How I Transition from the Corporate World into Freelance Writing
By: April Mae M. Berza
I stopped working in the corporate world since I really wanted to pursue freelance writing, editing and proofreading, and translation. I won’t say it’s a wise decision, but it’s something I take pride in and would never regret.
I studied accountancy at Asia Pacific College, then did some university hopping. I ended up not completing my degree at the University of the Philippines Diliman taking up a Diploma in Creative Writing in Filipino.
Though it did help me that I mastered the Filipino language, even if just for a while, I am really appreciative of the UP education as well as all the other schools I attended.
This led me to work at SM Bicutan part-time every summer and Christmas vacation since I was an SM Foundation scholar back then.
I also sold and promoted products door-to-door. Every day I would knock on doors and smile a wide grin so the consumers might get enticed to just let me into their humble abode.
All the job programs of the city government of Taguig are where I would date myself so I could treat myself to a burger and juice after getting fortunately hired or not.
I even worked for the local government, but I ended my contract since I really wanted something else.
I even went to networking and multi-level marketing events. Even to sell insurance products so I can make a living for myself.
Also, I got scammed by agencies and clients that recruit and recruit people, yet they don’t pay. They will just get the money out of you.
Sometimes I got lucky and discovered clients who were on the same wavelength as me. They lifted my spirits and helped me generate income for myself.
There are also companies that would accept me even if I were still an amateur.
The transition from the corporate world into freelance writing was a bit scary yet fun. It led me to a lot of possibilities and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise know about if I hadn’t tried this.
I made lots of mistakes, but I’m now vigilant when it comes to accepting job offers. I would always opt to have a signed written contract and sometimes even an advance payment so I knew the employment was legitimate and paying.
Also, I would scrutinize and research reviews on Google and other job boards so I could be comfortable working with them.
Now, I’ve been in a work-from-home setup, and it’s freedom. Freedom from toxic work cultures. Financial freedom. Time and geographical freedom.
When life gives you apples, make an apple pie, then sell the remaining apples at a higher profit while the rest are planted in apple farms so you can invest in a bright future.
While I really love the stability and growth of climbing the corporate ladder, it’s really not for me. I couldn’t imagine myself in the rat race my entire life, doing admin tasks or busy preparing paperwork for my boss.
I want to own my life. I want to be the captain of my soul as well as my career and profession. Just like Walt Whitman. No matter how narcissistic it might seem.
Well, even if I don’t have much passion and grit, plus enough resources, I ventured into freelancing way back in 2011. I went through a lot of hell before I made my first dollar.
Life is indeed tragic, especially if you do not have a rich family, lots of friends, or just any connections.
To start with, I am just alone on this journey. My parents were both dubious that I would earn a living by staring at the computer for 8–10 hours a day. They were afraid I might end up a loser.
Working from home is still a mystery to me. Sometimes I wonder how I will get clients, how I will support the needs of our family, and how I will juggle projects and gigs to meet both ends.
Back then, the competition was tough, and now it gets tougher to the point that even those who were in the corporate world would transition into freelancing.
So I started writing and editing at Elance and Freelancer.com. I earned peanuts, but it was the best moment of my professional life. No matter how meager the payments I receive, I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to serve people and add great value to the table.
I know I can be one of the greatest assets to any team, and proving that can be daunting, though I’m always up for a challenge. I want to upskill and upgrade my work values, performance, and abilities so I can advance against the competition and triumph against all odds.
My goals are to always be at the forefront, leading the team to greater heights. I have always wanted to share my knowledge and expertise so we could all win.
When I started freelance writing, there were really lots of clients who were professional and kind. Some are not paying. Some are simply exploitative.
But I went on. I continue to struggle so I can achieve my dreams.
My childhood dream was to be an internationally published author, and it did come true on Independence Day 2012. I was happily published in Canada. My debut poetry collection made it, and I was deeply thankful for all the trust and support of everyone, especially my Canadian publisher.
I met him in an online writing circle where we are both Filipinos who share a passion for the written word. After almost a year of connecting with him there, he asked me if I had a manuscript I’d love to get published abroad. I was in euphoria, thinking, Wow, this might be my chance for financial freedom, fame, and power.
While that did not happen overnight, it paved the way to a stellar literary career, even if I am just here in my country as a commoner, a nobody.
Meanwhile, I still write articles, blog posts, etc. for various clients. It is truly a blessing to be an instrument of creativity and imagination.
I also do some PR writing, copywriting, ghostwriting, editing and proofreading, product review writing, translation, etc. Name it all. Anything under the sun for as long as I can write it, and I will earn from it so I can put food on the table.
I did manage to still accept numerous clients back then since I am really productive and can manage my time wisely. Right now, I can’t claim the virtue of time management skills.
