by Megan Okonsky
I’ve got an exciting update: Andrew and I have planned our route! We’re doing a circle for about 5 1/2 weeks, hitting Bangkok, Koh Phagnan, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Chiang Mai, and Pai. Phew!
Having this part of the planning completed has revealed the reality of other parts of the trip for me. Namely, oh my god I have to go fly to Australia and get a job and not run out of money but maybe stay in Southeast Asia for a bit first and get a job I need to get a job it has been 2 weeks since my last full-time job oh my god.
But we’re staying calm.
Almost a year and a half ago, my hands were shaking in the same way. I was quitting a job with AmeriCorps earlier than planned, and felt like I was back in my last semester of college (minus Pub Webb.) Although I had the support of a retail job, I had to ask myself, “What did I want to do with my life?”
Looks like a job for my good friend, Craigslist. I swear, Craigslist is a godsend, if you use some common sense. (Besides gigs at AmeriCorps and Disney, every single job I got in college and beyond has come from Craigslist. Spoiler alert.)
Under the “jobs” section, you can search for writing/editing gigs (among other things, if you’ve got other prospects in mind.) Sure enough, I was able to find a full-time job writing through Craigslist, but there were some eyebrow-raising opportunities along the way that I just had to share.
Weird Ways to Make Money Writing
Virtual Dating Assistant: For real. So rich business men (and women!) can hire a VDA to write their profile, find matches, and send two messages in an attempt to get the person’s number. This.is.real. And the start of a romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts if I’ve ever heard one.
Captioner/Transcriber: Getting remote gigs listening to videos and providing the captions is not only helpful for the general public, but also sounds like a sweet deal for the person with the job. There’s a few companies that hire people through Craigslist, like Rev, but not just anyone can get the gig. When I was reading Rev’s requirements, it looked like they had some pretty high standards when it came to grammar and timing.
Resume Editor: Again, another damn helpful service. I don’t have too much to say on this one because I literally just found it while browsing the writing/editing section on Craigslist.
Ghostwriter for Porn Stars: This is not a gig I found on Craigslist, unfortunately, but I have to tell y’all about it. On Tuesdays when I would work retail, I would typically get people who worked remotely, like me, in the store. One customer told me that she’d be working later in the day, and I asked her what she did. She said, “ghostwriter.” I said, “for whom?” She took an inhale, lowered her voice, and said, “A lot of porn stars.”
She writes their autobiographies, y’all! It’s not uncommon for celebrities and high-profile figures to have a ghostwriter put the pen to paper for an autobiography, but ghostwriting for a porn star has got to be the most fascinating job of them all. (She agreed.)
Ghostwriter for Defense Lawyers and Relationship Therapists and Also Real Estate Agents: Ok, so now let’s chat about what I did. A few weeks before I left my AmeriCorps job, I was able to find a job working for a couple who had a solid freelancing career. Their clients included relationship therapists, lawyers, real estate agents, etc. My job was to write blog posts and social media content for the clients. I also helped with a few e-books and branding assignments.
Even though I didn’t get to write for a fancy travel publication, I was able to travel while working. I didn’t have too much interest in criminal defense, but the job allowed me to learn more about how the criminal justice system works (which I will not discuss here because yikes.) I was able to save up for Asia, improve my skills, and learn more how to live in the world of freelancing. I’d say it was a win, yeah?
Freelancers, I Believe In You
Reminiscing on all of these odd job opportunities or forgotten Craigslist posts helps to reassure myself that I will, in fact, be okay, when I’m off on my own. For all of the opportunities I found above, there are dozens more that I have yet to discover. Sure, the opportunities that I listed aren’t always the most creative, but they still make room (and provide some sort of income) for people who want to write, want a remote job, or want to live outside of the 9-5 water cooler atmosphere.
Growing up, if I told an adult that I wanted to grow up and write, my options would be stuffed and isolated in a fiction, novel-sized box. When I discovered the world of travel writing, I was in a travel agency’s office, not a writing class. Students are given skills that will help them in the real world, but rarely given any sort of map for navigating it (or creating their own stops along the way.)
This isn’t a millenial’s lament; when I first became interested in writing for a living, my “research” was limited to card catalogs and Yahoo. The world’s need (or rather, room) for information is expanding so rapidly; the opportunities I mentioned above may not have existed when I took my first career aptitude test. And if you want to be another type of artist? Forget it. Even if (most) teachers or counselors don’t have a clue about underground opportunities or how to navigate a life making money in the art world, they barely even acknowledge its existence.
I write this rather silly post as a reminder to anyone in my shoes that there are spaces for people who want to share their voice or use their skills. There are ways for us like-minded folks to create these opportunities for ourselves. (After all, I haven’t hidden my intentions to build and monetize this blog.)
There are career coaches, business incubators, and freelancer blogs out there for anyone who is still unsure about negotiations and how to get proper compensation for your work. Risks like Craigslist or social media job postings can pay off, and the more you put yourself out there and let people know you’re looking for opportunities, the easier it will be to find them.
So I’ll be fine, right? Even if I can’t get a job writing, working in a hostel, or teaching yoga, I have the email for the Virtual Dating Assistant job in my contacts list.
My freelancers and artists, let me know about weird jobs you’ve had or ways that you’ve made a living by using your skills!
Guest post contributed by Megan Okonsky. Megan is a yogi, traveler, and general promoter of good feelings. She grew up around Philadelphia and graduated from Temple University in 2015. Ever since, she’s been writing, backpacking, and figuring out this life thing.