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Building a Community of Freelance Writers: Meet the Amazing Women Behind Skrife

By December 20, 2016 One Comment

The universe is a mash-up of interesting amazingness and in the course of running this platform we’ve met a number of women that have shown us in glorious ways, what girl power really means. The women of Skrife are amongst them. We first heard of Skrife in December 2015, when they got into the S-Factory and we fell in love with the idea and the women getting ready to launch a war against uninspiring writing. One year after, Kelechi Udoagwu and Tolu Agunbiade have officially launched Skrife into the world.

Still wondering what Skrife is really about? Here’s an intro:
Skrife is a startup on a mission to rid the internet of crappy writing. They create content that communicates concisely what our clients want by leveraging on their exclusive, curated community of freelance writers and editors.

Tolu and Kelechi are a words-loving team of two female co-founders, with experience working with hubs like MEST, CcHUB and The S Factory (Startup Chile) and organizations like ALU, Elance (now Upwork), True Africa and Bella Naija, to mention a few.
They are building Skrife to raise the bar when it comes to understanding and predicting what clients’ audiences want to read, and creating relatable content that raises real emotions in people.

Last week we had a virtual sit down with these awesome women. Ladies and co-feminists, meet Kelechi and Tolu of Skrife.Tolu and Kelechi of Skrife

For Creative Girls: Content marketing is an interesting and wide field, how did you decide on what aspect to laser-focus on?
We practically fell into Skrife. We both share a love for writing and reading engaging pieces. Being professional freelancers ourselves, and given our niche and experience, it only made sense for us to focus on content writing first.

The idea for Skrife as it is now all started with a random conversation where we realized that we both, at different times in our lives, had thought of how to turn our writing skills into a larger-than-life business. Our thinking about Skrife has evolved from what we initially thought of over time, but it has always retained the core which is — helping people who constantly need to write, but hate to, get it done easily.

You were in The S Factory for a couple of months, how was the experience and how has it helped shape Skrife?
The S Factory experience was instrumental in getting Skrife to where it is now. Being in an ecosystem with like-minded people whose sole purpose was to support you in building an idea into a viable business was powerful.

The $15,000 equity free funding also gave us time and space to focus on Skrife with no distractions. We lived together in the same apartment and literally talked about Skrife every second. From the time we woke up till we went to sleep we could brainstorm and get things done fast.

It was also great for the network. In the S Factory, we met diverse people. Literally, every continent was represented in our cohort and it gave us a chance to validate our idea and bounce off strategies with more people than we could have in Nigeria, Ghana or Mauritius.

Also, being in Santiago de Chile where infrastructure works, we didn’t have to bother about electricity, internet or transportation. So instead of looking for fuel for a generator, we were able to channel all our energy into what was most important — figuring out how Skrife should work and validating our assumptions by signing up clients and freelancers.

We are always interested in how co-founders roll. How do you work together and make sure you achieve fantastic results? Are you always in sync?
It sounds ridiculous, but we are almost always in sync! There are times when either of us will go, “can’t you even disagree with me for the fun of it.” We have a very good rapport and it stems from a deep respect for each other. It’s also because we aren’t just business partners, we are really good friends. We are invested in each other’s life journey and personal growth — both within and outside Skrife — and that makes us open to and appreciative of each other’s ideas and mode of operating.

We definitely have our differences in opinions and approaches at times, but because we are both fully committed to the mission that is Skrife, it is easy to set personal agenda aside and ask “What is good for Skrife?” At the end of the day, even our differences end up being complementary and work in our favor.toluHow does Skrife work? And what’s the process for onboarding writers?
The Skrife process is pretty simple. People who need content come on and request by filling out a short form telling us what type of post they need and who their audience is. We then assign jobs to our curated community of writers and editors who have 3-5 working days to complete them.

When we started Skrife, we had writers take a qualification test and write a sample post before accepting them into our community but we realized we were too lenient in the process. We were accepting freelancers based on enthusiasm, potential and positive vibes instead of competence. It got so bad that at some point, we had to rewrite a large portion of client’s requests because our writers’ submissions were not up to par.

Now, we head-hunt writers. If we see an article we love on the web, we reach out to the writer to join our community. We still have writers emailing to join, but we’re a lot stricter in letting people in. The quality of work we produce at Skrife is our strongest selling point and we don’t compromise on it.

Getting creative in content marketing can be tricky, especially when you have to deal with clients. How do you balance creativity with giving clients what they want?
This can be hard especially when the client isn’t entirely sure what they want. Our goal is that they trust us to put their best interest into our work with them.

We are able to strike this balance by making sure we align well with our clients on getting a sense for what they want. This sometimes means Skype calls and lengthy email threads. We also share sample work to see if it resonates with the client’s ideas and modify them based on the client’s brand voice and personality.

It’s a fairly manual process going from when a client sends a brief to when we get the first submission done. It is worth it because once we do it well the first time, our clients keep coming back and we don’t have to repeat the process.

So, what’s your definition of creativity?
Kelechi: For me, it is being yourself. I think we’re all a little cuckoo and we try to cover it up by being “adult” and professional. For a long time, I thought my writing sucked and maybe it did, but it made me hold myself back and that’s silly. Now I’ve given myself permission to just be. No pressure. I write what I want, say what I feel, and try to let my thoughts flow from my mind to my fingers. I hope it resonates with people and they gather around under the shade of what I create, but if they don’t, I’ve come to a place in my life where I don’t really don’t mind. That for me is creativity.

