You’re not always going to make a lot of scratch writing. You might do a long article for your local paper thinking that it will lead to more assignments down the line, and that’s great. But in the now, you might invest ten hours on the piece and get paid $200. Not exactly a living wage. So it’s important that as writers, we have alternative ways to generate income when the work is thin, the checks are late or the pay rate ain’t so hot.
BEST ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF INCOME:
- Editing and proofreading—Just because you can write doesn’t mean you can edit. I’ve met plenty of good writers who had no editorial skills. But if you have an editorial background and/or proofreading training, this is a great way to pick up some extra cash. There are always online ads for book editors, proofers, and so on. I know several writers who earn 25% of their income and survive slow periods by picking up editing work. I’ve done it, and when you’re a little burnt out from wordsmithing, it can be a nice break to hack the living shit out of…I mean, to tenderly caress someone else’s work.
- Speaking—Yes, you can get speaking gigs. No, you don’t have to be a great speaker. Yes, you can get paid for them. Speaking guru Jim Malinchak insists that you should never ask for less than $2500 for a speech—not bad money. If you have some expertise in an area of writing and some information that can help people, you can get hired to speak at writer’s conferences, workshops and book fairs. It’s a lot of fun and provides a great value to sell your books, too.
- Coaching—There are plenty of people who want to write books and need someone to help them navigate the process. Coaches typically work one-on-one to help their clients get organized, produce pages and self-publish their book. Come up with an hourly rate, make a business card, and start networking among successful people like doctors, CEOs and financial professionals. They often want to write books. Tip: there’s no reason you can’t have more than one coaching client at a time.
- Teaching—Don’t have a community college near you? Don’t have a teaching credential? You don’t need either! Websites like Writers.com will pay you to teach writing online. Look online at places like Writer’s Digest University and see what courses they’re not offering that you might be qualified to teach—memoir writing, ghostwriting, article writing, book proposal writing, etc. Contact the site’s operators, submit a proposal, and voila! You’re a teacher. You can also create your own online course at Udemy.com.
- Reading—Different organizations often need readers. Publishers, writers conferences, competitions, colleges…all need experienced writers to read and evaluate submissions ranging from short stories to journalistic articles to chapters from full-length manuscripts. The pay varies, but if you love to read, why not get paid for it?
- Consulting—Consulting is different from coaching. In coaching, you walk someone through the process of writing. In consulting, you counsel someone working on a project on how to do it right. So if you have experience self-publishing, you might make yourself known as a self-publishing consultant and meet with authors about getting their books properly designed, printed, distributed and marketed. If you’re a marketing copywriter, maybe you consult with in-house corporate marketing departments on how to improve their messaging. Get it? Basically, you’re trading on your expertise to swoop in and advise. And who knows—you might land some writing work because of it.
Be entrepreneurial. Don’t wait around for agents to accept you or publishers to discover you. Create your own work and opportunities.