Blog Post

Don’t Starve the Artists: How to Pay Bills with the Written Word While You’re Still in College

When I first told my mother I wanted to be a writer, she responded the way most rational parents do: “Ha! Good luck with that. Do you know how many writers actually get their stories published? Very few. You need something practical. Writing won’t pay the bills, and I don’t want you to be a starving artist.”

That’s what landed me in a Business Administration and Creative Writing double major. It’s a question many parents and anxious prospective students want to know – what can you do with a B.A. in Creative Writing? And it’s a question that was certainly on my mind when my father lost his job my sophomore year of college and I had to quickly find a way to pay tuition on my own. So I did what most college kids do – I got myself a couple of retail jobs.

But as I advanced through my college career, I found that I quickly got bored with retail – it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I started thinking, how could I flesh out my résumé with gigs that would start professionalizing me as a writer and editor? Surely there was some way I could land a paying job that would be important to my field of interest.

I had edited a lot of my peers’ work for school in my free time, just helping friends with their papers and stories, and I’d done plenty of revising my own work. But I couldn’t very well charge my friends for edits, especially when there was a highly accredited writing center on campus that would help for free. So I turned to the internet. I found WyzAnt, a virtual tutoring marketplace, and signed up. For a long time, nothing materialized – often, when I told potential students about the website’s policy for payment information, they just stopped replying. My father would have been wary of an unfamiliar website that asked for payment information upfront, as well, so I couldn’t blame them. But it’s a small world. Some regular customers at my retail job worked with a gentleman who had been looking for an English and writing tutor for his two sons – turns out, he was the latest of latent tutoring inquiries I had received from WyzAnt, and although he did not feel comfortable providing financial information over the internet, he was very much still interested in hiring a tutor.

And that’s how I started tutoring independently for income. I can set my own hours and rates to fit my class schedule and financial needs, and as a college student with lack of transportation, I can set my own location so that it’s easily accessible. As an independent contractor, I can work one-on-one with my students and mold the material to fit their individual needs, instead of having to lesson plan for a big class. And the best part? I’m making living wages just for exploring my field of interest in ways that my own academic track didn’t fulfill. Turns out, a making a living in writing is very practical, if you do what most rational writers do – get creative!

-Christa Angelios

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