Freelancing: Thoughts on Scalzi’s “You’re not fooling anyone

when you take your laptop into the coffeeshop.”

Now available for Kindle!  Or, you know, by clicking the “writing” tag on his blog.  Something like that.  Basically it’s a collection of his posts on writing up to 2006.  An entertaining read of short essays that are also blog posts.

What I got out of reading this book is that I could totally become a free-lance writer.  I have the skill-set.  I could go through the build-up process.  I can handle frequent rejection (after all, I am an academic).  I have no problem with thinking my writing is precious and uneditable.  I even have a few contacts I could tap.

But… I really don’t want to.  I just don’t think the amount of effort is worthwhile for me right now.  I just like my current job more.

I do do some free-lance writing, but only when it falls into my lap and is related to my research area.  Right now my time is too precious to seek out additional opportunities or to build up my portfolio for less than what I make now with my infrequent policy briefs and news articles and etc.  (Though, I did have to chuckle when Scalzi said that the NYTimes gets away with having people like me write for them for free in exchange for the prestige… because the NYTimes has done exactly that with me!  On an incredibly short deadline too.  Laura Vanderkam would not be impressed.  But hey, my department liked me having the byline.)

And I could be more like Betsy Stevenson (who is one of my personal heroes) and be a public academic for my area of research expertise, but I fear that would require having twitter and there’s other stuff I’d rather do with my time.

So I dunno, maybe if I go through a career crisis and we move to the SF bay area… but not any time soon.

p.s.  We were an editor’s pick in this week’s carnival of personal finance!

Have you ever thought about doing a second job but decided it wasn’t worth the time and effort?

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22 Responses to “Freelancing: Thoughts on Scalzi’s “You’re not fooling anyone”

  1. Leah Says:

    All the time. But I value my free time. I make nothing student teaching, and I made very little as a teaching assistant at this university (I really miss my R1 TA money). I could have gotten another job as a TA, and maybe I should have — I wouldn’t have had to take out loans for my education that way. But weekends were the only time to see my now-husband, and I was taking 18 credits and being a TA. I spent my time studying or relaxing instead. My only second jobs are all intermittent work that I can turn down if I’m too tired or busy.

    Then again, I have had times in the past where I did work 70+ hours a week at two or more jobs, so I think it balances out.

  2. Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) Says:

    I think about this all the time, too. Laura Vanderkam’s books made me give up the idea of writing one of my own. I could do it, but man, that just seems like so much work to research and edit, and edit again.

    If I want more money, I have the option to go back to working full time in my current job, which actually opens up a lot more options for me as far as which positions I could take. I’m not ready to go there yet, but like having it in my back pocket.

    I wrote a post a couple of days ago about how I had high hopes for making money from my blog. That hasn’t worked out so well :)
    http://houseofpeanut.blogspot.com/2012/04/now-i-can-get-that-chai.html

    I think the bottom line is that I *like* my “day job” and thus far, it’s more lucrative than anything else I could do “on the side”.

    • Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

      Hmmm…. I’m not sure I like the idea of one of my books convincing someone to “give up the idea of writing one.” Yikes! I certainly don’t think *everyone* should write a book. But someone who blogs close to daily could probably write a book. There are also a ton of crappy books out there. No need to set the bar too high!

  3. Belle Says:

    Oh yes. Not writing, which I never want to turn into a job, but doing other stuff. I’d have snatched it up too, when I was struggling with bills and stress – I had time, no money, so I’d have loved easing some of that stress. Luckily (in hindsight) I couldn’t get the gigs – my education got in the way. But now that I have some financial security, I want more down time, not less. And it’s filled with good stuff – reading, thinking, gardening, playing with the pups, painting, stuff like that.

  4. Cloud Says:

    I’m actually considering doing some work on the side, but more as a way to transition to doing something different than because of the extra income. Or maybe I just need more than one thing going at any given time. My problem is that nothing I’ve considered can come close to replacing my real income in the short to medium term. So I’m pondering what I want to do and keeping the other ideas on the side. I’ve got a post forming on this topic, actually. Sometimes, writing up a post helps me think through what I want to do, so I think I’ll give it a try.

