How Rashida Tayabali became a freelance writer and author

Rashida Tayabali had always wanted to write, but had been discouraged from studying journalism at university. While working as a marketing coordinator, she decided her maternity leave would be the perfect opportunity to rediscover her old passion. Inspired by a colleague who had done courses at the Australian Writers' Centre, Rashida enrolled in Freelance Writing Stage 1 – and immediately her life changed.

“I had never dreamed that I could turn my childhood love for writing into an actual career that paid me while I worked from home looking after my children without having to go back to university to study journalism full time,” Rashida told us.

Since completing that first course at the AWC – and a few more besides! – Rashida has now set up a successful copywriting business, and also has many bylines in publications such as Sunday Life, SBS Voices, My Career, Men’s Fitness, Practical Parenting and many more. On top of that, she has just self-published her debut novel, Life After Ali.

“Every writing dream I’ve dreamed of has come true thanks to AWC!”

Developing real world skills

Rashida was born and raised in Kenya where she created a class magazine at school, won writing awards, and contributed to local publications. But journalism was perceived as a dangerous career.

“Whenever someone said journalism back then, it prompted images of reporting in war zones. My parents weren’t keen on this career choice!” Rashida recalls.

Instead of following her dream, Rashida studied business and went on to work in marketing. But after her colleague told her about the Australian Writers' Centre, Rashida knew that she could still be a writer after all.

“I have done heaps of courses with the AWC. The most useful thing I found was how easy it is to apply the skills in the real world. I’d learn something in class and then use it pretty much straight away,” Rashida says. “Thanks to the courses, I also got valuable insights into how it all works, knowledge that would have taken me years to figure out had I gone it alone. Over the years, each skill I’ve picked up via the AWC has layered itself into a delicious writing sundae, all of which I bring to my personal writing and client work. Doing the courses also made me feel confident in my abilities to become a writer.”

Through the courses, Rashida also made connections with other writers, which led to her first editorial gig working as the Editor for online magazine Leaders in Heels, founded by fellow graduate, Kasia Gospos.

“I learnt so much from Kasia about entrepreneurship,” Rashida says. “I’ve met so many other wonderful writers through the network, too.”

Work that doesn’t feel like work

In her copywriting business, Rashida focuses on women entrepreneurs.

“I help female business owners translate their passion and skills for their business into copy that brings them more clients, raises their profile and frees them up to work on their business rather than struggling to produce content,” Rashida says.

Running her successful business means that Rashida can work from home doing something that she loves.

“For me, writing and working with clients actually doesn't feel like work. I get up every morning, really happy that I am doing something that I always dreamed of doing.”

And now another dream has come true with the publication of her novel, Life After Ali, about an Indian immigrant whose life is shattered when her husband dies suddenly. She is forced by her community to retreat into mourning and she questions what comes next and whether this is the life she wants to live.

Rashida was encouraged to pursue her fiction writing after listening to the So you want to be a writer podcast, and felt that she had a greater understanding of the self-publishing process through all the free resources offered on the podcast.

“It helped me tackle the whole self-publishing process so much more confidently! I have enjoyed every aspect of the process that helped turn an idea that bumped into me randomly into a book. Thanks to Al and Val talking about it on the podcast, it made it seem less daunting. I knew exactly which steps to take.”

And although the book is fiction, Rashida found her freelance writing skills very useful.

“Every skill I’ve picked up in the Australian Writers' Centre courses has combined to create a greater whole that’s made me successful; as a features writer, copywriter and author. Thanks to the feature writing course, I know how to position myself, my book and how to pitch editors.”

So what advice does Rashida have for anyone who wants to start their own freelance writing career?

“Start making your dream a reality, not 10 years from now, not even two months from now. Do it today because you'll never regret it. Turning a love of something into a career is absolutely the best thing you could ever do for yourself and for others as well.”

Courses completed at AWC:

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