For the past few years I’ve had the good fortune to work on a number of very interesting marketing and content projects in Jakarta and Singapore. If you told me five years that I’d dip my toes into Southeast Asian startup scenes and help companies here craft interesting blogs and compelling websites, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes. For quite a few years I used to think very lowly of Asia; working there would’ve seemed like a downgrade from whatever menial job I might find over in the States. Thanks, American education system (and the fact that my brothers and I were never truly exposed to scenes of daily life in countries that weren’t the good ‘ol US of A).
And I remember when I was in high school and my mother told me to consider a career in technical or copy writing. Bahumbug!, I thought. Who wants to write for a living?
I do, it turns out.
It’s interesting–after several years of nonstop work I’ve found myself in the tech-business-healthcare niche. Or more precisely, the startup niche. I’ve written for startups all over the planet, from the bigger ones to the super-local, homegrown companies. Some are solving clunky and outdated healthcare status quos; others are simply trying to grow their gelato truck business.
In today’s world startup founders seem very glamorous. No one wants to be a boring entrepreneur anymore, they want to be a founder. They want to make waves. They want to [insert a bunch of cool-sounding buzzwords here about impact and magic and rockstar changes]. They want to scale their company and launch in [arbitrary number] new countries by the end of Q4.
Something like that.
The reason I work as a freelance content writer (loosely based in Jakarta and Tangerang) is simple. I can’t do anything else. I’ve been offered several full-time jobs in places like Kuningan, but my current living situation makes it impossible for me to commute on a daily basis. This “shackle” that limits me to remote jobs has also given me the freedom to work with so many interesting clients with admirable visions and missions, and though on some days I desperately wish for the stability of a fixed income, most weeks I’m awestruck by the variety of founders I get to meet. They have so many unique ways of thinking; ask each of them to solve the same problem and you’d probably get five or six different, totally creative, mostly crazy, and absolutely interesting solutions.
So much growth is happening in Southeast Asia, and I’m lucky that I moved here when I did. Seeing the “scene” (I loathe that word, but regrettably, it’s apt) develop before my eyes is awe-inspiring. Just a few years ago, Gojek was a simple idea in Nadiem Makarim’s head. Now, it’s changed the face of a nation. Which companies will follow suit? Which will fall apart? Who will be the next villain?
Ultimately the startup story is a human story; a new way to save the world or to conquer it. In one ring you have Elizabeth Holmes, a Helen of Troy gone wrong. In the other you have Martin Shkreli, who found out the hard way that messing with the Wu-Tang Clan dooms you to a life of suffering (I jest). People give in to greed and lust and desire all the time; they put in hours after countless hours to try and become the best versions of themselves, too.
I empathize with startup founders, though I personally would never want to become one. It’s a hard, lonely world–my experience with a community of Series A-B founders has emphasized that immensely. We idolize founders without properly taking the time to consider the burdens placed on their shoulders, the constraints they have to face, the struggle of juggling a tech team and operations team and finance team. The pain of having to scale faster and faster while doing it sustainably, of having to walk in to an investor meeting without knowing what the outcome will be.
In the long run, I’m just a tiny cog in the brutish, beautiful world of startups. And I guess you could ask: why tech? Why business and healthcare and startups in general?
My dad has always loved technology; in my childhood he was the kind of guy to buy a new phone and test it for a few days before returning it (or keeping it, if he liked it). He’s the one who lets me access his CBT Nuggets accounts when I have free time, the one who bought me a massive Snap Circuits kit when I was in middle school so that I could make little LED bulbs light up. I still have fond memories of seeing him playing Warcraft when I was five or six, and it’s a shame that I was just so artistically inclined. If I’d liked math more I might’ve followed his footsteps and gotten a tech or electrical engineering degree.
I’m glad, then, that his influence has guided me here. Here is where I get to blend my inherited love for beta testing and new technology with my obsession for art and stories and words. Here is where I get to see the world develop. Here is where I get to view the splendor of human hearts as they do their best and change, quite literally, entire worlds. Though I think sometimes about retreating entirely and sticking to literary writing, I know that I probably will never be able to follow through. Something always pulls me back here.
I actually was intending on writing this as some smarmy direct-sales SEO-targeted post to advertise my content writing services for potential clients based in Southeast Asia, but I guess I don’t have the heart to do so. Here’s my call-to-action anyways: if you need someone to consult with about a website or just need a friend’s shoulder to cry on as endless deadlines loom, I’m here.
And thanks, you guys (my clients, I mean, if you’re reading this), for taking a chance on me. Thanks for the super-straightforward instructions (I need 2000-word evergreen articles each about these plants, here’s the spreadsheet) and for the personal connections. (I guess I’m supposed to name drop here to build credibility but that’s just so smarmy, LOL).
If you feel like my experience could be of use to you, then drop me a message below. Don’t forget to tell me your favorite breakfast food; mine is definitely fluffy pancakes drizzled with artificially-sweetened maple syrup and fresh-cut berries. And I hope you have a lovely day, a good meeting, a gentle weekend ahead.