Recently we reached out to WriteWorldwide email subscribers and asked for new interviewees for our reader interview series. Thanks to everyone who responded, we’re looking forward to publishing your interviews soon! The first to respond to the message was Shierly Hugo, a freelance writer from Indonesia. Here’s what she had to say …
1) Please introduce yourself to the WriteWorldwide readers.
Hi, fellow readers, I’m Shierly Octaviana Hugo. I usually go by shierlyhugo94 on Projects.co.id, a freelancing platform I use for writing projects. Because I’ve worked with local and overseas clients, I’m confident that I’m capable of handling almost any type of writing project.
SEO-based WordPress blog posts on niche topics (such as Health and Beauty, Travel, Business, Finance, and many more) dominate my portfolio since most of my local clients require that type of writing. I’ve also succeeded in delivering press releases and more descriptive writing for some of my clients.
In addition to this, I won the “Top 10” award in my university’s Short Story Competition. I also succeeded in delivering a series of English tutorial articles that use screenplay-like dialogues as a mean for learning. This experience means I can deliver short stories alongside my other services.
2) Why did you choose to be a writer, and have you experienced much success yet?
The literary world has been my oxygen since I was a child. I began to memorise Indonesian heroes’ names and histories and have read lots of historical novels, psychology books, and motivational leadership books since the age of 5.
Another example was when I built and sustained my first active fangirling-niche blog at the age of 13 or 14. My blog (Utau’s Fangirl) was referred by someone I hardly know even though it’s a freebie WordPress blog.
I have continued to write, and I’m now happy to work as a freelance writer. I can determine my schedule, choose my clients, and set my own fees. For me, these kinds of freedoms are the truest definition of success.
Besides this, I’ve involved myself with local and international writing communities on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook. These communities not only inform me about upcoming freelance writing projects, but also nurture the growth of my career.
As a result, I’ve been able to earn 1-2 times more than my peers who work in offices. The growing numbers are fantastic, even though I only began getting paid for my writing a year ago. My current earnings are 10 times higher than they were last year. I predict that these numbers will continue to grow due to an increasing number of orders and the expertise I’ve gained throughout my “informal” writing training.
3) As an ESL writer, have you faced any challenges?
Yes, indeed! I’d like to share these challenges not only with WriteWorldwide readers, but also with all my fellow Indonesian writers – especially those who’ve just begun their freelance writing careers.
Grammar has been a major problem for me. Even though I’ve undertaken an English preparation course for 6 months, I have difficulties using “s” or “-es” and articles (“a, an, the”). Also, I don’t know if this is due to the structure of my native language or not, but I seem to misplace “of” and “for” a lot in English.
Thankfully, I have Grammarly add-ons installed on my Firefox and Chrome browsers. I open the Grammarly extension whenever I’ve finished my manuscript and use it to check on possible grammar mistakes. To make it more convenient, I only activate Grammarly when I’ve finished a project.
4) What’s one thing about you most people don’t know?
Since I work so fast, people often accuse me of being hasty. This has happened since the first time I wrote my thesis, when my academic advisor frequently told me “not to go too fast”.
I’ve developed my writing and typing speeds since I was just 9 years old, when I was involved in several online forums. My family’s computer repairman and my internet friends even told me that I typed with lightning speed like a hacker!
I’ve also excelled in programming-based subjects. In fact, programming was one of my major passions when I was in Junior High School, alongside design.
5) What would you like to see more of on the WriteWorldwide blog?
While my country doesn’t block PayPal usage, I know that there are many ESL writers out there who don’t have enough access to PayPal, the most frequently-used payment system for writers that I know of. There may also be some ESL writers who have limited withdrawal amounts, or can no longer use their Paypal accounts.
Therefore, PayPal payment issues have been concerning me. I’ve noticed that WriteWorldwide has published an article that discusses alternative payment means aside from Paypal. This is helpful for ESL writers who either don’t have access to a Paypal account, or have trouble using their account.
