The Staple Work

What a difference a day makes.

We live in a world where medicines made to cure us make us feel worse. Once one of the antibiotics I’d been taking wore off, I felt infinitely better. Not 100 percent because now I have to wait out the medicine’s effects on the body, but better. If the soreness in the stomach clears up, I’ll be home free. Hopefully.

Rest? What is that exactly? I did take it much slower yesterday, but things usually conspire against our plans, don’t they? Once my own medicinal fog cleared up, I realized just how sick Daughter was. She’d not eaten – and not mentioned it – for days. She was hit with an intestinal virus last Friday. Yesterday, she was in the ER making sure that’s all it was. Luckily, yes. Now to get her eating again.

I was talking over parts of my career with my husband. There were times when I had steady clients who didn’t pay terrifically, but were guaranteed paychecks. Not the $5-an-article work, but definitely work that required a bit more effort than the amount I was paid. I was content with it and happy for a steady paycheck.

We can’t always make top dollar at what we do, especially when we need to pay bills. So we negotiate situations that are acceptable for whatever reason — valid reasons, too. Plenty of content mill folks have said they did it for the steady check. While I disagree with feeding into that business model, I understand the thought process. We need money, and the promise of steady money appeals in almost every form. Almost.

That’s where a little legwork can ramp up your earnings and help you capture some of what I call “staple” income –the stuff that helps you pay the phone bill and doesn’t take too much of your time to do. If you’re searching for some staple work, try some of these:

Blog posts. Be discriminating here. Too many jobs exist that require 300-700 words for $10-25 per piece. Instead, aim higher. Go for that blogging gig that pays over $50 per small post. If they start tacking on requirements, like 700 words minimum or for XX numbers of keywords and YY links and expert interviews, skip it.

Resumes. I made a small fortune for a few years writing resumes for a resume company. The pay at the time was good, and yes, the work was challenging. Some companies will pay $60 per resume and maybe $15 per cover letter. Not super rates, but once you get up to speed on how to do it, you can put out a nice resume/cover in just over an hour. Not ideal earnings, but when that check comes for $1,200 or better (one month I earned close to $2,500), it’s hard to discount it completely.

Proofreading. I had a client once that paid me $15 to proofread resumes. It was a ten-minute job at best, and it was infinitely more fun than putting an entire resume together from scratch. Other proofreading possibilities — blog posts, corporate mailers, catalogs….

Social media posting. I’ve yet to score a gig promoting a company via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but a current client project is giving me that experience, so this may be on the portfolio soon. Not sure what rates would be fair, but for me, I’d charge my hourly fee.

What staple work has given you a steady income?

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  • Kimberly Ben March 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Great list of ideas, Lori. Blog posts, resumes and a monthly contributor gig for a small, niche magazine are a few of my long-stretch staple projects.

  • Paula March 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I also do a semi-regular column for a local paper. Pay isn't great at a small weekly paper, but one column pays multiple times more than you'd get for a content mill. They tend to pay really fast, too.

    Now that I'm beginning to figure out Twitter a bit more, I'd love to branch into social media promotion. My first start may be voluntary – I want to set up a Twitter account for my neighborhood group. If they don't want an official account, I might just start an unofficial one of my own. Seriously, who knows the neighborhood better than someone who's lived in it her entire life? If I manage that well, perhaps I can leverage it to get some paying Twitter gigs. Ditto for the blog. (I already have one client in mind that I would love to run a blog for! First I need to prove I can do it.)

    Glad you're feeling better, Lori. I hope your daughter is well soon, too.

  • Wade Finnegan March 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Man, sickness is rampant everywhere. Disinfect all surfaces!

    There are so many avenues that a writer can go. The message I've received from Lori (finally) is to get paid what you're worth. Fluctuations in pay are fine, but don't take something just because it is something. We have a talent and that talent is worth fair compensation, and there are decent paying gigs if you search.

    Glad you're feeling better Lori. 🙂

  • AnnaLisa March 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I agree with Kimberly and Paula, the smaller pubs don't pay much, but they're real gems. I do a couple columns a month for a hyperlocal newspaper. I write for the food page. Since I have a family to feed and love to cook, the columns don't feel much like work. Add to that my opinion that the editor is the nicest guy in the world to work for, and it all makes the small pay more than worthwhile. (Bonus: Food makes for fun portfolio clips!)