Meet David, he went from an abysmal pay of $2 for a full-blown article to earning $200 per piece in his technical writing journey.
To top it all off, in his journey to success in freelance technical writing, he endured a heart-wrenching betrayal from a sinister client, plus, scouting for work with no success on the highly competitive Fiverr platform.
Warm your hearts with hope and brace yourself for future and unseen events in your freelance technical writing career, as we take you through this journey with David Obembe. You’d get to learn the special tactics he employed to get from point 0 to where he’s at now.
Please introduce yourself
Hello everyone, my name is David Obembe and I’m a freelance technical writer. I mostly write technical articles and tutorials in python and machine learning.
So, how did you start your journey into the technical writing space?
Hmm, well, I dabbled into freelancing first on a general note before I got acquainted with technical writing.
It all started when I was in my final year at Obafemi Awolowo University, and at that point, it dawned on me that I needed to start looking for money.
The reality that I wouldn’t be getting any pocket money from my parents had hit me so deeply, so I had to look for ways to get cash.
Fortunately, I had a friend that was writing for a Nigerian client and getting paid. He even said that he’d like to stop because his boss was stressing him out.
So I asked myself this, “David, do you know English and can you write and understand English? “
My responses to these questions were, “Yes” so, that sealed the deal. It was at that moment I took up freelance writing.
I started to write for a Nigerian client like my friend and in the process of doing that, I progressed to looking for foreign clients on my own.
I also tried out Fiverr but at that time, Fiverr was very competitive so there wasn’t any luck with that for the first few times I tried.
Then I moved over to Upwork and back then, they took days before approving my profile. I also didn’t have luck landing any clients as well.
This was getting difficult but I proceeded to look for other means. Then, I came across another freelancing website called Freelancer.com.
I registered, started applying for jobs and finally, I got a job paying $2 per article. From there, I started getting even more jobs.
Moving over to technical writing, it was during the Pandemic I started to learn about coding.
I was at home in Ibadan during my service year and I decided I needed to learn a skill. I took on programming alongside data science.
With this, I was able to land a client who wanted me to write something on machine learning for him. It was indeed a difficult process because I didn’t know sh**t about any of the topics I was assigned.
I had to research, learn to code, write the code and still write a tutorial article on how to write the code. This experience opened me up to a lot of topics and it’s the reason why I do what I do in machine learning. I was forced to read up on things I didn’t know about.
By the way, this client engaged me on a long-term basis, so, for some time, I didn’t have to hunt for clients.
How long did it take you to learn about technical writing?
There was no specific time frame for me to learn, I was learning on the job. So, when I had the experience with machine learning, I decided to focus in that direction.
Learning programming languages like Python took me six months to learn.
Have you had any bad experiences with any clients since you started doing technical writing?
For the most part, I have not had any bad clients. I mean, I went on Fiverr and with my newfound experience, I got one-off clients.
Oh wait, that’s not right, I had a bad experience. Yes, yes, I remember. It was one nasty client that I wrote for on freelancer.com. After finishing the job, he ghosted me without paying.
What was the most memorable moment in your freelance technical writing career?
That was during the pandemic, I was getting at least $200 per article and it was a long-term client. The articles I wrote were extremely lengthy though and it was a per-word kind of thing.
What would you describe as your writing weaknesses?
Writing outside my field is one of my weaknesses. For instance, I don’t write technical documentation.
Recently, I had a referral from a friend of mine to write technical documentation. I had to turn the job away because I don’t have any experience writing documentation.
I focus mainly on python, machine learning, and data science.
If you could turn back the hands of time thinking back to when you started your career what would you change?
I don’t think I would want to change anything, I feel my background was really necessary even though my first job was $2 per article, for which I was getting $1.8 because the website was charging a 10% commission.
I went from that point to earning $35 per article and then $85. Each time, the time I spent producing articles shortened and I became faster compared to when I started and I was spending 4 hours on one article.
It’s because of this I feel I wouldn’t change anything. The only regret I have is not starting earlier.
What do you want to say to writers out there?
Just keep at it and also try to be a better version of yourself because there are challenges that will come.
That reminds me, there was another client that gave me trouble.
For a 1000-word article, he dropped over 20 comments and I was surprised.
You’ll meet some clients that won’t like your style of writing or your voice. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not good at it or you’re not good enough.
I mean this person that I said had a lot of negative comments about my work still came back two weeks later to give me another job.
Sometimes you’ll face new problems in your technical writing journey but just keep at it. It will keep getting better and please do yourself a favor and don’t stop learning.
How do you present your portfolio to clients?
I use google docs to present my work to prospective clients on Fiverr and Upwork.
I think the Contentre will be great for you to categorize your work into the different topics you write on.
Since you write on machine learning, Python, and Data Science, you can set up a portfolio, categorize your works accordingly and send out different links to prospective clients all from one place.