South Africa-based Will Tsedi only joined the freelance content creation world in 2019. Will stresses the importance of research before starting a writing project, but balances this with the need to be confident in 'just getting started'. Outside of his freelance work Will runs a small mathematics and science tutoring group for local high school learners.
Hi Will! Where in the world are you based?
Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m based in South Africa in a village about 35km west of Louis Trichardt called Zamenkomste, in the province of Limpopo. It’s just a few kilometers, about 140km, from the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Have you always been a freelancer? What inspired you to go down the route of freelance content creation?
No. I began, possibly like many, in formal jobs. In my case, I started with high school teaching for a few years. I migrated to the mining industry as a metallurgist after acquiring a metallurgical engineering diploma. After some six years here I grew disheartened with the way things were done. In fact, at one stage I was almost fired for doing something I believed in (I still do even today).
Finally, I called it quits and went into business in August 2014. Within a short four months, the business collapsed and I lost over ZAR500,000 (just over £25,000 in 2014). As I searched for answers to my business failure, I found myself writing a book in 2015. This was followed by another book in 2016 and a third one in 2018.
But I struggled to make ends meet with the books. So, between 2017 and 2018, I returned to teaching, but this time at a private school in Uthongathi (Tongaat, in Kwazulu Natal).
It only dawned on me late in 2019 that there were people and companies out there who needed writers to produce content for them. And I was available to offer such a service. I’ve since done a few projects for the likes of Quill and a few others. Now, I primarily do freelance writing work, a very challenging but exciting endeavour.
What does your average working week look like?
I’m in a good space because I do different kinds of content creation. I write both short form, like product descriptions or answers to FAQs, and long form content such as ebooks. I try to work on both kinds of content every week to keep my energy levels high.
When I have projects, I write mostly in the mornings and do research in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes I write in the evenings if my deadlines are tight. If there are no projects, I spend more time reading on a subject of interest and taking plenty of notes.
What's the most challenging part of the writing process?
As you know, content creation involves research, writing, proofreading and editing. I find the writing part the easiest to do. The most challenging, but interesting part, has to be doing research. If you’re interested or curious about the subject you are to write about, researching can be enriching indeed. In fact, it is this research that makes the writing part easy to do. Editing can also be really challenging. It’s not that easy to throw away the writing hat and slip on the editing one. And you tend to be extremely lenient with yourself. This can lead to the production of bad content.
"It’s not that easy to throw away the writing hat and slip on the editing one. And you tend to be extremely lenient with yourself. "
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Because I read quite a lot, I get some good advice all the time. But looking back, the best one has to be this one by Dr. Hanness Dreyer, “Done is better than perfect.” You see, as an engineering graduate, I have a tendency to get things lined up perfectly before I move into action. The problem with that is, you rarely ever get things to align perfectly. And therefore, you are likely to stay preparing and get nothing done. Nothing done, no results. And this can be frustrating. This leads nicely to what Gary Halbert once said in one of his newsletters. He said, “The best way to get started is to get started.” That’s great isn’t it?
What do you spend your time doing outside of your freelance writing work?
I run a small mathematics and physical science tutoring project for local high school learners. It takes about 10 hours of my time per week. What this does is give me a perspective on the direction the future of our country is heading. The way the youth think and do things is a general indication of what may happen in the future.
One of my interests is reading. I can read one or two different books on subjects I’m curious about. For example, in the last two weeks I’ve been reading Story by Robert McKee and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. Incidentally, these books are about writing stories that engage the audience. I also chose one movie to watch so I can identify how the ideas in these books were used in the film. Interestingly, I’m not a movie person, but I enjoyed watching this movie.
How do you stay focused when you have more than one project on the go?
The key for me is knowing the deadlines for each project. That allows me to pace myself accordingly. Working on different projects can help with ideas for both projects. While writing about product descriptions, I may get an idea of how to add punch to the FAQ project.
Most importantly, I take breaks in between my projects or writing process. My body tells me when I need a break. I have no specific time to recharge when I write. It can happen after 30 minutes or an hour or even two hours. I also find drinking lots of water helps me stay focused. Sometimes I take a quiet one or two kilometer walk.