Divya: Grow Through What You Go Through

Believing in health comes before anything, Divya started her journey as a health & wellness speaker post coping with her mental health struggles. She started freelancing in May 2020 and now also works as a content creator and brand strategist in the Finance and the eCommerce sector. 

For her, the initial period was mainly relying on inbound gigs due to a lack of confidence. However, she now suggests consistently using LinkedIn, a strong portfolio, and networking as efficient marketing methods for freelancers. She lays emphasis on building self-confidence, upskilling yourself every week, and talking to new people for growth as a freelancer. 

She aims to normalize conversations on mental health issues and inspire more people with her initiative in building a community. The focus will be on conversations around how to take better care of your mental health and will also give you access to her future products, and sessions.

Content with life, she best describes herself as an adventurous, explorer, and lone wolf. Her two mantras in life are:

  1. Learning to say ‘no’ when necessary to succeed, 
  2. Accepting failures to grow and learn faster. 

We wish her success as she grows in her career and works towards uplifting others.

Read her inspiring journey:

1. Introduce yourself to us?

Hi, I am Divya Shah. I am an Economics Graduate from the University of London. Back in May 2020, I started my journey as a freelance content writer. Eventually, I broadened my freelancing career into the branding space helping Founders, CEOs, other freelancers, and startups grow on LinkedIn and build their brand.

I hail from the milk city of Asia-Anand, Gujarat. I grew up in a joint family and being an elder sibling, life was different for me. I’m glad to have thrived in the situation wherein life has challenged me at every stage since my childhood. My mom and my younger sister have been my greatest supporters, and I’m blessed to have them in my life. 

2. Why did you choose the field of writing? How did you get introduced to this field? What fascinates you the most about your career choice?

Writing did not happen accidentally to me, nor was I an avid book reader during my childhood. Since my childhood, writing on a piece of paper acted as an outlet for my emotions. My mental health was silently suffering since 3rd grade. I felt heard and relieved when I used to let out my frustrations and emotions on a piece of  paper.

Growing up in a joint family has its bane, and for me, I never got enough attention and couldn’t confide in anyone. Being an active, independent kid, no one in my family could have even thought in their wildest dreams that I could potentially be suffering. However, writing became my companion and over the years it became my sword to fight the battles.

My journey as a professional started in May 2020, and it is by far one of the best decisions I have made. It started with me opening up about my battle with depression and finally overcoming it after years. Soon, after exploring the platform, I realized I can monetize my passion for writing. 

I started actively writing around mental health, and this became a routine that helped me gain engagement. Eventually, with consistent efforts, the inquiries started pouring in. However, there were weeks of a dry spell as well, and it was tough for me to cope on those days. 

3. Why did you choose to freelance? When did you begin to freelance? Were you planning it, or how did it happen?

Honestly, I never heard of the term Freelance until May 2020, when I saw a fellow connection’s post on LinkedIn where she shared her journey. The post was quite intriguing, and my hunt to know as much as I can about this term began. 

I guess that’s how it all started. As I said earlier, it is because of LinkedIn I could harness my power of writing into a money-making skill.

4. We know that you are a mental health Speaker too; tell us about how do you align all of your interests?

I started writing on LinkedIn actively about mental health because I have suffered from mental illness for a very long time. Further, the taboo around this whole concept only added more to my suffering as the treatment was delayed. Thus, when I finally started healing, I decided to open to the world and tell them about my struggles. 

I wanted to say to people; I did not choose to be a cry baby; it was depression that took a toll on me. It is easy to pass on the comments if you haven’t been in someone’s shoes, and those comments hurt someone a lot more if they are already suffering through something about which they can only do so much.

When I shared my story on LinkedIn, a fellow connection reached out to me to discuss the topic of “How pandemic is affecting the mental health of people?”. While this was my first talk, I have received many more opportunities since then, from being a Speaker for an NGO on Instagram live to being a guest Speaker on multiple podcasts. 

As far as my interest is concerned, I wrote on the topic closest to my heart, and everything synced in. However, as easy as this sounds, trust me, it is not. I have had my share of bad days, and I still do.

Further, as a freelancer taking care of my mental health becomes a lot more critical, because I’m working alone all day and interacting with limited people. At times, the feeling of loneliness followed by anxiety knocks on my door. Sometimes, I have them as uninvited visitors. Thus, as a freelancer, it becomes essential for you and me to take care of our mental health and be a part of any active community.

5. What are the most prominent techniques that you use to market yourself?

As of now, I have been active only on LinkedIn because it feels like my safe space. After a lot of rinse and repeat, I have managed to develop a funnel for my business which starts by being visible on LinkedIn through content sharing and active engagement. 

