Reader Friday – Side Hustles for Writers

Marketing Strategy or Writing Distraction

The number of new books published each year has been estimated to be about 4 million (estimate for 2022). In 2010 Google Books calculated that the total number of published books in the world, since the invention of the Gutenberg press, was 129,864,880 books. And that didn’t include self-published books. So, based on the number of new books in 2022, we could safely add another 40 million to our 129,864,880 number.

That’s a lot of books. We’re metaphorically swimming in an ocean of books and authors, and it’s hard to get noticed. So, what do we do to be noticed? How do we keep from drowning in the ocean of obscurity?

The parallel data to the numbers above have to do with the percentage of writers who can support themselves with their writing.

The Guardian estimated that just over 77% of self-published writers make $1000 or less a year.

Another survey revealed that 54% of “traditionally-published” authors (and nearly 80% of self-published authors) earn less than $1,000 a year.

Bottom line – a small minority of us will be able to earn a living publishing books, and will therefore require a partner who is working, retirement funds to survive, or a second job for living expenses.

So, let’s discuss a side hustle for writers – “work performed for income supplementary to one’s primary job.” (Merriam and Webster) And let’s look at ways to address both problems – the need for money, and the need to be discovered.

 What are some of the best jobs for writers to get noticed? What side hustle could complement our marketing efforts? And what hobbies and interests could we turn into a profitable part of our writing-business model for marketing and supplemental income?

I recently resurrected a hobby – pen making – as a way to rev up my marketing and supplement income. Over the years I have collected a selection of lumber that is historical – white oak that was growing in 1776, black walnut that dates back to 1815, and white pine that had originally been used in 1870 for the construction of our local county courthouse. I use that lumber to hand craft “legacy pens” as part of my Legacy Words and Wood business model. I get a much better response to newsletter sign-up requests when readers learn that there will be a drawing for one of the pens. The model also allows for customers to provide their own “legacy wood” for a custom-made legacy pen. You can see my pens at – – Enough advertising.

Time for Questions and Discussion:

  • What interests/hobbies do you actively engage in that could be called upon to benefit your marketing? Tell us about it.
  • What hobbies have you been interested in but not yet had time to pursue? Could they be used as a side hustle? Explain.
  • What other ideas for a side hustle can you think of? Help with suggestions for those who haven’t explored this idea.
This entry was posted in marketing, side hustles, Writing by Steve Hooley. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at:

43 thoughts on “Reader Friday – Side Hustles for Writers

  1. ❖ What interests/hobbies do you actively engage in that could be called upon to benefit your marketing? Tell us about it.
    ❦ No pursuits that apply to marketing. I make some puzzles and solve others. I solved The Problem of Evil. I used to make furniture. I’ve designed book covers. I’ve done beta reads and edits, but the work is not that much fun, and mostly I worked free.

    ❖ What hobbies have you been interested in but not yet had time to pursue? Could they be used as a side hustle? Explain.
    ❦ Acting. Photography. Psychology. Public speaking. Hmm. There’s a possibility. I could speak on my other interests. I spoke on Hitler once. I sold one book. I could speak on Psych, but have zero credentials. I have 2000+ reads for my Psych theory on ResearchGate, but there’s been almost no engagement.

    ❖ What other ideas for a side hustle can you think of? Help with suggestions for those who haven’t explored this idea.
    ❦ The big issue for authors is 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦. You need a few thousand close friends whom you can address en masse. I think L. Ron Hubbard had the right idea: Start your own church. Lots of tax deductions. Lots of people. A steeple. Write uplifting books and sell them to your flock.
    ❦ Or you could start a contest with high reading fees: “The Hoolitzer Prize” sounds good. Train an AI bot to read the entries and spew out notes. Award prize emblems to your own books.
    ❦ Format other author’s SP books. Sneak in an ad for your own books on the last page.
    ❦ Sew pockets inside your overcoat, fill them with your books, and flash them at airports. Novels for transcontinental flights; novellas for interstate; novelettes for LAX to SFO hops.

    • JG, I’m impressed. I knew that you would have a multitude of ideas, but yet you have amazed me.

