“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Deevra Norling

Last Updated on: March 3rd, 2019

FITS Series Welcome ImageFITS Series Welcome Image

Here is another entry in the F.I.T.S. (Freelancer In The Spotlight) Series on Wording Well.

The “Freelancer In The Spotlight” today is Deevra Norling.

Deevra started off with a national diploma in public relations and what followed was a varied career path that included a short stint at Reader’s Digest as editor of the staff newsletter, followed by many years working as an executive assistant in the non-profit sector, before moving back into the corporate world as a marketing brand manager.

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Now please welcome Deevra Norling to center stage.

Take it away, Deevra!



Why I Took the Leap into Freelancing

Misery. Well, that’s what drove me to quit my job and find another way to live. I hated working for a boss, the 9-5, the office politics, performance appraisals, driving to the same place and sitting at the same desk every day. I am a free spirit and that means I like doing my own thing. Freedom is important to me.

However, social conditioning has created the belief in most of us that we must get a job and spend the rest of our life working for someone else. For eighteen long – and very unhappy years – I did what society expected of me. In that time, my soul died. It was painful. Eventually, I could suffer the pain no longer, and was forced me to make one of the biggest decisions of my life – to quit my job and go right back to square one.

From the beginning, I knew what my passions were – and writing was one of them. In my early 20’s, I spent a few months freelancing as a journalist and I loved it! Then life took me down another path, one which I never wanted to travel. But such is life.

Maybe I hit a mid-life crisis, but I became highly perturbed about my life. Discontent was building to a breaking point. I did not want to spend another twenty years in jobs that I loathed. I knew I had to make a change. The decision was hard and very scary – giving up a secure, stable job for a life of uncertainty. After months of soul-searching – and close to age 40 – I finally found the courage to quit my job and give this freelance thing a bash!

My freelance journey began in April 2013.

My First Paycheque as a Writer

I am South African and was visiting the US for six months. While there, I applied to be a writer for a start-up news website. I had virtually no portfolio at that point, but they were willing to give me a chance, and so I grabbed the opportunity enthusiastically and wrote up a storm! The editor liked my articles and one day sent me a check for $200. I nearly did cartwheels! Wow – my first paycheque as a writer. Tangible proof that I could get paid to do this!

When I landed back in South Africa I set up a website, had business cards printed, and got busy with some marketing. I also started writing for a new small print magazine – for free (initially).

But the owner of this little magazine referred two clients to me and I was officially in business as a freelance writer.

I started off with low rates but gradually increased them. After joining a networking group in my area, I found two more clients. All of these were one-off clients so I was still battling, but I felt heartened by the fact that I had clients who had paid me to write!

A Guest Post Led to Being a Huffington Post Blogger 

In between searching for clients, I landed a couple of guest posts on some personal development websites in which I told the story of How I Found the Courage to Quit My Job and Follow my Passion.

One day an email landed in my inbox. It was from one of the editors of the blog lifestyle section of the Huffington Post inviting me to be a blogger on the Third Metric section.

Here’s the kicker – one of my writing goals was to get an article published on Huffington Post, but I had not got around to sending off a pitch yet.

Initially, I thought it was a scam email, because, come on, you have to send them a blog pitch, right? Here they were contacting little ol’ me and asking me to become a blogger? But I checked out the email and editor, and sure enough, it was legit! I couldn’t believe it. This was a great opportunity for exposure, not to mention it would add some weight to my freelance profile.

I was tickled pink! It’s these little moments that give a person the momentum to continue!

I was curious as to where they got my name, and they said they read my story in that guest post and liked it and were looking for similar type of content on the Third Metric.

I still get goosebumps when I relate this story, because it shows that once you put yourself on a different path, opportunities start to come your way (which you would never have had if you chose to stay on the old road).

Apart from that, I often wonder if this was a case of positive thinking and the law of attraction; I thought it and it happened! Freaky.

