Recently, I went out to find if one can succeed as an academic writer. Here is how it went;
“When I started looking for a job, I was specifically searching for something prestigious. After two months, I lowered my goals and was just searching for a normal office job. 6 months down the line, and things were so tough such that I was willing to take up ANY job!”
Meet Dennis Mwangi, a successful academic writer from Nairobi, Kenya. His job hunting experience after graduating with a BA- Public Relation was quite stressful and Dennis says he almost quit.
“Things changed when I met an old college mate RoseMary in a matatu as I was returning home one evening” Says Dennis.
“She definitely looked bubbly and happy unlike those days in campus. When I asked her what she was into, she mentioned that she was an academic writer. I was unable to probe her further as she seemed not too eager to share her information but that was the spark that ignited my career and I thank Jane.”
Dennis has never looked back. His hit his earnings peak in December 2016, when he pocketed a cool $940.
We had asked him to share some insights and this is how our conversation went;
FB: What is academic writing?
Academic writing is basically writing for the purposes of fulfilling a school requirement. I have defined it thus since it has a very broad spectrum.
For instance, sending an application letter for consideration in a course firmly qualifies as academic writing. Similarly, writing a project proposal for your final year in college is academic writing too.
FB: Where do you sources for jigs (work)?
There are very many sources for academic writing tasks. One can get jobs from students or directly in an engagement referred to as direct client-writer relationship. Here, you maintain a direct personal communication channel with the client.
They send you a job, you respond that you can do it or have it done. You agree on the terms – in this case the fee and the deadline. Should you take up the job, you must complete within the set time-frame.
Payment can be done through various platforms depending on the locality and the preference of the client. The most common is PayPal or World Remit for international customers.
For the local gigs, you are paid through MPESA or transact via the banks.
The progress of the relationship directly depends on the quality of the job delivered.
To access clients, one must register an account on academic freelancing sites.
All academic writing websites are free. Notice that some newbies prefer to ‘buy’ accounts from established academic freelancers.
There are more than 50 academic freelancing sites but for starters, the following are the best;
While there are no upfront fees, some sites have very stringent requirements for non-native English speakers making many ESL(English as a second language) freelancers to opt buying top rated accounts. Prices range between $100-$2500.
Please be aware that buying and selling accounts is considered illegal plus one can easily be scammed.
However, there are a few friendly websites that allow new users to create accounts and source for jobs directly.
FB: So, where does one start? What is the best approach for newbies?
You can start by identifying a mentor who can guide you and help polish your writing skills. For example, if you have never undertaken an academic jig, you cannot earn even from the best paying writing service.
In the absence of mentors, create free accounts in such websites as freelancer.com, upwork and homeworkmarket to learn the bits about academic freelancing. However, I would always go for mentorship.
FB: What are the most essential requirements for one to succeed in academic writing?
A very patient attitude, a flexible mindset and enthusiasm. On enthusiasm, it is important to note that it should oriented towards delivering quality and not money.
Patience is required due to the nature of the work. You are dealing with people with very diverse characters. Some will make you revise the job a dozen times; others will have you stay up the whole night while some will even cancel the job. This is the reality.
For the ‘infrastructure’, you need a computer or laptop in a good working condition, an internet connection and of course time.
FB: Thank you. What are the must have basic qualifications for one to start?
Most websites, save for homeworkmarket.com, freelancer.com and upwork.com require a minimum of a college diploma for them to give you an account. However, if you opt to buy one, no one asks for qualification.
In case you are opening an account, it is important to state the disciplines you are most competent in. This makes your work easier and enables you to deliver quality jobs.
FB: Assuming I have registered, how do I go about securing my first job?
The best way is working under someone who already has jobs. Network and find these guys. You can get them via social media groups related to academic writing and even on whatsapp, although they generally offer lower rates compared to when you are working direct from a websites or direct clients.
The current standard pay is $2.5-4.00 per page when given work by another freelancer. This is a proven way of finding your feet in academic writing and has always worked.
FB: What about attracting and retaining clients?
If you want direct clients, you have to again network widely. I obtained my one my best clients- an Australian through a referral by a friend who was working in a university registration bureau.
