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Supplemental income suggestions
December 30, 2013 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What type of additional services could I provide and/or part time jobs could I take to supplement my income?

The tl;dr for those who don't want to read all the other details below:

Are there either part time jobs that one can pick up that have a very flexible schedule (I can schedule when I am available or not on a week-by-week basis, perhaps not work at for months but do it at other times of the year) for $50/hour or more? What kind of training would one need for these types of jobs and what are these types of jobs?

Or are there other services that I can train myself to provide to clients (ie, train myself on InDesign or Captivate or Articulate) and are clients likely to pay for this? (As in if you were a client, what would you need to see to pay someone for this particular service and if so, what would you need to see?).

More details:

I do earn the equivalent to a full time salary for a full time job in my industry, but in actuality, I work freelance.

I've looked at my income and realized that I should start socking away 10 to 20 K more per year and I have turned away projects this year, because I get burned out (ie, people always give me the materials needed every Friday night and want it Monday, or I work for weeks and evenings on end, or I need to chase a check, etc.).

Now I do actually enjoy what I do and the services that I normally provide are along writing manuscripts for science or medical journals, which usually require reading many other journal articles, looking over data, and then writing it up of course, or attending and covering meetings given by experts in the field and summarizing the results of those meetings. I think that people are actually hiring for my background in science, not writing skills, but whatever.

A part of me really enjoys learning new things. I also crave creativity and not just digest 50 journal articles and summarize it. So this is where the desire for providing other services comes in (ie, learning new things plus possible creative plus a challenge may fight back against the burn out).

The part time job comes in because I get so burned out that I may not take any projects for weeks. But it does need to be $50/hour or more or I will significantly lose money when I have other projects.

Other skills and or training: I do have a PhD in a biological science and undergrad degrees in biology and psychology, but please let me emphasize that I don't want to do bench science at this point in my life.

I am just brainstorming at this point and will supplement this with my own research, too.

As always, thanks in advance.
posted by Wolfster to Work & Money (6 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Learn to build decks and fences.
posted by michaelh at 12:11 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Whatever happened here? I ask because something similar to your idea then is what I'd recommend for supplemental income now. Did you give it a try, pitch the idea to potential customers?

I've found that between Captivate and Articulate, Captivate pays more. However, Articulate may be more reasonable for the type of work your customers would like.
posted by Houstonian at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

$50/hr for 40hr/week is basically $100k per year. I am thinking that there are lots of PhDs in life sciences who would love to make that kind of money. Keep an eye out for part time work editing journals, perhaps?
posted by BearClaw6 at 12:49 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder if there is any kind of consulting you could do that would provide your target clients with a tangible ROI...

Fundamentally the challenge with writing is that it's not scalable. If you are not producing, you are not earning. There has got to be a way to move up the value chain where you can make use of your knowledge and insights to provide strategic advice such as revising internal processes or something.

You could also consider hiring junior writers and editors, find a bunch more work, and scale that way. The challenge of course is bookkeeping and chasing after checks.

Another thing to do is to raise your rate. $50 an hour is fairly "median" for contracting work. Maybe you could seek out larger customers with bigger budgets that pay higher? That's worked for me in the past.

Since you are creative, perhaps you should be looking more at popular science writing. I'm not sure if it particularly lucrative, but by establishing and building your "brand" you might be seeding future opportunities for consulting etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:16 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I won't be threadsitting, but I am just responding to this so that it doesn't go off track: raise your rate. $50 an hour is fairly "median" for contracting work.

My rate is actually higher, but there is down time either because someone doesn't get materials to me (for days/weeks/or even months) or I just get burned out and don't take work. The $50/hour was set up here with the idea that I don't "significantly lose money," but I could potentially still lose money. But my rationale was doing something > doing nothing during those down times.

Although, if I can bump up to another client level, this could potentially solve this problem if I raise my rate, so in the end it is/could be a possible solution.
posted by Wolfster at 1:40 PM on December 30, 2013

You could also consider hiring junior writers and editors, find a bunch more work, and scale that way. The challenge of course is bookkeeping and chasing after checks.

To kind of build on KokoRyu's answer, you could also hire a (part time?) bookkeeper and "check chaser." If these 2-day-turnarounds and weekend deadlines keep coming up, maybe those are just a part of your industry, but doing a whole bunch of work outside your "core competency" does not need to be.

In my experience, the only reason that independent professionals turn down work is because they are absolutely stuffed to the gills with their current work. If individual jobs are SO stressful that you have to take several days (or more...?) off due to "burnout," but you are not actually billing at least like 1200-1500 hours per year, then you definitely need to change your workflow to get some of the admin stuff off your plate. At least. And probably hire junior staff as well, as recommended above.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:28 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

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