      I like your idea of public speaking and acting – a Guenther Shakespearean performance while giving your speech on other interests, sprinkled with ads for your books. Your costume could be covered with prints of your book covers. And of course, an intermission would be needed to take up an offering.

      This would definitely get you noticed, and I would definitely attend. Let me know when your first performance “service” is scheduled.

      Creativity is king!

      • Thank you. My latest play, “Shake, Willy,” has a Shakespearean theme: man goes to costume party, takes Messamphetamine, Zombinol, Phuccitol, etc. When he wakes, he can’t remember who he is. Since he’s wearing an Elizabethan costume, he suspects he’s Shakespeare.

  2. Who has time for a hobby??! Instead I do freelance work for Upwork. It helps supplement my retirement and keeps me in fresh ink. ✍️ 🖋️

    • Great, Jane. I presume you do freelance writing. What areas do you write in? Are you able to control your schedule? Can you mention your books in your CV? Tell us more.

      This is a good idea. Thanks for participating.

      • The contract I’m focused on now is for Missional Marketing. I take full length sermons and turn them into blog posts. And yes I mention my books!

        • That sounds like an interesting contract. The most recent blog on Missional Marketing was very thorough and professional. Congrats. And if you can do some personal marketing, that’s even better.

          Thanks for participating today!

  3. Nothing here. Retired, collecting Social Security, and am enjoying my interest in photography but would never consider it a money-maker. Luckily, we planned for retirement and are able to survive comfortably on what we have.

    • Good morning, Terry. I’m glad your planning for retirement worked out. I did think about this post when I read your Wednesday post and saw pictures of your needlepoint. You said you had so many with no more wall space to display them, that you stopped the needlepoint and began writing. Needlepoint pieces would make wonderful grand prizes for contests you use in your marketing.

      Thanks for participating.

  4. Steve –
    First – wow! You are a true artisan. Beautiful creations.
    Regards writing, careers, and incomes…more than a decade ago I had a health event almost kill me and it did end my career as an emergency medicine physician. Over the next years as I rehabbed I wrote and studied leading to my writing career. My wife is a plein aire impressionist painter. Shortly after my first book was released (indie pubbed) we met with our long time tax preparer who was a wisecracking, older guy who had become a friend. As we neared completion of our filing he stopped and turned from the document to face us. “Michele you are an artist. Tom you are starting out as an author.” He paused and rubbed his chin. “Have you two thought of pursuing something with more reliable incomes? Like perhaps investing in lottery tickets?” 😀
    Thanks for another great post, Steve.

    • Thanks, Tom. Lottery tickets, huh. What an encouraging tax accountant.

      With the creativity that both you and your wife possess, it would be wonderful if there was some pursuit you could work on together. Illustrated books? Children’s books for your relatives?

      I hope your writing is going well. Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Steve, that’s such a great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and initially, beside dog-walking, nothing came to my mind. After all, most writers love to walk. ~ 😊 I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a writer’s retreat program.

    • Thanks, Olivia. I like your writer’s retreat idea. Maybe you can plan one for the Kill Zone community. And maybe today you’ll get some new ideas. JG certainly had plenty of ideas.

      If you do the dog-walking, you could give each of your pooches a famous author’s name, and wear a T-shirt that said “Ask me about my books.” I saw that idea online. (the T-shirt).

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • I love the dog T-shirt idea,😃 We can print our books on the dog T-shirts and have free walking advertisement.

        Jokes aside, it’s really difficult with writing gigs. Yes, I get requests to help develop stories or edit books/screenplays but nobody wants to pay me accordingly. Some people offer ridiculous sums like $200 to develop a script. $500 to write it. I rather walk dogs and write my books/screenplays.

  6. I can personally attest to the beauty and quality of Steve’s pens. We’re going to order some for Christmas gifts for special friends.

    Side hustle? I write articles and make enough to buy lunch and printer cartridges. Also teaching and speaking gigs, some free, some paid, and would like to do more, esp. teaching.

