I started writing for money in 2015, my second year at university. A friend who comes from my hometown, Ogembo, introduced me. He was a senior by then and was making money while studying.
So why not follow in his footsteps? I imagined striking gold while in university, living in a two-bedroom house, buying a car, and everything my peers would envy.
This occasional fantasizing has been my trend since I was young. Whenever I come across an opportunity, I imagine how I’ll surpass my peers and earn their admiration.
Seven years later, I’m still writing, yet to become what I thought writing would make me. It’s a painful reality check.
The first form of writing I ventured into was academic writing, doing university assignments for students from non-English-speaking countries.
Academic writing was a big deal in the mid-2010s. Back then, you could pull a corporate job’s salary while in school. For instance, my first employer, Dennis, was a 3rd-year student who rented a Ksh 15,000 furnished apartment and drove a Mark X from academic writing proceeds.
At 22, he was living a dream I’m yet to achieve at 27. There I go again, comparing myself with others. But what can I do? I’m only human.
The only sad part was that his studies bore the brunt of his work-study lifestyle. He often skipped lectures to work and eventually dropped his degree to pursue academic writing full-time.
Dennis hired me for Ksh 250 a page, a reasonable rate then. He chose not to overload me with work so it couldn’t affect my studies. I could manage three jobs a week, making at least Ksh 3000, unless it were low season when I made half.
I liked academic writing because of the assurance of jobs and timely pay. There was a huge demand for writers, and as an engineering student with roots in a top national high school, I could write well. So, I took the chance and ran with it.
I also loved that academic writing exposed me to numerous topics outside my domain, such as literature, history, politics, law, clinical medicine, and economics. Of course, I wasn’t churning out high-quality work in all these topics, but at least my answers earned my clients decent grades.
While in my third year, I started working for a new academic writer, Martin, who we started on a good note. He offered me a lot of jobs to the point I was making enough to rent a Ksh 9,500 apartment outside school.
But things started going south. Being one of Martin’s best writers, he would send several jobs with tight deadlines. Often, I ‘transnighted’ to work, and soon, burnout set in. My studies also took a beating, and while I enjoyed making money, my health deteriorated.
I raised my concerns to Martin, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I never failed to do a job, even when he commissioned a job, after categorically saying I needed a break.
One day, he woke me up at night and asked me to take up a job another writer had done poorly. I burned the midnight oil, reworked the assignment, and submitted it early in the morning. As soon as I clicked send, I decided to quit working for him and academic writing as a gig. That phase of my life was dead. I wasn’t going back.
Nevertheless, academic writing set the foundation of my writing career. It made me realize how much I enjoyed expressing myself in writing. It also taught me that I was good at something I thought otherwise: English.
It was my worst performing subject on both primary and high school levels, and I hated it as much as I loved mathematics, my best subject. Yet here I was enjoying writing.
My employers commended my work for having the least few revisions, which often only resulted from the clients’ lack of clarity when assigning jobs. I also noticed my university assignments, especially reports, were equally high quality.
I started wondering whether my writing had any bigger purpose. Was I just going to end up a university assignments doer and nothing else?
So, while searching for other forms of writing, I stumbled into blogging, which led me to launch my first blog, Kampusville, a news and opinion outlet for university students.