On Learning To Seat At The Table

I’m currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. The first few chapters are dedicated to empowering women to learn to sit at the table, seize every opportunity and make better negotiations.

Every time she mentioned something about demanding for better working conditions, I kept nodding at the accuracy of it because I could relate to some extent.

On Learning To Seat At The Table


At the beginning of my career about four years ago, the first official job I got was writing for a major niche blog with a very large audience. In fact, I didn’t know how large it was until I was going through the analytics a few months ago which left me gobsmacked. Of course, I could not appreciate the kind of opportunity I got until much later. I and about seven of us got a column to write every week. I did that diligently for almost four years even though half the time, I thought about quitting because I simply wasn’t moving forward. Instead, I was moving in circles; doing the same thing over and over again. Even after getting other better jobs, I still felt stagnated. For someone with a very short attention span, I worked half-heartedly and hoped the editor wouldn’t notice the decline of the quality of my posts. Frankly, this was largely due to the fact that we weren’t being paid but fairly compensated. I felt that I could use that energy for better-paying clients so yeah, I thought about quitting all the time. Literally, every month. But for some sentimental reasons, I couldn’t leave.

Anyway, 2016 came and was amazing for me. I increased my skill set and tried to polish my craft. I went from being just a random Content Writer to having an in-depth knowledge of Content Development and Content Marketing by extension. I took a few relevant courses to up my game and increase my earning capacity. So, for a long time, I didn’t think about quitting. All, I wanted to do was move to the next level.

At some point, I decided I was ready to implement everything I had learned. I just needed a guinea pig(s). This meant approaching my very first client and presenting a convincing strategy to them with hopes that they would give me a chance given our history and all. It was a risk I was willing to take because if they hadn’t known me personally, they probably would have thought I was coming to take over the brand from nowhere. Plus, if I failed I could easily just cover my head in shame and disperse amicably.

So, I wrote the best email I’ve ever written and requested for a meeting face to face. That wasn’t exactly the best idea because I’m a fast talker and I tend to say gibberish once in a while. But despite it all, it worked and I was given attention.

Long story short, I got the job as the editor. Now, it was time to negotiate. Despite being a newbie so to speak – I am embarking on a new territory – I wasn’t going accept being underpaid because I knew how much work I was going to do and I value my time and resources. So, it was either you paid me or not. Fortunately, we reached a working agreement and work could start; albeit partially.


Here are some things I learned from this experience.

  • Learn to challenge yourself and avoid being complacent. There’s nothing fantastic about being in a job for five years without visible growth.
  • While you’re challenging yourself, be open to new things. Be teachable and learn new things. The world is changing faster than we can catch up with. We can only avoid being left behind.
  • Sheryl mentioned something about women being less ambitious because society expects them to stick to their nurturing capabilities and leave the leadership positions to the men. Well, I agree but these days more than ever before there’s never been a better time to lead. Seize every freaking opportunity and prove yourself! See, I didn’t even notice that I am the youngest on my team until my team members started getting married and having babies. I kept wondering, ‘I thought we’re mates, how is this happening?’

I’ve never really been ambitious. I have regular dreams and goals; nothing over the top. But these past few months have shown me that I could be absolutely anything I want to be if I put my heart to it and I believe.

Thinking of Becoming a Freelance Writer? Here Are 9 Tips to Help You

Truth be told, writing is hard. It is tedious and on bad days, can be difficult. If anyone had told me a couple of years ago that I would end up writing, I would have side-eyed them and asked, do you mean me well?

I’ve been getting some requests on freelance writing and it’s only right that I share my knowledge and experience with others. After all, our gifts should be a blessing to others.

Let’s get right into it!

Thinking of Becoming a Freelance Writer? Here Are 9 Tips to Help You

Make a decision
Before you become a freelance writer, you need to make up your mind. Have those difficult and uncomfortable conversations with yourself and decide what you want. If you have been writing fiction or short stories all your life, you need to decide if you’re ready to make that transition –  because you might not have time to write as much fiction anymore.

Choose a niche
When you’re fully convinced of your decision, it’s time to choose a niche. Yes, I get that writers should be flexible and knowledgeable enough to write on any subject. That has never worked for me and I do not know anyone that does that. In these times, your best bet is your niche.

It can be something you’re skilled at, trained at, passionate about or simply knowledgeable about. I believe the best work comes from a place of knowledge and passion. So, make a list according to these factors and pick one or a few related ones.