    I like Olivia’s idea of dog-walking. Several years ago in NYC, I talked to a guy with seven dogs on leashes who was a full-time professional dog walker. He claimed he made more money doing that than he had in his former career as a financial advisor.

    Course that might mean he wasn’t very good at this previous job!

    • Thanks, Debbie.

      That dog-walker must not have been much of an investor. Dog-walking does sound interesting. One would need to find a way to talk about your writing and your books. I think you were the one who mentioned the guy in California who wore the T-shirt “Ask me about my books.”

      I wonder if, in Montana, you could walk dogs while horseback riding. Your business byline – “We get your dogs in shape.” And once a week, on a weekend, each owner brings their own dog to a book reading where you pitch and sell your books. Dog owners might even pay to have their dog in you next book. Hmm.

      Have a great weekend full of creative ideas!

  7. Some potential options:
    They are not doing it with the intention of money-making but I know someone who combines mixed media art with poetry. There are the typical things like editing and formatting books on the side. If you have a particular specialty and can get your name out there as a resource, you can conduct research for authors who don’t have the time to do it.

    Your legacy pens are a great idea. Along that line, for folks like me who write historical–maybe you craft things in leather to use as give-aways. I love the smell of leather.

    If you write a story where music is a particularly strong element and you happen to be a musician yourself, perhaps you could record and sell your own music? (with a sample on your site).

    For people with some publishing experience, book coaching seems to have become a big thing.

    • Wow, BK, some wonderful ideas. I liked the idea of other art forms, like leather working, to connect to historical events. Any art form could be used as prizes for drawings with the intent of informing your readers of your writing and your books, and encouraging them to buy.

      It’s all about getting their attention.

      Let us know what other ideas you come up with.

  8. Steve, you have the perfect “side hustle.” I love the idea of the legacy pens, and I’m happy to say I’m the proud owner of one of them.

    The only side hobby I have is running, and I can’t think of anything that would work for me there. Maybe I could give away signed shoelaces?

    • Good morning, Kay.

      Now that is creative – signed shoelaces. What about time? – the theme that holds your series together- That might open up a whole spectrum of ideas, from booklets on the history of time keeping to newly invented time keepers. I bet your husband could come up with some new inventions. Or how about economical sundials with the engraving “Timeless books by Kay DiBianca”?

      Have a wonderful day!

  9. Good morning, Steve. Wow! Your legacy pens are true works of art, and carrying history. Bravo!

    I’m fortunate in that I don’t need a side-hustle now that I’m retired. Ironically, working at the library in 1987 started as a side-hustle for me, to help pay the bills while I “made it” as a fiction writer, but became my career while I worked at writing, on and off, at first, with more focus and intensity beginning in 2005. My wife and I both had careers in local government with good pensions. We also stayed in the small “starter” home we bought in 1988, which is paid off, and invested the money that would have gone into a larger house. We’re not rich by any means, but we don’t need to work either.

    My publishing does need to be in the black, though, so I keep that my work focus. Right now it’s crunch time as I go over final revisions before sending “A Shush Before Dying” to my editor.

    All that said, a friend in my writer’s group has a great side-hustle doing fiction writing teaching gigs, giving workshops and presentations for our local writer’s organizations, as well as Clarion West in Seattle, Cascade Writers etc. I have taught two classes myself and been paid for doing so. Building a relationship with your local writing organizations can be a gateway to such “side-hustles.”

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Back to the salt mines of revision for me 🙂

    • Good morning, Dale. Thanks.

      It’s good to hear that you have planned successfully for your “retirement” and don’t need a side hustle. It is nice to have a way to get your name out to readers and be noticed, and then sell more books. Your fiction writing teaching is certainly a great way, and getting paid is icing on the cake.

      Good luck with those final revisions on “A Shush Before Dying.” Let us know when it is published.

      Have a great weekend!

  10. I checked out your pens last week. The one I wanted was sold out. I will check back. I collect pens and have a few hand mades. Yours are priced right and look good.

    My side hustle used to be my main job. It has been very good to me. Still is in fact. I was laid off twice, my side hustle became my only job.

