My name is Vasudha Sharma; I’m from India, and I moved to Canada in April, 2016. I’m a graduate in journalism and mass communication. After moving to Canada, I enrolled in a three-month writing course at George Brown College to familiarize myself with local industry best practices. Even with seven years of experience working in India as a business journalist with prominent national news networks, finding similar opportunities in Canada was a struggle! 

This is my story.

A couple of months after I moved to Canada, I started applying to various job positions but nothing clicked — this drove me into a downward spiral of denial and despair. Thankfully, I soon realized that I should take charge of the situation and turn it around.

I had heard a lot about the value of volunteering in Canada and perceived it as a good starting point to kick-start my career. I looked up content-related volunteering opportunities in Toronto and attended some information sessions. Shortly after, I decided to volunteer with an educational charity as a copywriter. Through this opportunity, over time, I was able to compile some work samples to showcase as part of my portfolio and gain important Canadian experience. 

Pro tip: Volunteering opportunities are a great way to collect local work samples and build your portfolio!

I used my portfolio while applying to other positions and that helped me secure my first full-time contract which set me off on the career path of a freelancer! Over the past two years, in addition to content writing, I’ve also had the opportunity to do video reporting in a variety of sectors and thus build a more diverse portfolio.  

While the freelance lifestyle does offer some flexibility in terms of managing work schedules or locations, it comes with its own share of challenges for newcomers like myself:

  • I had limited insight into the right quotes/pay for the job
  • It was difficult to find repeat work from the same clients 
  • I had to always be available as sometimes clients would reach out for deliverables at short notice and my availability at the time would often be the deciding factor for future work

Here are my five tips for aspiring freelancers:

1. Build your portfolio

If you have a website/blog, continue building that. If you don’t, then consider starting one or use volunteering opportunities to collect work samples. Tap into your sense of wonder and curiosity to create new content – using the newcomer perspective helps too!

2. Nurture your professional relationships

It’s important to nurture existing relationships with periodic follow-ups and personal promotions while continuing to build new ones. Avoid asking for a job in the first meeting or virtual invite; your goal should always be to learn more about what they do.

3. Be social

Use social media to promote your work — this also provides leads for networking.

4. Adapt to the local work culture

Be more vocal, communicate well, and share insights with your team to get noticed!   

5. Don’t skimp on hard work

Canadian organizations provide ample opportunities to succeed, so if you have the talent and are willing to work hard and be smart, the pace of growth is much faster. 

Blending into the Canadian workforce is not easy but remember that how you think and what you believe will ultimately define your actions. Therefore, stay positive and don’t keep holding on to the things you had back home. Instead, focus on current opportunities and that will take you places!