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Freelancing and work at home woes

Suzzet R. Cristobal
'I get paid to do what I love to do which is writing, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world'

Suzzet Cristobal

Our junior English teacher in high school once asked us to write an essay using 10 words which she had us spell for a short quiz. I wrote a short story which I was called to read aloud in front of the class. Never one to raise a hand during recitation, my voice embarrassingly squeaked while reading.

I may have developed fear of public speaking, but I learned then that I could put words together quite decently. 

College, uniforms, love letter

I took a course which I instinctively knew I would suck at because I was never good in Math. I didn’t want to put on the gray skirt which served as the uniform of Education students while female Engineering students got to wear a pair of pants – so I enrolled in the latter.

An orientation meeting for freshmen was led by a 5th year student. I thought back then that he was literally tall, dark, and handsome, thus the oh-so-painful first crush. I admired him with secret stares from the library window when he walked down the hallway. His friends laughed whenever I passed them by. He was part of the graduating class so when that school year ended, his name and address along with the others’ were posted on the board at the Dean’s office.

I memorized his address and snail mailed him an anonymous love letter.

The next school year, my friend dragged me to apply as a staff writer for the college paper. I got in, she unfortunately didn’t. At first, I only wanted to hang out in an office which was directly in front of the canteen where there was music, computers, a squeaky cot in the back, as well as a supply of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and other dailies. But I got introduced to Conrado de Quiros, Adrian Cristobal, the editorial/opinion section of newspapers and literary folio from other schools.

Eventually, I had to do some real writing and produced a bunch of forgettable news stories, feature articles, essays, quite personal poems, and short stories.

It took me forever to graduate.

Rejected, revised

There was no desktop computer at home so I had to use longhand when writing poems and short stories for the paper.

Using a borrowed typewriter, I finished a couple of manuscripts for an I-don’t-want-you-to-know-about publication. The first one, I never heard back about. The second one got approved for revision.

I never got around to revising it.

First job, e-mail, social networking

My first job was to take order-entry and customer support calls at a call center. I had to use a fake American accent which I thankfully had to talk to clients from the other side of the world. The Internet was a mystery to me then. A college friend created a Yahoo e-mail account for me which I rarely ever accessed. Friendster came, then MySpace.

After a couple of years, I switched jobs and got hired as a chat support agent. E-mail, instant messaging, and Google were like familiar friends. While there, a friend and I discovered a side job where we had to write short articles for websites. We didn’t even have to meet our boss – all transactions were done online. Salaries were transferred through Internet banking. 

Within a 9-hour shift, we only had to handle a few chat sessions with customers so I got to use my work computer for writing during idle times. Eventually, I started receiving more money for my side job than what I was from my actual job – so I quit the BPO industry and wrote full time.

Now

Working at home does have its perks. I wake up and switch on my laptop to write whichever articles I failed to send the night before – even before I get to grab a cup of coffee or change out of the clothes I slept in. I never have to worry about traffic. I can work anywhere as long as there’s Internet connection. I get to take 5-day vacations to God-knows-where as long as I send in an advanced notice.  

But there are also downsides to it. You sometimes get tired of your own company that you stalk friends who are online on Facebook, Yahoo, or GoogleTalk just to have some “real” conversation. You alternate between finishing one unbelievably long 7,000-word document in just a few hours, to staring blankly at the computer screen for 3 full hours because you can’t finish a single 500-word article.

You sometimes discover that you’re plagiarizing yourself in the sense that when you check for plagiarism hits on an article which you are currently writing, you find out that it is the exact same set of words that you used to write about a similar topic – only in a different article which you’ve written before that’s already published somewhere online. Maybe you tend to have the same set of words to express a certain idea so you end up repeating yourself in the long run.

You sometimes get envious of people who have to get up early, dress up, and look nice when they go to the office.

But when it’s raining like hell outside, you’re thankful that you can actually work lying down in a warm bed and not have to brave the sorry, wet state of the world. When a broken hearted friend texts you for an impromptu drinking session at a sleazy kanto bar, you say yes because you can still finish your workload at night, anyway. 

When it’s time for your favorite cheesy Tagalog soap or Koreanovela to be shown, you can sit with your laptop in front of the TV and pretend to work. When friends tell you horror stories about unbearable co-workers or stuffy supervisors, you’re actually happy that you get to work alone without a boss breathing down your neck and not have to deal with office chismis or corporate politics.

I may not have updated my wardrobe in ages because there aren’t many events where I can wear them to; I may not work in a fancy office where there’s an excellent view of the city; I may not have a regular sleep pattern; I may not get to attend yearly company Christmas parties and receive free gift certificates for fancy coffee; I may sometimes be thought of as a bum because when people ask me what I do, I simply say “sa bahay lang” since I don’t want to launch into an overlong explanation of the nature of my work; and I may not have a very active social/romantic life – but I get paid to do what I love to do which is writing, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. – Rappler.com


Suzzet Cristobal is a freelance web content writer who loves to travel and dreams of winning a Carlos Palanca award for a short story that she has yet to write. She does not have a blog.

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