Side-Jobs to Help Struggling Writers

A couple time-tested saving and money-raising methods are penny hoarding and quarter rolling. Whether it’s just change you get from purchases or coins you hunt down in your couch and on the street, it does add up.

Image retrieved from this video

In a perfect world, we would all become billionaires from publishing our work–or at least we’d be able to pay for rent, food, and a computer. Unfortunately, we live in a far-from-perfect world. Most writers can’t quit their day jobs after the first, third, or even fiftieth book. Some are fortunate enough that they love their day jobs or at least tolerate them. Others, not so much. And some, myself included, can’t catch a break with getting a traditional 9-5 job. That’s why I wanted to do a post on side-jobs, (relatively) easy ways that anybody, writers and non-writers alike, can make extra cash.

The Penny Hoarder: I’ve heard about this one for a while but only started using it recently. In addition to tips on handling debt and saving for your future, there are tips for “side-jobs” ranging from recycling to writing slogans for small businesses. Take a look and I’m sure you’ll find a money-making/saving/debt-reducing scheme that works for you without taking too much time from your writing. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for their newsletter to receive tips every day.

Swagbucks: I’ve been using this site significantly longer than any of the other side-jobs I’m discussing–two years, I think. For that reason, I have a lot more experience with them and a lot more to say, both good and bad. On Swagbucks you earn “Swagbucks” in exchange for taking surveys, shopping on certain websites through Swagbucks, using their search tool, and so on. One hundred Swagbucks equals about one dollar. Eventually you can exchange these Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards, iTunes gift cards, even PayPal gift cards, which are as good as cash.

The downside is that Swagbucks is not the most reliable source of payout and their customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Some surveys and offers don’t pay out and it can be like pulling teeth to get Swagbucks to help you when that happens. Some users have been told by customer service that they won’t help them anymore even though the users have done nothing wrong and haven’t violated the terms of service. I’ve seen reviews which said that multiple users had their accounts deactivated for no reason.

Mind you, Swagbucks isn’t always that way. Overall, despite multiple problems with payouts, Swagbucks has been incredibly helpful for me as an extra source of income and I think it’s worth a try. Just proceed with caution when contacting customer service and always be prepared to prove that you completed a survey or offer.

Ibotta: Ibotta is an app which gives you money through rebates on your shopping. Mind you, it’s only certain stores and certain products, some online and some not, and which rebates are available change constantly, but I’ve already made $20 in the past month just from my usual groceries and a couple iTunes purchases. You can’t exchange them for PayPal or other gift cards until you reach $20 but it adds up quickly. Just be sure to keep your receipts; sometimes you have to scan them to claim the rebates.

Foap: is particularly interesting. Basically you download the Foap app, register on the site/app, and upload photographs you have taken. Hopefully someone will buy the rights to your photograph ($5 a piece). You can sell the rights for the same photo as many times as you like. Right now you can only upload photos from your phone but I’ve heard they’re working on a way to upload from your desktop. It’s not a guaranteed way to make money and you’ll definitely have to read all of the terms and conditions before posting but it’s an easy way to try to earn money. Not to mention it’s fun to look at all the photos and have your photos rated by other users. Even if you take horrid photos or can’t hold your phone still to save your life (guilty to both!) it’s worth a try. Besides, you never know which of your pictures people might like.

Etsy: I haven’t tried to sell anything on Etsy yet but the concept is pretty straightforward. If you make things (ex. sew mittens, create personalized drawings, etc.) or have antiques you want to sell, you’ll find buyers on Etsy. Etsy takes a certain percentage and you have to remember to account for taxes but if you have a unique product, you’ll probably make some extra cash on this site.

Fiverr: I just started Fiverr so I don’t have experience with payment yet. However, Fiverr is one of the best-established sites for exchanging services. I wouldn’t be doing this list justice if I didn’t mention it. You register on the site and post your “gigs”, anything from freelance editing to having “Jesus” make a personalized video message. (I’m not even kidding; there’s a user who offers that.) The prices start at $5 and you can provide three different “packages” per gig.

Warning: You must word your gigs very specifically and carefully. I didn’t make it clear enough that I would edit and give feedback on essays, not write them, so that gig was denied and removed by Fiverr. Fortunately that was all they did and I’ve been able to put up more “appropriate” gigs since then. Just be careful how you word things, don’t forget the terms of service for even a second, and always remember that you must exchange payment through Fiverr and you’ll be fine.

Again, Fiverr takes a percentage and you’re responsible for your own taxes but that’s the norm with these sites.

Freelancer: Freelancer is pretty much just a site where registered users can find job opportunities based on their skills as well as post jobs for other freelancers. Just like with Fiverr and Etsy, you have to use their payment system so that Freelancer can get its cut and you have to remember taxes, but it’s a simple enough system to use.

Warning: Beware of scammers! I cannot emphasize this enough. Specifically be wary if they send you an offer in your inbox when you didn’t bid on their job first. Repeated job posts, job posts with bad grammar, and anything asking you to contact them outside of Freelancer are all things you must take as red flags. Look them up and, most importantly, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Upwork: Upwork is essentially the same as Freelancer. However, there’s a reason why it’s at the bottom of my list. I had incredibly bad luck on Upwork in an incredibly short amount of time.

Within my first month I almost fell victim to a scam. (If you come across a posting from someone claiming to be from Natco Pharma, REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY. The company name is a real company but they just use the name to make you think it’s legitimate.)  Then I had a very unprofessional potential client. We scheduled Skype interviews but both times I couldn’t get a hold of her via Skype. I checked and nothing was wrong on my end. The first time she just didn’t answer and the second time she kept pushing it off on me in the chat and wouldn’t answer any of the questions I had for her. I finally contacted the company she claimed to work for, giving them my email address to respond to, and she responded to me on Upwork thanking me for contacting their website and telling me that they had already given the job to someone else. Mind you, that was the SAME DAY as the second scheduled Skype interview.

The final issue was my fault. I had a lapse in judgment and I offered to take the first payment from a client without an Upwork contract because he was new to the system and didn’t know how to use it well. Otherwise I insisted on an Upwork contract and offered ways for him to get help with the system, but my account was deactivated just for the suggestion. No warning, no second chances, my account was just deactivated. Fortunately I was able to contact that client outside of Upwork and still got the job. Overall, with the problems I had, my boneheaded mistake may have been a blessing in disguise.

I don’t want to discourage everyone from Upwork. Others have had problems like I did but others have had success. All you can do is try. My advice is this: be vigilant and don’t forget their terms for even a second because, unlike the more user-friendly Fiverr, they aren’t big on second chances.


As with everything I say, take this list with a grain of salt. Some things may work for you and others may not. I still think that all struggling writers should give these side-jobs a look. You never know what doors these sorts of sites will open for you.

Shameless plugging: I offer freelance editing, proofreading, critique, and writing services on Freelancer and Fiverr. I also provide book reviews and personalized Disneyland tips on Fiverr. My username on both sites is dragonet07, so be sure to look me up.

Do you have any ideas for writers struggling to make ends meet? Help out a fellow writer by leaving your recommendations in the comments.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

2 thoughts on “Side-Jobs to Help Struggling Writers”

Share Your Thoughts