My journey towards becoming a freelance writer was a happy accident, all things considered. After the relative ease with which I closed my first writing deal, I experienced a strange kind of euphoria that lasted for weeks. It doesn’t matter who you are – when you realize how much your work is truly worth to paying customers, you cannot help but feel a little more confident in what you do.
This was the case for me.
I began to understand the difference between being an employee in some organization and “doing my own thing”. In an office, we’re paid X amount of dollars and are expected to do the work whether we like it or not. In most cases, we end up shuffling around doing unimportant tasks for important people. For some people, it can be soul crushing.
As a paid writer, I know now that I had gained some level of autonomy over my income. Instead of waiting for a pay raise at work, I am now in charge of my own destiny. As clichéd as it may sound, it felt pretty darn good.
So, with no experience pitching to companies, I did everything I could to build up my client portfolio.
Below are the steps I took that helped me close three writing contracts within three months:-
1. I became a freelancer in less than 24 hrs by signing up to Freelancer.com. While it may not be the best way to get started, I was lucky enough to get a writing contract for 1.2K a month that lasted me over 6 months. The best thing about that job? They paid me in advance. My client is now my business partner. (Huzzah!)
2. I set up a blog, positioning myself as a writer for hire. I got 3 leads this way, one of whom became a client of mine. The contract was for $400 a month, writing / researching 4 articles.
3. Put up an advertisement (I put mine on GumTree, which is catered to Singaporean companies looking to hire.) I closed a copywriting contract, writing collaterals for an event for $3,000. Again, this doesn't always happen. Some may argue that it is "luck", but I call it "persistence". If being up at 7 am pitching to ten companies every morning makes me lucky, so be it.
4. Cold pitching to companies looking to hire full-time writers. This scared the heck out of me, but I was scoring at least two appointments a month by pitching daily.
These steps can hardy be called the “recipe for success”, perhaps. Still, as someone with literally no experience writing for a living, it’s definitely an accomplishment I am very proud of.
Even now, I can’t believe I was able to do half the things I did – pitching and meeting up with prospects, negotiating a contract and closing the deal. I guess it’s true what they say – if you keep working towards getting the results you want, success is inevitable.
“At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable.” – Christopher Reeve
-- Written by Sheha Sidek
Setting up a business is never easy, but the challenge will be reduced if you work hard enough. This idea of “working hard” has been frequently quoted by both entrepreneurs and business owners alike.
So what’s the difference between the two, you may ask?
“Business owners" are normally those working in their own company. Their primary focus is on one product or service, with the intent of expanding the company to a substantial size. “Entrepreneurs”, on the other hand, may have more than one business and will continue to venture into different sectors or industries, engaging “generals” to manage the company and fight the battle for them.
My goal is to be an entrepreneur in the long run.
With regards to Concept Folks, one of my strategies to build my client portfolio is to network with property agents and tap on ex-colleagues’ businesses. While this may not be a strategy adopted by everyone, I had actually signed up and gotten the license to be Property Agent. This allowed me direct access to a steady stream of prospects in a niche industry. In addition, I was also in touch with ex-colleagues who are also starting up their businesses and have gotten very good leads and business conversions this way.
That said, the threat of being complacent exists, and I felt it was time to look for fresh leads before exhausting my pool of prospects within the circle.
As someone who had worked in the marketing field for years, lead generation wasn’t a new thing to me. The challenge, however, comes when I do not have any budget for myself. Working for corporations has always given me the luxury to set my marketing budget and request the amount from my bosses. All I need was a well-prepared presentation, with analytics and projections on the potential results the marketing expenditure will bring to the company. This time round, it’s a zero-budget game, totally new for me.
I started to create my own websites, posting some deals and offers, and even got onto several “deal” sites such as Groupon and Deal.com to advertise website packages. That got me some clients who were looking for deals with no budget for any upsell packages I am offering.
Next, I sign up and went for “Meetup” group to network and even prepared myself by coming up with a script or a pitch that I would say during these meetups to introduce myself and my business. (For the benefit of those who do not know what “Meetup” is, it is where like-minded people will set up meetings and gatherings to know more people. Some of these gatherings are free to join. You can check meetup.com for more details.)
In the end, pitching to complete strangers always turns out differently every time. Sometimes it worked really well, and I got myself several leads and impressed the crowd, but sometimes it just backfires. Deciding not to take chances and lost more opportunities, I decided to analyse my script and look into the key pointers I made which impresses people, and what I said which backfires. Practising to pitch in front of my friends and family also increases the chances that I present myself well, and grab every opportunity that comes along.
-- Written by Angela Cai
Everyone loves those, but so few have found out how to earn it without (apparently) selling your soul to the Corporate Devil and praying to the Deity that is your boss. Everyone I had spoken to seem to hate what they do, and it’s always the same conversations at dinner appointments. The arguments, the wrangling with the bosses over a fifty-dollar pay raise each year, and the office politics.