Freelancing – A Double-edged Sword

Let’s call a spade a spade. Freelancing is not an easy path and not one to be embarked upon lightly. Sure, it can be great – location independent, working the hours you want, sleeping in when you feel like it, freedom to do what you want when you want, not having to call in sick, or grovel to a boss for time off!

All of this is part of the joy of working from home. If like me, you’re a free spirit, then the freedom freelancing brings you is the best part of it.

But there’s the other side – the hard part. Getting started, especially if you have no experience or portfolio is tough, building up a portfolio takes time, and getting your name out there and building a brand requires marketing. Clients will not fall into your lap. There’s the flat-out rejection, clients who disappear, editors who ignore your queries, networking attempts that lead nowhere, and the unstable income. After a while, this can chip away at your self-confidence.

Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted. It takes guts, and a certain amount of healthy madness to keep putting yourself out there because persistence and tenacity are the number one requirements to make a freelance business work.

Then there’s the money, or the lack of it, especially in the beginning. I moved back in with my parents to cut down on expenses, not an easy thing to do at age 40! Income as a freelancer is often erratic. And you do need some savings to live off in the beginning while you find your feet.

The Journey Continues

I have my moments where I think, “This is not working. I should just go out and get a job.” More often than I care to admit, actually, because money is scarce and this is a tough hustle, especially in South Africa. I am still not at the point where I can call myself a successful freelance writer.

I think there are a few of my friends who think I’m mad, but are just too polite to say so. One or two have gently tried to nudge me back into getting a full-time job. But I don’t. I can’t. I can’t go back to that life. And so I carry on. Because as much as there are the challenges and the failures, there have also been the successes. I may not be where I want to be yet, but every little achievement is a small step along the way.

“Have I gone mad?” asked The Mad Hatter.

“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers,” said Alice. “But I’ll tell you a secret –
all the best people are!”  

~ source: Alice in Wonderland

That’s how I feel sometimes at having gone down the mad path of freelance writing! I must be mad – stir crazy! But … wait … all the best people are.

And so, I must continue on this crazy path!

My Freelance Tips 

1)  Get a side gig to supplement income.

Freelancing can mean an erratic income. Find a side job that isn’t too time-consuming or a way to create a source of passive income. For instance, many writers write and sell e-books to bring in passive income. I had a bright idea one day to advertise house and pet-sitting services. It’s easy money and I can take my laptop along with me and carry on working.

2) Don’t work for peanuts!

I am constantly amazed at how many people out there expect writers to work for free or for pitiful rates. Sure, in the beginning, you may start off working for free, on content mills (hopefully not!) or for low rates. Do this only to help build a portfolio.

Once you have a few clips, move on and start finding better-paying clients and set better rates, and stick to your guns! Your time and skills are valuable.

3)  Marketing is key to finding clients.

Attend networking meetings, approach PR agencies and corporates, tell friends and family and ask them to help get the word out, source clients from online sources and social media, and consistently apply for freelance jobs.

Get out there and go find them – clients won’t come knocking on your door. Sometimes it may seem that your efforts are not paying dividends, but sometimes the seeds you planted only bear fruit months later!

I once left some business cards at a laundromat. I noticed there was a stand with advertising leaflets and business cards and I left some of my business cards there. I had long forgotten about it, when one day out of the blue (a year later), someone contacted me inquiring about website copy. Turns out he picked up my business card from the laundromat!


Have you ever thought you had gone mad as a result of making the decision to try freelance writing?

What have some of your experiences been like?

Did you quit a job you hated to do freelancing work? Do you miss that job? Why or why not?

Do you practice any of my freelancing tips?

Share in the comments, please. Let’s commiserate together!