I’d like to see posts on paid freelance writing opportunities that permit freelancers to be paid through non-Paypal methods. I believe that this will build ESL writers’ confidence as they progress in their freelance writing careers.
6) Are you connected with others ESL writers, and is that helping to boost your confidence?
Yes, in fact, most of my network are ESL writers. Some are renowned Indonesian bloggers, such as those who are part of the Blogger Aktif Menulis (BAM) WhatsApp group. This group helps build my confidence as a writer. They also provide writing opportunities that boost my career.
I’ve also been a Toastmasters member since December 2016, and have fostered connections with several Indonesian writers from attending events. The first is Anita Sonya, an author with motivational leadership as her central theme. She is definitely one of my inspirations to keep on writing.
My current Toastmasters (HAND) Club President, Amelia Febriani (or “Ce Amel”, as I often call her), has her own blog and heads up a publication called “It’s Your Life”. She’s also an educational practitioner at Mawar Sharon Christian School. Given my position as HAND Toastmasters Vice President of Public Relations and her understanding of my blogging capabilities, I feel truly at home whenever I visit HAND Toastmasters.
7. What’s your favourite aspect of being an ESL writer?
The joy of learning “real” English wouldn’t be as delightful if I wasn’t an ESL writer. By “real” English, I mean grammatical structure, word choice, sentence structure, and so on.
I love learning for the sake of learning. Plus, there are a growing number of ESL writers these days. These vast numbers of ESL writers open up the doors for me to make more connections that will pave ways to success as a freelance writer.
8) What’s your daily writing routine?
I write and accept new orders every day, including weekends and public holidays. I can handle around 3,000-6,000 words per day. I work from 10 a.m. to approximately 10 or 11 p.m. GMT +7.
Normally, I update the HAND Toastmasters blog every second and fourth Saturday or Sunday. Up until now, the blog has reported on HAND Toastmasters regular meetings. In the future, I plan to add more content to the blog to build the HAND Toastmasters personal brand and make it different from any other Toastmasters club in Surabaya, Indonesia – my hometown. Aside from that, I also write emails and my own essays whenever I’m free.
9) What methods to you use to keep your writing skills sharp?
Well, to quote Ping’s Kung Fu Panda, “There are no such thing as special ingredients. To make something special, you just need to believe,”
There are lots of paths to freelance writing success. I’ve taken as many paid writing opportunities as I can – and will continue to do so. Some people use other methods such as building an email subscription list or growing a blog, and still others believe that “peer power” is the sole thing that will keep you motivated during your writing career.
While I can’t disagree with any of those beliefs, I do think that everyone has their own “phases”. It’s not impossible for us to leap more than one level higher than we currently are, but trust me, it will be extremely difficult.
An empowering mentality is the main thing that makes me thrive in my writing career. I use every possible resource to strengthen my mentality when I write, including exercising during free time, communicating with like-minded people, and most importantly, searching for the most suitable clients to work with while continuing to improve my writing skills.
For example, I compare three or more blogs and writing groups’ opinions on how to make a winning pitch. After that, I compare those opinions and edit my current pitch. As I develop to the next level, I may seek other advice to build my writing career.
10) What are your plans for growing your writing business and client base in the future?
Since I’ve got plenty of experience writing in English, I’m confident that I can take on more international clients in the future. I’ve also joined “The Write Life” community on Facebook, as well as other Facebook-related writing communities I believe will expand my knowledge and client base.
From reading various emails and Pinterest posts, I know that ESL writers like me can pitch for writing jobs on social media platforms such as Twitter. Since I have access to these sites, I plan to grow my writing business and client base on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other similar social media platforms.
In the future, I am open to being a co-author for book writing and publishing projects. This fits my previous experience working on a magazine committee. I’m also willing to do email newsletter writing for exclusive subscribers if needed. Feel free to comment below if you are interested in cooperating with me and I’ll gladly give you my contact details.