“My name is Susan Catherine Keter, a life coach and mentor, Internet marketer, blogger and freelance writer. I am also a wife and a mother.”
I started my career as a freelance writer in a very casual way, and fell in love with it! I have been mentoring people for years and many people seek my advice about issues ranging from how to cope with job loss to how to deal with a cheating spouse.
It was during my regular annual evaluation when I realized that I was getting too many distractions from people who sought my help about life’s issues. I decided to compile the information together into a blog. I could then give people links to the articles that were relevant to the situations they sought help about. That is how my blog was born in 2016.
I have accumulated a lot of information over the years so I wrote blog articles in quick succession. I had a dozen blog articles within my first two months as a blogger.
My Love for the Written Word
I have always been a writer. I started trying to write stories during my free time when I was in std. 4. I remember contributing to Rainbow, a children’s magazine that was popular those days. Throughout my school life, reading and writing were my hobbies.
My mother faithfully bought me story books and kept me motivated to read. Many were the times I got in trouble in school for reading novels carefully placed on my laps as the teacher was teaching.
In high school my English teacher used to quote me for using phrases and punctuation correctly. In secretarial college my business English teacher often commended me for being outstanding when it came to spelling. I left the college with a first class pass in English. Probably having both parents who were teachers had a role to play in the way my relationship with writing evolved.
I pursued a degree in education at the university and looked forward to a long career as a teacher, like both my parents. It was not to be. I was posted to a school hundreds of kilometers from home. I traveled there only to discover that all the teachers’ houses were full.
The school was in a rural set up and getting a house to rent nearby was an uphill task. I was accommodated by my fellow teachers for some time. I finally traveled back to Nairobi to appeal my case at the Teachers Service Commission offices.
Unexpected Career Change
I applied for a change in posting but the process became long and winding. At that moment, I went through newspapers daily looking for job openings. I applied for relevant jobs and before long I was attending interviews.
I landed a good job in the city and never looked back. I got married soon after that. Three years into the job and my husband got a job in Coast.
I applied for jobs at the Coast and landed one in Mombasa. We relocated as a young family.
I worked for a Rwandese transport company in Mombasa. It did not take long before political upheavals in Rwanda affected the company negatively, forcing the company to send some staff on unpaid leave as the situation was monitored.
Becoming a Stay-at-home Mom
I was expecting our second born at the time. My baby was born with complications and needed close monitoring the entire first year of life. She had poor health and was often on treatment.
I could not go back to work when my employer recalled the members of staff that were on leave. Therein began my 12 years as a stay-at-home mom, which changed my life forever. Life does not come with a road map; each one of us has to experience it, learn and grow.
I raised 6 kids during that period and we battled health challenges, with 2 of the boys undergoing major surgeries at a young age.
By the time my kids had grown up and I was ready to venture out of home, so much had changed in the workplace and I had also changed so much I was no longer able to go back to my earlier position. I had quit job as a secretary. I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education majoring in French and Secretarial studies. I also had training from a top secretarial college in the city.
Finding my way was a long journey mainly guided by the experience I had accumulated over the years. I evolved as I grew. My journey transformed me into a totally new person.
Mine was a transition from stay-at-home mom to work from home mom. I used to write a lot during my years at home. I had books full of my writings. I intended to publish my writings in form of books.
Then as fate would have it, my career did not take the direction I had anticipated.
Battle with Depression
The health challenges of the children were very tough for me and I ended up with depression. Read more about my struggles here.
The journey to recovery from depression gave me insights that I would never have had. I addressed so many issues in my life ranging from childhood issues to adulthood disappointments.
By the time I had healed from depression, I was no longer the person I was before I went down with depression.
Discovering Mental Health
I found myself learning a lot about mental health. I researched widely on the topic and ended up attending some specialized trainings both at home and abroad. I was one of the founders of a mental health service user organization in Kenya.
I undertook training in public speaking and was able to address audiences and capture their attention.
I presented papers in international conferences in different parts of the world and attended high caliber forums globally.
