Yesterday I had reason to revisit the website of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, a worthy organization where I was a member for some years. Eventually they jacked up their dues so high that I felt I could no longer justify paying them—you probably get value received from $200 a year (plus, plus) if you live in New York, but those of us out here in the hinterlands miss out on much of the group’s benefits.
Nevertheless, I see they have a new refinement in place, a job bank purporting to connect prospective clients with members. As the pitch for membership observes, one or two assignments would more than pay for your dues.
On the other hand, I’ve never had much luck with freelance job banks. Someone’s always ready to underprice you. And given the East-Coast orientation of this outfit, I suspect most of the customers are based somewhere around New York and feel no interest in working with an obscure scribbler out in the Wild West. So, I’m not at all sure it’s worth rejoining.
Come next January, some better ways to earn more cash have gotta be in place. The Social Security earnings limitation will expire then—because I’ll reach so-called “full” retirement age in May, I can earn around $30,000 between January and May, and after that, as much as I can get anyone to pay me.
Truth is, if both of next fall’s classes make, I’ll exceed the earnings limit this year, too. It’s so low, you have to work at not making too much. So, in November or December, presumably I’ll have an entire Social Security check withheld, to be returned to me in much diminished form the following January. That will mean I’ll have to dig into my emergency fund to survive that month.
I’m going to have to find better ways to make money. Freelance editing is not what you’d call a lucrative endeavor. Blogging earns even less—with Funny now bouncing up the front page of the top 100 PF blogs, yesterday it earned all of 33 cents. That would give me a pay rate of about a 50 cents an hour. Clearly, if I’m going to keep blogging, I’m either going to have to come up with a better way to monetize the site or simply quit running ads on it and invest that energy in some other endeavor.
Teaching is bringing in some money, but it’s piddling. The school paid me $2,400 to design and build the online magazine writing course this summer, which sounds great until you figure how many hours I’ve put into it.
So far I’ve attended 15 hours of workshops and spent about 5 hours in other meetings plus about 10 hours in one-on-one training sessions. Over the past 9 weeks, I’ve probably spent, on average, 3 or 4 hours a day, five days a week, in front of my computer building the course, for a total of 27 to 36 hours. (As a practical matter, I work 7 days a week, but let’s err on the side of conservatism.) Drive time to the campus, all told, probably comes to about 5 hours. So what do we have?
15 + 5 + 10 + 36 + 5 = 71 hours
$2400 ÷ 71 = $33.80/hour
Just about what I was earning by the hour at the Great Desert University…except the course isn’t finished. I still have to read god only knows how many hours of lecture into the audio function, and those lectures need to be accompanied by visuals, which I’ll have to concoct with my scanner and then mount online. Probably at least another 20 or 30 hours of prep time remain.
I should be thankful; at GDU all this prep work would be done for free.
Still, it’s far from enough to live on.
Freelance editing brings in about $250 a month, except on the rare occasion when some random client pops up.
Blogging has dropped off from about $200 to about $150 a month.
So, what can I do to “work smarter”?
Foremost on the list: get a job. I’m going to have to start looking for paid work that produces a regular income, to start in January when the government will “allow” me to earn a middle-class living.
At my age, however, it is profoundly unlikely that anyone will hire me to do anything. Other options?
Teaching: Hustle more classes in the spring, preferably at better-paying institutions.
GDU pays a Ph.D. something over $3,000 per adjunct class. Two classes at GDU (the max they’ll hire adjuncts to teach) plus three classes at a community college would yield about $13,200 a semester. Five sections a semester amounts to a crushing workload, meaning I would have to stand down off all other paying work. Total gross would be $26,400; added to the Social Security, I’d earn $41,400, about $2,000 under the median household income in Arizona.
Another possibility: start now sending applications to schools out of state; an online course can be taught from anyplace, and I do have some impressive-sounding credentials. Pay would be very low.
Blogging: FaM is beginning to have some value as real estate. Try selling ads to companies, or selling editorial space to PR reps. Potential income: unknown. Probably not much.
Editorial work: Put more money and effort into hustling business. Try to target some corporations that might have money to hire editors for in-house publications. Potential income: same as above.
We’re brought back to job. I need to get a job. Too bad I’m too old for pole dancing.
Anybody got any other ideas? What can you do to make a steady, respectable living when you’re too old to get a job? And when no matter how qualified you are, 300 people, 299 of them younger than you, are applying for every opening in your field?