Publishing Pros Episode 2: Toonika Guha

Welcome to the second episode of Publishing Pros! In this episode, I interview Toonika Guha, a freelance writer whose articles have been published on various esteemed platforms.

Audio of Publishing Pros Episode 2: Toonika Guha. Uses audio from host Arundhati Subhedar and guest Toonika Guha with permission. Uses Humsafar by ASHUTOSH under Creative Commons — CC BY 3.0.


[intro music]

A: Hi everyone, and welcome to Publishing Pros. In this podcast, I will be speaking with professionals in the publishing industry.

[into music]

A: Today’s guest is Toonika Guha, a freelance writer whose work has been published on various platforms like National Geographic, Conde Nast, First Post, Youth Ki Awaaz, and many more.

A: Let’s start off with an easy question. Why did you choose to freelance as well as work a full-time day job?

T: I do it purely because I’m passionate about writing.

A: What would you say you most enjoy writing about?

T: About culture, food, identity, mental health, gender. Basically anything that catches my fancy, I think.

A: How can one get started in the freelance business?

T: I think the key is to just get started. put pen to paper, or, you know, your fingers to your keyboard, whatever works for you, and just get writing. I think one of the biggest things that anybody who wants to become a writer generally misses out is reading. I know a lot of people who are just like, you know, “I don’t read much, but I want to write a book.” But if you’re going to write, whether it is long form or short form, or you’re going to write a book, read. If you’re not going to read enough, you’re not going to know what’s good writing. It’s about practice, and when I say practice, 50% of it is writing, 50% of it is reading, and — okay, the maths is all whack here, but — I would say, another 50% is the editing.

A: To be fair, writing is worth 150% effort, so…

T: [laugh]

A: It makes sense. What would you say is something new freelancers aren’t as aware about as they should be?

T: Anybody in the content creation business, anyone who’s creating content, they really need to understand their rights in terms of copyright. When you’re signing over your content to somebody, you need to understand what that means.

A: Is there, like, a standard copyright law?

T: It differs from publication to publication. There are some who will enlist you with a contract and they’ll tell you that “we have the rights for this exclusively for nine months to a year” or “we have only the digital rights for a year or two years” or whatever. Sometimes people will ask for full term of copyright. As a writer, you decide what you want to give.

A: Is there like a general practice among freelancers, or just something all freelancers should know?

T: Being timely about your work is something that a lot of freelancers, writers, journalists really stress on. Most freelancers will tell you do not write for free.

A: Is there any particular reason for that?

T: So, you know, as a community, I think what happens when you accept unpaid gigs from other people, it laxes people into saying “we’re going to do it unpaid” and that takes away opportunities from others who can’t afford it. So, I think you just have to be really conscious about that, and for yourself as well. I mean, you’re doing a lot of work, you’re putting in the effort. You need to have that sort of self-respect for the work that you’re doing.

A: Do you think national or international borders play a role any more in terms of who gets commissioned and who doesn’t?

T: No. With the internet and with things opening up, and I think specifically with the world going even more digital this year, it has opened up a lot more opportunities that way. But even in the time before corona, I think, there were enough publications who were accepting international commissions.

A: Cool! Thank you so much for being a guest on my podcast!

T: Thank you for having me!

[outro music]

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