A writer and a marketer, Aiswarya is an engineer who found her resolve in writing during one of the toughest times in her life. Leaving her secured job at an MNC, she decided to follow her passion for writing and started with blogging.
As a freelancer, Aiswarya highlights the importance of having your own website and a blog as your work would speak for itself. She says that clarity in communication is essential for a mutually beneficial deal. According to her, a niche can help you explore more about a domain, but taking other work occasionally can help you build experience. As a freelancer, she advocates LinkedIn and building a strong network as effective marketing strategies.
Aiswarya loves the flexibility and acknowledges the uncertainties that come along with freelancing. Signing off each work with a smile, she is grateful for all her experiences. Considering writing as a big part of her, she is content with where life has brought her. With her determination and learning attitude, we are sure she is soon going to be one of the finest full-stack digital marketers in the country. Hoping to read a book written by her one day, we wish her success in her journey ahead.
Read Aiswarya’s story of embracing freelancing:
- Introduce yourself to us? Where are you from? About your family, parents? How was your Childhood?
I’m a marketer by trade and a writer at heart.
I currently work as the Senior Content Marketer at Decentro, a full-stack API banking platform backed by YCombinator.
I hail from the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi, and I’m a Keralite inside-out. As an only child, my world is pretty small and revolves around my family. After schooling, I graduated as an Electronics & Communication Engineer with First Class & Honors.
I love everything about dance, even though I’m not professionally trained. I love watching movies; the horror genre is my absolute favorite. On a typical weekend, you’ll find me binging any TV show which, 11 out of 10 times, ends with an episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Infact, my blog is named after my love for the show F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and is called ‘The one where she writes’ 🙂
- Post doing engineering, why did you choose the field of content writing? Speak to us about your passion for writing? Walk us through your journey from being a writer to a marketer.
To be honest, content writing chose me.
I was already intrigued by microfiction back in college. After a relentless pursuit, I was fortunate to have a couple of my micro-tales featured in popular online publication platforms such as Scribbled Stories & Scrawled Stories.
Fast forward two years. Like many others, my route was also laid-out—engineering degree followed by a secure job at an MNC as a software engineer. Although I liked programming, I knew I couldn’t be my best at it. Being average was something I wasn’t aspiring for either.
A week into my campus-placed job at an MNC, I realized I wasn’t at the right place.
Two and half years later, I happily write my bio as…
“Once a clueless engineer,
then a discovered writer,
and now a chuffed marketer!”
~ Aiswarya Menon
Java wasn’t my cup of tea, but stories were. I’d place a semicolon in a sentence but not at the end of a code.
It was really hard, leaving my very first job. To cope with the dejection, I started to write, to blog precisely. That’s when I realized how much writing made me happy!
One of my friends encouraged me to look for a career in content writing. Two job offers later, there was no turning back.
When I started, I knew nothing about marketing. Being in the company of the right people, within & outside your team, and being mentored by a fantastic manager is a blessing I still thank for every single day. As I entered the world of Search Engine Optimisation, the purpose of content gained an even stronger foothold. Needless to say, I fell irrevocably in love with it.
- Tell us about the importance of having your own website? Mention about the value and the credibility it adds in your portfolio.
Show and don’t tell! 🙂
It’s as simple as that.
When a freelance inquiry comes, one of the first things a prospect asks, along with your prices, is a couple of your sample works. If you’re aspiring for a job opportunity, the same applies there, too, mostly.
Along with your assignments, share your website. While various writing assignments could show your expertise, a personal blog shows who you are.
Your style and personality as a writer. Trust me, your words can tell a lot about you to the reader! That goes a long way in getting hired or winning clients. I could go on a limb here and call it a resume, even!
I wouldn’t say you need anything fancy or over the top. Keep it minimal; your work would speak for itself.
- Why did you choose to freelance? When did you begin to freelance? Were you planning it, or how did it happen?
I wasn’t planning on freelancing either. I’d say most of the things in my writing career happened by chance.
