Side Gigs for Writers and How I Doubled My Income Last Year

When I finished graduate school in December 2016, I told myself that I was going to sit down and write my way out of my parent’s house. I barely made $15k that year.

Come the end of 2018, I made around $31k.

During the first half of last year, I saw how meager my earnings where and prayed to the writing gods that I would make a least $25k from my interning and freelancing. They came though and made sure that I doubled my income. Even though I didn’t make a whole lot of money, I still significantly increased my income and expanded my “clientele” for the year.

Here’s where the money came from:

  • I pitched and wrote several freelance articles a month. Payment can range from $25 to even $600. The hourly rates for this have varied greatly.
  • I was a production intern at WNYC Studios and later on a social media intern at Democracy Now! The first paid around $12 an hour, the next one paid $15 an hour.
  • I wrote posts on different platforms, including Medium. Some months I made $30, and one month I made up to $250.
  • I edited and helped do production for a variety of podcasts. Work like this has ranged from $15 to $25 an hour.
  • I worked on some content writing on the side for different clients. The pay has ranged from $20 to $60 an hour.
  • I translated audio from Spanish to English and transcribed different bits of audio. Work like this has ranged from $1.25 per minute of audio to $3.50 per minute.

Overall, I’ve done a lot of different things to make money. The cost of living has shot up in my city, and media is going through yet another slew of layoffs, so I had to get work where I could get it. And it taught me that if I had relied mostly on writing, like I did in 2017, I wouldn’t get anywhere. I started speaking to different freelancers who seemed to be making a decent living and asked for some advice.

One writer on Twitter told me to use my language skills. As a Latina growing up in the United States, I’m part of the 20 something percent of Americans who can actually speak a second language. I’ve started using that as part of my audio transcribing and it has helped me make enough money to outsource some of my transcription and still come out on top. These transcribing gigs aren’t always available and I get them through trolling different radio list-serves.

Another writer told me to consider writing for different publications. When I first started writing, I only really knew how to write local news. I didn’t know much about policy or digital magazines or content writing. All I had heard were horror stories about content farms that paid $10 an hour, so I was even afraid to approach that. I eventually found a few places that pay more than $15 an hour for working on different posts. They make it easier to hold out on different reporting paychecks and a lot of the posts take little reporting and research since some clients give you all the materials needed for the content. It’s a good way to write without feeling too burned out from reporting.

My goal for 2019 is to work on getting higher paying gigs, write more essays, and expand my newsletter. More content writing is definitely a goal, because it does pay more per hour than journalism does and can support more longterm journalism projects. At the end of the day (and at the end of the year), the fact that many of us are able to make some sort of a living remotely with our laptops is a damn miracle.

We get to have fun with at least some of our assignments and we’re paying out bills. I’m glad I get to live off doing something that I really enjoy and I hope other writers feel that way too when they meet some of their financial goals.

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