non-fiction or magazine articles, but this one had caught my interest… and I admit I was quite desperate. Even if my article ended up being rejected, I would not take it personally. I’ve been rejected all this time, and I know I shouldn’t take any of it personally.
But, as you know from the title and first paragraph of this post, my article was approved for publication (for free), AND they had asked me whether I wanted to write for them!
OF COURSE, I SAID YES. I was doing a million things on campus, including assignments, but did I care?
For the first time, I was getting paid to WRITE.
It’s funny because although I did writing fiction for almost all my life, I also did have my fair share of non-fiction: YES, MY BLOG! I was writing articles, albeit personal, all this time, but I overlooked it completely, focusing only on fiction writing.
I quickly realised that there were many ways to be a writer. A writer that gets paid and is recognised and appreciated. In fact, writing for a news magazine or a fiction magazine are not the only ways; companies need writers, because who is going to write their ads? Who is going to work on their social media captions or blog posts?
Everything that has to do with words is a path to being a writer. And no type of writers is more ‘important’ or ‘prestigious’ than another. If you love your writing job and get praised for your work, whatever it may be, you are a great writer. Simple.
I always used to dismiss websites that were about making money writing articles… i.e. freelancing. Honestly, I just wanted to be the next J. K. Rowling.
I only wanted to write fantasy stories, and that was my mistake.
I worked with Vulcan Post for three months, then decided to stop because exams were coming and it was getting overwhelming, even though it was remote work (yes it was! Welcome to the new era!).
Since then, I have learnt to adapt. What a career in writing was a decade ago is different from what it is today. I’m sure this also applies to other jobs.
I have learnt to accept and welcome the changes.
If you have reached this far, thank you so much; I didn’t think it would be such a long post!
Anyway, I have a surprise for you: in this week’s newsletter (sent on Friday night, 30/06, East Asian time), I’ve decided to share my favourite website that helped me find a job during my university years. To those who are not in Malaysia, I’d also be sharing some advice on how to find a valuable internship/job as student.
If you are not part of the community yet, sign up here!
If you have any questions or thoughts, let me know in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.