It’s always a pleasure to meet my Instagram friends for the first time. Yesterday, I had the chance to meet Diane aka @deeleow and share a little about freelance writing.

Diane is a Singaporean living in Melbourne. She’s just completed her Masters in Journalism and is on the cusp of embarking on an exciting career.

She contacted me some time ago to let me know that she’ll be back in town for a couple of weeks and would love to chat over coffee. I’m glad we managed to arrange something, albeit on her last day.

When I listened to Diane share about her passion for writing, journalism, storytelling, it reminded me of me 10 years ago.

Like her, I was seated opposite Liz – a British writer friend of mine – and asking her all the questions Diane was asking me. Liz generously shared with me what she knew.

Her practical advice was a guiding light for this greenhorn freelance writer. And to this day, I keep her words close to my heart, and I share it whenever I can with people who ask.

1. Know the magazine inside-out before you pitch a story.

2. Build your Portfolio: Write for peanuts (even for free) when you’re starting out.

3. Make your editor’s life easy. Don’t make her work!

4. Always submit stories on time.

5. Keep to the word limit.

Simple advice, I know, but it worked for me the years I wrote to make a living.

I’m back to that freelancer’s life again. This time, Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech on pursuing your passion and being a self-employed person really struck a chord.

If you’re considering doing that at this point in your life, listen to this:

Before Diane left me to head to the flea market at the National Museum to support her best friend, she left these words with me.

Her friend mentioned it to her and she said she had to check the urban dictionary. “You’re a journalist and you don’t know?” He had laughed at her.

Well, I’m embarrassed to admit I had to check the urban dictionary too. I have a t-shirt with these words and I never knew what they meant before.

But I guess we all learn from each other.

YOLO = You Only Live Once.