Writing is fun and almost everyone wants to be a writer. To an outsider, the world of freelancing seems to offer this glitzy lifestyle of working from home, probably in your pyjamas, and getting your articles published.
But this fantasy is a far cry from the truth. Freelancing is fun, but not easy, according to writers Kavitha Rao and Charukesi Ramadurai. “The truth is many people do not know where to begin and how to go about writing a good freelance piece. That’s where our book comes in,” they say.
Co-authors of the self-explanatory book Everything You Wanted To Know About Freelance Journalism (But Didn’t Know Whom To Ask), the duo felt penning the book was the need of the hour since they used to frequently get emails from people who wanted to be freelancers but didn’t know how to go about it. “It’s not exactly easy and a lot of people don’t even give thought to pitching an idea, contacting an editor or pegging a story. There’s no practical guide in the market so we decided to bring this project out.”
Kavitha began writing since she was 15. A lawyer, she currently has over 16 years experience writing and writes on a variety of topics. On the other hand, Charukesi began with a blog after working as a market researcher. In two years, she has written for a varied assortment of publications, both Indian and foreign. She now writes on travel, local food and culture, women’s issues and social media.
The book is written in a friendly and approachable style with personal accounts as well as quotes and tips from over 50 editors, journalists and successful freelancers. On the obvious name, Charukesi says: “We did not want a clever title. We just wanted to state what we are offering. We want to reach out to people who have a spark but don’t know where to start since this is also a guide for beginners.” The duo also try to set misconceptions right. “Neither of us has journalism degrees, mentors or contacts in the industry. We taught ourselves, and so can you. A lot of people think of freelancing as a hobby. It is not. Both of us look at freelance journalism as professionals and we want people to realise that they can make a serious career out of it.”
“My favourite piece of advice is to start a blog,” says Charukesi. “Being a blogger myself, I started with a blog ( >www.traveholic.wordpress.com ) and it’s a great place to park ideas, practise writing, experimenting with different topics and writing skills as well as developing a discipline.” Kavitha pitches in: “Keep your ears and eyes open for good story ideas. Look out for unusual things. We also talk about how to develop a story sense in the book. We insist that people read the publication they want to write for and then come up with story ideas. It’s also best for beginner writers to focus on something they are familiar with.”
The duo points out that there is more scope for freelancers now in the country. “In some ways, there’s never been a better time to be a freelancer in India. It’s one of the few countries where the print media is booming. Several foreign magazines and digital publications have also entered India in the last few years. They often don’t have enough staff so there is a huge potential for freelancers.”
Looking ahead, Kavitha plans to write a steady column and focus on undiscovered areas in the country for foreign newspapers, especially in a long form format. Charukesi echoes the same and plans to take up something steady to support her freelancing work. “I also want to get into coaching for writers as a follow up to the book,” she adds. The book is available online.