Getting Creative When It’s Time to Pay the Bills

Today, I have the pleasure of lending the controls to Steph Auteri. She takes creative entrepreneurship to whole new levels and has some great thoughts on diversification…and what to do with your paychecks after you earn them.

I’m assuming you’re here because you’re the entrepreneurial sort. The sort who brings in the bucks doing something you love… something fun… something that allows you to access your more creative side. That’s fantastic. It’s why I’m here, too.

But what happens when that thing you do — that thing you do so well — doesn’t pay the bills?

For me, the answer was to diversify. After all, I loved juggling a variety of projects. It made me feel safer to stop relying on one type of client. And I didn’t want to put on pantyhose and go back to the corporate workforce. Now I write about sex. I coach other freelance writers. I sing the occasional funeral mass. I dabble in ghostwriting. And then I roll around naked in my paychecks before blowing it all on Etsy.

So how do you know which areas to diversify into?

First, ask yourself: What do I love to do in my spare time? Where do my talents lie? What have been my greatest achievements? What do I daydream about doing? What do I want to be remembered for?

Use the answers to these questions as jumping-off points. How can you turn your hobby into a business?

Consider the ways in which various interests can overlap. I love my cats in a way that borders on the insane, and I also love writing. Because of that, I should probably be pitching Cat Fancy, and similar publications. Could you possibly tap into one interest by using another skill?

Then, draw up a list of all the possibilities.

This can be the toughest part, so I’m going to present you with a list, just to start you off. You’re welcome.

1. Copy Editing and Other Torturous Activities:
I often neglect my copy editing background to focus on the work I enjoy the most: writing fluff and/or personal essays. But sometimes, I suck it up and do some of the tedious stuff available in the publishing industry. There’s copy editing and proofreading. There’s fact checking and transcribing (ugh). There’s corporate copywriting and ghostwriting. They may not be as much fun, but they usually bring in more money.

2. Coaching/Consulting:
When my husband suggested I do consulting work for one of his clients (who was a complete novice to blogging), I laughed at him. Then I got my coaching certification and began coaching other word nerds. Do you have knowledge or experience that could prove valuable to others? Share the wealth!

3. Teaching:
Like consulting, teaching can be a means to share your knowledge with those desperate for information. If you’re not interested in becoming part of a larger institution, there are other options, including online courses and industry-specific conferences.

4. Try Something Else Entirely:
No one says you have to focus all your efforts on one industry. Looking to mix things up? Use your imagination (and tap into your side hobbies)! You could be a wedding singer. You could teach hula hooping, belly dancing, or yoga. You could lead photo walks. You could start a catering business on the side. You could learn massage therapy, or even do bartending in the evenings. What I love about side jobs like these is that they can provide inspiration for your main endeavor.

5. Part-Time or Permalance It:
There’s no shame in taking on a regular gig in order to collect a steady paycheck. Finding that perfect balance of multiple income streams looks different for everyone. I’ve done permalance gigs several times since going full-time freelance: as a copy editor for a daily newspaper; as a blog manager at an online magazine; as an editor at another online publication. The regular paycheck was nice, but that wasn’t the only benefit. These gigs also opened doors for me, and gave me experiences I may not have found on my own.

Your career will shift many times over the course of your life. Industries will shrink and grow. Your goals and passions will change. You’ll lose clients, but then find new opportunities around the very next corner.
Diversifying will help you navigate your way safely through these ups and downs, yes. But exploring new options will also teach you to roll with the punches. And that’s an important skill to have.

Steph Auteri is a freelance writer, editor, and career coach, and she would be totally down with helping you find your own, perfect income balance. Join her mailing list to receive a free copy of Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit, an e-workbook containing the five worksheets necessary to jumpstart a freelance writing career.

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