Gbenga Adebiyi is a freelance writer and coach with 5+ years of experience. Through his twitter threads, online classes, and offline workshops, he trains students from countries across Africa to become competent freelancers.
On Thursday afternoon last week, Jeremiah Ajayi had a virtual interview with Gbenga Adebiyi. In the conversation, Gbenga shared a bit of his freelance-life story.
How did your freelance journey begin?
I started freelancing in 2015. I was at a seminar where Paradigm Initiative shared a flier advertising online jobs. I collected the flier and shared it with my friends who I thought would be interested.
A while after, I asked them about it and realized they didn’t follow up. Out of curiosity, I wanted to know what an online job would feel like. So I registered for and attended a remote work masterclass where I learnt about digital work. It grew from there – I joined Upwork, and that’s how my freelance writing journey started.
What have your major challenges on this journey been?
There are general setbacks Nigerian freelancers expect and experience, and I am not an exception. Erratic power supply and internet access issues have caused me to delay the submission of certain clients’ jobs, which is not good for business.
On a more personal side, I once worked on a $100 writing job, and I didn’t get paid. The client received the work and ghosted me. Then I didn’t know the difference between good and bad clients.
What steps have you taken to make your skills valuable?
One of the steps I’ve taken is to research the most in-demand skills related to my specialization, which is writing. I check for jobs in the business writing and research space and study the skills required through online courses.
For instance, in the writing industry, SEO writers and copywriters are in high demand. If I want to remain a profitable freelance writer, I should learn SEO techniques and copywriting to become highly valuable in my niche.
You spend time teaching other freelancers. Why do you do it?
I’m passionate about helping people, seeing them smile and succeed. I mean, when we look around us, it’s gloomy. In Nigeria, unemployment is at an all-time high. This keeps me passionate about ensuring human capital development. Because when we develop human capital, people become more productive. When they are productive, they can support themselves and other people around them.
Training people to become freelancers is part of human capital development. Luckily, these things come easy to me – solving challenges of the average freelancer. Whenever I examine certain freelancer challenges, I already know the solutions to such problems.
In your opinion, what constitutes a good freelance writing job?
A good freelance writing job is one where you learn as you go. It is a job with a client who understands your value and pays what you are worth.
Whatever you do, know that clients will want to see your samples. Your samples determine whether your clients want to work with you or not.
If you could advise your younger self as a newbie freelancer, what advice would it be?
Follow mentors or people who are well ahead of you. In my first month, I had no guidance. So I was winging it. But even then, because of my innate curiosity, I did a lot of research on Google, read a lot, and got my first business writing job in about three weeks.
But everything turned around when I had access to someone who was doing multiple jobs on Upwork. His guidance changed my direction.
So if I’m going to advise my younger self, this is what I would tell him: you can’t do it on your own, follow people who have done it before, let them train and teach you.
Do you have any tips regarding building a personal brand around your work and networking with new clients?
When networking and building your brand, you need to ensure:
- You deliver quality work
- You find ways to solve your clients’ pain points
- You protect your reputation at all cost
- You deliver quality consistently
These four tips will build your reputation. You want your clients to always come back to offer you more work, so give them a reason to say, “wow!” Always go the extra mile and beyond.