  5. becca Says:

    I actually really would like to do a second job- mostly because I find the insecurity of postdocing in biomedical sciences a bit terrifying. I feel like it’s the same as investing all your retirement money in your company’s 401k- it’s just not diversified enough to be sensible.
    But either I have few skills (other than industrial grade snark, which is hard to make a living with), or I’m bad at seeing how to get paid for them. Because I can’t think of anything I could do that can be done ‘on the side’.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, you could read Scalzi’s book on freelance writing… He provides a how-to guide. (Step 1: Buy Writer’s Market.)

      • becca Says:

        Oh come on! You’ve been reading my comments long enough to know that I write barely literate gibberish. I mean, maybe I could do better for money, but who knows? Plus, I have *issues* with creative work and deadlines.
        I could probably freelance *edit* for some science type stuff, because there’s a lot of non-native English speakers for whom even my wonky writing style would be a step up. But I’ve talked to someone who does that, and it’s somewhat hard to convince people they need that service, given the stuff that does actually get published.

  6. Alyssa Says:

    Definitely! I’ve actually had this idea working in my head for the last year or so. It’s something that I would like to start on the side, so I don’t have to stress about the income, and then gradually make it into a full-time thing. Recent happenings with my job (http://mrscomethunter.blogspot.ca/2012/04/plan-for-worst-hope-for-best.html) have motivated me to look into it a bit more seriously.

  7. bogart Says:

    Interesting question. Someone just offered to pay me to ride her horse over part of the summer, and I may accept. She won’t pay me “enough,” except that since riding (in general) is something I want to be doing for free anyway, anything more than zero can be a win (true only after subtracting costs associated with interactions involving crazy horses and/or owners, and the inconvenience of being committed as opposed to footloose).

    I enjoy teaching, and there’s stuff I could and have taught over the years for pay, but again, rarely enough. $ to be interesting other than the inherent pleasure involved (when applicable, and obviously the gig matters a lot. I could probably move into some (real) freelancing in this role, but … eh. Occasional is fun, committed gets tedious.

  8. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    When I was a post-doc, I had a second professional jobbe that I really enjoyed. I only gave it uppe when I took a faculty position.

    I have recently begun serving as a visiting scientist at another institution, where I have a small lab with two supported post-docs and substantial provided technical support and research infrastructure. I don’t get any salary support myself for this, but the resources I am provided–especially the salaries of the post-docs and the in-house intellectual capital–create a huge leverage for me scientifically.

    My experience has always been that my total capacity for creative output is greater when it is divided between multiple professional/academic contexts like when I was a post-doc and now, as compared to deploying it monolithically.

  9. myscientificlife Says:

    I’ve thought about tutoring part time or working my retail job part time during grad school, though I haven’t decided either way. I’m one of those people who isn’t happy until they are too busy to sleep. Also, the thought of possibly paying off my school debt sooner is really appealing.

    • Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) Says:

      I used to tutor SAT prep for Princeton Review during grad school and it was great money and super-flexible because I ended up with private tutoring students rather than teaching a regular class. Through that gig I also ended up with some private tutoring students independently and that was even more cash, for 1-2 hours a week, which was totally manageable.

  10. femmefrugality Says:

    I do a little bit. But not a whole bunch. I’d love to read that piece you did for the NYTimes! I’m not a tweeter, either. Everyone’s trying to get me to join. I may after this semester’s over. But we’ll see.

  11. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I think I’d really like freelance but I’m not sure how it works at all and it sort of intimidates me.

  12. Funny about Money Says:

    Oh, my dear! Please…do not do what I have done / In the House of the Rising Sun!!!

  13. Z Says:

    I do have a second job – I rent out the extra bedroom to tourists. I charge $70-$95 so without having it occupied all the time I make as much as I would renting it out longer term, and I pick up their fun vibe, and I don´t have roommate issues. Came up with this to help with the 2008 crash and no more raises at U, but now I wouldn´t not do it – it is easy, fun, rewarding.


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