"How to Be a Freelancer": An Interview with Angel Martinez.

I had the pleasure of connecting with Angel Martinez last month, as we are both mentors for The Young Writers Initiative. She is honestly such a tremendous inspiration, both for myself and others. Angel is a successful freelancer and contributor to several different esteemed publications. She was kind enough to explain her creative process, how to build a freelancing career, and writing essays that are sure to enthrall. I hope you enjoy!


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First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself!


My name’s Angel, and I’m a 19-year-old college junior from Manila, Philippines. I’m a Cancer sun, Virgo moon, and Libra rising with an INFJ personality type, if you’re into any of that. I enjoy many things, such as watching films, color coordinating my outfits from head-to-toe, and hanging out with my friends. But I’d like to believe that writing is at the top of that list, and that it’s the one thing in this world I do best. Aside from being a contributor for Lithium and Reclamation Magazine, I’ve also had my works published on Uniquely Aligned, Underdog, and Mid-heaven Magazine.


What kind of writing are you most drawn to?


Normally, I’d say I love fiction but I admit I haven’t had the chance to read an actual book in a long while. These days, I’ve been neck deep in think pieces, profiles of influential figures, and of course, personal essays.


What are some of your personal writing goals?

  • Contribute to some of my all-time favorites: The Cut, VICE, Vox First Person, and maybe even The New York Times, if I’m feeling lucky.

  • Collaborate with more writers on intensive, long-form articles on issues that are close to our hearts

  • Take a class on creative nonfiction. I do have plenty of experiences I’m willing to write about but I lack the mastery of basic literary tropes and techniques needed to create a truly touching and impactful piece.

What is your overall creative process?


A huge bulk of my creative process is collecting information on whatever I want to write about. I read books, articles, research papers on it. I watch TED talks or movies about it too, if it applies. I bother friends and ask them for their take on the issue. As soon as I have a general idea of what I want to see in my piece, I just dump everything I got on a blank Word doc without stopping to edit or organize, then structure it afterwards. I am also in favor of listening to music while working but I draw the line at snacking because that’s when I don’t get anything done.


You are a contributing staffer for Lithium Magazine and Reclamation Magazine. How did you get involved with these publications?


I've been a follower of Lithium since the summer of 2018 and I instantly loved how all of their articles were on interesting and relevant topics, told in such an authentic teenage voice. As for Reclamation, I stumbled upon it after a long search for an online magazine that catered to the voices of the marginalized, those who normally aren’t prioritized by mainstream publications.


I was always too afraid to try out for a spot on their teams: the voice in my head always believed I would never be good enough for them, and the very thought of getting turned down by those I looked up to was enough to convince me that I was meant to be a passive reader, not a worthy contributor. But over time, I grew more confident in my skills and developed thicker skin, which led me to where I am now!


How have you built your freelancing career, thus far?


There’s been a real influx of online publications since the start of quarantine. I guess this just goes to show that during times of trouble, we all turn to artistic pursuits as a source of comfort. I found a lot of them on Instagram and, more recently, through connections on LinkedIn. Honestly, I had no plans of submitting as many pieces as I have been able to over the past few months: I simply enjoyed reading their content. But at some point I noticed that all of them started presenting opportunities for me to send my work over or join their team. Since I was already posting a lot of content on my personal blog, I figured that I could at least try to venture out of my comfort zone little by little and put in the same amount of effort for these magazines.


I made a lot of rookie mistakes when I was just starting out. I was way too excited to apply for all these magazines that I ended up sending the same pitch to all of them without taking their branding into consideration, or even checking to see if they had published something similar in the past. It’s really important to read up extensively to get a feel of their voice first then think of any ideas that would interest them. These sites also almost always have pitching guidelines that they expect freelancers to follow to the T! If ever they don’t have any explicitly stated on their website, it won’t hurt to shoot them a message and ask them.


How do you balance freelance work with school, creative writing, and other activities?


Balancing writing with all of my other commitments and passion projects has been easy so far, what with school out of the picture. But even though online classes are about to start soon, I’m confident that I’ll still be able to maintain this equilibrium in my life. I think it all comes down to time management, specifically wanting to make room for something in the first place. This applies to literally everything else going on in your life as well!


You can determine when in the day you work best, or what you want to accomplish over the next few hours and even set a Pomodoro timer while you’re at work. But all of that is just an exercise in futility if you see the task at hand as a chore and you don’t even understand why you’re keen on doing it in the first place. I know for a fact that writing is my creative catharsis, and my source of internal peace. And so, I make time and I keep at it no matter what.


What are some benefits of freelancing? What are some challenges?


I love how freelancing has given me the opportunity to reach a wider audience. I’ve been maintaining a personal blog for the past five years and though I find it a generally rewarding exercise in itself, I’ve always been frustrated by how limited my reach was. I honestly don’t think I ever had a readership outside of my immediate family members. But thanks to the several online publications I’ve contributed for, my words have reached all corners of the world and touched more lives than I would have ever thought possible!


But a career in this field does not promise success within any given time frame. I didn’t just wake up one day with a head full of ideas, start pitching to all the magazines I read, and receive one acceptance letter after another. There is no such thing as instant gratification here. This is a product of years of reading, thinking, gathering the courage, chickening out, pitching, dealing with rejection, and doing the entire thing all over again.

I personally do not put a lot of pressure on myself to get published on x number of websites, or make x amount of money. But this becomes a common and somewhat unavoidable practice amongst freelancers, especially when it’s their primary source of income. I feel like this takes away the fun in writing and eventually turns something you love into a chore.


I’ve read several of your essays, and I have to say, you are a brilliant writer! How do you go about choosing the topics for your essays?


That is incredibly sweet of you! Thank you so much! I’m a believer in the principle that everything can be content as long as you look at it from the right angle. I always keep an eye out for anything that provokes thought in the media I consume, the conversations I have, and in the little details of everyday life that often go unnoticed. Then I try to see if I can put my own original spin to it. For example: I recently found out that I could get a list of all the Instagram usernames I’ve had since I created my account seven years ago. That random, seemingly arbitrary action led me to think about how these online personas I adapted over the years were reflective of my own coming-of-age process. And thus, my favorite essay that I’ve ever made was born!


What advice would you give to fellow writers?


Take every opportunity you can to learn! You may feel that you already know everything there is about the craft and the industry as a whole after years of trial-and-error: you’ll be missing out big-time if that’s the case. Collect resources, connect with others who are equally passionate in the written word, and practice as much as you can! You don’t have to produce quality output all the time: normalize making horrible first, second, etc. etc. drafts!


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Follow Angel on Instagram: @angeltriestogram