For the past 4 days, I’ve been enjoying a sweet getaway celebrating the birth of my person. So, this week’s piece is a bit of a non-post.
Earlier this week, I was interviewed by Rita Behadini & Ardi Zhuta for Alsat Macedonia. I spoke about freelance writing, what it takes, my advice for those seeking to start a freelance career, Hemingway’s “sitting at a typewriter and bleeding” and much more.
At the risk of appearing super conceited, I’ve added both Albanian and English versions below in the hope of it being helpful to anyone wondering about freelance writing, whether as a client or as a career-curious person. Watch the video or read the full transcription below.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Rita Behadini: We’ll be talking today to a girl I’ve been following on social media for a while now. She’s pretty active on there and writes some great articles. Today, she’s gonna tell us a little bit more about her experience. We’ll talk today to Delfina Hoxha. I believe we have her on the line. Good morning, Delfina.
Delfina Hoxha: Good morning!
Rita Behadini: How was your morning? Did we wake you up earlier than usual?
Delfina Hoxha: Nope, no worries. A little bit later actually cuz I had some extra time to get ready. Thank you for the invitation and for the kind words.
Ardi Zhuta: Oh, yeah you took your time getting ready. Even the Instagram photo Rita reposted, you were doing your little treatment in the morning so I believe your day started on the right foot.
Delfina Hoxha: *laughing* Yeah, I have my own little morning routines that I try to do, like meditation, skincare and journaling.
Ardi Zhuta: *laughing* That’s great! Lucky you!
Rita Behadini: Delfina, I wrote your role down as a freelancer. I’d like to expand a bit on that, so we could make it clear even for the people who may have heard the term, but don’t really know what it means. What does freelance meaning and what does your work consist of?
Delfina Hoxha: A freelancer is a person that doesn’t work full-time for a company, but on a project-basis or hourly basis, depending on the work that a company needs to be done. I’m a writer, and I write for companies, founders, freelancers, creating all the texts and stories they need. You mentioned words in the beginning, (not included in the video) and I’ve always loved them and will always love them.
Besides freelance writing, a designer, developer, or a virtual assistant can be freelance, any sort of job that can be done from the comfort of your own house can be done freelance, meaning that you can make extra income, besides the full-time job you may have.
Rita Behadini: Now, this might be a little hard to understand for people who grew up in different times where you had to work a 9 to 5 job, you had to be physically present in your workplace. Would you prefer a 9 to 5 job, with strict hours and assigned duties? Or do you prefer the freelance life?
Delfina Hoxha: Something I would like to advise everyone who might be considering working freelance- I started writing online in my page back in 2015, then in 2017 I started writing freelance, without ever having worked full-time beforehand.
A full-time job gives you structure and teaches you things you wouldn’t have otherwise learned on your own, about the labor market, power dynamics, relations in the workplace.
So, something I would like to advice everyone who might be considering working freelance is to work full-time at first, to learn how some dynamics and relationships in the workplace play out. Then, they can try freelance work.
I think we’ve all seen, with the COVID-19 pandemic, that remote work is the future. We’ve all learned that we can work from home. Not just from home, but also from a beach in Hawaii, why not?
3:03 *Rita & Ardi in unison* Well that would be greaaat!
Ardi Zhuta: I would love some Hawaii!
Rita Behadini: I wouldn’t mind some Hawaii right now.
Ardi Zhuta: I wanted to ask you a typical Albanian question, that a lot of people care about. What are you paid? Not just you specifically, but how much does a freelance writer get paid?
Rita Behadini: Can you survive on this paycheck only?
Delfina Hoxha: Yep, and you can live well, too. Like everything, it’s a process. In the beginning, you start with lower rates and then, as you gain experience and hone your skills, you get paid more.
At the moment, I get paid $35/hour. For me right now this works because it’s a fair reflection of my experience, the skills I can offer and add to a company or a business owner/founder/freelancer that needs different kinds of work done.
Like in every job, your prices and rates depend on your experience, expenses, living costs and other factors. But yeah, you can live, and live well!
As long as you have the desire to invest in your craft and improve continuously.
That doesn’t sound bad at all. *laughing*
Rita Behadini: Yeah, normally!
Ardi Zhuta: We’re considering going freelance too. *jokingly*
Delfina Hoxha: I try, I try!
Rita Behadini: Where do you usually find work? Who hires you to write for them? Do you apply, are you referred by someone, or have you found a stable set of companies that you work for?
Delfina Hoxha: There are different ways- people can contact you first, you can apply for specific freelance gigs, or you can pitch a specific topic to a publication or company.
Usually, I’ve been contacted by people/companies that wanted to work with me. They’re people who’ve familiarized themselves with me, my work, and specific skillset beforehand. So, they can clearly tell if it’s the style of writing and what they want for their business.