Looking for and joining quality networks is a very powerful way of getting these well paying customers. Some are just in your social media networks such as Facebook.
You can use your friends to reach out to those who are in school abroad.
For websites, do your best from the very first day and build your reputation. Clients will come running!
Do shoddy work and all clients will shun you like plague!
FB: What are the potential earnings and does academic writing suffer from seasonal fluctuations?
There are no standard earnings in academic writing. The reason behind this is that your income depends on the work delivered. To put yourself in an average to high income bracket, master the art of writing excellent pieces. Then work on your speed and you should soon be on your way to the dollars!
Academic writing operates on seasons so earnings do fluctuate. The high season is normally between August to May with the low season lasting two months in between June and July.
All said and done, the average earnings for writers are $400-$600 a month for those who work under others.
However, i do know quite a number of account owners making $1200-$2400 in 30 days. Truth be said, you can even make $1500 in a single day if you use the right tactics for example outsourcing.
In the low season, getting $250 in a month is pure luck even for account owners.
FB: Comment on mentorship and training
If possible, identify a sincere mentor who is willing to invest his or her time guiding you. As a new freelancer, you have to be committed and be willing to follow instructions.
Before approaching a mentor, secure the essential tools of trade-laptop, internet and time. Remember it’s a job like any other- treat it as such. Start with small tasks and expand your knowledge gradually.
Don’t protest if you don’t get any payment for the training jigs. You are looking for skills not cash at this stage.
If your trainer has to be paid, just comply. In the long run, you will not regret.
Be professional by setting both learning and earning targets.
Some clients are very good trainers. Seek for feedback and implement it each time you submit a project.
FB: What would say about the issue of buying accounts?
Do not start off by buying your own account unless you have a professional to manage it for you. As I said, work under someone for let’s say a month, learn the tricks, the actual costs of accounts and whether it is worth the risk.
If you have to buy, the best period to acquire an account is during the off-peak season (June – August) as the prices are very depressed.
You can then build the rating and have lots of work once the high season sets in August.
FB: How do you win jobs requiring native English speakers?
This is a bit tricky but ordinarily if you have an account where you are listed as a Native English Speaker, you will easily get jobs.
Challenges however arise if and when the account editors notice poor grammar. To escape punishment, work on your grammar.
Most direct clients don’t mind you being an ESL speaker and care more about quality- another reason why you should aim for direct clients.
FB: Any awesome tips for beginners?
When i started academic writing, I wanted to make as big money very quickly, yet I didn’t have requisite skills. I didn’t care about quality and this set me on a collision path with employers and at some point, none was willing to gamble on me.
Clients would frequently reprimand me and ask for multiple revisions-Man, and the way I hate revisions!
Funny enough, immediately i started gaining a foothold, the low season set in and left me feeling very low. I however decided to use the off peak lesson to position myself for success and by the time work flow improved, I already had a laptop though I was still paying for it.
I also swore to commit more time on the computer. This pushed my speed and subsequently earnings from just a few dollars a month to $1000 within 5 months.
The secret is being aggressive and while at it keenly follow all client instructions. Don’t hesitate to contact the client to seek clarification. It will help you maintain standards. And please avoid PLAGIARISM!
Interestingly, you don’t always have to accept the fees clients are offering. If you shine in quality, you can start dictating your fees provided you maintain your high standards.
FB: Why should one go for academic writing?
Personally, I feel academic writing is advantageous in that;
- You can make quick money if quality and speed are guaranteed.
- You get excellent exposure to international platforms in a wide range of areas.
- You will develop key traits such as patience, tenacity and aggression.
- You will meet and network with like-minded individuals.
- You become very knowledgeable in your niche.
- And the best is flexibility. I have worked from the house for the last one year. No reporting to work, no fare and no nosy bosses.
But if not planned well, academic writing jigs will make you suffer from;
- Lack of sleep as you must meet strict deadlines and differences in time zones.
- Lack of a quality social life. For example, i had to work during Christmas holidays
- High risks. If you mess up on a job, your account can be closed leaving you penniless. Similarly a client can cancel the job and withhold the pay.
FB: Very well Dennis. Freelancingbuddy wishes you success in your freelancing career.