I love reading interviews but lately I’ve discovered that I’m enjoying seeking out interviews from fellow freelancers and work onliners. Why? Well, for one, I want my readers to get a different perspective and to read about other people’s experiences about online business.
If you’re a follower of my blog, you know that my area of expertise is transcription. But I am also intrigued by academic writers and Chandi, the interviewee, stood out for me because of his genuine interest in academic writing. He demonstrates that if you have a go-for-it attitude and a willingness to work hard (and smart) you can go far with academic writing.
And there’s lot’s more too. But don’t let me keep you waiting. Dive in!
1. Hi Chandi! First things first, could you start by telling us how you first got involved in academic writing? Is it a full-time operation?
It was sometime in mid-2010. I could go to the KU computer laboratories and find tens of students, possibly hundreds, hacking away their keyboards. I got curious because I was certain that these kids weren’t working on their own assignments. Upon inquiry, I discovered the field of academic writing. I figured I should try it out. After several attempts and working with a non-cooperative boss (perhaps because I also lacked the discipline), I decided to give up the practice and pursue other things.
The next 2 years saw me travel from country to country. I think I was on a journey of self-discovery. During this time, I also read several books. So I became wiser. I finally made the decision to come back home in 2012 and decided to take the hard way. By “the hard way” I mean becoming a protégé under someone who could offer me writing jobs.
It did not matter whether I was going to be harassed by my employer, I was willing to work hard. I convinced my dad to lend me KES 50,000 to settle down with a brand new computer among other tools needed. Perhaps because I was determined, I expanded very quickly. In a matter of months, I acquired my own writing accounts. I became my own boss. I can also hire up to 15 writers.
I have only been working seasonally (about 7-8 months a year), but as from September 2014, I am intending to do it all-year round for about 4 or 5 years. In as much as the money can be good, I do not think that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
2. What do you find most challenging about academic writing?
The most difficult task is achieving quality. As a determined writer, your deep desire is to write as much as you can in order to earn more and more and more. I mean, let’s face it, the odds that you are doing it for the money are pretty high. It’s not like your work will end up being published with credits to your name. So you want to achieve 10 to 20 pages daily, some people even 30, and a burnout is almost inevitable.
In the process, the quality of your service may end up being compromised. What follows is a complaint from a dissatisfied customer. Then another follows. At this stage if you do not manage your time and emotions well, it could be downward spiral for you. It’s a host of interrelated things; quality, time-management, stress-management, insatiable clients, personal greed (ha ha!) etc. that if not carefully kept in check may end up rendering you jobless and irrationally contemptuous of yourself.
3. Is there any other thing you do apart from academic writing?
I am a computer science student at the university. My interest in IT leads me into consultancy and professional services gigs in design (web and graphic), research among other things. I have been attempting farming lately as well. Currently 80% of my income comes from academic writing.
4. What is the best advice you’ve received or read about for an academic writer?
An academic writer that wants to maximize their earnings while ensuring steady growth in this path must be of the resilient type. It’s easy to give up if you are intellectually inept or lazy. If you aren’t prepared to learn and practice how to proofread, proofread and proofread, then this is definitely not the field for you.
You must be ready to improve your writing skill every single day. You have to be fully aware that you are not the only one out there.
Writers get fired, and more get hired.
5. A lot of freelancers- academic writers included- find themselves procrastinating online when they ought to be working. How do you stay disciplined? How do you also stay motivated to ensure you submit high quality work to your clients?
I belong to this category of freelancers/writers, ha ha! I also do not know of any persons who do not get easily swayed by non-work-related stuff on the internet.
You have to confront the fact that you are delivering a service and that someone is on the other end waiting for quality work.
I don’t think there is any “super trick” for focusing on your work other than just focusing on your work when you have to. You must answer to the client’s call or need. There are no two ways about it. And it is tough for beginners, but once basics are mastered, the rest are as easy as A-B-C. Quality and discipline at work, in my opinion, has more to do with willpower than just a mere methodology.
6. Talking of clients, where do you get your clients? Which sites do you consider the best?
The best, and perhaps the hardest to find and riskiest thing you can have is direct clients. They are more likely to pay well, sometimes up to 7 times more than your average websites. The problem is you have to be ready for erratic payment schedules and if your customer support skills are lacking, you will have a tough time. You can find direct clients through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. This requires patience and you have to be careful so as to escape the “spammer” label. The good news is that your good work is likely to earn you tons of referrals.
About websites, “best” is debatable. I have worked with Uvocorp.com, Writerbay.com, Essaywriters.net, Academia-research.com and Essayshark.com, which in my opinion, are probably not the best. There must be better writing agencies with better rates and terms out there.
7. What is the biggest mistake you see with Kenyan academic writers?
Failure to have backup plan. Few writers think of investing in bigger or better projects that are relatively long-term. A good writer with one of the accounts I have mentioned above can earn $2500 in a month. This is money that if channeled into better investments can transform the lives of a generation of young people.
8. Well said Chandi. Lastly, any tips for academic writers? Any resources that will make one a superb academic writer?
Golden rule: Google is your best friend. Just be patient with your search. The information you want is somewhere out there, just up your search skill and be a bit more patient!
A few more quick ones:
– Read the client’s instructions five times if possible.
– Answer the client’s question. Do not be too wordy.
– Do not plagiarize. Cite all your work. By all means perfect the most common citation styles.
At your free time, read widely. This opens you up to a world of knowledge. Your word-count increases and so does your ability to construct better sentences and more solid arguments.
There are millions of guides to better writing online. If you however want shortcuts and choose to remain capitalistic by just churning out more and more pages then I recommend Grammarly.com. This tool may help you fix most grammatical errors swiftly.
Workout at least once a day for 30 to 40 minutes. Sleep as much as you can, at least seven to eight hours. The effectiveness of enough rest cannot be overemphasized. You can Google the mental benefits of enough sleep.
When starting out, make sure you have a good computer with an activated Office suite (at least 2003 onwards) or Libre Office. A fast browser like Chrome or Mozilla is advisable but the latest Internet Explorer is just fine.
Well, well, well, I really enjoyed interviewing Chandi. I hope this post added value to you too. You can check out his sites at your free time:
So, do you concur with what he has stated? Are you an academic writer too, identifying with the points above? We’d love to hear from you, even if you’re not one!