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Student case study - Fotoula S

Fotoula S

It takes courage and determination to give up a successful professional career to pursue your writing dreams.

Fotoula Svarna, who lives in central Greece, was teaching English in the private sector when her love of reading, research and writing led her to embark on the LSJ’s Freelance and Features Writing course.

Although she recognised it was a “bold step” to pursue her ambition of becoming a full-time freelance, within two years of completing the course in 1999 she quit her teaching job – and has never looked back.

Her first article – a travel feature for People and Places magazine – was published while she was still on the course. Later, her pieces started to appear in a local paper and magazine, where she has since become a regular contributor.

But the secret to “going it alone” lay in her work as a ghostwriter – a job, she admits, that involves sacrificing the satisfaction of a byline in return for regular income.

“Though I did my best to apply all the professional techniques I had been taught in the LSJ it was not easy at first,” she admits. “I had to build up a portfolio, sometimes offering my work to non-paying markets. 

“I had to learn from my own mistakes; I had to learn that the business of publishing is different from the business of writing but I was determined to get paid by doing the work I love.  I was also determined never to see rejection as a sign of failure.”

Slowly, her persistence paid off, and since 2002 she has been a full-time freelance, balancing ghostwritten texts, articles and essays with articles under her own name which have appeared in magazines worldwide.

Married and with two grown-up children, Fotoula relishes many aspects of her writing role, without underestimating the challenges.

“Freelance writing knows no restrictions and it gives me the freedom to work from any part of the world – no matter where I am. Provided that I have access to the internet I can knock the door of so many magazines and newspapers. And of course it’s always wonderful to be published!”

But winning the trust of customers can take time, and the job can also involve working long hours to meet deadlines.

Her portfolio gradually grew to encompass a range of Greek websites, magazines and newspapers, including, Talanto and The New Voice of Filakti. She has been a regular contributor to Vigla magazine for some years, but her articles have also been published increasingly further afield, from Writer’s Haven and Work Your Way to Bee Culture and Backhome magazines.   

So what advice would she offer others determined to follow in her footsteps?

“Persist and insist!” she says. “Don’t procrastinate – write and send you work out again and again and again. Rejection is part of our job – accept it, do what you can to improve your work and go on submitting it somewhere else.”

Setting realistic, measurable goals and writing them down in detail helped her a lot, she believes – as well as a “golden rule” she picked up from her LSJ coursenotes about not restricting her writing only to subjects of personal interest to her.

“I don’t stick to what I like,” she insists. “I like writing general interest “how to” articles and articles about folklore.  But I work even on pieces I am not personally interested in or on subjects about which I know almost nothing.

“Nowadays we have access to so many resources such as the web, online libraries, databases etc and thanks to the internet we can even interview specialists who live far away from us.”

Ten years on from that change of career her enthusiasm – and determination – remains undimmed, it seems.  

She quotes the philosophy advocated by the American author Napoleon Hill, an early pioneer of personal-success literature, who said: “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”

It’s a mantra she puts into practice, even now that she has won customers’ trust – and repeat business.

“I will continue to target more prestigious and better-paying markets so as to see more of my work being published regularly in publications with large circulations,” she says.