I’ve written for almost everything at this point in my career.
I studied psychology, but since I love writing so much, I’ve written about so many topics. That’s because I really like the part of being able to learn more and deepen my knowledge in different industries- like real estate, food *here I proceeded to get a brain freeze and forget everything I’ve written about besides food and real estate…* I don’t even know which ones to mention. Just like a designer can create a logo for various companies in different industries, as a writer you can also take on different opportunities. I apologize, this is kind of a long-winded answer.
Rita Behadini: Oh please go on. Tell us everything!
Ardi Zhuta: That’s exactly what we want. Take your time, speak freely.
Delfina Hoxha: A freelance gig I got recently which was pretty interesting was for a young singer in Alabama. I wrote a short bio for her and created her EPK (electronic press kit), which is the “guide” the press gets when they want to do a cover on her. If you want to be a freelance writer, do not limit yourself. There is so much you can write about, so many types of writing, and you can create beautiful stuff!
Ardi Zhuta: So you can write about everything and anything! Do you usually work with Albanian companies or companies from other countries?
Delfina Hoxha: I usually work with foreign companies, but as I said, there’s no reason to limit yourself. Besides companies, you can also work with other freelancers, small businesses, etc.
For example, a designer can be great at their job, technically, but they may encounter difficulties in expressing the importance of good design, what’s its value, or their experience as a designer. That’s where I come in.
Just the way a designer can help me and other people who maybe don’t know how to create beautiful designs.
Ardi Zhuta: There are also freelance journalists, usually in war zones or conflicts, that go to these places on their free will, but they collaborate with news sources and different media outlets.
Rita Behadini: Yep, cuz they’re at places where they can write about various news sources, where their news is unusual and needs all the coverage.
Ardi Zhuta: These companies- and I’m saying companies to generalize-, do you believe you can work as a freelancer for Albanian companies?
Delfina Hoxha: You can! I work for a well-known Albanian company at the moment, a group of 9+ companies that oversee different industries, and I write for them all. Edit: It seems like I meant that I work freelance for this company and that wasn’t my intention. I work as a full-time writer for this Albanian company, besides my freelance work. Again, the writing varies. I’ve noticed that, even though this type of career is still considered new here- when I tell people I’m a writer, they usually ask “Oh, so you’ve written books?”, and I’m like, “Nope, not yet”, but yes. even “new” types of careers, like for example digital careers, continue to expand.
Albanian companies, learning from their experience with foreign businesses, have learned that words matter. A lot. That the way you express yourself and your value, is the most important part. Of course, except for the product/service itself that should be valuable.
Ardi Zhuta: Of course, that’s the most important aspect.
Rita Behadini: Delfina, I’ve seen that you write in English. You also have your own website and you cover very interesting topics. When did you open your own blog and what do you usually cover on there?
Delfina Hoxha: I opened it in 2015 when I was still in school studying psychology.
Despite having studied psychology and absolutely adoring it, I’ve kinda always known that I would never stop writing. But I had this fear like you previously mentioned- can I live well as a writer? Can this be my job? Can you work as a writer without being limited by what someone else expects or requests from your writing?
Started in 2015 with a very basic website. I’ve written about different topics- psychology, various psychological aspects that affect our daily lives. My tries to make my writing as simple and as accessible as possible are restless. In most cases, in Albania and beyond, I believe we encounter difficulties when it comes to psychological terms and explaining them. Maybe that’s why we can’t fully express ourselves because we don’t fully understand or we don’t know others are feeling exactly what we’re feeling, they’re struggling with the same issues.
I try to cover psychology, meditation, what I like to call the ✨ human ✨ nature. I try to always view it positively and cover the beautiful aspects of the human condition, what makes life worth living.
Rita Behadini: I’ve actually read your articles, I’ve gone to your site several times to see what you’ve written this week and what you’re working on. You share a lot of BTS so maybe people who want to start working freelance know how to, and I’ve seen you mention that people don’t need a website that vows, that’s perfectly designed, but you can just start. Can you explain to us, and to the people who might be listening that want to pursue a freelance career, but don’t know where to start, what should they do?
Delfina Hoxha: That’s actually a commonly held belief that’s a misconception, people feel the need to wait until everything is perfect before they actually start. People say, “I can’t start my own business without doing this and that first”, “I can’t be a freelance writer without having a beautiful site, an amazing portfolio, a beautiful logo.
My approach is always-just start! Don’t wait until the moment is perfect, or you’ll wait forever. Just write, write, write, aka just work on your craft- whatever it is! That’s the most important part. The better your writing gets, the more clients you’ll book, the more money you’ll make, and the more opportunities you’ll get.