Build your portfolio
Now that you know what you stand for, it’s time for you to build your portfolio and let people notice you –  because trust me, the jobs will not look for you. The fastest and easiest way to go about this is guest posting. Here, you are going to need to research a list of authority sites in your niche. When you’re done with that, send articles to them. It is not the time to think about money. This should not be a problem especially if you have a good knowledge of your niche. This is also the time to create a blog. Writer or not, everyone should have a blog. Your blog would serve as a portfolio for all your guest posts which should be as frequent as possible.

At this point you have established yourself as a freelance writer, now it’s time to put yourself out there.

Rebrand your social media accounts
No matter what anyone has told you, social media is key. This is why your accounts should be consistent. Let it reflect what you do and the services you offer.

Follow the relevant brands and influencers in your niche. 
Here, you are going to need social media to work for you.

You might be followed back and you might not. That is the least of your problems. What’s important is, these accounts are on your timeline which means your chances of getting a job from these accounts has increased because you will see those unexpected vacancies that pop up randomly. If you’re so bothered about your following/follower ratio, make a Twitter list.

At this point, if you play your cards right, you should be getting a few offers. If you haven’t, don’t lose hope.

Make a list of potential clients
Everyone has dream jobs. Companies that we’ve spent our entire lives desiring even when we were not qualified. This is the time to be proactive.

Of course, I do not need to tell you that your research skills come to play here.

Perfect your cold pitch and go for it
Remember when I said that the jobs won’t look for you? Well, except you have somehow risen to the ranks of a digital influencer, you will have to pitch yourself. That list of potential clients comes in handy now. It is time to contact them and pitch yourself. Sell yourself and your expertise – which is backed up by your portfolio (remember your guest posts and blog?) and experiences. Most of them have websites. Look for their contact details and offer your services. Trust me; you might never know where you get lucky. Sometimes, some clients might not realize that your services are needed until you reach out to them and if you are rejected, do not be discouraged.

Keep at it and be consistent
If you’re diligent in your business, you will eventually succeed. Don’t forget to start small and grow from there. If there are additional skills you need to learn to attract more income, do not think twice. Clients usually appreciate freelancers that bring extra to the table. Also, do not chase clients away by overcharging because you’re broke, you will only play yourself.

Register a business name and make it official
Don’t be like me. Don’t wait until you have hammered before making it official.

 

I think this guide also applies to other skills and not just writing. Whatever your hands find to do, with consistency and dedication, you will definitely reach your goals.

 

Originally published on Bellanaija

 

Writer’s Diaries: How Routine Kills Creativity

The other day, I was at a meeting with a potential client. Just before the end of the meeting, he asked me, ‘what inspires you?’ I was numb for a minute before mumbling something along the lines of money, success, and results. Not necessarily in that order. He then probed a little more. ‘Do you have pictures or music that motivates you?’ Here, I regained my confidence as fast as I lost it and replied with all of the gusto I could muster; ‘no, I don’t have things that inspire me. I just have a routine that works for me and gets the work done.’ I was sure I made quite the impression with that response because he kept staring and nodding.

Which brings me to the subject at hand.

A few days later, I went over that scenario and realized how pathetic I sounded.

 


As a new writer, one of the first rules of the profession is to have a routine. Whatever, you do, do not sit around and wait for inspiration before you write because it will not come and you will not work. So, find a way to develop a routine and stick to it because it will pay the bills. Your productivity will skyrocket. Your body clock will be attuned accordingly and you will get work done.

Frankly, it works. 

Over the past couple of years, I have come to this realization and it has worked for me. I’m able to finish my work in the shortest possible time and still have extra for books and homemade skin care products. To be honest, I love my life. What else could I ask for?

But then, recently during one of those weekdays creating content for Cosmopolitan Nigeria, it dawned on me that I have become one of those generic content writers. Headline – wise and even body – wise. I wasn’t bringing anything extra to the table. My defense? When you’re in this line of work, there’s a tendency to lean towards sensationalism and whatnot but I decided to be as objective as possible and just report the way it is. Although, there are times when I can’t help but come across as controversial.

My point?

