Useful or useless talent?
November 26, 2018 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I am very good at taking a poem or song and re-writing it to be about something else. I am also generally good at writing humorous poems in a set form (sonnets, limericks, etc.) People over the years have told me, "You should do this for a living!" So, uh... is this a thing I could do for a living? If so, how? Etsy shop for custom poems? Advertising? Jingle writer?

Bonus points for specific, concrete advice about how to turn this thing I enjoy & am good at into a paying gig.
posted by coppermoss to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Weird Al has made a living out of this very skill set, I think :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:23 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Jingles are not very common in advertising any more. In twenty years, I think I've only had to write a jingle three times, so the odds that you'll be able to turn it into a full time job in that capacity are slim at best.

Also, being able to write humorous lyrics is one thing. Being able to work them in with a very specific set of criteria from a client is another thing altogether. (Mention the name of the product! And that it cleans, disinfects and waxes! Don't forget our slogan! And make it funny in less than 30 seconds with our disclaimer in it as well! Then legal or the client change one word/line and none of it works and you have to start again.) So while I think it's a great skill to have, you might have better luck writing your own songs or poetry.
posted by Jubey at 4:35 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sadly no, there is very little money to be made in this, but trying to get it out into the world will probably make you better at it, and you'll probably feel pretty good about yourself in doing so.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:45 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

In the vein of Weird Al, Tim Minchin and Flight of the Concord have made a good career out of funny songs and lyrics. That's another avenue you could follow.
posted by Jubey at 4:55 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Being able to write well is not a useless talent. It's just a challenge trying to find customers who will pay for it. But they're out there, and if you're good (and if you're responsive and not a flake and are easy to work with) you will have no competition.
posted by JamesBay at 5:20 PM on November 26, 2018

If you're good at writing your lyrics on the spot, you can make money busking. There are buskers who write flash fiction on request, and there's a Whose Line is it Anyway game where the performers improvise a song about a random audience member's job, so you could do something similar.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:20 PM on November 26, 2018

You probably can't do much with that one skill in the field of advertising, but it suggests that you have a quick mind, good vocabulary, innate sense of euphonious phrasing... copywriting, if not jingle-writing, could be a calling.
posted by mumkin at 5:23 PM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would go to fiverr to find someone to write a funny song for a birthday or other informal event. Not a living but might work as a side hustle.
posted by metahawk at 6:10 PM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Addendum to the busking suggestion: it doesn't have to be on the street. You could livestream yourself and take donations. Just be wary of trolls trying to weaponize you.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 6:40 PM on November 26, 2018

It seems worth noting that under U.S. copyright law some parodies can qualify as “fair use” on a case-by-case basis. So perhaps one way of making money is by supplying parodies of things in lieu of licensing the original. (Though I assume you'd need legal insight to make sure you aren't treading beyond fair use.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:04 PM on November 26, 2018

Start a Twitter account. Match up your writing with really eclectic imagery (like bad stock photos or public domain illustrations). Get 10K followers and then monetize it all through Etsy or publish as a book. Good luck!
posted by johnxlibris at 10:15 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Randy Rainbow must be getting some kind of ad revenue, you could look at that model and consider if you'd want to make videos featuring your parodies, or write them for someone who makes videos.

No idea who writes their lyrics but you could look into Capitol Steps and see if they solicit submissions.

This doesn't make money for you, but Gridiron Clubs around the U.S. have annual events which feature satirical music - for my local club this is a fundraiser for a journalism scholarship. Volunteers write the parody lyrics to be performed. If you have a local club you could check them out.
posted by bunderful at 4:17 AM on November 27, 2018

I am also skilled in this area and have excelled as both a freelance and full-time copywriter. (Never been asked to write a jingle, though.) Agree with the above, though, that verbal talent will only get you so far. You need to be able to understand and solve for a client’s business need with those zingers. That comes with research, observation, and experience.
posted by lieber hair at 6:02 AM on November 27, 2018

You could put yourself out there as doing some writing for wedding toasts, or for (birthday? Company gathering?) roasts. In the vein of a speech writer.
posted by vignettist at 8:12 AM on November 27, 2018

I'd never heard of him but what d'ya know here's an interview from today with Randy Rainbow, the Youtubeur who bunderful mentions above, on a Boston-area public radio station. In the bits I heard he talked about how he began doing parodies and the interactions with celebrities and other high-profile people which have escalated his success.
posted by XMLicious at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2018

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