A no-fluff overview of where the money came from
Before you roll your eyes, let me unequivocally say: I, too, hate articles that, despite their window-dressing, are nothing more than efforts to brag about earnings or to slyly promote a product or service.
That’s not what this piece is about.
Instead, I simply want to explain how an unemployed graduate student—Hi, that’s me—managed to earn over $8000 last month.
My only goal is to demonstrate that it’s possible—which doesn’t mean it’s easy or predictable—to generate this kind of income without a job (and without resorting to nefarious activities).
Virtually anybody with an Internet connection, enough free time to learn/sharpen certain skills, and a strong will can do the same things I’m doing.
Having said that, I am indeed a white, middle-class, university-educated, and child-free male who benefits from the various sorts of privilege attendant upon those realities.
Not everyone is lucky enough to work as a freelancer (nor, incidentally, to experience the stress and financial volatility that come along with it).
As with all other aspects of life, the labour market isn’t rooted in fairness.
Yet, there are endless stories of people from all variety of structural position figuring out how to succeed doing non-traditional types of work.
My experience is simply one such narrative.
For the record, I’m a Doctoral Candidate in the thesis-writing stage of my degree.
I don’t have a teaching assistantship contract at my university, nor I am formally employed there or anywhere else.
The closest thing I have to a 9–5 job is a position as a substitute teacher at the local elementary school; but I’m free to take or decline shifts on a case-by-case basis as I see fit.
I work as a freelancer: I coach writers, edit documents, publish stories online, ghostwrite content for clients, and earn income from affiliate links connected to one of my passion projects.
Freelancing doesn’t provide job security or medical/dental benefits, and the money I earn is pre-tax revenue; these are all obstacles and sources of anxiety (fortunately, we have socialized medicine here in Canada).
Despite these drawbacks, freelancing allows me to work my own hours, set my own rates, choose my own clients, and depend entirely on my own skills and work ethic (rather than be at the mercy of other people).
It also makes it so I can work from the comfort of my own home; I don’t think I could ever work in an office—it’s just not for me.
I earned $8059.50 last month; here’s an overview of my four sources of income.
November was an unusually successful month for me in terms of the money I made writing for the Medium Partner Program.
By the end of the month, the story had garnered:
- 211k views;
- 1859 hours of reading time;
- 23k+ claps;
- 4500+ fans; and
- Nearly 100 comments.
Implausible as it may sound, I didn’t do anything special or out of the ordinary to make the story go viral.
I simply tried to write a decent article about an experience I had with a former girlfriend, submitted the piece to P.S. I Love You, and waited for it to be published.
I didn’t call in any personal favours or anything of the sort; and I barely had 2000 followers when the story was published.
What I learned from this experience is that virtually anybody who can write well can go viral on this platform.
I published eight other stories during November; collectively, they brought in about $403 in earnings.
As you’d expect, the success of my earlier piece encouraged me to double-down on my writing, so I finished off the last week of the month by publishing a new article every second day or so.
Aside from the fact that I get to earn money doing what I love, i.e., writing about interesting ideas and experiences, making money on Medium is very attractive to me because, in general:
- The more you write, the more you earn (especially as your fanbase grows); and
- The stories you publish often continue to earn money day after day (which is highly encouraging from a psychological standpoint).
Here’s my advice on how to write articles people actually want to read and how to succeed on this platform.
Working as a substitute teacher at the local elementary school is the closest thing I have to a ‘real job’.
Some weeks, I’ll work four to five days per week; other weeks, I won’t have a single shift.
November wasn’t particularly busy for me at the school: I worked around a dozen shifts in total.
In many areas of Canada, a substitute teacher must be a graduate of a teacher education program; luckily, that’s not the case where I live (I don’t have a degree in teaching).
Working as a supply teacher is great for me, especially because I’ve developed professional relationships with a number of the teachers at the school and I’ve come to know the student body well over the past several years.