Creativity takes time to execute. I don’t know about you but when I have a great idea, I do not execute it on a whim. I take the time to carefully go over it before releasing it to the public. Take this blog for example. All through the years of its existence, I’ve carefully guarded it with all jealousy because I know the value it has on my myself as a person and in my career. So, when I get emails for ad space, I carefully turn them down. Apart from the fact that the stats are not all that, I cherish the intimacy which is why I would rather work harder for clients to maintain it. It is a space where my creativity comes to play. As a writer, it is important I do not forget that because that is the very essence of writing. So, yeah, I do not have an editorial calendar because you cannot schedule creativity.

But then, when your plate is full with deadlines, how do you find time to create? When you’re stuck in your structured routine, how do your creative juices flow? There are days when I swear I work on autopilot. When I don’t feel a thing, how do I create something?

These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.


Writer’s Diaries, just as the name implies, is a series that documents my journey as freelance slash aspiring fiction writer. I have dreams of becoming a novelist but in the meantime, the bills have to be paid. I share my victories and challenges as well tips and tricks of the profession to make someone’s life a bit easier. For previous editions, go here.

How To Make Time For Other Interests

So, that happened and in my usual fashion, I decided to address it with a post.

How do I manage my time?  Again, I would like to issue a disclaimer. I’m a freelancer so I’m pretty much in control of my time and I cannot speak for 9 – 5ers although you might be able to find one or two things that cut across. I’m going to spare you all of that cliche preamble on time management and get right into it.

  • It’s important to prioritize. 

Yes, it’s as vital as they say. We all have 24 hours a day and it’s up to us how we decide to use it. As a freelancer, different jobs have their individual demands. For instance, I have a job that requires me to write content daily. Unfailingly. I also have a weekly column that has to be updated. Then I have another one that is less demanding and more flexible. The trick is to prioritize them accordingly. This saves a lot of headaches and disappointments. Also, you can work more efficiently. When all of that is done, then you can dedicate the extra time to your other interests.

  • Identify your interests

I have Pinterest boards for all of my interests. The first time any subject piques my interest, I open a board and take time out to pin it accordingly. The pins usually include ideas and action plans. Whenever I decide to take up anyone, I just open the boards and the inspiration gushes out like a fountain.

  • Prioritize your interests

Depending on what you like, there are some activities that are more time-consuming than others. If you have a 9 – 5, it is obviously not advisable to take up a full- time hobby. You could pick something that doesn’t require efforts of any kind. That way it doesn’t become a job but stays a hobby and gives you satisfaction in the long run.

  • Pick one and break it down 

The first time I learned how to make homemade skincare products myself, I broke it down into phases and took it one at a time. I started with the basic whipped shea butter. Then went on to ACV toner, body scrubs and eventually deodorants. When I mastered those basic recipes, I started to upgrade them so I started all over again. This time, I upgraded my basic whipped shea butter to a proper body butter and went on to the next one. Of course, there were trials and errors in between. I tried to make them in smaller quantities initially to avoid waste and all that. Eventually, I got it right although I still have to tweak it to suit the weather. The point is, making products is obviously time – consuming and demanding as a result of the trials and errors involved but it did not feel like it. Not for a single moment. Also, I enjoyed it. There’s some sort of fulfillment that comes with making things yourself.

 

These steps have worked for me and I hope it does for you too.

Writer’s Diaries: How Natural Hair Blogging Paved The Way

I had a conversation with someone a while ago who thought I was passionate about natural hair and it occurred to me that I’ve never really talked about the impact of natural hair blogging on my writing journey.

Three years ago, I got a DM from my would-be teammate about an opening for a natural hair blogger. I was puzzled. Where was this coming from? What gave her the idea that I would be interested in writing about natural hair? Granted, I was transitioning at that period as I had just entered the world of natural hair and discovered what it had to offer. I was also quite vocal about it on my Twitter. So, I was knowledgeable to an extent. Even at that, I still didn’t see myself writing about something I barely knew about. When I was done raving and ranting like I always do when faced with a challenge, she said I would find a way to wing and wing it did I. At that point, my blog was about 9 months old so I had a bit of experience writing for an audience. Shoutout to the WordPress community!

So I started. After all of the welcome pleasantries by the best editor and teammates I’ve worked with till I date, I published my first post. It won’t be out of place to mention that that was my first time using that CMS – Blogger. To be honest, I didn’t want to come off as a rookie so I was a bit skeptical. But given my little experience with WordPress, I found a way around it. That was how my weekly column began.

