Victoria Birch: From corporate world to freelance writer

Victoria Birch always wanted to be a writer. She just didn’t know it was a viable option. Until now.

The Sydney-based mother has always been interested in music. While living in the UK, Victoria would write music reviews, develop music websites and immerse herself in this artistic world. This passion ran parallel with her life in the corporate world where she worked in sales and marketing for an insurance broker.

“I felt like the proverbial square peg in a round hole,” recalls Victoria. “And I always felt infinitely prouder of my music writing compared to any of my corporate achievements.”

However, Victoria never considered writing to be a viable career option until a move to Australia brought Victoria to a crossroads in her corporate career. Although still working in her corporate insurance role, she started writing for music publication Faster Louder, which allowed her to indulge in her dual passions of music and writing.

“I was literally at work, writing music reviews and trying not to get caught doing it,” laughs Victoria. “But I still didn’t think of writing as something I could do as a career.”

The gift of opportunity

A new baby in 2008, and a stalled return to work due to a change in her agreed hours, created space for Victoria to breathe. As serendipity would have it, Victoria’s husband Scott give her a birthday present that would change everything. The gift was a place in the Australian Writers’ Centre Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1 course.

“Attending the course was a massive revelation,” Victoria says. “It was literally a light bulb moment. I sat the whole time with my mouth open and couldn’t believe that I could possibly earn money doing what I loved to do – I could pursue it as a legitimate career path. I wish someone had told me this was possible 20 years ago.”

Victoria completed the five-week Australian Writers’ Centre Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1 course in early 2010; and followed up with Australian Writers’ Centre Magazine and Newspaper Writing course Stage 2 course later that year.

“While I was doing the course, my goal became how I could get paid for doing what I loved rather than just writing for love, as I had been previously for my unpaid music writing,” she says. “I felt that being paid for my writing would validate me personally and make it seem less like a hobby. It shows that someone thinks my writing is good enough to pay me for it.”

The first pitch

Not long after, Victoria had her second baby and it was while reading the online site Essential Baby that she became angry at a story criticising stay-at-home parents.

“I fired off a quick paragraph email to the editor with an opposing view. She responded within seconds with, ‘Love it, go for it',” she says. “Suddenly, I had my first story. I literally did cartwheels. It was not how I thought my first pitch would go.”

After that first story, Victoria developed a strong relationship with the editor of Essential Baby and Essential Kids, with almost 80 to 90 per cent of her paid writing now done for this publication. She has written a diverse range of stories on subjects such as how to buy ethical clothing for children, how to raise inclusive kids and how to raising awareness among children about disabilities.

Her story on the naming rights of children was picked up by Channel 10’s The Morning Show. This enabled Victoria to sit in front of a TV camera rather than her computer for a change. “It was an incredible opportunity,” recalls Victoria. “And a real eye opener about how TV media look increasingly to online magazines and social media for content and ideas.”

She has also been published in online publication The Hoopla and for corporations such as Flexirent.

Put yourself out there

And Victoria’s advice to aspiring writers? “Write about what you know and what you’re interested in,” she says. “Although it may feel quite broad at the time, you’ll find you gravitate towards a niche inside your chosen field, which is where you can start to make your mark.

“Just go for it, put yourself out there. Don’t sit on your hands procrastinating and overthinking it. Once you have sent out your first pitch, regardless of the outcome, the momentum will start.

“Develop a social media strategy, watch others, connect with other writers and editors and increase your social media profile. You can’t overstate how important social media is to a career as a writer.

“Find the writers that you love, that really resonate with you and have a distinctive voice that you can connect with. Read his or her work so you can see how someone with a great voice writes.”

With Victoria now earning the equivalent of one full-time day per week from her writing, even while still caring for her young children, it's been an easy decision not to return to the corporate world. “I am a writer and always have been,” says Victoria.

Written by Lisa Schofield.

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