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It was in my last year of studies when it occurred to me that, although I had been "writing" for years, I was "light" on professional experience in my field. I had been enjoying my course so much that I'd almost forgotten to prepare myself for life after uni, per se.
Interestingly, this was at the same time when I started to question things, my way of life and the world around me. This led to a desire I never had before: wanting to help out at a soup kitchen. Did Geelong even have a soup kitchen, I wondered.
So I emailed a local charity, United Way, which I thought might be my avenue to this. I discovered they didn't operate charitable services themselves but raise money to support organisations which do. My first thought was ladling pumpkin soup to those in need on a cold night but, to my shock, I discovered a better way for me to make a difference in people's lives - my writing skills.
I began work for United Way and quickly gained a whole lot of practical experience - writing media releases, coming up with advertising ideas and working on copy and, of course, tweeting. As I worked on content for Head of the River and cold-emailed publications trying to get free exposure for another event, it struck me just how versatile my writing degree turned out to be.
During most of my last year of study I would volunteer at United Way (now called Give Where You Live) on a Friday. It was my first taste at "office life" in my field and I really looked forward to Fridays. However, as my degree headed towards end of the year bedlam and busyness, my involvement there ceased.
Imagine my surprise and delight when only four months later, once I had graduated and settled myself into the "job hunt", I got a call from Give Where You Live.
I was offered a full time position there, where I would write, research and collate the newsletter publication. Drawing on my love of journalism and features writing, my vision for this newsletter was more of a magazine than corporate newsletter and I was given freedom to achieve this.
Thus, my first professional job out of university began "at" university in a volunteer capacity. The benefit of retrospect reveals the advantage I received by pursuing unpaid work to get experience in my field whilst still a student. If you want to gain responsibility and leadership in your field, volunteering at a charitable organisation is a good way to do that.
I worked at Give Where You Live for eight months and my duties included copywriting, social media management, being the newsletter lady, organising a radio segment at Vision Radio and a whole bunch of other things including occasional licking of envelopes and helping out at events.
Although full time, my role at Give Where You Live (as Marketing Assistant) was temporary and in August of that year, instead of extending the contract, I made the decision to leave.
With some savings behind me, my new life required two important things: creativity and motivation. I found coffee helped a lot with the latter and I already had the former down pat by being a dreamer.
And so I left the lure of paid work to sit in coffee shops most days as I furiously typed my first novel. Novel writing had always been an itch which I needed to scratch, and only became itchier (in a good way) by my Deakin degree. To speak plainly, the inspiration I got from my degree only made me want to become a writer even more so.
I sat in Gloria Jeans (free WIFI!) and local cafes and big cafes and anywhere where you could spend $3.50 and nest on a table for a couple of hours, with my Macbook and a daily quota of words.
Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was my daily prayer for the words to come, maybe it was a sneaky little system I invented to trick myself into writing more but the words came easily.
I'll never forget the triumphant feeling on my last day of work when I typed the last word. 4am in the morning and deliberately surrounded by chocolate, expensive cheese and crackers and miscellaneous other delicious foods (an old, up-late-student trick of mine.)
The life of a freelance writer is not easy. Starting out, you need to persevere and keep going and never give up. (I thought three different ways of saying the same thing might speak to three different people.)
After I finished the novel and my bubble of accomplishment was pricked by the realities of life and stress of not having money, I swallowed my pride and received support by Centrelink. This helped with the food/living thing and gave me liberty to relaunch back into work or find my own work.
The more I thought about, as I began reapplying for jobs, the more I was drawn to creating my own work; being proactive and not the other way around. So I began to market myself as a freelance writer. Freelance business writer. Marketing writer. Content writing.
My website changed from an online portfolio to a marketing tool and the very next day after changing it to this, I received an email from my first client. We met for coffee in a cafe; (take note, emerging freelancers - your coffee addiction will come in handy!) for our first meeting and I ended up writing fifteen articles for him and rewriting a thirty page document.
Along my journey, as I met people and talked about my love - writing - I found opportunities presenting themselves from that. Same story with social media. I shared what I was doing on that and found work that way, Linkedin too.
Maybe that's what has worked for me - I am passionate about what I do, believe in it and genuinely want to help businesses/people/anyone with their writing. Plus, I can't bear to see another sign or catalogue with an apostrophe inserted needlessly, omitted, or just bejewelled superfluously, I would like to dedicate my life to this! *Half-joking*
Tip for current students studying your course:
Forgive this cheekiness but I'd like to offer not just that one tip - "but wait, there's more!" - but some more; a summary of points which I believed helped me in my studies and life after university. Any fellow literary lovers, read on!