HOTC chapter 9: Pooja Dara

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For this week’s Humans of TapChief, we sat down with Pooja Dara.

Pooja is a market researcher turned freelance content writer & editor. With more than 5 years of experience as a freelancer, she has worked for clients and brands in IT, Publishing and Education sectors such as Newgen Software, AsiaOne Magazine, Pepper, Manipal ProLearn and more.  

It was a chance opportunity during her college days that introduced Pooja to the world of freelancing. 

But how did it all happen? How did this MBA graduate become a full-time content writing freelancer? Read on as Pooja takes us through her journey, how she first started, what keeps her motivated, the challenges she faced and her plans for the future.

Her background

Pooja Dara HOTC

Pooja completed her graduation in Sociology from Delhi and post-graduation in MBA, Marketing and HR from Noida.

She always had a keen interest in writing and wished to explore further. So after her graduation, she joined a certificate course in Mass Communication and Journalism.

A few days before the completion of the course, her professor approached her for a project in copyediting for one of his acquaintances. This was her first freelance project. 

She loved the concept of remote work and started taking up more gigs. Seeing how lucrative it was, she continued to do so even after starting work as a full-time market researcher.

Freelancing gave Pooja a lot of flexibility and room to express her creativity. So in mid-2018 after researching extensively on the scope of digital marketing, and seeing the rise of the gig economy, she took the plunge to freelance full-time.  

Here are excerpts from our conversation with Pooja, on her why, how and more.

Why did you decide to pursue freelancing full-time?

Freelancing gives me the freedom to work on projects I’m genuinely passionate about and clients I want to work with. It’s also an opportunity to earn from multiple streams of income rather than just one employer.

When I started freelancing I realised that I was building something of my own, rather than being a small cog in the wheel. This was very appealing to my entrepreneurial spirit.

It gives me a chance to explore different niches, experiment and expand my skill sets. I have to constantly challenge myself to be more creative as with each client the requirements are different. No two days are the same. 

Along the way, I have also realized that there is more to life than just a job or a client. I was able to spend more time with my family and friends, do the things that made me happy (like travel, and pick up new hobbies). Having complete control of your time and day is one of the best things about freelancing. 

What are some challenges you faced or mistakes you made when you first started? 

When I started I was unable to get projects regularly. It took some time to understand how to approach new clients, and build better relationships with them. 

It was also not easy to handle all functions of the business from marketing to bookkeeping by yourself. Eventually, I got the hang of everything but some guidance or mentoring by an expert on pricing, client interactions, negotiations and so on in the early stages would have been really helpful.

Not researching enough about clients prior to accepting projects was one of the mistakes I made in my early days. There were a few instances when I’d worked with some intermediaries who didn’t make payments and scammed me.

How has your journey been with TapChief?

After endlessly applying for projects on websites such as Upwork, Freelancer, etc. and also cold calling/emailing prospective clients, I came across TapChief via LinkedIn and signed up for it. I expected it to be just like any other platform. 

TapChief however completely changed the game for me. Within a week of my signing up, I started receiving content gigs from the TapChief team. It has been just 5 months now and I have already bagged 3 projects.

TapChief has made the task of finding projects (short-term and long-term) so much easier. Right from applying for gigs, scheduling client calls, managing workflow, processing payments – TapChief takes care of everything on my behalf and all I have to do is to complete my projects. The TapChief team is very professional, helpful and transparent in their communications as they are always just a call away.

I also like the networking aspect of the platform as it facilitates interaction and helps you connect with experts from different domains and learn from them. 

My experience with TapChief has been very pleasant as it has made me feel more secure and comfortable compared to most other platforms.

Are there any personal goals or milestones you were able to achieve courtesy freelancing? 

Becoming financially independent quite early in life and developing the ability to manage all expenses by myself is a milestone I achieved that I’m proud of. 

What keeps you motivated?

 I love being able to help readers understand complex topics easily and provide them with valuable content. It is a skill I’m constantly trying to improve.

Creating a proper daily routine for myself that I strictly follow has helped me avoid falling into the trap of procrastination and loneliness, two things freelancers tend to struggle with.

Rewarding myself for my efforts once in a while boosts my morale and confidence, and keeps me motivated.

 Pooja’s Tips for Newbie Freelancers 

  • Never underestimate the power of networking. Be active on networking sites.  
  • Don’t be too choosy when you are just starting out. Work on small side-projects that pay you a decent amount (though they might not be very high-paying), learn on-the-job and build a credible portfolio.
  • Once you start guest-posting on reputed publications, it’ll improve your portfolio. 
  • Always keep a fair mix of projects (high-paying/medium-paying, short-term/long-term) in the pipeline so that you never go out of work and are left stranded. 
  • Be adaptive, willing to learn and unlearn things, and learn to accept constructive feedback.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver always.
  • Choose wisely when applying for projects on online freelancing portals. Ensure you do your background research well about your potential client, what they do, reviews, etc.
  • Be cautious when signing agreements with your clients. Try getting a signed document rather than getting an email confirmation from the client. Set the work expectations, conditions, scope of work, and payment terms with the client early on to avoid miscommunications later. 
  • Keep the client informed of any delays beforehand as they usually tend to use these instances for delaying or stopping payments.
  • Always invest in yourself and grow through upskilling. Join communities and groups to exchange knowledge and resources. Join a few courses and preferably find a mentor for the initial handholding and guidance.  

    What are your plans for the future?

I want to establish a credible personal brand for myself and start a content consultation venture. I want to partner with reputed companies, help effectively further their digital marketing strategies and build a steady and sustainable source of income for myself.          

You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something’, go get it. Period.   
“The Pursuit of Happyness” by Christopher Gardner

Pooja Dara Infographic

This article is part of our Humans of TapChief series, where we highlight inspiring stories of our community members who choose to live and work on their own terms.

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Karthika Anand

Karthika is a Content Creator and Community Manager at TapChief. When not found writing, she's most likely to be found at the gym.