Monday, June 11, 2012

Writer on a Budget: Earn Extra Income During the Recession Part 1

I’ve been thinking about writing a new series of posts called “writer on a budget” with tips on how to save money and make money as a freelance writer during the recession. Then I heard President Obama say the “private sector is doing fine.” The private sector and small businesses aren’t doing fine in the Hudson Valley, in my opinion. I would not choose those words for our local economy, as that implies some sort of economic health or rebound that just isn’t there.

Consider the very high rents in the Hudson Valley, the foreclosures, boarded up storefronts, lack of jobs with good salaries and desirable benefits, and the rising costs of everything. This has lingered on for such a long time; there are many hungry and homeless here. One of our more affluent areas upstate was asking for contributions because of overwhelming need at a food pantry; economic hardship is everywhere.

As for the public sector, I just heard that a respected local agency that helps senior citizens is shutting its doors after many years due to loss of funding, and this will be another blow for our community. I was surprised and saddened by this news.

So even if some indicators on paper like studies or statistics say things are looking up, in a very visceral sense on the ground here in upstate NY, things don’t feel that much better. That got me thinking about clever and resourceful ways that writers (or anyone else) can generate some quick cash or start a small home business to earn extra money during the recession. In such troubled times, every little bit helps!

And the money generated by a second job or a side business may be just what is needed to help writers over financial rough spots so they can keep on freelance writing. With this in mind I offer a few money-making ideas:

General Transcription

I like to browse a site called; I believe there is a fee to join but I haven’t signed up yet. I look at the listings posted there to see what kinds of freelance jobs might be available in categories like writing, blogging and web design. A job category jumped out at me one day when I was looking over the field of transcription. I always thought of transcription as very specialized, such as medical transcription or legal transcription that requires advanced skills and certification.

But there are also lots of jobs in general transcription, which is easier to learn and doesn’t require special training, just good typing skills and the ability to accurately transcribe audio files. For more about general transcription, simply do an internet search for the term "how to learn transcription" to find some free resources about this type of work. In my opinion, freelance transcription could be a great source of additional income for freelance writers.

Social Media and Internet Marketing

If you’ve been working as a content writer, you’ve probably learned about SEO (search engine optimization), internet marketing and social media strategy. Online writers are usually experienced in promoting articles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and optimizing articles for search engines. SMO (social media optimization) is hot right now, and scanning the online job boards, you’ll often see postings for positions like “social media strategist” or “social media marketer.” (Could SMO be the new SEO, like pink is the new black?)

If you’re not an expert on social media, become one through research, as there are lots of online resources to boost your skills. When looking for this type of work, it is vital to demonstrate your expertise with sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Then market your skills to earn extra money by helping businesses and individuals with their social media strategies.

Start a Service Based Business

Dog walking, pet sitting, cake baking, house painting, sewing and alterations are all great ideas for a home based service oriented business. I saw an ad on Craigslist for a dog walker offering $15 to $20 for each visit to the house to pick up and walk the dog, every other day! With a background in dog training or veterinary tech, you could earn higher rates, and possibly combine dog walking with pet sitting or house sitting services.

If you are enterprising and have a special skill, you can definitely earn extra cash by scanning places like Craigslist or placing an ad. Write a blog or put up a website that advertises your services, your rates and experience. Other work from home options include tutoring kids and adults in literacy, ESL, or prep for standardized testing like the SAT exams.

Busking and Performing

Do you have musical or performance skills? Summer weekends in the Hudson Valley, I see street performers (or “buskers”) in local parks, on street corners or wherever people gather. Ostensibly, they are performing for “free” but they usually have an open guitar case, a hat or jar available to gather cash tips from the crowd. If you’ve ever been to NYC, you’ve probably seen some entertainers busking in places like the subway or Central Park. Before busking, it’s important to check with your local city or town to see if there are any necessary permits required for street performers in your area.

After you’ve been busking a while, why not try getting some paying gigs? If you are a singer/songwriter, put an act together and team up with some musician friends to land paying musical work. People love to hear “oldies” and classic tunes, so cover bands are always popular. Summer is an ideal time for playing at weddings and outdoor musical events like picnics, fairs and festivals. I like to scan Craigslist for freelance jobs, and I spotted an ad looking to hire a singer/guitarist to sing some mellow tunes and entertain the crowd for a few hours at a dinner the night before a wedding. If you have musical skills, you can definitely pick up some work like this that will help supplement your freelance writing income.

There are many possibilities to generate some extra income as a performer. If you like art and are good with children, there are gigs out there as face painters, children’s entertainers and so forth. Over the past few years, I’ve become interested in storytelling, and I’ve learned that some writers and performers market their services as professional storytellers for fairs, festivals and events. You can even find “tellers” at your local farmer’s market on the weekends. I’ve written a couple of pieces I think would be great for storytelling; this summer, I’m getting my “act” together! I plan to perform for fun and experience, but eventually I plan to charge a fee for my storytelling expertise.

These are a few ideas to stimulate your thinking about ways to earn extra cash to supplement your freelance writing during lean times. I’ll be back with some more money-making ideas in a future post.