The best day job for writers?

Writing is your passion, but unless you're very lucky you probably can't afford to stop working to become a full time writer. The average wage of a writer in Britain is less than £11k a year, some will make more, some will make way, way less (trust me on this). With all the jobs out there what's the best thing to spend your day doing so you can come home and create at the end of a long day?

Four writers give an insight into their working life.

Freelance Journalist

Author: Lochlan Bloom

Genre: Contemporary/ Literary Fiction

 Where did you work?

While I wrote The Wave I was also working freelance as a writer for different news journals. The main part was written while I was living in Stoke Newington in North London. My flat was tiny so I worked and wrote a lot in cafes along Church St.

Briefly what did your job entail?

Most of the freelance contracts I was working on were articles for online news sites and journals. This involved reading far too many badly-written press releases and juggling a lot of deadlines.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

Having to write every day and meet deadlines is definitely a pro

What are the cons?

But having multiples deadlines and no fixed hours can make it hard to separate time dedicated to writing fiction.

What training do you need to do it?

Black belt in martial arts

Find out more about Lochlan: www.lochlanbloom.com

Books

The Wave

Trade and The Open Cage 

Theatre Stage Manager

Author: Me!!! (Helen Comerford)

Genre: Young Adult/ Dystopia

Where did you work?

At present I’m a Stage Manager at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, but I have done all sorts- touring, musicals, pantos and even ‘An Evening with the Hoff’ at the O2.

Briefly what did your job entail?

Stage Management look after the running of the show. The Assistant Stage Manager looks after props and helps run backstage, which is what I do on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

Show call. When the show is up and running, we only come in a few hours before, often my day can start as late as 4pm which means I have time to get some writing done before work.

I’ve been to a lot of interesting places for work (Wales, Channel Islands, Edinburgh Festival, Wales) and met a lot of interesting people, because, like most Stage Managers I’m a freelancer and go from contract to contract. Also it’s just a great job, people who work in theatre love theatre and so are generally really happy to be at work. Calling a show (telling lights, sound, flys etc when to GO) or running backstage can be challenging, exciting and hilarious in equal measure.

What are the cons?

At frequent intervals Stage Management completely takes over your life, you can be working twelve hour days for a few weeks or more. When this happens I give everything to the show and absolutely cannot write. But weighed against show call the rest of the time it’s not too bad.

Also, generally, you’re hired for your efficiency, not your creativity. You have to learn when to keep ideas to yourself, if you’re the Stage Manager in the rehearsal room the writer and the director probably won’t be looking your way for script suggestions…

Ah also a big pro is also a major con, being a freelancer means you’re always thinking about your next job and spend a lot of time applying for shows and chasing down leads.

What training do you need to do it?

I did a postgraduate in Stage Management at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. But, if you’re looking to work in Theatre without going back to university you can get a job backstage as Stage Crew and work your way up.

Find out more about Afterlife

Microsoft Technology Specialist/ IT Consultant

Author: Jessica Meats

Genre: Science Fiction/ Adventure

Where did you work?

All the time I've been a published author, I've been a Microsoft technology specialist or IT consultant in some way.

Briefly what did your job entail?

The job varied over the years, but large parts of it involved knowing the Microsoft technology, keeping up to date with new releases, presenting about it, teaching people about it, explaining how it might solve a business' problems, things like that.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

The main pro is that my technology jobs have had pretty good pay. This means I can spend energy on writing instead of worrying how I'm going to pay the bills and write the things I enjoy without fretting too much about how much money it will make. It also means that when I decided to self-publish my novella series, I was able to pay for professional editing, proof-reading, cover design, etc.

With my job, I also have occasional trips around the country to do meetings and workshops with customers. I find those a really good opportunity for writing. When I'm stuck in a hotel room in the evening without much to do, I can get a lot of writing done.

The combination of my writing credentials and technical knowledge also got me an invite to write a technical book. I nearly put this in the con section because writing the technical manual was tedious, but the fact is that the technical book has had better sales than any of my fiction works. Having collected a large number of rejection letters before finding a publisher for my first novel, it was thrilling to have a publisher approach me and ask me to write a book for them.

What are the cons?

The main con is the same as any full time job - time. I officially work 9-5:30 five days a week, but it sometimes spills over into evenings. The time I'm in the office or travelling around to meetings, I can't spend writing.

What training do you need to do it?

I have a masters degree in maths and computer science, but more importantly I have to spend a lot of time keeping up with rapid changes in technology. New updates and products are released just about every week, so I have to regularly take part in online training, go on courses, and follow updates just to stay ahead of the changes.

 Find out more about Jessica: http://plot-twister.co.uk

Books:

Child of the Hive

Omega Rising 

Shadows of Tomorrow 

Retail

Author: Me again!

Where did you work?

As a student and for a while after I worked as a Customer Service Representative at Blockbuster. For anyone born after the 90s, Blockbuster was a magical place where you went to rent DVDs. For anyone born after the noughties- DVDs were round silver discs you got movies on, like a download you can hold.

 Briefly what did your job entail?

Serving customers, filing films, keeping the store tidy, recommending films.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

This was arguably the greatest student job of all time as it included many free films. I also got to stand around and chat about randomness for a lot of my shift (timetravel, how we'd survive a zombie attack, who fancied who) all great fodder for writing. Then at the end of my shift I’d clock off and leave any work worries on the shopfloor, generally with enough energy to get some writing done.

 What are the cons?

Customer service can be horrible, sometimes people were just really rude. Also Blockbuster doesn’t massively exist any more so that’s probably a pretty big con…

 What training do you need to do it?

Generally just work experience.

Events Project Coordinator

Playwright and Poet: Philippa Mannion

Where did you work?

I have had many different jobs in the last five years - from being a barista to working in a box office, being a front of house duty manager and also being the project coordinator of a mid-scale outdoor arts company.

Briefly what did your job entail?

At Nutkhut, we created and produced outdoor events for festivals and local authorities - it was a good mix of production management, event logistics, marketing and design work and production support. It was always good to see the end result and the delight on people’s faces when they engaged with performers, seeing them smile and knowing you can bring joy into someone’s life. 

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

A big plus is you know where your rent is coming from each. I also found that working in theatre or an arts organisation alongside your own writing can help you understand the process that others go through to create work and that can help you to define your work ethic and how you create.

What are the cons?

It can be frustrating when a job starts dominating your life, relaxing after you’ve finished work can be a challenge. If I’ve had a rough day at work, I do find it difficult to think creatively or return to the desk and write.

 What training do you need to do it?

I have a degree in Theatre Studies and experience in a variety of roles in the Theatre including Front of House, duty managing, and producing.

Find out more about Philippa: https://mannionaise.com/words/

Check out her current project Trench at the Pleasance Theatre HERE

Other day jobs...

Just for fun, here's some day jobs of some of our best known writers:

Franz Kafka worked as an Insurance Lawyer

Malorie Blackman worked as a Database Manager

Philip Larkin worked as a Librarian

Terry Pratchett worked as a Press Officer

Christine Brooke Rose worked as a Code Breaker at Bletchley Park!

Agatha Christie worked as an Apothecarie's Assistant

George Orwell worked as a Policeman in Burma

Booker Prize winner Magnus Mills worked as a Bus Driver