Check out the other freelancers in this series:

Some Life Updates and Info about Freelancing from #freelancewriter Lorraine Reguly

An Interview With “F.I.T.S.” Series #freelancewriter Elna Cain

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Candace Simonson

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter DD, an Addicted-to-Heroin #Freelancer

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Alicia Rades

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Corinne Kerston

F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Ali Luke

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Joe Warnimont

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Brian Morris

F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Janine Ripper

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Harleena Singh

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Crystal Nay

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Christy Birmingham

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Tom Bentley

“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter William Ballard

Freelancing Tips From Kirsty Stuart #freelancingtips for #freelancers

7 Reasons for the FITS Series on Wording Well (with results!)

If you want to raise your freelancing rates, read How to Ask for a Raise (and Get One!) from your #Freelancing Client.

If you want to know why you should be gathering testimonials you can use on your website, read about The Power of Client Testimonials.


Deevra_Norling_head_shot2Deevra Norling is a freelance writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. Her work for clients includes website content, blog articles, press releases, magazine articles, advertising, marketing and sales copy. With a love for travel and exploring new places, she enjoys some travel writing. She blogs for the Huffington Post and Dead Curious. Visit her website www.deevranorling.com or connect with her on Twitter @DeevraNorling.


7 thoughts on ““F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Deevra Norling

  1. Naomi says

    Wow, your story sounds a bit like me! From a very young age my parents told me that being a writer was not a reliable source of income. Like the fool I am, i let that sway me from persuing a career that revolves around my passion for writing. I have recently had a discussion with a Learning and Development rep for the company i currently work a mind numbing 9-5 for. I was talking about my passion for writing and she said to me. “God, your job must really bore you.” Without even thinking I responded with “Oh, it bores me to tears sometimes.” Oops!

    She then surprised me by asking what Argos could do to help me to achieve what i want from life. I have since learned that my company are advertising for Copywriters and Scriptwriters. I had no idea! My issue now, is how to do get from passionate but inexperienced writer with an unaccredited certificate in Creative Writing, to someone who would be seriously considered for a role like that? Building a portfolio is the most daunting step. It is also one i am about to embark on. How do you get work to be anything more than a novice/wannabe?

    • Hi Naomi. Thank you for your comment. The saying goes that a writer writes, irrespective of whether anyone is reading it at that point in time. So my advice is, if you desire to be a writer, start writing! For instance, start your own blog – there are plenty of options for free blogs out there. You could take something of interest to you, for e.g. perhaps you are great at baking and whip up the most marvelous cakes and pastries – so start a blog on baking. That is just an example, of course, and something you can do in your free time.

      If you want to get into freelance writing, you don’t need any formal qualification. Editors are not interested in qualifications. What they are interested in is a great article idea, whether you can deliver on time and that you submit a well-written and well-researched piece that is suited to their market and audience. It can be as simple as that and that one piece can open up the door to the next!

      To start building a portfolio, it sometimes requires doing some work for free – just to get some clips that you can then use to help land paid work. Remember, every successful expert in their field, started as a novice/wannabee with no experience! It starts with taking the first step. Experience will come in time.

      There are also various types of writing to choose from (magazine or trade publication articles, journalism and news, travel, SEO & content writing, website copy, marketing and sales copywriting, academic writing, white papers… the list goes on).

      If you would like to stay in your job, then sit down with your manager and HR person (or whoever is involved with staff training and development) and emphasize that you would like to continue to grow in the company but that you are interested in shifting into a writing position. In my traditional jobs, I could only go on courses or conferences that were related to my job, but it sounds like your company is open to supporting and helping you move into a role that involves writing, from what I gather from your comment. You may not be able to apply for or land a copywriting or scriptwriting job right now, but if they are willing to send you on a few courses to learn the basics, next time a position opens up you should apply! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

      I wish you all the best! 🙂 And have a read through Lorraine’s previous freelancers in the F.I.T.S. series. You will see that every freelancer got there via a different path and at different speeds. 🙂

      • says

        Deevra, I appreciate your excellent answer to Naomi.
        And thanks for pointing out that each freelancer is unique and will follow his or her own path. That’s so true! Freelancing is not a “one size fits all” business!

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