I’ve written before about why most authors have to supplement their incomes with day jobs. Most writers need another source of income (and insurance, in the US) because creative writing rarely pays enough to make the rent. There are ways to finance your creative writing with other, professional writing work, but not everyone wants to write every minute of the day. Sometimes you want a job that doesn’t require you to write a word. Bonus, though, if it can somehow help your writing, even if indirectly. With that in mind, here are some ideas for part-time jobs for writers that don’t require you to write, but which may give your writing a boost regardless.
Work in a bookstore. If you work in a store, you’ll not only get discounts on reading (and research) material, you’ll have an “in” if it ever comes time to set up signings or have your work stocked in store. You may also be able to help set up some signings for other authors, giving you a bit of a networking boost. You’ll also stay in touch with what’s selling.
Work in a library. This carries the same rationales as working in a bookstore. Also, you may be able to volunteer to teach a writing class or other program.
Teach/tutor reading and writing skills. Okay, there may not be much career boost here, but you’ll feel darn good helping out in your community. That’s worth something.
Teach creative writing. Community colleges, extension programs, and library programs all offer a chance to teach creative writing, usually without an MFA or degree in creative writing. If you have such a degree, you might be able to teach at a university. Teaching others often teaches you new things. Through discussion and sharing work, you may see ideas and techniques you never considered before.
Freelance editing/proofreading. Correcting other’s writing isn’t really writing, but it can help you network with other editors and authors.
Cover design. If you have an artistic bent, you can become a star cover designer. You’ll get to network with other authors, and possibly publishers. If you decide to self-publish you own work, you’ll have a better understanding of current trends and save yourself some money by doing your own cover.
Literary consultant. I had no idea, but these people advise new/aspiring writers on the ins and outs of publishing and self-publishing. As you’re learning things for yourself, you can share that knowledge with others.
Website/graphic designer/book trailer producer for authors. Authors need websites and things like promotional graphics, book trailers, and help setting up podcasts. If you have skills in these areas, you can be useful to authors and publishers who need them.
Personal assistant for authors. Authors often need people to handle their social media, promotions, marketing, and other things so they can actually write. You’d help with the ancillary chores while the author gets on with the writing. It can expose you to other authors, publishers, agents, and you’ll see the “best practices” for the industry.
Anything in retail/food service. While not related to writing specifically, such jobs give you a great opportunity to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations, all potential fodder for your work.
The “other” arts. If you are skilled in anything such as painting, drawing, dance, music, etc., consider teaching or working in the field. The arts serve to nourish your general creativity which in turn feeds your writing. If you’ve got the skills, find a way to monetize them.
Whatever your characters do. Within reason, do the work your characters do so you can write authentically. Okay, if you write medical thrillers you might not be able to be a surgeon. And you may not be able to be an astronaut if you write sci-fi. But if you write cozy mysteries about a man who works in an antique shop, you can probably find work in… an antique shop. If your main character is an actress, you can probably find work in a theater. Maybe not starring on stage, but you can get close to the action by selling tickets or concessions, or working on the set/costume crew if you have those skills. Think about what your characters do and see if you can parlay that into work for yourself.
Manual labor. Manual labor is great at freeing your brain so it can work on other problems. That’s not to say manual labor is brainless or that you don’t need to pay attention. It’s not, and you do. But manual labor often gets you out of your head enough that your subconscious can work on other problems. You know how you sometimes get great ideas while gardening, painting a room, or mowing the grass? You can get the same feelings when you do such tasks as a side gig.
Warehouse work. If you’re physically able, you can load trucks and sling packages for services like UPS. You can also stock store shelves overnight. Like manual labor, it leaves your brain free, and you won’t have to do a workout later!
Drive. Drive for Uber or Lyft, or try food delivery. If you have the credentials, look into driving a truck or a school bus. You’ll hear lots of stories and leave your subconscious to work on your writing problems while you drive. Plus, who knows who you might meet!
Jobs that leave you time to write on-shift. If you want to sort-of work and sort-of write at the same time, look for jobs that don’t mind if you write during downtimes on your shift. I worked plenty of temporary office gigs where I could do what I wanted between phone calls. I’ve also worked late night service jobs where I only had to tend to a customer or two and could do what I wanted between customers. Just make sure the boss is cool with you using your downtime in such a way. You’ll make money and get some work done, too.
There are benefits to part-time work that doesn’t require you to write, just like there are benefits to working in other writing disciplines in order to finance your creative work. There’s no “best way.” It’s about what you want to do to bring in extra cash while you wait for your creative career to take off.
(Image by Gerd Altmann)