Josefa Pete: research scientist becomes freelance feature writer

“Eighteen months ago, if someone had said to me you’re going to be doing freelance writing, I probably would have brushed it off and said ‘no way’…”

And yet today Josefa Pete, busy mum to two boys, proudly calls herself a freelance writer, without a moment’s hesitation. So what changed?

Busy and bogged down
“Before I started writing, I was doing everything except what I wanted to do,” explains Josefa. Sure, she loved being a mum to her two endless bundles of energy, but she was also a research scientist by trade and was spending her time working in her father’s boutique construction company. By her own admission, she was doing a million things at once – “juggling all the balls all the time” – and yet, writing wasn’t one of those things.

With writing, it was an all-too-common obstacle that stopped her every time. Fear of the unknown, through a lack of knowledge. “I wanted to be writing,” she says. “The reason I wasn’t writing was because I felt I didn’t know how to write.”

But sometimes all it takes is seeing someone in a similar position to you to finally get you over the line. And for Josefa, that motivation came in the form of a blogger she’d been following online. Catherine Rodie had completed the Magazine and Newspaper Writing course at Australian Writers’ Centre, and mentioned it in one of the posts that Josefa read.

And suddenly Catherine’s name was popping up on almost every publication that Josefa would read. It was a classic case of cause and effect – it seemed that the reason for this success was worth investigating. And suddenly the very idea of being a writer was within the blurry realm of possibility.

“I thought ‘wow, you can do this’… and ‘I WANT to do this!’”

Josefa Pete
Freelance Writer

Taking the plunge
Josefa did the weekend course in Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1 in Melbourne and she quite simply found it a life-changing two days. “I walked in thinking ‘I know nothing and I can do nothing’,” she recalls. “And I walked out with every single skill I needed to be a freelance writer.”

So, what did she do next? The iron was still hot, so she struck!

“The course finished on a Sunday afternoon. I’m pretty sure I sent my first pitch the next day.” Josefa explains that she followed what was still fresh in her mind, with Valerie’s voice in her head – on what to do, what not to do, and how to know your audience and your editor. Two pitches came into view.

But that doesn’t mean she was filled immediately with confidence. Doubts that had plagued her for years snuck back in. “I wrote two pitches, and I closed my eyes and hit SEND on that email and ran away from the computer,” she says. “I thought ‘ooooh no, this is going to be terrible.’”

And yet. “Two pitches came back with ‘yes we would love you to write this for us.’”

Josefa was on her way.

Unlocking the magic
It’s been a quick journey from ‘no way’ to ‘freelance writer’, but that’s the beauty of an industry that needs written content constantly throughout the year (daily if it’s online). Josefa currently writes for a swathe of publications under the Fairfax umbrella, including Essential Kids, Essential Baby, Life & Style, Daily Life and Sunday Life, and she definitely hasn’t forgotten how she got here.

“I think before I did the course, I thought there was this secret magic guidebook which everyone who was writing had, and was reading and following these steps and rules,” she says. “And unless you knew about them, you just couldn’t do this.”

But for Josefa, the course took all that away. “I just walked out and went ‘I can do this. I WILL do this.’”

“It really thrills me to write in a different voice and tell different stories on so many different platforms. At the moment I especially love writing stories about people who are on extraordinary journeys for Sunday Life. And it's exciting knowing that so many Australians are sitting down on a Sunday with their morning paper and a coffee – and they're feeling inspired by these stories.

“I am now writing, connecting with a wide audience and being paid. I love that I can work in this way from home, while still being right there for my two boys. I also love that it feels like the door to this world and the opportunities that it holds has only cracked open – I feel that so much more lies in wait.”

And if she hadn’t done the course with the Australian Writers’ Centre?

“I would still be looking at that ticking cursor on my email going ‘I can’t send this to an editor, I’m not good enough, I don’t know what to say to them to convince them to give me this chance to write.’”

Not a bad turnaround, which has not only changed Josefa’s outlook and career opportunities, but also her attitude to life. “I’ll continue to pursue my curiosity and open myself up to all the possibilities,” she grins.

Possibilities that now include pressing the SEND button with complete confidence!

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