Tolu: I don’t know about all of us being cuckoo o, but I agree that creativity is the freedom to express yourself in a way that is authentically you. I had a conversation recently about how sometimes people equate creativity to being artistic — you know, only people who can draw, write, act, etc are considered creative. I’m not particularly artistic, but I consider myself hella creative. You should see what I can so with a spreadsheet or how I geek out on dashboards and processes. To me, being creative is being able to look at a thing and say “this needs something extra,” then going ahead to add your flavor in making it better. Being creative is staying curious and constantly looking to change the status quo in ways that are uniquely (and usefully) you.kelechiHow do you stay productive? Do you have a daily routine?
Kelechi: Oh, I’m bad with routines. The only routine in my life is that I wake up every day and I breathe. All other actions are flexible, including showing up at work (laughs). I stay productive by my sense of mission; that’s why it’s really important for me to care about what I do. With my day job, MEST, I truly care because we are providing education for aspiring entrepreneurs that they would not have had it if we didn’t exist. And with Skrife, I care because our clients appreciate our product and are genuinely grateful when they see their thoughts in clear written words.

I’m largely driven by mission and I try my human best to never let anyone down. That’s what keeps me crossing things off my checklist.

Tolu: I’m the duchess of to-do lists and productivity tools. I even have a spreadsheet I call my ‘Life Master Sheet’. It has all the things I’m currently doing, and a laundry list of tasks, categorized by their urgency or importance. I should show you sometime. Tools I use in particular are Google Keep, Google Apps, and Evernote. I also use the Pomodoro time management technique to help me schedule my inevitable procrastinations.

It’s easy to stay productive when you love the things you do and you do them with people you enjoy working with. For me, that’s every day at Skrife and my day job at ALU training the next generation of entrepreneurial, ethical leaders for Africa. The real question is “do I always follow my routine?” And the answer is no, but that’s okay. I’m still human (contrary to what some people think *side eye at Kelechi*, so I cut myself some slack for the days I just want to sit in bed, binge on TV shows and eat ice-cream
Shout-out to my friend, Yetunde Odunsi, who is my productivity sensei.

Freelancing can be epileptic in nature. What tips/advice do you have for Freelance Writers?
Kelechi: Hmmm, for freelance writers, I’d advise that they be consistent and give themselves time to grow. Your work will be shitty when you start, and that’s because you’re still a baby at it. You never see a baby give up walking because he/she keeps falling.

Beginner freelance writers should be open to being paid nothing when they start, because truly sometimes that’s what their work is worth. But when you keep at it for at least a year, you’ll see improvement in your own work and can start to raise your rates.

I’ll also advise freelance writers to have their own personal blog or website — start to curate your content and build your personal brand, even if you’re not sure what you want it to grow into. You’ll find that as you grow, your brand grows with you, and you may metamorphose into this person you never saw coming.

Tolu: Adding to what Kelechi said, my advice would be to read…a lot. Read wide, read far, read everything. Read the good, the great, the terrible. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read things not in your area of interest. And while you’re reading, take note of things that evoke strong emotions — you know, writings you absolutely loved or totally hated — and articulate why you loved or hated them. There’s a method to well-written things.

And of course, write. All the time and about everything. As cliche as this sounds, don’t write for the money only. Writing can be a thankless job and if the only thing that keeps you writing is the thought of getting paid, it’s unlikely that you’ll grow to be a really good writer. Don’t strive for perfection from your first draft, but hold yourself to high standards. Push yourself to be better and welcome criticism from people you respect. Let it fuel you to be an even better writer.

If you’re looking for good books on writing, I recommend starting with Stephen King’s On Writing, and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Can you share a couple of your favorite websites, plus women you admire?
Kelechi: A couple of my favorite websites are Xonecole and James Clear. Women, I love Tyra Banks a lot. She’s a risk taker, a business woman, a model, a role model (lol), and she truly loves herself (at least she looks like she does). She inspires and reminds me to be and love myself.

Tolu: To mention a few, I love reading Y Combinator’s The Macro, Nautilus, Brain Pickings and Wait But Why. But Twitter rules them all because that’s where I discover one-off articles that bring me joy.

I’m surrounded by so many women I admire. The cliche one, to begin with, is my co-founder, Kelechi. She’s an amazing person through and true, and a constant source of inspiration to me. I admire Rayo Falade and my sisters, Toyin and Tola; they are a constant source of inspiration and support. One woman, I admire that I don’t interact with often, but who I have the pleasure of knowing is Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, the founder of Wecyclers. Just Google her and see if you don’t catch some admiration too.

tolu-and-kelechi-2What do you both do for fun and relaxation, individually and together?
Tolu: Together, we drink a lot of wine. Kelechi forces me to watch reality TV shows with her (like America’s Top Model), and I try to make her watch gory TV shows and movies (like Fargo or the Shining). She never budges. Lol.

We must say, we are dying to see Tolu’s Life Master Sheet! 😀

Now that you’ve met Tolu and Kelechi, you should get cracking with Skrife.

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