How I carved out my career as a freelance writer

How I carved out my career as a freelance writer
Posted on Tue 22 Mar 2022

Written by Hannah Diviney; author, activist and client of CPA.

Hannah writes a regular column for CPA exploring her journey with cerebral palsy and activism - head here to check out previous blogs and hear Hannah on Cerebral Conversations podcast. 

 

Hi friends!

I can’t believe it’s March already. I feel like I say this every month, but time just seems to have this weird way of moving with a speed that honestly feels a little scary. Maybe it’s only running that way for me because I’m doing so many things? Writing a book, writing for other people, spearheading Missing Perspectives as it gets built into a business that can stand on its own two feet PLUS a bunch of othering exciting things.

Anyway, work is kind of what I wanted to talk to you about this month, not in the sense of new projects or updates on ones you know about, but because I thought it might be helpful to know a little bit about how I got where I am and why that was so important to me. I got my first job at 15, almost entirely by accident. It happened because of a letter I wrote and a well-timed Twitter tag, the kind of circumstance that sounds entirely out of some Gen Z TV show take on the famed freelance writer trope, made popular by Carrie Bradshaw. But, no it was my real life; the letter a precursor to my now globally successful disabled Disney Princess petition and the tag to Mia Freedman, the head of one of the world’s biggest women’s media companies; Mamamia.

I’ve always been pretty bold, if you couldn’t already tell, in getting people’s attention. I think you have to be, when you live in the margins because unfortunately no one’s handing these opportunities out to you or actively leaving the door open. You have to let yourself in, most of the time. A couple of hours after that Twitter interaction, I was offered a job as a Junior Editorial Assistant at Mamamia, an opportunity I grabbed with both hands as a physically disabled teenager for whom the typical jobs of my peers (retail/fast food/waitressing/babysitting) weren’t available. I got to hold that position for a year, until shortly before starting Year 12. As you can imagine, that year taught me a lot. It taught me to trust my instincts, how to write fast, how to never miss a deadline and how to handle public reactions to my work. The world of women’s media is fast-paced, a little bit cutthroat and A LOT intimidating. When it was over, I kind of felt as though I’d been caught in the eye of a hurricane, not really sure which way was up or down.

I threw myself into focusing on Year 12 and then on to the big change that is moving from high school to uni. It was sometime after the dust had settled in my first year that I started to think about working again, but, honestly, I had no idea where to start. Like I said earlier, the casual jobs of most teenagers and twenty-somethings weren’t available to me, so I decided the next best bet was trying to get some help from those specialised employment services for people with disabilities. They’d help me, right? Wrong. Did you know that if you’re trying to go to uni at the same time as requesting their services, they can’t help you?

The decision to become a freelance writer and disability advocate came later after probably 18 months of not making much, if any, money.  I’d write for anyone who’d let me no matter how boring or left of field. It didn’t matter if I had no clue what I was writing about; armed with Google and some fairly decent research skills, thanks to years of uni, I could give anything a go. That openness, flexibility and willingness to say yes is the only way I turned the golden opportunity of getting to write an article for the ABC (given to me by an ex-colleague at Mamamia) into a career that I feel confident enough in to be pursing full-time now that I’ve graduated. I put a lot of work over the last year of my degree into making sure that nothing was a fluke. Being my own boss and having my work rely so much on my ‘personal brand’ and profile is exhausting and unstable. If I stop, then so does the work. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it’s also exciting, new and always full of possibilities.

Love,

Hannah! x

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