My family – especially my husband – was my biggest support when I was starting out. He supported me financially and also coached and mentored me. He was my no. 1 cheerleader when no one knew me and what I am capable of. He made me believe in myself.
I must say that I was fortunate to benefit from some good sponsorship while I was starting out. That was very helpful. I was able to benefit from some very good training and mentorship from some top professionals from different parts of the world. I travelled to different parts of the globe and was able to address diverse audiences. I got a lot of exposure.
Somewhere along the way I hit a snag in my career in the mental health. The field is underfunded and highly misunderstood in Kenya, with most of the funding being from donors. A time came when getting donor funding became an uphill task and I had to re-evaluate my role. I utilize the wide range of experience I have accumulated over the years to help make people’s lives better through coaching and mentorship.
How I stumbled into Freelancing
I stumbled on freelance writing purely by chance in discussions on Facebook. I read Walter Akolo’s story in a discussion in one of the groups and it re-awakened my love for the written word. I joined Walter’s mailing list and responded to a few requests for writers. I started getting some assignments and the work gradually grew.
I am not a full time freelance writer as I am a strong believer in using my skills, talents and hobbies to create multiple streams of income. I still mentor individuals, couples and groups. Freelance writing has taught me a lot and that has enriched my life. I write about diverse topics and that has broadened my knowledge.
I still have goals that I am working towards in my freelancing career. One of my goals is to attract more highly paying clients so that I can achieve my income goals writing a few articles. My target for 2018 is to attract clients who pay up to KShs. 10,000 per article.
I am a life coach and mentor and I have a goal of being able to train others. I look forward to a time I will hire, coach and mentor assistants and see them becoming successful freelance writers.
Tips for Aspiring Freelancers
My advice to upcoming freelancers is that as with every business; do not expect to climb a tree from the top. Start at the bottom and grow. I started off earning Kshs. 250/- for 500 hundred words and within months I have been able to earn up to Kshs. 2,500 or 3,000/- for 500 words.
Is freelancing an easy way to make money? By all means it isn’t. I am an experienced writer yet I sometimes still get my articles rejected by clients or sometimes I have to re-write before they can be accepted.
The Government of Kenya operated Ajira Digital Programme is the place to find training resources, link you with competent and reliable mentors and link you with a community of Kenyan online workers. Do not struggle alone; join the Ajira programme and shorten your learning curve.
Are you retired and would appreciate some extra income? Freelance writing is for all people young and old. I got into freelancing after I was done with raising my children!
You do not have to be full time at least in the initial stages so you can be a freelancer even if you have a job or another business.
Financial Tips for Freelancers
Freelance writing has high seasons and low seasons so do have a financial plan. Put money aside during the high season to ensure that you don’t fall back on bills during the lean times.
If possible, have more than one stream of income. You could be a freelance writer and also be a blogger or an affiliate marketer. Multiple streams of income cushion you during lean times.
Learn about taxation and ensure to meet your tax obligations. Don’t wait till you are in trouble with the taxman.
Avoid being desperate. When I started off as a freelancer, I would accept every assignment even those that I could not handle. I would toil and labor for long hours sometimes till the cock would crow, and still end up with rejected work.
I learned the importance of specializing in a few niches and also learning to say no to assignments that I cannot handle. By doing that, you will free time to focus on the right activities, keep your standards high and improve your efficiency.
Never stop learning. Read widely so that you get exposed to different writing styles. Be open to reading stuff outside your chosen niches. Read biographies, science fiction, current news, and anything that sharpens you grasp of the English language.
Have a curious mind. Be observant and learn to analyze situations. You are a writer and the skill that puts bread on the table is writing so write every day, in season and out of season, until you become comfortable with writing.
Learn to negotiate smartly. Sharpen your skills, develop your self-confidence and approach clients and assignments believing in the value you bring on board. Never feel like you are being done a favor when you work for clients. You are a person of value. You have invested heavily in yourself and have a lot to offer the world. Believing in yourself and your worth is important for your success.
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