Magdalene Kamau is one of the Ajira Digital Training beneficiaries. She begins by pointing out that before the training, the phrase, ‘making money online as a freelance writer’ translated to ‘SCAM’ in her lingo. She wondered how one would pay to have an article written for them while they could get it for free from millions of writers flooding the Internet. It therefore took her a week of training with Ajira Digital to make earning from freelance writing a reality.
At the age of 15, Magdalene wrote ten poems and sent them to a company in Nairobi seeking their assistance in publishing. That was the beginning of her passion for writing, but the incident almost killed her passion. A month down the line, they wrote back to her and said that they were not in a position to help as it was not their core area of focus. That was despite her committing a 50/50 profit share. This incident killed her dreams and she later decided to pursue her studies. She joined college and studied computer repairs and maintenance where she became ‘The tech girl’.
“I found the Internet fascinating; a place I desired to belong. By contributing ideas in forums, I felt that I was fulfilling my duty as an aspiring citizen. I wrote for blogs that promised to pay, yet got nothing. This however did not stop my dreams for writing,” Magdalene says.
After clearing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Technology in 2016 she decided to write and publish her own articles. She bought her own domain, setup her website, wrote and posted articles on entrepreneurship. She then shared them on social media hence reigniting her passion to write.
Despite owning a website, making money online did not work out well. She came across articles of people who claimed to earn through online freelancing daily, leaving her even more desperate. Being a Mombasa resident, she felt disadvantaged because all freelancing classes took place in Nairobi. However, that changed courtesy of an offer for free online jobs training by Ajira Digital Project.
She enrolled for the Ajira Digital project through the online portal and was lucky to be selected for the one-week residential training at Kenyatta University, Mombasa Campus.
Magdalene’s freelance writing journey began after making physical contact with the Ajira Digital trainers. They instilled confidence in her. She liked freelance writing under business section, creating YouTube videos and audio transcription work.
After the training, she began the one month mentorship process with yet another expert. “He kept in touch with me daily through calls, emails and messages. I wrote articles, transcribed audio messages and reworked my YouTube videos under his guidance. I remember transcribing a 45 minutes audio recording for 3 hours. It was heavily involving. But knowing that I was working from home, he expected nothing less than good time management and well researched work,” Magdalene recalls.
Bidding for jobs was rather disappointing. Her first seven proposals drew no reaction. She remembers telling her mentor that bidding was a waste of time but her mentor encouraged her by saying one has to work hard to be successful.
After her 8th proposal, she got a response from a client who wanted her to write an article for his entrepreneurship blog. This earned her $5 and gave her hopes of making money.
Magdalene says that 90% of her online freelance writing jobs come from Upwork. She says though competition is high, their rules guarantee her the sanity she needs. Upwork insists on freelancers submitting their work only after cash deposits are made with their system and provide a mechanism to settle disputes.
“During the training, trainers insisted on regular research on bidding procedures and use of personal tone while writing. This calls for learning from established freelance writers. Interesting to note, none of them write proposals in a business tone. They keep their proposals conversational and provide samples of previous work, including maintaining a blog where they post their articles enabling them to share links that are relevant to the proposals,” she adds.
To date, Magdalene says she has won 10 bids and earned over $500 through online freelance writing and while 111 proposals failed to go through. Sometimes she bids, get interviewed but does not get successful. As for the 10 bids, she wrote business articles, stories, one e-book, gym-wear slogans and created video testimonials using her android phone.
Besides bidding for jobs, she gets subcontracted by other freelancers who have also played a huge role in her growth as a freelance writer. She has learnt to observe deadlines, write with the target audience in mind and not to burden the other writer with the need to revise her work.
“At times it becomes challenging as I can go for a week without writing for an online client. To solve this problem, I search for writing jobs in non-bidding sites, write 20 proposals in a week and keep learning from outstanding writers,” Kamau says
In regards to learning, she bought a copywriting programme from Udemy for $10 in last year. “Well, the price before discount was $90,” she says. The learning materials included videos, text and links to other online resources. The programme helped her in writing press releases and high quality articles. She also subscribed to free copywriting course from writers around the world.
When she began earning, she says she withdrew her earnings through PayPal. That meant transferring the money from her Upwork account to Equity bank then having to wait for three days before accessing the money. While that worked well as a saving technique, she found out that withdrawing through Mobile money transfer allowed her to access the money in less than one hour. She points out that Upwork takes five days before releasing the money to the freelancer after the client authorizes the payment.
“Everything I earn online is shared in a particular way; 10% goes to tithe, 10% to charity, 10% to savings and the rest is shared between the kitchen and other household bills,” says Magdalene.
She also believes in helping people build business around things that they are passionate about. To train anyone, she looks for that passion for writing. She says her students are required to create a free blog for their first assignment and write at least three articles before arranging for a second lesson. They should create that blog within a week.
Ms. Kamau is grateful that Ajira Digital rejuvenated her passion for writing. Despite having written one book; Millions of Robots, she found it difficult to earn from freelance writing. “Ajira gave wings to my passion for writing,” She reiterates.
In her conclusion, Magdalene said she intends to run a 2-week freelance writing program every second day of the month in Mombasa. The course will include the entrepreneurial aspect of freelance writing. Her desire is to see her students run their freelance writing like real businesses.