It was all too much.
I wanted more money NOW, and not (hopefully, probably, maybe, if I’m lucky) by the end of the year.
My first big idea to earn extra money was to work at a coffee place after office hours. I remembered marching into my Vice President’s office and told him of my intent.
“Mid-life crisis,” I had mumbled. He laughed but gave his approval anyway.
And so I became a part-time barista. Apparently, I was so good they wanted to promote me after four months. Then again, I’m a thirty-something-year-old woman hustling amongst a bunch of teenagers working for pocket money. It wasn’t necessarily the proudest moment in my life, but it’s something.
Plus, I was to be paid a whole extra dollar on top of my $6 per hour wage. Yes! Achievement unlocked!
It was all fun and games until I pulled a back muscle trying to hoist a garbage bag full of food waste over a gigantic rubbish chute. I remembered being at a basement saturated with the smell of damp and decay, feeling a whole bunch of hurt as the muscles twisted and cramped. It took a quarter of my take-home pay to get my back sorted.
“Well, that’s money well spent,” I grumbled, and promptly quit my job. It was a shame, really. I loved making coffee. More importantly, I learned that if you hate your job and if it hurts you emotionally, physically or mentally: LEAVE. No one’s forcing you to stay. You owe yourself that much. I know I have myself to thank when I told my VP and CEO, my time with the company was over. I still remember them fondly, though. The CEO, especially, was a wonderful human being. My mum thinks he’s devastatingly handsome, and I suppose mums are always right.
In any case, I quitted my corporate job a few months later and began working remotely for a media company. Same salary, same perks. Mum accompanied me to the interview during Chinese New Year in 2015. She thought my boss was devastatingly handsome too. I may need to have a word with her about her tastes in men who are to be my bosses, but again, I think, she wasn’t wrong.
In any case, the job scope itself was similar– except I knew I was given the gift of time (I didn’t have to commute), no complaining colleagues, and an enforced isolation. Naturally, with that comes boredom, and I started to look for ways to earn extra money again.
It was then that I found Angela. I met her online, and like all business hook-ups, there was a measure of excitement and a thrill at the pits of my stomach when I found she was looking for freelance writers.
“How much do you charge for 12 articles a month?” she asked.
I thought about my previous job making coffee, and said, “Five hundred dollars?”
“Five hundred?” she said, sounded almost indignant.
“Is it too much?” I asked, fretting a little.
“No, can I pay you $1,200 instead? We’re behind schedule, so we’ll pay you $2,400 for both June and July. So that’s 24 articles in total, to be submitted within the month. Is this okay?”
“Yes, that’s perfectly fine.”
And it was. It really, really was.
-- Written by Sheha Sidek
Concept Folks was established back in 2013 – and it was unplanned for most parts. It was Eric, my husband’s uncle, who started it all in 2012. He was a seasoned property agent who approached me for help to market his property and home-cleaning business.
At the time, I was working as a Marketing Manager in a local firm. As such, Eric offered an opportunity for me to tap into my marketing skills and help promote his business. It wasn’t something too far off what I was already doing, and I was certainly up for the challenge.
I started out creating a website for Eric, and multiple micro-sites each focusing on one new property launch. All these micro-sites provide extra traffic and aids in the SEO optimisation for the main website. This in turn showcased of all the properties Eric was promoting, even including resales and rental. With a high-search for the new launches, the micro-sites lead traffic to Eric’s website.
Eventually, I was earning money from the multiple sites created. As Eric began receiving an inflow of lead, I started to help out on his home-cleaning business. My business network expanded when Eric introduced me to his sister, Jenny who was a part-time property agent, and running her own air-conditioner servicing business. As Eric closed more deals, being a director of a team called – Swift under ERA, his managers started to engage me to be the marketing advisor.
The rest, as they say, is history.
I quit my job and began focusing on Concept Folks. With each new business, my network grew. Soon, I wasn’t just working with ERA agents, but Huttons and Knight Frank also. As my business prospered, I decided that it was time to set up my own company.
Concept Folks became a registered business on ACRA in March 2013.
I never thought I would come this far in my free-lancing business.
Looking back, I feel you don’t need to spend a lot of time and efforts thinking about the best company name to use, where to set up the company, and all the logistics of the business, or even thinking about what business you want to do.
Sometimes, these ideas come to you naturally, and you just have to grasp these opportunities presented and make the most out of it.
For all the aspiring entrepreneurs, choose something you are interested in, or something you are familiar with or have the knowledge in. Start from there, and go with the flow.
Through hardwork and dedication, success is almost guaranteed.
-- Written by Angela Cai
Angela Cai & Sheha Sidek