As-salamu Alaykum (peace be upon you), Dear Readers...

NEW for September 18, 2016:

This blog has MOVED to the Muslim Writers Club, a new website dedicated to all of your writing needs.

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Jobs and Internships for Muslim Writers – Check out the latest opportunities.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Q&A: Are Writers in Pakistan (and other countries) Disadvantaged?

Question (excerpted from a comment left on this blog):

The problem with me, in my opinion, is my location (Pakistan). I have applied to several paying markets (e.g, Sisters Magazine), received a response (they asked me to send in a sample of my writing) and then...poof! No word from them again. What is your opinion? Most paying markets in North America or Europe send money by wire transfer, Western Union, Paypal, or cheque, and when these payments are sent to Pakistan, they cost more i.e the payment process becomes expensive for the payer. Do you think employers in the West prefer writers based there for this reason?

~ Sadaf


As-salamu Alaykum, and thanks for asking this question, which I am sure is of interest and concern to many writers.

First of all, I am confident that writers living in Pakistan and other countries can make a decent living at freelance writing. I am personally aware of writers living in countries like India, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Egypt who do just this. See Mridu Khullar's website for an example of a writer based in India who has written for high-paying markets like Marie Claire, Elle, US Airways, Ms., and many others.

This is not to say that there are no special challenges for writers living in countries like Pakistan, India, etc. As you pointed out, the logistics of getting paid make it more complicated to work with writers based overseas. If you have PayPal, however, there should be no problem at all. PayPal is the easiest way to pay a writer, and many magazines use and prefer this method of payment. The fees are also not too bad. Unfortunately, PayPal is restricted in certain countries, including Pakistan and countries in the Middle East (unless something has recently changed).

Back in February, I discussed the PayPal situation a bit when a reader asked me about the best way to Get Paid while Living Abroad. In that writer's situation, not only did she not have PayPal, but she was also writing for a low-paying market. It is hard, but not impossible, to make this situation work. As I mentioned in my response, you can let the payments accumulate until your payment is large enough to cover a transfer fee (provided you are doing long-term work for the publication). There are also other ways to make things work.

As others have observed/experienced, magazines in the US are notorious for writing checks (or cheques for those who use the British spelling). Checks are usually not the best choice for people living outside the US. It takes forever to cash them (if you can, in the first place), and the fees that are deducted often make checks much more trouble than they are worth. On the other hand, there are also numerous US-based publications that work with international writers and are open to doing bank transfers and sending payments via Western Union. It often just really depends on the individual policies of the magazine, whether they mind the extra effort, and whether they are equipped to make transfers. Regarding the fees, some magazines will pay them, while others will not. Some will split the fees 50-50. Depending on the bank and the countries involved, a bank transfer fee can range from $10-$50 (USD), so you have to consider what you will do if asked to pay the fee. In many cases, you may just have to consider it part of the cost of doing business from overseas.

Generally speaking, you might find that publications based in the rest of the world (Asia, Europe, etc.) are more accommodating towards international writers, perhaps due to the culture created by having so many countries in close proximity to each other and the genuine need to look beyond one's borders for sustained freelance talent. As a writer living in Pakistan, I would probably spend some time examining markets in countries like India and the United Arab Emirates, both of which seem to publish hundreds of English-language magazines and newspapers on every conceivable topic.

Regarding in particular, IOL has offices in both Egypt and Qatar and works with writers from around the world – including Pakistan. Here are three examples:

Curable TB Kills in Pakistan

Army & Economy In Pakistan

The Right Approach Towards Privatization In Pakistan

Since I, too, have written for IOL, I can tell you that it may take a very long time for them to respond to your initial inquiry, which is actually quite typical of many publications/websites. Even the most seasoned of writers don't always hear back from their target markets. The best thing is to be persistent and continue offering ideas at regular intervals (say every 1-3 months) and then follow up (within reason, of course). This is, in itself, a whole other topic, but the way you present your query and follow up is a crucial part of the freelance process and can affect your response rate.

You live in Pakistan, and Pakistan is, masha'Allah, a fascinating place that remains a mystery to most people in the world. So, my dear sister, I feel quite certain that there is an urgent and pressing need for an insider's view on Pakistani culture, society, history, and civilization that only a member of Pakistani society can provide. Why not aim high and try for markets like National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Saudi Aramco World? What about the numerous travel publications, inflight magazines, and magazines for children? Think outside the box. There are many ways to use location and knowledge of Islam to your advantage, and I know that you will, insha'Allah, tap into these advantages and continue to reach more people with your insight and love for Islamic topics.

Amel S. Abdullah
Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on this blog? Post it here, or send it to me via e-mail. All questions sent via e-mail will be posted anonymously (unless you request otherwise). Click here for an index of all questions answered on this blog.


Sadaf Farooqi said...

Dear Amel,
I just read your answer! I was waiting for it via RSS subscription.
Jazaakillahu khairan for giving me such a well-researched, encouraging and informative answer. I am currently reading up on one of the links from it.
You're doing a wonderful job for writers. I remember when I started freelance writing 2 years ago, I'd visit your blog for tips.
Just as a FYI, I have received a response and an article offer from SISTERS. Alhamdulillah! :-)
And you're right about IOL taking long to respond to queries. I will keep trying insha'Allah. The editor did respond and even asked me to write for their "About Muhammad" section. I think I'll do that once I am done with a couple of other assignments.
Thanks a lot again, for maintaining this portal.

precisiontext said...

As-salamu Alaykum, Sr. Sadaf, and congratulations on your assignments with both SISTERS and IOL. Keep us posted, insha'Allah, so we can link to your work.

This blog is maintained by Amel Abdullah, a freelance writer, editor, and Arabic to English translator.