    For 20 or so years I have been a driver for Domino’s Pizza. I did a few months with UberEats as well. I hit gold and work in a very safe, well to do neighborhood. Currently I work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, about 30 hours, and will make about $40,000 this year.

    For about eight years I have been trying to process the mountain of “on the road” stories into a book. Maybe this year.

    • Wow, Alan. $40,000 delivering pizzas.

      That book about “on the road” stories should be very interesting. I have talked to several pizza delivery people, and the stories they have to tell are very entertaining. Let us know when you publish that book.

      And about the pens: They are all custom made, and none of the pens are sold out. Contact me through my email or the contact form on my website and we’ll discuss it.

      Good luck with that “on the road” book.

  11. Great post, Steve. A wealth of ideas here from everyone. (I need one of your pens, Steve. Evidently, I didn’t win the contest I entered . . . 🙁 )

    Like others here, we’re not rich, but we don’t have to work. My writing and “learnin'” activities keep me busy, along with the never-ending marketing duties. Actually, I think marketing is my side-hustle.

    If I could have a dream side-hustle? It might be working in a library a few hours a week. We have one right down the road from us. If only I could be beamed over to the building instead of getting in the Jeep and driving, I’d like that a lot better.

    Happy Friday to all!

    • Thanks, Deb. I’m glad you’re enjoying retirement without the need for a side hustle. Even if you don’t need the money, a side hustle could be considered “creative marketing.”

      Library work sounds like an interesting side hustle, although I’ve been told that library patrons are usually not interested in buying books.

      Sorry you didn’t win a pen. But keep watching the newsletters. There will be a drawing announced every month.

      Happy Friday!

    • Libraries would certainly be a great place to see which books readers are checking out, and what they are interested in reading. At the same time you could casually mention your books.

  12. Friends wrote everything from “True Confessions” for magazines to submissions for the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL book series. Short erotica also paid the bills. To quote my writer group mantra, “Money is good.”

    • Thanks for the ideas, Marilynn. Apparently your friends wrote for the entire spectrum. I hope none of them sent a submission to the wrong address. I can see the editor at the Chicken Soup for the Soul publisher pulling out and reading a submission meant for a True Confessions or an Erotica publisher. That might end one’s career at the Chicken Soup publisher.

      Thanks for contributing, Marilynn.

  13. I’m retired and live simply so money isn’t an issue–my books help supplement my income. Before contracts I made money as a potter, but no longer have time to even glaze the ten pieces I made three years ago. lol Maybe this summer…

    I’ve thought about and have been encouraged to teach classes on how to use a computer and the internet and a smartphone. But that would take even more patience than writing and pottery…And your pens are beautiful…and like Deb, I didn’t win that contest…

    • Thanks, Patricia. Ceramics, pottery, has always been an art/craft that I would like to learn. But my life is so full of projects I can’t keep up the way it is.

      The computer/internet/smartphone classes would indeed require much patience. More than I have. My favorite name for smartphones is the title of Debbie’s first book, “Instrument of the Devil.”

      About the pens: Keep reading the newsletters. (Should be one tomorrow). There will be a drawing every month.

      I hope you can find some time for ceramics this summer.

      Have a wonderful week.

  14. Good afternoon, Steve.

    My recommendation for at least one “side hustle” is whatever one’s current job happens to be, whether teaching, writing ad copy, or working in a donut shop. I think of Tom Scholz, who created the band Boston in the 1970s while working as a design engineer for Polaroid. He didn’t give the job up until the first album hit Number 1 on the charts. Even then, he continued to work on other things that created revenue streams.

    Another recommendation for everyone out there: Steve’s pens are wonderful. They are so terrific that you might want to give them pride of place on your desk instead of using them. Accordingly, you should buy two.

    Have a great weekend, Steve!

    • Good afternoon, Joe You are too generous.

      Great ideas for keeping your current job, or at least staying in the same type of work, if that is possible.

      And as for that pen recommendation, I’ll get your check in the mail tomorrow. But, seriously, thanks. And if anyone wants to get in on monthly drawings for a pen, they can sign up for my newsletter on the home page of my website – –

      Have a great day!

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