My passion and interest in writing started back in primary school. I loved composition writing and had a strong inclination towards languages, English and Kiswahili. In high school, I fell in love with English Literature and Fasihi ya Kiswahili (Swahili Literature).
After high school, I pursued public relations, but my heart was in journalism. My first article, a profile of a leading Kenyan Female Lawyer and then an upcoming politician, was published 15 years ago by The Management Magazine. The same article was republished six months later by The People Daily Newspaper.
I worked as a freelance writer for the Association Media Women in Kenya’s The Dawn Magazine, where I was required to interview and profile upcoming female politicians. My current employer, a member of parliament in Kenya, employed me because of my writing skills.
People liked how I write, but deep inside me, I felt the need to formalise my skills through professional training. I began the search for an institution that would suit my training needs. In my search, I was categorical that I needed a self-paced course that wouldn’t interfere with my work schedule.
During my search, I found The British College of Journalism on Facebook. What struck me were the titbits by Senior Tutor Judy Yorke, which prompted me to visit the institutions’ website, and as they say, the rest is history.
I wasn’t sure of what the course entailed when I enrolled, but I was determined to pursue it and qualify as a freelance journalist. On sending my first assignment, I felt I hadn’t fully understood the question, but the feedback provided by my tutor reassured me that I got it right. I learnt that as a freelancer, it’s prudent I always get a brief right for the success of any article.
The course content provided by The British College is up to date and well packaged in simple language that anyone can understand. Halfway through the assignments, I started developing the confidence needed to undertake any task while avoiding previous pitfalls.
I have learned that as a freelance writer, I am paid by the word and ought to write daily to perfect my trade. I have also learned that working with deadlines, writing clean copy within the word count limit, researching, having the right story angle, editing before submitting a story, following an editor’s brief, and maintaining professionalism are key ingredients to succeed as a freelance writer.
The course has opened my relatively closed mind. I have come to appreciate the power of pitching and how to grab an editor’s attention which can make or break a story. Coming up with story ideas was something I struggled with, but after the course, I have several story ideas with different angles and know where to pitch them.
The feedback was very insightful. Judy has a way of bringing out the writer in a person. There are writing mistakes that I didn’t know of, but her feedback on sentence structure and grammar has made me a better writer and industry-ready.
Having completed my course, I am confident in undertaking any assignment. I now know how to approach different editors with different story ideas based on the stories they run in their publication, the timeliness of a story, how to follow up on a story pitched, and the signing of payment agreements and contracts.
I strongly recommend The British College of Journalism’s Professional Freelance Journalism Course for anyone aspiring to become a professional writer or improve their writing skills.