My profile is the second part of the funnel, which needs to be convincing enough for my prospects to DM me for my services. Everything then just follows.

Further, even on my networking calls, I always introduce myself as a freelancer who has branding knowledge and helps businesses and individuals grow through content and storytelling. I was scared of talking about my services to people, but I realized that if I want to put bread on my table, I need to be shameless. A simple thing here is, if you don’t try it, you will never know what is working for you and your business.

6. How do you price your services as a freelancer? Any essential points that a new freelancer should know of?

Many freelancers face problems with pricing, but it is one of the crucial topics. Even the experienced ones face it when they wish to include new services in their kitty. In the content writing space, the best way is to start with writing samples for yourself on any platform. 

While you’re writing, understand the time and efforts it takes for you to complete, say, a 1000-word blog. This is roughly the same time you will take to finish a blog for the client. Forget the fact you’re a newbie and ask yourself how much would you be willing to pay for this piece of content quality considering the time and efforts. 

I’m sure you’ll have a number from your gut, and there it is. Of course, it has to be a reasonable amount, and give it a shot when a client approaches you. Don’t lower your worth because the client cannot afford your services.

For starters, if you’re a skilled writer and at least know the basics from creating a blog to submitting it to the client, you could maybe start with INR1/- per word. I began with INR 1.2/- per word, and my only portfolio was my LinkedIn profile.

You need to have the confidence to ask for the price that your efforts deserve, or else you will always be underpaid.

7. How do you deal with writer’s block? What are the steps that you take to overcome it?

I don’t believe in the term “Writer’s Block”. I mean, of course, there will be days when you don’t have any ideas popping up in your mind, and that’s okay. There will be times when the quality of your content will deteriorate, and that’s okay. What is not okay is to pester yourself to think or improve content quality in the moment. 

Why don’t we start taking these signs to indicate that we need a break from our routine? Every time I’m stuck in such a phase, I avoid pestering myself and tell myself it’s okay. It happens because you’re a human, not a GPT-3 developed AI platform that has the potential to generate unlimited content on a single click.

Take a break, and spend time with yourself doing things you like. This could be anything from journaling to cooking, dancing, painting, literally anything under the sun.

8. What do you do to polish your skills as a freelancer?

Reserve weekends for upskilling. I use LinkedIn learning to work on my skills and learn from industry leaders here. If you cannot opt for LinkedIn learning, there are ample free resources to learn from online. All you need to do is set a time in your calendar to ensure you’re upskilling yourself every week. 

Secondly, throughout the week, I try to talk to two new people over a call every day and learn from their experiences. It is more than networking. I get a chance to pick their brain and also add value in any way I can in their journey.

9. As a freelancer, what were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

Being a freelancer is the same as being an entrepreneur and running your own business. The only difference is the business model. My biggest obstacle was my sales skill. Though I’m a confident and bold person, when it comes to selling everything becomes messy. 

I think this is the problem with most of the other freelancers as well. However, over time I tried coming out of my comfort zone and improved in selling my services. The transformation journey was not easy, but looking back, I find it worth it.

10. What are the most crucial aspects that a freelancer should focus on for growth?

As a freelancer, there are three main things you should focus on if you aim to grow faster in your journey:

  1. Improving self-confidence, 
  2. Polishing your skills that you wish to monetize,
  3. Work on your sales skill.

11. What mission and vision do you have? How do you want history to look at you?

I would actually call it my life’s calling. I want to inspire the 1000s and millions of people through my story and tell them one thing, believe in yourself because the world is here to judge you. 

You and I both know life is not easy, but does not invalidate your struggles. You have the right to over-react, overthink, and live it the way you want because it is your life. You’re not a cry baby, nor are you a messed-up person.

Coming to how I want history to look at me, well, the question is quite interesting because I have never thought about it. I have always believed in actions and feel my efforts will leave an impression on people. However, now that you have asked this question, I want to be looked upon as someone who worked towards normalizing mental health conversations and believed in uplifting others. 

Today, I’ve interns working with me on multiple projects. I hire them on the condition they need to learn freelancing along with me and get started down the line in three to six months. I don’t want anyone to rely on me to put their skills to the best use; instead, I want to help them create a path to make the best use of their skillset. 

12. What would do you differently if you had to begin your career again? What would you focus on once you restart?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently if I had the opportunity to go back in time and restart my career because I have come a long way in all aspects of my personal and professional life. I have become more confident, organized, and developed skills I was initially not equipped with. 

To put it in a nutshell, I’m content with my life, and I only wish to forward in growing in my career, and uplifting others. 

Divya can be reached out on Refrens, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Feeling burned out or facing a lack of motivation to work? Read our article on 8 Tips To Break The Blockage for Freelancer Productivity.