Having said that, the pay, whilst better than many other jobs, isn’t anything to write home about.
If you’re looking to get regular work as a supply teacher, my advice is to:
- Make yourself available as often as possible and never turn down shifts;
- Show up on time each time you work;
- Make friends with the teachers at the school (teachers often request that certain supply teachers fill in whenever the former are away);
- Always treat the students with respect but be firm with them; and
- Be extra nice to the administrative personnel who book substitute teachers 😉
I’m going to keep this section brief and vague because I prefer to maintain a strict separation between certain aspects of my life.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed a strong interest in the art of asset trading (forex, cryptocurrency, etc.), and I’ve spent endless hours teaching myself about certain trading strategies.
I’ve been steadily growing my social media presence in this space, creating high-quality trading tutorials and giving them away for free.
I’m a member of an affiliate program run by a certain online trading service.
Whenever somebody signs up for the service through my affiliate link, I receive a tiny bit of commission based on the amount of trading the person does.
So, each time I create a new piece of content, I include the affiliate link for readers/viewers to see.
In November, I earned just over $400 from my affiliate link.
(The money I earn from trading as such, which isn’t much, is dealt with separately.)
The key takeaway for me is that I’ve successfully managed to turn a passion for trading—something with which I was completely unfamiliar just a couple of years ago—into a small but consistent money-making opportunity.
Some days I make over $100; other days, I don’t make a cent.
Anybody can do this sort of work: just spend thousands of hours reading and watching videos about your passion and then create the best content you can for your audience for free; then, very slowly, start to earn money via an affiliate program.
In case you missed my sarcasm there, the ROI is terrible—at least at the beginning.
Like anything else, however, the more effort you put into it, the more successful you’ll be.
Some folks are earning five figures each money doing what I’m doing.
One can dream…
I earned significantly less money working as a freelance editor, coach, and ghostwriter in November than I usually do.
This is so for several reasons:
- I focused a lot more on my own writing than I did in recent months, especially after I wrote a viral article on Medium;
- I engaged in less marketing/outreach than I often do—for one, because I’m set to start working with a new premium client very soon; and
- A few of my previous editing clients have improved so much as writers that they require my services less often than they did before, which is rewarding for me from a coaching perspective but also unfortunate from a financial standpoint.
Some months, I earn thousands of dollars doing freelance editing, coaching, and ghostwriting; other months, I earn significantly less.
Often, it’s a question of how much I want (need) to hustle to land new clients or to reactivate former ones.
On the one hand, I’ve spent more than 10 years learning how to think and write at university; on the other hand, there are more free critical thinking and writing-focused resources on the Internet today than any one person could ever consume.
If you have a decent command of the English language, a passion for writing, and a desire to help others, there are many ways to transform your love for words into dollars earned (start here and here).
Still, they’re proof positive that it’s possible to earn decent money without having to rely on a traditional 9–5 job.
Working as a freelancer often brings with it a lot of uncertainty as well as feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and even envy.
Writers and other creative types are prone to experiencing money-related stress, battles with Imposter Syndrome, and angst about the future.
This, I believe, is the price we often have to pay—at least for a certain period of time—for rejecting the conventional paths of the labour market and deciding to try to make our own ways through life.
It’s possible I’ll end up doing some sort of ‘regular’ corporate gig at some point in my life—it would be arrogant of me to rule it out.
For the time being, though, I see no path other than that of an independent artist/freelancer/hustler/whatever you want to call it.
Like many other people, I want to earn a living according to my own rules and whilst doing things I enjoy.
Over the past 30 days, I managed to stay afloat by:
- Publishing stories on Medium;
- Supply teaching at the local elementary school;
- Earning affiliate commissions through content I create; and
- Coaching writers and editing their work.
If anything, I hope this article evidences something my father never tires of saying to me:
Nobody is going to give you anything in this life. If you want something, you have to go out and get it for yourself.
Happy hustling! 🍻