24 June 2009

A year of striking it out on my own

I have been very busy in the last few months, perhaps the busiest in my life yet. And in the all-consuming daily rush, I never noticed that I completed a year of working on my own this May. Yay!

I took on this new freelance writer-editor avatar of mine after I quit my last conventional job in April ’08. When I quit, I had no friggin idea what to do next, how I would pay the looming EMIs..., heck, I didn’t know from where the food on my plate would turn up.

But quit I did, and never once regretted it. The workplace repulsed me with its mediocrity and cheap, small-time politicking.

When I look back I feel happy about all the anger I have. It keeps me on my toes and from compromising on work ethics.

In my personal and professional life, I have taken risks, calculated or otherwise. And I wouldn’t like to go back and change anything.

I started out as a journalist in Vijay Times, and those were really crazy, fun-filled days. The shifts were endless, and the only respite came from the copy churned out by translators (news reports from Vijay Karnataka – a Kannada daily – would be translated to English). I remember one story that a hapless colleague had to, well, decode. In the copy, it said a train stopped and then did a U-turn. Am not making this up, because this simply is the creation of a mind with far more imagination powers than my humble brain could ever boast.

I took a break from work and completed a distance education course in environmental law. My interest in developmental journalism drove me to do this course. It helped clarify a lot of concepts about environment, conservation, and development.

Then, suddenly, one day I got a call from a recruitment company and asked if I would be interested with a job at AOL. First, I had no idea that AOL had an office other than its call center in Bangalore. They had a very low profile then. Secondly, I didn’t know what a copy editor could do there.

Anyway, I went to the interview, which lasted a whole day, and walked out with a job. That was my first 5-digit salary. I made some lasting friends there and learned a whole lot about the business of search.

But I had to leave as a new life waited in Kolkata, post-marriage.

People considered me lucky to be picked by The Telegraph, but here was where I met my first snobbish, half-wit, bossy boss. I left soon enough, and it was such a relief.

I then joined Clear English India where I worked for nearly two and a half years. Jyoti Sanyal was its founder and the sole reason for me taking up this job. He cautioned me against leaving a big name as The Telegraph and joining a start-up. Thank god, I didn’t listen to him. As his student, I had never thought I would get to work with him. The time at CEI was, in a sense, an extension of my education. But after he died in April last year, I saw the same mediocrity and politicking, I was so wary of in newspapers, creep into CEI. If I stayed, that’d mean a violation his memory and I felt I’d become a part of the mire. So, that was that, and I left.
The first couple of months as a work-from-home writer/editor were nightmarish. But, slowly, magically, things changed and I am grateful for that.

In the last year, I have worked with diverse clients and all of them have been positive experiences. The major part of my work was for a medical tourism company, which involved viral marketing and SEO. It’s a lot of hard work, patience, and persistence, but you do get a teeny-weeny high when you see an article you wrote show up on the first page of Google.
My journalism background does place me at an advantage over most others. I have worked with publishing software like QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Dreamweaver; I have edited some of the toughest texts on earth, namely, Indian legalese; and I respect the sanctity of a deadline. This is a unique combination.

I have had happy clients till date and their feedback has made up for the lack of a security blanket. And I’m hoping I’ll never have to take up a job again. I’d like to rely on my skills and resources to grow independently, even if things take some time to shape up.

1 comment:

lively lawry said...

the matriarch of indian outsourced journalism writes an update of her life and there are no comments! wow! ironically isn't that the most common sentence a journalist would hear!