A Little Bit on the Side: A Starving Artist’s Small Experiential Guide to Making Extra Income (or Not)

31107b021ae5dd019769c8c37d8e7bfbOK, I admit it. I have been a little (OK, a lot) elusive of late. Blog posts haven’t been written, friends haven’t been visited, Facebook posts have lessened in frequency, and all other social media platforms have been terribly neglected. I blame the season – well, partly anyway. I tend to ‘hibernate’ during the bad weather and boy, have we had some bad weather this winter. I have also been trying to solve that perennial problem for a lot of full-time writers and artists – how to keep your life afloat on a small income when things suffer a bit of a turn down.

Having yet to hit the big time, over the past few years I’ve tried to find other ways of making a bit of cash on the side. Here are some of the things I’ve done – with an honest assessment of how they’ve turned out. Some methods have worked better than others. Although there will always be others who have actually made money from the things that didn’t work out well for me, I am still guessing that they are in the minority. Don’t let my ‘failures’ stop you from having a go though – all of the things mentioned below are completely legit, and I’m not earning any commission from mentioning them here either.

coffee-gimme‘Donate a coffee’ button on my Lady Despenser’s Scribery blog. – This was in hope that any one who had got something useful from the blog would feel generous enough to donate at least a couple of quid towards my totally necessary coffee and biscuit fund. Well, some kind people did just that and each time I felt profusely, idiotically grateful that someone valued what I had created. Of course, grateful to those people though I am, a few donations doesn’t really make a dent.

Car Boot Sales – my partner Tony and I have done a few of these now and we do alright at these – as well as clearing some of the junk from the attic. So, despite the early starts and long days, these are a bit of a win/win – especially when fresh doughnuts are thrown in!! One thing though, it is almost impossible to shift second-hand books at car boots, which is a shame, because Tony and I have boxes of the things which are no good for selling on Amazon (more on that later). The only other downside is that doing car boot sales is not a sustainable source of extra income unless you are doing them in a semi-professional sense, i.e. going to every one in the area and selling other people’s junk as well as your own.

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Amazon Marketplace – I started selling my old books on Amazon a few years ago and at first did really well, especially as many of the books were old text books from university days. They are always in demand by new students and often fetch a good price (although below what they would cost new). However, for me it was the law of diminishing returns, especially in the face of some of the large professional sellers who have warehouses of books, some of which they can afford to sell at a loss. ou also have to be careful about taking into account the postage and packaging. Amazon used to be very generous in what they gave you to cover these costs but since Royal Mail has raised its prices (and Amazon haven’t), it’s been harder to sell at a profit. For example, large or heavy books mean that you have to price them fairly high whereas the larger distributors can still afford to price them at something ridiculous, like 1p!

Amazon Associates – this involved pasting Amazon books up on my blogs, along with a code that linked it back to me. Then, if someone clicked on that through to Amazon, and bought the book, I received a (very) small percentage commission. Although this did provide some extra income, it was still a pittance. I think this method would work better on sites that review and sell popular high cost items such as electronics (gaming platforms and games for example).

Adwords – again, having clickable adverts on a blog earned a very, very small amount (like 2p a day!), so hasn’t really been worth it.

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Zazzle – I’ve only done a few designs for sale on Zazzle but they have provided a steady but small stream of income over the past  few years. If I upscaled I could probably get quite a bit more but I haven’t the time at the moment.

Online Surveys – I’ve been drawn in a couple of times by promises that surveys can earn you quite a bit of money (The second time I was either desperate or else had forgotten what happened the first time!) The truth is, most surveys tend to be long, boring and repetitive and half the time you will be half way through when it tells you that you are not suitable! What a waste of time! And there re those surveys that say they’ll only take a few minutes and instead take half an hour. I have no doubt that some people can sit and do them all day and make a small income but personally I value my sanity and time.

Other Online Survey and Click sites – such as Swagbucks. I must admit, I was hooked on Swagbucks for a while as it didn’t just have surveys, but also other ways of earning ‘Swagbucks’ such as sign ups, web searches and games. There are various ways that the Swagbucks are converted into real money – usually through vouchers. I always went for Amazon vouchers and have bagged around thirty pounds worth so far. However, this is not an efficient way to get extra cash and also takes up a lot of time.

Content Mills – as a writer it’s tempting to try your hand at writing for content mills or similar. I didn’t go down this route myself as, from what I read by others who had, it’s a great deal of hard work for not much money – certainly less than you’re worth. Never under-sell your art.

Matched Betting – sounds dodgy, but actually it’s not. For a start, despite the name, it’s NOT gambling. It’s hard to explain, so if you want to know more about it, take a look at this informative video on the home page of a well-respected matched betting site:  Profit Accumulator. By the way, I’m not earning any commission from this and nor am I encouraging you all to go out there and get on the train! It’s not for everyone and at the beginning takes a lot of time to learn. Some people do this full-time and can make £1000-£2000 a month – all tax-free. I do it part-time and slowly (because I’m still learning) and make n average around an extra £200 a month – much better than surveys!!

A positive review of matched betting from the good old Gruniad

A positive review of matched betting from the good old Gruniad

Now, before I did this, I had never placed even one bet in my life before, so it was steep learning curve. I’ve made mistakes and lost money on occasions – everyone does, especially when tiredness is in the equation – but luckily what you lose in the one instance is more than made up by later offers. It doesn’t help either that I don’t have a head for figures – in fact I consider myself slightly number dyslexic. But in spite of all this I have still done well. Even my mum does it now – in fact many of our conversations are about bookies and offers, much to Tony’s amusement. Tony doesn’t do it – it’s not for him, however I think he’s quite pleased that I now take more interest in football than before and know the difference between the Premier League and the FA Cup!

But, like I said, learning matched betting has taken quite a lot of time (and energy) – another reason I have been more invisible of late. It has also meant that my writing and craft work has suffered a lack of my attention. This has been the down side as I have not been productive in a creative way and this has caused me stress. But now I have stepped back a bit and tried to get everything in balance again. As long as I make enough to cover a few luxuries I couldn’t afford before, such as a gym membership (OK, for me that is a necessity rather than a luxury), then that is good enough. In the meantime, I have books to write and pretty things to craft and sell. It is a three-ball juggling act.

So at least you now know where I’ve been and about the ‘project’ I’ve been mumbling about in my occasional Facebook status updates. Hopefully something in this post may also help another creative in financial dire straits – or at least steer them away from the things that don’t work! And now that my apprenticeship with matched betting is just about over and spring is around the corner I should be back blogging, writing and crafting again.

NB: Always beware of anything that offers ‘get rich quick’ results – 99% of the time it is a con, especially if it costs you money to begin with. Matched betting is, I must say, one exception – although you still won’t get rich overnight (it takes work and time to build up a regular income). Always, always read everything you can about any particular idea or company. Google is brilliant for flagging up scams so do as many searches as you have to and always practice due diligence

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