When I started my blog, I always had this coping mechanism that helped me deal with my fears. I would tell myself repeatedly like a mantra that ‘I wrote for myself’ hence I wasn’t going to put myself under undue pressure just because I was writing for an ‘audience’. You see, for the longest time, I didn’t know African Naturalistas was a popular site with a wide readership. In my head, it was just one of those blogs and I didn’t need to worry myself about backlash or some readers seeing through my rookie-ness. That helped me push out genuine content. I figured if I had to do it, I had to do it well. Over time, I became more armed with a wealth of information that I couldn’t wait to share every week.

This is what happens when you start writing for niche sites – you start to become knowledgeable. You throw everything you previously knew to the backseat and open your mind to accept new information. Your mind will be blown and you would become somewhat of an authority in that niche after a while

It’s been three years – in September – and I don’t think I would trade any of the experiences I’ve had. Is it from all of the people I’ve met that have become friends or to those ladies that want to associate with me just because I’m affiliated with the brand? Or the incredibly sweet readers who almost always recognize me offline? Or becoming actively part of the natural hair community in Nigeria and getting involved in meet-ups? It’s been amazing. But that doesn’t mean there are hasn’t been downsides.

Writer’s block is as real as it gets. There are times when I would ask Atilola for a two weeks leave under the pretense that I’m under the weather just because I couldn’t come up with content. Then I would get back and still not have anything to write but I would have no choice but to struggle and I hate struggling to write. Those are the times when I thought I had done enough and it was time to quit. No hard feelings. I was just done. I couldn’t just continue anymore especially since I had gotten other gigs along the way. But then I would get some email or a direct message asking for my opinion on something and it would hit me that I’m just as vital to the team as everyone else and then everything would be fine with the world again.

You know how every writer needs a portfolio? Coupled with my free  guest posts I had previously written, writing for African Naturalistas served as a perfect portfolio for a newbie writer. I didn’t have anything to lose even though sometimes I underrated it but I’m so glad and thankful I didn’t lose it.

 

Here’s The Genesis and how I Weighed The Options as well as my Fictional Struggles.

‘Is It Your Complete?’ – When A Partner Takes The Place Of God In Your Life

About a week ago, as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I paused at Noble Igwe’s photo to read the caption. I thought I saw something that stirred in me.

I actually saw this.

 

She Completes Me

I didn’t know when I typed a comment,

Oh wow. Your wife completes you and not God? Good to know.

I honestly don’t know where that came from. I never write comments especially on celebrities’ pages. I just scroll and pass. For this, I never intended to come off as a sanctimonious Christian but I couldn’t help it. Of course, by the time I got back a while later, my mentions were filled with his voltrons. Why do I follow him again? I heard him speak at Social Media Week and I thought he had a great sense of humor. I don’t care so much for his fashion sense. Anyway, the most striking comment in my mention was,

Is it your complete?

I found that hilarious.

But it got me thinking about why I was affected by that phase. One too many times, I’ve read about how people put their spouses in that place of complete and total adoration. Then you begin to hear things like, ‘he/she completes me’ and you wonder where the place of God is. Everyone clearly knows that Noble is completely besotted with his wife so he probably needed a way to express that without being cliche which I totally get.

I’m not a marriage counselor and I’ve never been married but I’ve been a Christian all my life so I’m pretty knowledgeable about the things of God to an extent. One thing I know for certain is that God is a jealous God and he doesn’t particularly like when his glory is shared or tries to be shared. It doesn’t get any more simple than that.

I’m probably reaching here and it might not be as serious as I am making it out to be. Heck, I didn’t even read the rest of the caption but it is serious because it pains me how we have taken the institution of marriage, abused it and left the rest of us with the remnants of hope to latch on to. Yes, your partner or spouse can be everything you’ve ever dreamed of. As in Noble’s case, she can be beyond your wildest imagination because it seems to me that he cannot still believe his luck. It’s simply unbelievable! No shade.  Also, it begs the question of the state of his faith.

Just as I was about to click publish, I saw this thread and I thought it perfectly summarized everything.

 

 

Someday, I hope we can all get into this headspace that no one can complete us. Not even our spouses talkless of our boyfriends. The earlier we begin to unlearn that, the better for our marriages and relationships. Also, the earlier we begin to reverence God by acknowledging him and putting Him in his place, the better for us all.

That being said, I wish Noble a happy married life and I hope to God that his marriage has begun on a good foundation.