The freelancing world was not in my plans.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. However, I never thought of taking it as a profession. I was a student of Economics at the University of Dhaka from 2007 to 2011 and I always thought of looking for a job after I graduate. That was the plan!
My Life at JAAGO Foundation
After finishing my studies, I immediately joined JAAGO Foundation, a NGO based in Dhaka that worked to educated slum-based underprivileged children around the country. I was completely happy working for JAAGO for the next 1.5 years, starting as a copywriter. The work was awesome, and I loved it!
I worked at JAAGO for 1.5 years – from July 2011 to December 2012 – as the Assistant Manager in the PR & Publication Department. It was completely wonderful! Undoubtedly, I fell in love with the institution, with the people, with the environment, and especially with my work.
I was in charge with the organization’s multiple websites, Social Media sites, newsletters and correspondences – literally everything that had to do with writing. There was a lot I learned from my time at JAAGO Foundation.
It was, however, the daily commute that was literally killing me. Due to the heavy traffic in Dhaka, I had to spend at least 3 hours on the road everyday – 1 hour in the morning and 2 in the evening. It was exhausting, and I was tired all the time!
I left the job at the end of 2012.
My eldest daughter was born the next year.
The next few months were for my daughter, and my daughter only. I was a stay-at-home mother for a whole year in 2013. I always planned to go back to JAAGO – or at any other job – after a few months caring for my new-born. Of course, for the moment, it was completely unthinkable to go back to work and leave my newborn at home.
My Freelancing Career
It was a friend who told me about Upwork (which was oDesk at that time); From her, over an idle lunch of salad one day, that I heard of this online marketplace that can give me writing jobs. Apparently Upwork is a freelance marketplace and I might be able to find some work to do from home – which was my chief concern at that time. The money wasn’t important to me then, but I didn’t want to be idle.
I opened my account on UpWork in November 2013, with a two-month old in my lap, and started my freelance career as a writer.
How I Started my Freelancing Career on Upwork
My first instinct upon creating an account was not to apply for jobs, but to make my profile worthy of international standard. Therefore, I spend the next two weeks doing a lot of things instead of applying to jobs.
- I spent a week looking through the profiles of other top freelance writers on UpWork.
- Since I was in charge of all the publications at JAAGO Foundation, I was successful in quickly putting together a portfolio that had all my work.
- I browsed the Internet to look for samples that are acceptable in the International marketplaces, and created works of my own.
- I browsed through YouTube videos and created transcribed files that I added to my portfolio.
Finally, when my portfolio was complete, I had samples of every kind of projects that I can work on. It was then, 16 days after I signed up for UpWork, that I started to apply for jobs.
I think I could be considered quite lucky with my freelance career because within the first 7 days, I landed my first job on Upwork.
My First Job on Upwork
My first project on UpWork was a 40-minute audio transcription that only paid $5. I had to work 8 hours to finish this single project, but my client was very happy with my work. He gave me a good feedback, and another similar project to finish. Not only at, he gave me the names of some software for transcription that made my work easier, and taught me to use them.
I completed a total of 6 or 7 projects for him – a journalist who interviewed people and wrote about them – and my profile slowly accumulated a number of positive feedback.
The first transcription job that I completed on Upwork was only for $5, and it took me around 6 hours to earn that! This was way before I knew the rate for transcription. I applied for a rate that was far below the standard rate because I hadn’t researched much.
My Freelancing Journey on Upwork
My second month on UpWork brought me 10,000 BDT (around $150), and in the third month, I earned another 23,000 BDT (somewhat $300). It was hard for me the first few months – working night after night with a small baby to look after. I had to bid for 15 jobs to even get a reply from one, that too, for a very small rate. But I didn’t mind; I knew I had to pay more attention to my work and my profile than on my earnings. At that point, I didn’t think of how little or how much I was earning. I only thought about the hours I was accumulating on my profile and the positive feedback that I was getting.
The first year was the hardest. I had to work long hour for very small prices. I had to work extra just to get some good feedback from my clients. Not all of them were honest or good; I got cheated a few times when the clients found out that I was new, and did not know much about UpWork. It was the first 12 to 15 months that I had to try very hard to survive on UpWork and create a positive name for myself.
How I Started My Freelance Writing Career
Transcription was not something that I wanted to do for a long time, but it was the only thing that my foreigner clients were willing to give me. Not being a native English speaker, they didn’t find me eligible for writing jobs.
Several months after I entered the marketplace, I gained enough confidence to bid for writing jobs. The first job I landed as a writer was for 25 articles. At $2 per article, I had to write around 25000 words for $50. I had 2 weeks for the whole job, but I worked day and night to complete it within a week. The client was astounded with my speed, and he liked my work as well. He was the one who gave me my first eBook – a 3500 word book for $20. Needless to say, I finished it in 2 days, as well. The client gave me a $10 bonus because he liked my work. This was my first bonus on UpWork!
I started with a $3/hour rate on Upwork at the end of 2013 but gradually increased it to $8/hour. Later, I increased it to $12/hour. At the beginning, I would work for $0.75/100 words. Now, I charge double that for 3500, 5000, 7500, 10000 or 15000 word eBooks.
It’s still not as high as what a native speaker would get, even when I write as well as them. Hopefully, one day I will be able to charge what they are paid for the same number of words.
Appreciation from the Freelancing World
In September of 2015, I was awarded the “Best Female Outsourcing Professional” by BASIS.
This was one of the best things that have ever happened to me in my life. This award changed my life. This was the appreciation that I believe I deserved after my hard work. It was also the encouragement I needed to go ahead further. In the same year, I also received another award by Daffodil International Academy, Transpay and Belancer. It was from the the same category – Female Outsourcing Professional.
I was further awarded the “Best Female Freelancer” by the ICT Division of Bangladesh in December 2016.
These days, I work for around 3 to 4 hours a day, 5 days a week; the rest of my time is for my family. Instead of applying to new jobs, I prefer to work for fixed clients now. At present, I have a total of four clients who give me regular work, both on and outside Upwork. One of them is from UK, one from USA, one from Philippines and one from Bangladesh.
I mostly write eBooks, articles, product descriptions and reviews, and regular blogs for my clients. At the same time, I am working on my personal blog to promote content writing and freelancing.
My Plans for the Future
I also have an agency on UpWork called Writers-on-the-Block which is only at it’s initial stage. Beside being financially independent, I am trying to create some jobs each month for other women. These are skilled and educated women who are not working at the moment. They are mainly stay-at-home mothers and students. This blog is, in addition, another way to try and help them launch their writing careers online.
In January 2023, I started my very own series of workshops to teach content writing. I offer 10 days of live workshops every month, extended mentorship and a few other perks to participants interested in attending my workshop. The workshops run online under the name “Content Writing with Azanta“. Till date, I have completed 6 batches and taught more than 200 participants.
For me, this is just the beginning. I plan to go way ahead, of course, given that I have blessings of the Almighty and the support of my family.
Thank you for your time in reading my story!