My website in 2015 used a basic theme, maybe even an ugly one. But what matters is that you start.
You can tell your loved ones you want to work as a writer and how willing you are to write even for a couple of bucks in the beginning.
Plus, keep in mind, at the start, you’re not hired for concrete results rather than for potential. This is especially true for digital careers that are still new. These companies are taking a risk with you, whether as a full-time employee or as a freelance contractor. Just by investing in your writing, writing as much as possible on different topics, you’ll get ahead.
Something I recommend frequently is to write for a company/NGO/initiative you like a lot (or create a logo, a custom website template, etc- this applies to everything). Write a free sample article (or an About Us page) for them. If they like what they see, they will want to collaborate with you. That’s because they can clearly tell what you’re capable of and what you bring to the table. Just start and just keep at it.
Rita Behadini: And then, it’ll work out on its own, is what you say. What matters is starting.
Delfina Hoxha: Yep, that’s the most important part. Something else I say is that we shouldn’t let our egos decide for us. We can’t keep thinking, “What if they’ll make fun of me? What if people won’t like it?”. I was like this at first too, every writer, I believe. It’s this fear of what others will think. But look.
If it’s something you truly deeply care about and we get genuinely excited considering it a viable career, a dream career even, we shouldn’t be ashamed. Of course, just like there will be people who will not like what we write, there will be people who’ll be like, “Oh my God, yes. This is what I wanted to read. This is exactly what I was thinking!”
Rita Behadini: Now this is a question I don’t ask, cuz I don’t like it when I’m asked it. But what inspires you to write? You said that you write more about psychology. How do you come up with writing topics? I know you publish a new article every Sunday.
Delfina Hoxha: Yep!
Rita Behadini: I did my research right!
Ardi Zhuta: You’re a loyal follower, aren’t you?
Rita Behadini: *jokingly* I said so myself, in the beginning, I follow her!
Delfina Hoxha: I appreciate that. Yes, I write something new every Sunday, I have for the past 9 months now. I actually made a public announcement, so that in case I wouldn’t do what I said, I would take accountability for not keeping my promise. So, yes, I write a new article every Sunday. Inspiration, yeah, same, when people ask me about it, I think, where do I start?
When it comes to the topics I write about, I have a list- with things I notice in everyday life, with conversations I partake in or overhear. There are some concepts I want to cover. When the week goes by, I say, “Delfina, this is the moment you sit down and write.”
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Meaning that you suffer. This belief is also changing, the idea that art should hurt and art is something we should take from ourselves and give so much of ourself, that there’s nothing left for us. But it [writing] is a process that takes its time and we should give it all the time and resources it needs.
Movies or TV shows also add to my list of topics I want to write about, when I see the way a concept or a connection was approached and I don’t particularly agree with it, I *gestures to moving fingers across the keyboard*.
Ardi Zhuta:You just express your talent, then carry on and publish it. Do people read your work? I know you mentioned a bit earlier that there are people that ask, “Why didn’t you publish anything new this Sunday?” Edit: I mentioned that as an example of what accountability would look like if I were to miss a week. No one has yet asked me this specifically cuz I haven’t missed a week so far. Are there people who message you talking about their issues, viewing you as their therapist?
Delfina Hoxha: There are! I’m very proud of the audience I’ve built, it really feels like they’re my people and they want exactly my style of writing.
I’m very happy I’ve found them, it’s also about wondering whether people are interested in psychology writing, will they read it, but it’s like, the more you write, the more the right people gravitate towards you.
That’s the beauty of the internet, that we can meet different people and come across various ideas that we otherwise wouldn’t in real life.
I have gotten a bunch of questions related to psychology about different issues people or their loved ones are experiencing. I always try to answer, but never without directing them towards getting professional help or speaking with a qualified mental healthcare provider.
Ardi Zhuta: Let’s tell people to follow you, so that those who are listening or watching can visit you there. It’s @theinnerdolphin.
Delfina Hoxha: Yes, even the website is called the same, The Inner Dolphin. It’s a play on my name, Delfina, and The Inner Dolphin is a deep dive into my ideas…
Ardi Zhuta: Into your psyche, your inner world. So everyone immediately go follow her because you may find some good stuff in there.
Rita Behadini: Some very interesting articles. Delfina, does the writing process take up a lot of your time? How do you manage your time?
Delfina Hoxha: *it disconnected, but I believe I said* It does, but there are articles that get written in a few hours, some take days, and some others that I haven’t published yet that are about things or stories that matter a lot to me, that I want to include all the juicy parts in, take months until they’re ready for publish. But in most cases, it takes up to a week.