I took up freelancing seriously when I took a sabbatical from my full-time career. Before that, I used to get inquiries occasionally but never pursued them as I was working full-time.
It’s around the same time one of my LinkedIn connections, a good friend, asked my help with a few writing assignments. I couldn’t say no because I was asked to write about puppies! That was the first of the many wonderful projects I got in my short freelance career.
In that span of time, I met different kinds of clients. Some great and some not-so-nice. Among those, I was lucky to end up with two amazing folks with whom I always had steady work & an excellent rapport. I learned a lot from them too.
- Considering the freelancer’s flexible working style, how do you ensure productivity? Talk to us about time-management. Give tips to our readers on maintaining efficiency through work-social life balance.
When I started, it went great. I used to time my work around the same way I did back in the office. Very soon, I found myself taking long breaks and getting little work done.
There’s always that I-can-do-it-tonight-or-early-morning-tomorrow procrastination that could land you in trouble. Thankfully, it didn’t go on to a point where I missed a deadline.
Do watch out for it. Work whenever you wish to during the day but ensure nothing spills over to the next day.
Here are a couple of things that have helped me immensely to stay productive.
Sit alone (works for some), make yourself comfortable, plug in some good music, and write away. Occasionally stand up, walk around the room, and never forget to drink water frequently. Oh, and please don’t wait for Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant to do the honors.
- Take timed breaks
If you feel saturated or if your writing is lacking that ‘oomph,’ stop immediately. It might sound counterproductive. Take a break to talk to your mother, maybe chop a few onions for her. When you return, you can see the difference. But keep in mind to not let the break extend indefinitely.
- Break-up your work into smaller bundles
This has helped me a lot. If it’s a blog, I divide it into different sections and set a target to finish a bundle of them within a time frame, say before lunch. If I have plans with friends or family, this helps to stay on track.
- Keep your phone away?
The most popular in the Distractions’ Hall of Fame, which is precisely why it needs a special mention. Turn on DND, or keep it away to attend only phone calls. Texts or reels? Uh-oh, sorry! Not until you finish your bundle. A tad hard, but gets your work done a whole lot quicker.
- As a freelancer, how do you negotiate your deal with each client? Tell the new freelancers about the essential points to keep in mind before saying yes to the client.
I may not be the best person to answer this question, but I’ll try.
When I have had to negotiate, I made it a point to spell out to clients why I’m charging what I charge for different forms of content. The split-up gave clarity and in most cases helped to arrive at a mutually beneficial deal.
If it doesn’t, here’s something I did. We worked together on an assignment to see how it went. This gave the client time to evaluate my work and I a window to understand how working with them was going to be. If that doesn’t work out for either, the best was to move on.
As a writer, I urge new freelancers to never undersell themselves just because they are just starting. Nor be lowballed by an offer.
Be open to revisions, but not rewriting entire assignments multiple times. Be flexible, but don’t get taken for a ride. Openly communicate any roadblocks or anything that could make your work more efficient.
Once you get an idea about how things work, choose your clients as well. Work with people who value your work, respect your ideas, and pay fairly.
- Throw some light on the importance of choosing niches and working on personal branding for freelancers.
After working on a couple of domains, one can get an idea about the niche they’d like to specialize on if needed.
For instance, I’d love to take up work surrounding SEO & marketing since it keeps me updated about what’s in buzz and there’s always something new I learn from each assignment.
Choosing a niche will help you learn more about the domain. However, do take up work outside your preferred niche, even if it’s occasionally, so you don’t miss out on the experience of working in different industries.
Personal branding doesn’t happen overnight. However, networking can be a good place to start. I think it’s important to be confident and put yourself out there.
I’ll keep this word of advice I received from my mentor close to me, always. Build a word cloud around you that’s filled with your interests. Be it anything, SEO, marketing, fintech, sales, customer experience.
Talk about it, write about it, experiment with strategies wherever, and embrace it. Soon enough, people would associate all these interests with you. This could be the way to your personal branding strategy.
- How do you market yourself? Tell us about the effective marketing strategies you use to generate leads.
