Disclaimer: This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
Being a non-native speaker in the content writing industry must have been difficult for you. You have been trying so hard to write the best content you could provide to your clients or your audience. Yet, it seems like nobody cares about how you feel during the process and the time when it was already over.
As much as you want to feel proud of what you have accomplished as an adult, especially in this department, the fact that you aren’t getting the writing job you like or dismissing the need to explore your writing capabilities is a problem.
Most often, we find ourselves trapped in a “system” that excludes non-native English speakers in the “land of milk and honey.” Even if we can write with the same fluency as the native speakers, just because we live outside an English-speaking country, the lesser people want to work with us.
The Troubling Case of Being a Non-Native Speaker
Over the years, I have been troubled to see non-native speakers who are in similar situations as I am.
We are unable to write about the things they like while monetizing their skill set for income. It’s not because we don’t have the competency, but simply because we are not “white.” And because we are from developing countries, we’re simply not good enough.
People tend to disassociate a person from Nigeria or Pakistan with writing competence and fluency in the English language. It implies disbelief that someone from the Philippines or India could write as good as those living in any English-speaking country—even if these countries have already shown what they have and have made huge contributions to the world.
As Chelsea Terry, a UK-based professional editor and proofreader of her editorial business, mentioned in our previous interview, the world is simply being racist, if not, judgmental. They judge us not by measuring our competence to write great content for their audience but our origins.
What Should Non-Native Speakers Do To Succeed?
For a non-native speaker to succeed writing online, one should be prepared to exert a tremendous amount of effort in honing the writing skills to sound like a native speaker; while, I try to be extra-creative in marketing to prove to them that we deserve a place in this gigantic digital writing industry.
Not everyone can find fair pay for the hard work. Let alone a 4-figure writing job, which is a rare gem for most non-native speakers. We often find ourselves in the worst-case scenarios like earnings cents from an hour-work, and we call it a blessing. At least, we have a writing job. At least.
Honestly, being a non-native speaker has been tough for me…
Many writers like me have been approaching me to ask for help. They are hoping to find great pastures online as others, mostly native speakers, have been talking about.
Many writers from developing countries want to know whether they deserve such a miracle or not. To me, they are clear signs of our existing writing insecurities that dominated most of our lives.
Although it’s easy to explain the exact steps I took to find the client who paid 4-figures, I feel a punch in my gut. I find it difficult to fathom and stay composed while unintentionally giving false promises and denying this brutal fact.
Interrelationship of being a non-native speaker & rejection rates
It hurts me deeply to know and see how systematic racism applies in different ways and how our lives are rooted in it, often, in discreet ways.
It’s nerve-wracking to notice that almost nobody could talk about this issue and discuss what’s actually going on under the sheets like adults. On platforms like Upwork, you will see how many people try to beautify their art of exploitation.
The longer I treat and see writing like this, the more it crushes my soul. As much as I want to continue to be useful and make use of my gift, the pain has become more excruciating that I feel sick as it gets inside me. These, as everyday experiences, brought me to a place where I couldn’t see and feel writing the same way as before.
Instead of pleasure, I feel pain every time I sit down and stare at the page filled with words that don’t speak an inch of my deepest desires.
Despite the income I make, I was unhappy.
I have been wondering how and why I ended up like this, well, in fact, I simply want to write. I don’t want to lose writing. It’s the air I breathe. But I’m getting tired of this sickening grief, mourning the loss of creative writing I once had every single day.
If would have seen this beforehand, I could have stopped earlier. But, could I blame myself? I needed the financial stability writing provides for me and my family. Besides, who cares about how I feel? Feelings can’t feed my family anyway. But having money does.
How could I be selfish to think that I earned more by writing different things for other people for a few hours despite the inconvenience they brought?
I would rather force myself to like the words I read than spend more than a hundred hours per week teaching students full-time for barely a hundred dollars per month. So, how could I dare escape this madness I have created for myself?
Why Did I Stay In This Business Despite Being A Non-Native Speaker?
Living in constant writing brutality has become the norm in the last seven years. My writing life has left me without another option to choose aside from accepting my unchangeable now. I have to accept the reality that the words I see on the screen have lost their meaning. Above all, I have to live the next few years unable to recognize the design of my work.
When I saw my entries before I dived into content writing to make money, I was like reading someone else’s posts and not mine. I couldn’t believe how much power and authenticity has been lost for the sake of making money writing online.
Even when I try and force myself to recreate those moments, it isn’t possible anymore. The passion and sense of freedom to express that was never a challenge to me slowly fades away.
I wish I could tell you exactly how that feels like to slowly lose that power from the palm of your hands. It’s an indescribable cocktail of pain with a perfect mix of anger and frustration that is seemingly bottomless and endless emptiness and darkness.
How Does It Feel Being A Non-Native Speaker After Years Of Writing For Money?
My heart screams to call my fingers to work and write in the spur of the moment, making sure I wouldn’t miss a thing that passes my head.
Right here, right now, while I am writing this piece, I want to tell you how I long to feel the warmth of my blood from the veins of my heart that flows to my fingers once again as I type in each letter, each space, each period and coma of my inner dialogues. It’s been so long since that last moment when I allowed myself to be vulnerable once and for all.
If this is a dream, I want to stay here longer than I should. For once, I want to come here and not beat myself up for not obsessing with the technical rules of content writing. Please, allow me to write my story.
Years of writing content for other people’s businesses online become natural now. The constant obsession with rules had me inhibited to express more unknowingly, killing the creativity that was supposed to be in the piece I want to write.
How The Pursuit of Profitability Affected My Writing Style?
Do I still love writing? Of course. If not, I wouldn’t have chosen this career in the first place and try to make it profitable for me to feed my family. So, I am not confused when asked what I do for a living because I can directly tell you that I am a writer.
However, you can’t see the pain I bear from the time I wake up in the morning until the middle of the night for years. Living like this is exhausting, and I am desperate to get out of this abyss I never sought in the first place.
Writing has never been the same for me from trying to please a lot of people hoping that I can sell my skills. I have trimmed this skill set in perfection that I unconsciously see expressive writing as unacceptable and unnatural.
While I am in agony physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I am trying to stay strong amidst the pain I feel every time agencies and private individuals ignore me or reject my desire to work.
It’s even more painful to realize the truth as to how they see me as a writer from a developing country; and, I guess no matter what I do, I will remain a savage from their eyes, not as a competent individual.
As Terry puts it, they choose people through the color of their skin and tend to disassociate anyone from developing countries to great writing. If this is the truth, do I really have the chance to prove my writing skills when they already have announced their dislike to non-native speakers?
Final Thoughts on Being a Non-Native Speaker in the Writing Industry
My heart is in turmoil. Years have passed, the rat race in the freelance writing industry had me lose control over my life at times.
The future of my writing has become murky, resulting in becoming more indecisive about many things. For quite some time now, I have been asking myself, “Am I writing as a way to live, or am I writing as a way merely to survive?”
I know I am a writer. Yet, writing has become more painful to bear.