Nestled in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and five children, Debra Torres makes much of her ability to write and be a present mother for her children. She’s a freelance web writer and designer in an area where the market isn’t large, but little competition exists.
Childhood gave way to her enjoyment of reading and desire to write, as she told how her grandmother would hand her a book during family visits and she would escape to her father’s old room to journey through the pages.
An undergraduate degree in communications led to a master’s degree in journalism. Debra spent a brief period interning at a newspaper, but starting a family soon followed, putting her writing career on hold.
Five years ago, Debra received a nudge. “I just really think it was God saying ‘you need to start (writing) again.’”
A quick Google search for “freelance writing” soon launched Debra into her writing career, with an unlikely mentor. The first website she clicked on led to the first person she asked for guidance, a woman who was a leader in the freelance community. She became a close mentor for Debra, teaching her the ropes of today’s writing trends.
“She explained to me that in writing, right now, the money is in SEO, which I didn’t know what SEO was,” Debra said.
Small Town with Big Opportunity:
Debra laughed as she mentioned her first writing job—a $10 a month column for a local newspaper, which she continues to write today. However, that small job led to another writing job, this time writing the copy for a local beef farmer’s website.
“What I learned as a copywriter was that all of these people needed a web designer as well,” Debra mentioned. With an open door and an opportunity to fill a void for the business community, she hopped on Publisher to construct her first website, a process she said wasn’t at all easy.
“Being in a small town, the word gets out that you do web writing and design,” Debra explained, which was true because the ball was rolling and picking up speed. Once the word got out, Debra had more locals calling for her skills. They didn’t know what SEO meant, much less copywriting, but they knew they needed it for marketing purposes and Debra was the local expert.
Debra works with a small market as one of the few writing and design professionals, but that doesn’t mean business is always booming. She’s made cold calls and pursued business when it’s been less substantial, which is the life of a freelancer.
However, she didn’t hesitate to mention her trust in God to provide for the needs of her family during the slow spells of work.
When To Say Yes and When To Say No:
Debra doesn’t brand herself as a Christian, yet she includes a link to her ‘Who Is God’ blog on her freelance website. Although a non-Christian friend advised against including the blog on her site, Debra insisted the blog be highlighted.
“I am quick to mention that I am a Christian to people and I’m quick to turn down jobs that I don’t think align with my Christian faith,” Debra said.
On several occasions Debra has rejected writing requests. For one job, she cordially denied service to an Indian man who wanted flyers produced for a religious holiday that doesn’t align with the Christian faith. Close mentors to Debra said that even writing the copy for those flyers would promote a message other than Christ, so Debra had to say “no.”
It’s not that Debra is elevating herself above others, instead, Debra chooses to remain honest about her standards and has determined to align her work with that of Christ. She won’t back down on what she believes, even if it costs her a few extra bucks.
Debra is eager to accept projects for ministries and non-profits, but if she volunteers, she makes sure clients understand the priority of her time. She wants to help churches and non-profits improve through presentation and articulation, but saying yes to every project, especially those without pay, leads to a lack of necessary income. Providing for her family is a priority, thus paying clients receive priority of her time.
It goes with the saying, “a worker is worth their wages.”
Working from home allows Debra to be available for her five children, which she says is a blessing and a challenge. Making sure the kids get to and from school, chores are accomplished and homework is done, along with writing content for clients is no small feat.
Luckily, her husband is a college professor, which allows him to be at home during the summer months, giving Debra a break from managing the kids during the day on her own.
While home life mixed with work may not be ideal at every moment, Debra mentioned that which is most important for the family—“I can still be that mom who is present.”