When it comes to time management, I always try to limit my time spent mindlessly scrolling on social media. Something else I’ve realized about managing time is that it’s trial and error. You learn by doing, you make mistakes, realize you didn’t plan accordingly and you were short on time, despite thinking you wouldn’t…
Rita Behadini: Then, you improve upon that.
Delfina Hoxha: And you decide that if you don’t want to suffer and be short on time again, you should do them at the right time.
Ardi Zhuta: Your professional title is freelancer, which means you’re free and everything, but beyond this, because this takes up a lot of your time, do you find the time to do other activities outside of work?
Delfina Hoxha: I do, strangely so. Especially this last year, with my job, my freelance work, The Inner Dolphin website and writing a new article on there every Sunday, besides relationships and other desires and hobbies outside of work, it seems to me like the more things I take on, the better I’m able to do it all. It’s pretty weird *laughs*, I’m very grateful to the universe.
Rita Behadini: What about the pandemic? You work from home now, but how has the pandemic affected your work? Edit: I keep referring to freelance work, but again, I’d like to note I was hired full-time by the Albanian company I mentioned at the time and I worked from home. The client I’m referring to is a freelance client.
Delfina Hoxha: During the pandemic, I actually got a great client. He reached out saying, “I saw your manifesto and I’d like to work with you on some freelance copywriting. Are you available?” I was like, yes, thank you very much.
Ardi Zhuta: Yes, thank you, you’re the best.
Delfina Hoxha: I managed just fine during the lockdown, but I’m scared what will happen to my creative juices if we go into a second lockdown, but we’re hoping that won’t be necessary like it was back in March.
Rita Behadini: Delfina, I don’t want to end this conversation without mentioning the public registry of sexual offenders, an initiative you started, if I’m not mistaken, after the many cases of abuse that became public. Can you talk more about that?
Delfina Hoxha: In Albania and Albanian land, we all know that sexual abuse of girls and not only, in schools and elsewhere, is happening in alarming, terrible numbers. After the continuous rape of the young girl, we knew that a concrete solution had to be found. My friend (Paola Nace) and I decided to create an online petition calling for the creation of public sexual offenders, rapists, and pedophiles registry in Albania. There are many of them in other developed countries, and with a public sexual offender registry, each of us would be able to access information about rapists and pedophiles in their neighborhood or city.
In the case of the girl that made us rise up and ask for change, she had been continuously raped for years by her school guard. Of course, the question arises- should a rapist pedophile be a school guard? We believe he shouldn’t.
It’s a deep trauma to survive and overcome, especially by kids, but even if you’re an adult.
By having this public sexual offender registry, we figured that it would be way easier for each parent and each of us to be aware of the dangerous people around us. Shame is also a contributing factor, people who sexually abuse others wouldn’t want to commit this crime, even if just because of the reason that they don’t want their face and information out in the open for everyone to be able to see.
The initiative was very successful, I’m so proud of what we achieved. Online, within a few hours, we were able to collect the needed amount of signatures, 20000, 40000 even.
We also had to physically collect the signatures. The pandemic didn’t make it easier on us, but we had such great support, as well the support of other volunteers not just in Tirana, but also in other cities and countries where Albanians reside.
For the moment, we still don’t have a decision or law set in place. At the point where politics are involved and other factors we can’t control, there’s not much to do. What really impressed me and I’m very grateful for all Albanians is the fact that almost everyone was willing to sign, to help, to volunteer their own time and energy to collect signatures, and I believe this is a major step in the right direction, despite politics and every thing else that got involved.
Rita Behadini: Definitely. Also, everyone of us should do whatever is in their power to help, as well as stop and prevent abuse. There are many cases in Albania, Macedonia, Kosova. Do you think people are aware something needs to be done about this?
Delfina Hoxha: The youth continues to improve and be more aware. They even know what- and I believe you’ve talked about this- rape culture is and its cultural impact. We often, in the things we say or the way our friends speak, victim-blaming, “She was asking for it” or other similar concepts which we should be the ones to put an end to them.
We should be saying, “No. It’s not like that.”, and always speak up. If even one person understands and stops another’s abuse and stops promoting this rape culture that makes it so easy for abusers to abuse and then even be justified by society itself with expressions like “She was asking for it”. We should be aware and act, even in the smallest instances, when we hear a friend victim-blaming and accusing the victim of being too this or too that, to stop it right then and there so we can prevent similar cases of abuse in the future.
Rita Behadini: Yeah, we need to change this mentality because it stems from our everyday life, our phrases. We need to improve, each and every single one of us. Thank you so much for being here, I really enjoyed it. I’ve been planning on doing this interview for a while now and I’m happy it finally happened.
I’m glad, thank you so much for inviting me, and for your time and the good interview.