How do you make money on the side?

by singlemomseeking on February 11, 2009

For the record, I do not pole dance after-hours — although I hear the money is good.

In this economic crisis — more than half of my direct managing editors in publishing have been laid off — I’ve gotten creative. Yes, it’s all legal, and it’s all done on my laptop. I contract for, write for, and have an incoming number of clients for whom I write and edit.

At least once a month, I receive an email from a mother out there asking me for tips about freelancing. Whether you’re freelancing as a writer, a wedding DJ, or a consultant — how do you do it?

That’s why I’ve invited my friend and fellow Seal Press author Michelle Goodman — who has been freelancing since 1992 — here to answer some questions.

Michelle’s second book, My So-Called Freelance Life, (Seal Press), is not only packed with practical tips — it is a great resource about freelancing in a down economy.

Michelle is a great cheerleader, but she also keeps it real.

“Like Rome, your big fat freelance network won’t be built in a day,” writes Michelle. “Besides, it takes a lot more than charming the pants off other indie professionals to fill your freelance dance card.”

While Michelle encourages freelancers to send out resumes blindly “a personal connection or recommendation trumps applying for a gig cold every time.”

So, talk to people. Make new friends. I also asked Michelle what the key to being a successful freelancer is:

“Talk to other freelancers to see what they know about the companies you’re working for,” Michelle says.

“Don’t let any one client dominate more than 30 percent of your schedule. If they go belly up, you still have 70 percent of your workload left.”

“Also, if you’re only offering clients one skill — such as writing, editing, designing, coding, bookkeeping, or business consulting — it’s time to broaden your horizons. Writers who also edit, design, consult, teach, or project manage are infinitely more employable than writers who only write.”


Your turn:

Do any of you freelance? What do you do?

Do you have any questions about freelancing?

If I can’t answer them, I’ll be sure to bring the expert — Michelle Goodman — here to answer them!

Be sure to check out Michelle’s blog Anti 9 to 5 Guide here.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Single Mom April 3, 2009 at 6:27 am

I work at home on the computer, writing articles and reviewing products. Pay is pretty good- especially since I can stay in my pjs when I want to….

Single Mom´s last blog post…Easy Money- over $650


kerry on February 25, 2009 at 9:04 pm

In the ‘poverty breeds creativity’ vein, I realized after Le Divorce I was going to have to support myself and I had an epiphany! Numerous friends had commented on my uncanny ability to juggle, hearth, home, parents, teens and soon to be X.
I have a background in Convention Planning for a Fortune 500 company and am used to coordinating limos, buses, florists, a huge staff, A/V guys and a host of others. I realized I was a Great Wife!
I started a business in San Francisco called “You Need a Wife- Personal Assistant”. My clients are vast and varied. I love what I am doing and I am doing what I love. Tomorrow I am going to an art conservator to pick up a painting, researching ECO organic beds, dashing through Target to get home supplies and completing an Earthquake preparedness Kit for a family of four. Last week I over saw the painters, the electrician and the window washer.
In my spare time I’m writing a book called “Sex in he City for Girls over 50”- an irreverent romp in the shallow end of the Internet Dating pool.

kerry on´s last blog post…Savvy Solutions to simplify your life


make money from blogging February 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

I dont think you can kill loneliness . May be go out and find a gf.


Joel Schwartzberg February 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm

First I’m a Divorced Dad, so I have a bit more time than your average Mommy, but still hold down both a full-time job as an Online Director for a TV newsmagazine and a writing career.

Here’s how the writing thing happened for me:

I wanted to write — and knew I could — so I asked my local small community newspaper if I could write a weekly humor column for free (expsure is everything at this stage). After reading my only two samples in the world, the managing editor agreed. A year later, I had 50 or so decent-to-not bad clips.

In the audience of the newspaper was the editor of NJ monthly, who asked me to write something for their Mother’s Day issue. I agreed immediately. BIG CLIP #1 (plus 600 clams)

Then I took a writing course through mediabistro with Sue Shapiro. My first essay for that class I later pitched to The New York Times Magazine. They bought it about a year later when it matched their cover story perfectly. And to think I would have happily sold that essay to a local newspaper for 25 bucks. Serendipity.

With those clips, my confidence grew, so I pitched my state newspaper (The Star Ledger), The New York Post, and The New York Daily News, and eventually got in all three plus I later sold a piece to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Somewhere in the middle I acted on an internal dare and bought a database of editors of regional parenting magazines (you know these paper magazines — the free kind at the library and in pediatric offices?). It cost me $75. The key is that they buy reprints happily. I’ve sold to roughly 50 of those magazines since 2007 for everywhere from $25 to $75 each. One paid me $400. It’s basically do-it-yourself syndication.

A few months ago, I looked at all I had written and thought it could be combined into a collection of essays under a central theme of parenting. Most agents and publishers told me to forget about it, but one small publisher of light mommy memoirs wanted some Dads in her roster. Again, good timing. So now “The 40-Year-Old Version” is hitting a book website near you. See: The success iof the book will fall on my aggressiveness in marketing it.

That brings me to now — still pitching magazines and newspapers. My advice would be first, to write. Don’t wait. Write now. Then, use your detective skills to get the email addresses of “article/story editors” of your favorite magazines or the “editorial editors” of your local newspapers. Then send your 600-1000 word piece and wait. Don’t submit the same piece to two at the same time, unless they accept reprints.

If you’re as good as you think you are, you can earn a little side cash and a lot of self-affirmation. Each will help you to the next sale.

Oh, and running a successful and wonderful blog helps. But Rachel knows more about that.

Good luck!

