Do you want to write for a living? Find out about the profession of content writing
Benjamin Franklin, though best known for being the President of America and his scientific discoveries was also a prolific writer (he did help draft the Constitution of America). So, he knew a thing or two about “Writing something worth reading, or doing something worth reading!” Well, we say that if you know the art of penmanship and have been toying with the idea of writing for a living, then here’s what you need to do:
1. Put up Mr Franklin’s inspirational words in a place where you can see it everyday
2. Find out more about building a career out of writing from someone in the know!
Tanya Munshi, knows the ins and outs of what it takes to build a career out of a love for writing – after all she has been doing this for the last 13 years! She is a professional content writer and the owner and curator of the website – The Lifestyle Portal (www.tanyamunshi.com) Hear from Tanya about what Content Writing is really about, and what she thinks is essential to make it in this field!
I’m an online writer with more than 13 years of editorial experience in the field of online and print media. I’ve dabbled in writing content for websites, brochures, marketing campaigns, product reviews, lifestyle magazines and websites, children’s books and e-learning. This wide experience has enabled me to fit into a team (onsite/ remotely) to work on a variety of projects and meet the client’s requirements.
Having worked for a UK based publishing house for almost eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to promote, market and review clients and their services/ products in a competitive and a dynamic market.
My freelancing experience has given me an opportunity to work for several publications that has moulded my skills accordingly. This has been both fun and challenging.
So while I freelanced lifestyle articles for Rediff.com I was also writing children’s stories for DC Books Publishing House. Apart from working full time for Caledonian Publishing UK Ltd where I was involved in marketing their UK clients I’ve also had freelancing assignments and interviewed people for The Hindu, popular lifestyle magazines and running my own website The Lifestyle Portal.
Apart from my regular work, I also take out time to run my own website that offers new age entrepreneurs a launchpad to promote and market their products, services and share their success stories.
The Lifestyle Portal also helps bridge the gap between my clients and my readers through contests; and when our readers win, it helps them associate a positive brand recall with my clients and my website.
This has helped me strengthen my interpersonal and communication skills that are required to work individually and as a team and with clients to achieve a common goal.
As a daughter of a defence officer I possess the qualities of integrity, hardwork and adaptability and as a mother of a two-year-old I have been able to fine tune the work life balance and enjoy the little moments of quiet, peace and laughter.
Writing as a career – what Tanya has to say
What are the Top 3 Skills anyone interested in this profession should have?
1. Content writing/ editorial skills
2. Love for writing in a language of your choice.
3. Degree in journalism/ mass communication
What is one guaranteed to love about this career?
That there is never a dull moment. Writing as a career allows you to write about a topic/ subject that you love the most. Pick the stream you like – architecture, medical, travel, lifestyle, technical and you could be a writer in that field. If you have a background knowledge/ qualifications on a particular field and may opt to be a writer instead of pursuing the career head on.
What should one definitely prepare for in this career?
You should be keen and eager to write about topics that interest you. One of the best things to do for such a dynamic career is that you need to keep writing. The more you write, the better you get at it. Write about any topic even if it doesn’t interest you. Learn to challenge yourself. Read, research, talk, ask and get out of the house/ cubicle and explore.
Having done this for so long, are there any mistakes you think one can avoid making?
Try not to stick to one style of writing for too long as you’ll get labelled/ typecast and you’ll find it difficult to get out. For instance, I worked as an instructional writer in the initial days of my career, but I continued freelancing for Rediff.com where I actively contributed lifestyle features so that whenever I planned on switching writing styles/ careers I could do it seamlessly and companies would know that I can handle a varied style of writing.
Try not to be too rigid in your style of writing. Pick topics out of your domain knowledge just to challenge yourself. You may or may not like writing about it, but that will help you come out of your comfort zone and inertia.
Don’t be afraid to ask. No matter how silly it may sound in your head, make the habit of asking your superiors/ peers/ sub-ordinates at work or class to find out things that you don’t know or get things clarified. If you don’t ask, you don’t learn – period. That’s one of the first things I learnt during my internships at Better Photography and India Book House. If you expect people are going to come to you and spoon feed you (just because you’re a topper in class) forget about it. You’re here to learn, pick up skills and contribute something meaningful to the company – so ask and find out things on your own.
Spot a mentor at work/ class. It could be a senior writer at work or your senior at college who can help you. I would often sit and write about topics and get a senior colleague to check it for me and give me feedback.
Don’t be naïve – you may reach a point or may feel that ‘you know everything that’s needed to be known at work/ class’ – then you’re making the biggest mistake of your life. Learning never stops. So even if you may be a topper in class or doing great at work – don’t stop learning.
Is there any book, course or programme you would recommend to anyone which would help them in this profession?
Always keep hardcopy of books like Wren & Martin, a thesaurus, a dictionary and ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynn Truss on your table. You could take up these short online courses from Xavier’s Institute of Communications. I would keep taking their short courses online whenever I had less pressure at work that also helped break the monotony and beat boredom.
Is there any defining moment, anecdote, experience (good or bad) which you would like to share?
I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to be a journalist as I’m not politically inclined. I enjoy writing about the happier and more enjoyable things in life such as travel, home, health – especially food, cooking and recipes.
I’ve been fortunate to have good mentors where ever I’ve worked. I owe a lot of my present feature writing skills to my first editor Merril Diniz at Rediff, to my boss Svati Chaktravarty Bhatkal at IL&FS ETS and my present company in the UK.
When I got a chance to work for this UK based publishing house I was a complete novice. I had to write about something I had no clue about. But the Founder and CEO of the company took me under his wing when he launched his company eight years ago. He trained me for over a year on how to write reviews and promotional campaings for products and services for the UK market. Had he not encouraged me at the start I wouldn’t have come so far in my career today.
One of the other important aspect of your career should be to be loyal to your company. Never change your company for a few extra thousand rupees if your present company has been good to you and has invested time and money into nurturing you as a professional. I’m not saying that you stick to the company lifelong, but stand by your company during its bad times if you can and help it bounce back too.
Was this your first career choice? If not, then why did you gravitate towards it?
I always wanted to join the army as I come from a defence background. I wanted to explore and lead an adventure filled life. I studied hard to get a first class in my graduation and applied for the Short Service Selection Board in the Indian Army and got through. I made it through the first couple of rounds and didn’t make it through the finals. I came back heart broken and took up the second thing that I loved the most – writing and photography. I got through SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai for a Post Graduate Diploma in Communications and Media and stood second at the university level and that’s where I realised ‘New Media’ or the Internet is the place to be and even since I wanted to write for print and online media.
Having been in this career for a while, what advice would you give yourself if you were to start off in this career today.
Get the right connections, it helps. Even though you may have the best of qualifications and degrees, you still need a bit of reference and a push, so make sure you network well.
Get out, get moving and meet people in person. Networking is the key.
To enjoy more of Tanya’s writings, check out her website The Lifestyle Portal at www.tanyamunshi.com!
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