“It’s great that we can do so many things as technical communicators, but it’s also really overwhelming,” Lydia Welker explains. Welker is a 2015 graduate of the English Department’s program in Professional Writing. “I realized that freelancing would allow me to get some experience while letting me explore different fields, companies, and skills to my heart’s content.” She enjoys her work and says that it gives her opportunities to work on fun and interesting projects.
While at Missouri State, Welker triple-minored in Creative Writing, Computer Science, and American Sign Language. After earning her MA at West Virginia University, where she had worked as a research assistant, she decided to become a freelance writer.
Welker’s freelance work typically consists of writing and editing content for clients in many different sectors. Welker’s recent projects include copyediting for an academic press and writing digital marketing for law firms, technology companies, and biotech companies. She teaches at Missouri State as an adjunct in the English Department and enjoys consulting on grant proposals for academics and nonprofits and building websites for artists and nonprofits. As she describes herself and the good fit with freelancing: “I’m a curious person. I love to learn. I really love learning new things. Freelancing allows me to dip my toe into so many different fields and areas of research. I’m never bored.”
Welker has a passion for the nonprofit sector and says one of her favorite freelance projects is grant writing and research. Welker also spends much of her free time volunteering as the Digital Communications Coordinator at the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP), a nonprofit she was introduced to in graduate school. “I manage social media accounts, email, the website, and newsletters for the nonprofit. It’s a lot of work, but the cause is important to me. I am passionate about challenging mass incarceration, and volunteering with APBP lets me combine my technical writing skills with an organization I love.”
When she came to Missouri State, she was quiet and shy, Welker says, but becoming a Resident Assistant (RA) pushed her beyond her comfort zone, allowing her to grow by learning how to talk to people, how to manage conflict, and how to ask the right questions. She says these skills fed her career in writing. “In technical writing, we talk a lot about getting information from subject matter experts and simplifying it for a general audience. To do that, you need to ask the right questions.”
The English Department’s professional writing program uses real-world projects to challenge students much in the same way Welker says she was challenged as an RA. “Theory is good, but actually working for a real client is where Missouri State goes above and beyond.” Writing samples and working on practical projects help her show employers and clients she not only understands the levels of edits, but she has also already been doing it.
“The client-based portion of the program is one of the best parts of the program.”
Her new career has its challenges. “2020 was a difficult time. A ton of people pivoted to remote contract and freelance work, so finding jobs became much more competitive. Now that things are looking up, I think the landscape will be a little less chaotic.”
Her advice to students is to “keep everything” from their courses. Students who decide to teach will find it helpful to refer to syllabi, notes, reading assignments, and the like. She also passes along advice she received in school that saved her from student loan debt: “Unless you’re going to law school or getting a medical degree, do not pay for grad school. There are schools and programs that will pay you to go to school. Take advantage of those opportunities. “
To read more about the work Welker is doing, visit her website at http://www.LydiaWelker.com.
About the Author
Sabrina Wagganer is a first-generation college student who will graduate with a BS in Professional Writing in 2021. Sabrina has published on Atlas Obscura and is the creator of The Jacqueline Project, a blog highlighting women who rock their corner of the small business world. A former massage therapist and educator, Sabrina has been a small business owner since 2007 and is passionate about the success of small businesses. She enjoys a variety of interests, including photography, listening to true crime podcasts, discovering locally owned eateries, and visiting little-known tourist attractions while traveling with her partner.
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