There’s no other platform that has helped me better. When I do engage on LinkedIn, I usually put the focus on the style of writing. The narration, ease of conveying an idea, and storytelling.
Ever since I started being active on LinkedIn, the inquiries tripled and that’s when I understood the power of networking. All of my clients came via the same platform. No surprises there!
Following this approach, it’s easy to land leads organically. When you share your previous work samples, it’s a very natural way for people to know you better.
You could extend this to any platform for that matter. Combine it with the word-cloud-plan, and it’d be good to go! 🙂
- As a freelancer, how are your services priced? What are the key strategies for you?
Like I said before, segmenting my offerings separately helped with better clarity. Also, to negotiate better as well. I categorize my work as:
- Long-form content such as blogs.
- Short-form content such as webpages.
- SEO optimized content, both long & short form; which covers competitor analysis, keyword research, content optimization, and SEO Metas.
- Social media creative posts along with snippets.
You could go ahead with price-per-word, assignment-wise, or hourly-rate to charge the services provided. For the most part, I go ahead with the price-per-word method. However, if you’re consulting alongside, an hourly-charge could be better suited.
If you’re dealing with overseas clients, ensure you have an account set-up to transact internationally. I’ve used PayPal & Veem and the latter has worked out better for me.
Also, ensure you have a steady communication channel with clients. I had used Slack & Google Hangouts for the same, along with occasional calls. These could be better alternatives to emails.
- What according to you are the most essential skills that anyone interested in this area of work should develop? Mention, if any recommended tools or resources for new freelancers/content marketers to use.
Maintain a strong network; LinkedIn can be one of the best places you can start. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts; be confident and lead the way.
Read. A lot. Learning the trade of digital marketing & SEO alongside would be a great plus. I’ve personally found articles by Ahrefs, Backlinko, and SEOJournal to be incredible. Do subscribe to Brian Dean’s newsletter. Watch out for trends in social media. It’s a goldmine of what’s in vogue. Some of my favorites in the B2C include Swiggy, Dunzo, Fevicol, and Durex.
Be it any project, try to learn a little something from your clients and about the domain. Think of it beyond a transaction.
Be open to experiences, good or bad. You are bound to have them.
- What is the one major pro and/or con of freelancing, according to you?
Being a freelancer helps you know the unknown. It’s amazing to sit back and absorb the different things you learn while juggling different projects.
I love the flexibility that comes alongside. You’re your own boss. The learning is pretty great because you get to dabble at different writing styles, understand different domains, and work with polar-opposite requirements & people, all at the same time.
However, if you’re solely into content writing, there could be other aspects of marketing you could miss out on. If you’re aspiring to be a full-stack marketer, even as a consultant, this could be a challenge, especially while venturing out.
Once you weave a life around it, managing time, finding the balance, and signing off each work with a smile, that’s the Nirvana of freelance. Until you get there, it could be a rocky road with uncertainties!
- What mission and vision do you have? How do you want history to look at you?
I aspire to be one of the finest full-stack digital marketers in the country, with a laser-focus on content & SEO. Fingers crossed, hopefully! 🙂
I don’t know if I have the genes of entrepreneurship in me yet, if I do, I’d love to have my own company somewhere down the lane.
I also hope to author a book. I’ve had this dream of seeing my name printed on a hardcover book; always imagined it when I read the ‘ode’ section present at the beginning.
I’m counting on life to open new chapters for me everyday. Each better than the one before.
There’s a long way to go. A lot to learn.
But, I’m enjoying the journey just as much as reaching the destination! 🙂
- Do you feel content with yourself as you look back or do you think you have missed something?
One hundred percent.
I chanced upon something that turned out to be a part of me. A big part, for that matter. I couldn’t have been happier with where life has brought me.
To me, writing has been a therapy of sorts. It has helped me wade through one of the toughest times in my life.
I’m grateful for every experience and look forward to what’s next, every single day.
If you, as a freelancer are looking towards financial growth, read our article on How to raise your price as a freelancer? to figure out some key strategies for the same.