Joel Schwartzberg


SDMktg February 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I’ve been thinking about freelancing for a long time. I need to work on my web skills. I write a lot and edit photos, layouts, etc. I barely get everything done as it is though so I’m not sure where I’d find the time to work for anyone else.

SDMktg´s last blog post…Who would make a worse tailgate party guest…Christian Bale or Alec Baldwin?


How to Party with an Infant February 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Sounds great–I have no idea how to write for magazines and all that, but I’d like to. Will check it out.


Erica February 12, 2009 at 10:43 am

I’m not a good enough writer to freelance, so my money-on-the-side-job is a therapist to kids with autism. They don’t care that I write nonsense with the eraser end of a pencil up my nose.

Erica´s last blog post…Dirty Thirty & Good-bye


Amy Sue Nathan February 12, 2009 at 10:25 am

I find that many people are not forthcoming with help on freelancing because they want the work themselves. I get that, yet it makes me reluctant to do so. I don’t have enough freelance work to sustain me, so I have about 6 months and then I’m going to have to get a “real” job — if there are any. 🙁


michelle goodman February 12, 2009 at 10:18 am

Wow, great comments. Agreed that there are a lot of great books out there to help people get started freelancing. I would like to think mine if one of them. 😉

As to the question of loneliness, I agree that scheduling time out of the house is a must. Working at a co-working facility ( can help, if you can afford it. Regardless, connecting with other freelancers through web communities (mediabistro, biznik, twitter, etc) and face to face events (see the meetups) is a must.

michelle goodman´s last blog post…Reminder: San Francisco freelancing Q&A and book reading


Richsinglemomma February 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

This topic is very timely. I make money on the side as a freelance technical writer and editor. This field is pretty static because of it’s diversity and everyone needs a user manual, right?

I am also a consultant and author so I make money from the sale of my book and expertise.

My blog is focused on helping single moms learn how to make extra money too. I am in the process of monetizing through coaching, info products and ads so that will be another income stream.

Richsinglemomma´s last blog post…Single Mom’s Guide to Flying Solo on V-Day


Legal Editor Mom February 12, 2009 at 8:04 am

Like Susan, I have a full-time job which prohibits a lot of freelancing, but I still do it. I started out with only one client; a previous employer, working on an annual project for them and then various other projects for them along the way. But then I parlayed my business writing expertise into freelance writing, editing and proofreading, mostly through word of mouth, since family and friends were always asking me to help them with resumes, cover letters, business proposals and other documents, etc. A close friend now has me writing all the copy for her business’s website, I edit virtually everything she writes, and I’ve also become her speechwriter for her speaking engagements. With a small child at home it’s not easy and I’ve had to cut back a bit since having my daughter and ultimately becoming a single parent. (I’m fortunate to earn a good living at the full-time gig, but I do agree that every penny helps.) When I can, I save the $ earned from freelancing.

One thing I highly recommend is keeping any side gig totally separate from a real job; not only due to the potential conflicts, but to maintain professionalism. I have business cards, stationery, invoices, etc. for my freelance business. Finally, there are a lot of great reference books as well as online material out there to help people; my first book and one that I consult often is “How to Make $50,000 a year as a Freelancer.”


Kari February 12, 2009 at 6:49 am

Thank you for this post, I’m going to get the book freelancing is something I am seriously interested in.

Kari´s last blog post…The Good Life


judy February 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

and I forgot
8. flirt with bartenders for free drinks
9. flirt with hair dresser for great deals there


Susan February 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm

This is good info – I would like to do more freelance work, but, of course, having a full-time job (which I’m grateful to have!) makes the idea of branching into something else a bit overwhelming. Thanks for giving me more to mull over and hopefully put into action.

Susan´s last blog post…Lists and things


judy February 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

1. full-time elementary SPED teacher
2. teach one 3-credit course at University of WA
3. mentoring 2 teachers through the National Board process proof reading/editing/etc portfolios
4. Independent State trainer for mandated childcare trainings
5. Host CAbi parties so I get the 50% clothes discount (fabulous clothes)
6. Trade knitting for other things I cannot make or do but desire
7. Accept school district pleas for help in writing IEPs for other schools when necessary


John F February 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

My biz is off for sure. I have writing gigs for several travel related sites and magazines (MSNBC, TravelMuse, etc). I am also a “travel expert” for the occasional television gig–NYC is not that far from me.

I have also started a small consultancy to travel agents on marketing and CRM.

As you said, in the economy, you need to hedge your bets and every little helps.

As to the loneliness, get out, go work remotely from a coffee shop, schedule some time away from the boredom. Sort of like keeping the romance alive–schedule a date night–schedule some down and fun time for yourself.

John F´s last blog post…Kitty Snot & Poision Control


singlemomseeking February 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Kevin: You and I are going to talk skills and more — soon….

CasualEncounters: Great question! I think that is a challenge for many people.

I’m going to ask Michelle to jump in here (she’s on book tour!), but I’ll say: make sure that you DO schedule your days so that you have time with people after work.

Exercise, cook with friends, go on walks. Play with your kid.


CasualEncountersBlog February 11, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I’ve been freelancing as a webmaster for the past 10 years. I guess my question is what does one do about the constant feelings of loneliness and isolation.

CasualEncountersBlog´s last blog post…Meatballs and Sauseeg


Kevin February 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I like this post and it gives me an idea. I dont know why I havent thought of this sooner, especially with the business I’m in. Why is it that I need to read stuff created by a lady in California to know how to make money in Texas. LOL. Great post!

Kevin´s last blog post…An open letter to white hair cut establishments


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