Reading good books allows me to have a good vocabulary and empathy, so I can articulate the message my clients want me to relay to the target audience easily. It took years and years of creating good reading habits.
I read Kundera, Paterson, Katigbak-Lacuesta, Dickinson, etc. The list goes on and on. I even read the blurbs and bionotes.
It was very typical of me to scan pages first, then look at the cover design, stare at the blurbs, and then proceed with the table of contents.
While reading equipped me with the knowledge and tools I needed, I became aware that freelancing requires critical thinking and forward-thinking skills, as well as problem-solving abilities, so we can scale the client’s business growth and development.
As always, I want to leverage my strengths so I can improve and streamline processes, making them more straightforward.
Slowly, I’m building a good name for myself, but I am really grateful for all the love and support of family, friends, and team members who never walk away when the rest of the world does.
I am nothing but a speck of dust without the people and other creatures (my furbabies) who inspire and motivate me to move forward.
I continue to write more books, articles, blog posts, etc., totaling thousands of them in a span of more than a decade of freelancing. It is really a blessing to be a blessing to the lives of businesses and clients.
Whenever they email me about a new project, I am so thrilled and excited to start with tasks asap.
I just hope I can receive more projects so I can continue to serve the communities and help other creatures as well since I want to pay it forward, especially to stray dogs and cats.
I pranked my father recently on his 57th birthday and Father’s Day celebration that I would run away from home now that I had already bought bus tickets since he always yells at me and curses me. It was really degrading, and I felt ashamed of myself whenever he would start these.
My Papa told me over the phone he would improve his way of talking to me, but I was firm and resolute that I would leave them now. I have to choose myself before anyone else.
I jokingly said, “I have to run away from home and go to the province where no one knows me at all so I can start a new life, a fresh start for me.”
My family was aghast at this realization, and I was laughing out loud to myself about this prank.
They never knew it was just a prank; instead of leaving them, I just went out to the province for a contract signing and site viewing of a small piece of land I would buy for my beloved father. While I can not claim the best daughter award in our clan, I can proudly say I really love my parents, especially my Papa.
I want to give them the best life possible, and by working from home, I was able to gradually address our concerns about housing, poverty, and others.
I’m still miles from my dreams, just inches from the first step, but I’m more than glad I’m slowly building the life I deserve.
Also, I’d love to venture into stocks and REITs once I take calculated risks and assess if these investments are right for me. Stock investing is really lucrative since you can either make it or break it.
Aside from those, I will get insurance for the whole family as well as my furbabies. I want to secure the lives of my parents as well as my siblings. Bella and Carl are both lovely dogs in the family.
Somehow, I will also venture into entrepreneurship. I’m still collaborating with partners who can help me achieve these goals. If not, I will do it myself and be the best version of myself so I can scale my income.
I’d love to help create circular economies through sustainable living and development by creating animal shelters, one location at a time, here in Luzon. I always believe that pressing issues should be addressed so we can be aware of the challenges they pose in our lives. We must work hand in hand and make a big difference in society.
Moreover, I’d love to build more learning centers and vertical farms here in the Philippines. With enough help and support from all sectors of society, we can solve climate change problems and make this world even better.
As an ecowarrior, I wanted to reduce plastic usage and solid waste management so the next generation would not suffer.
These might take exponential efforts, but with enough passion and grit, I know I can spell success in no less time.
About the author
April Mae M. Berza is the author of Confession ng isang Bob Ong Fan (Flipside, 2014) and Berso de Berza (Charging Ram, 2012.) Her poems and short stories appeared in numerous publications in America, France, Canada, Belgium, Romania, India, Japan, Great Britain, and the Philippines. She is a subtitler and translator in Hollywood (Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Hulu, Paramount, Apple TV, etc.). Her poems are translated into Crimean Tatar and Filipino. Some of her poems are published in the Philippines Graphic Reader, Liwayway, Belleville Park Pages, Haiku Journal, The Siren, Poetica, Three Line Poetry, Calliope, Maganda, Metric Conversions, Ani, The Manila Times, Letters to my Bully, Remembering Rizal, Voices from the Diaspora, Madswirl, The Stardust Gazette, The Riveter Review, Asahi Haikuist Network, Contemporary Verse 2, and elsewhere. She used to work for the associate editor position of Toe Good. Her poem “E-Martial Law” was broadcast on IndoPacific Radio on KPFA 94.1FM/kpfa.org and her poem “A Page from History” was broadcast on WYCE Electric Poetry 88.1 FM in Michigan, USA. She is a member of the Poetic Genius Society. Her two haiku entries were featured in the 9th Yamadera Basho Memorial Museum English Haiku Contest Selected Haiku Submissions Collection, July 2017. She received an Honorable Mention in the 19th HIA Haiku Contest and the 7th Akita Russia-Japan Haiku Contest. She currently resides in Taguig, Philippines.