Freelance Writing Entering a Golden Era

By Wong Li Chin, Diploma in Mass Communication | Republic Polytechnic

The idea of being a freelance writer began when Ms Melanie Lee was a student at the National Technological University. She wanted to earn extra allowance money and gain writing experience through writing part-time for magazines. “I just thought that I don’t just get to earn money, I get to tell stories I want to tell if I work hard at it,” said Ms Lee.

After selling story ideas on the phone and sending hard copy letters and samples of random story ideas, she finally got her first assignment with Teens Magazine where she had to pen down 20 questions for a personality test. Ms Lee’s first published article was about teens who faced discrimination in their lives.

This experience taught her an important lesson: She had to hustle to survive in the freelance industry.

INSPIRING YOUTHS: Miss Melanie Lee shares her journey as a freelance writer and the challenges she faced over the past 17 years.  (PHOTO: MUHAMMAD HISHAM B MOHAMED ALI)

Ms Lee was among several speakers who spoke about the changing trends in the magazine and publishing industry on the second day of the All In! Young Writers’ Festival 2017. Held at *Scape, the annual event witnessed a record number of speakers who shared their expertise across a range of genres.

Freelance writers and magazine editors discussed the issue of rates remaining unchanged for several years, even as commissioned pieces are shorter and clients are turning to bloggers and social media influencers.

But publishers and magazine companies are also changing their organisation structures and are relying more on freelance writers. Ms Alex Campbell, Editor of Asian Geographic, said: “This is the golden era for freelancers. Asian Geographic has about 95 per cent freelance writers and photographers.”

With 17 years of experience in freelance writing, Miss Lee emphasized to the crowd of aspiring young writers the importance of trying different areas of writing.

She also shared some of her challenges as a freelance writer, which include finding a balance between earning enough as well as getting work that she enjoys. “I feel that as a freelance writer, you have to be a writer for yourself, you have to at least dedicate yourself to that space of just writing just because you love words,” said Miss Lee, who is also the author of Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us and The Adventures of Squirky the Alien series.

Freelance writer Eugene Tay, who also spoke at All In!, shared several tips about freelance writing.  Using The Middle Ground’s freelance writer Ryan Ong as an example, Mr Tay urged youths to step out of their comfort zone and say ‘yes’ to different areas of writing, which may lead to other opportunities ahead.

“Don’t keep yourself from just being a writer - grow, pick up as many skill sets as possible,” said Mr Tay.

Ms Pip Harry, who has over 15 years of experience working as a writer, gave the audience useful tips on freelance writing such as building a diverse client base, establishing an online platform and finding a niche. “I would suggest that if you do go freelance, have some work part-time to begin with,” said Ms Harry.