I Can’t Tell Which Job Is My Side Job

Billy McCall at on a side job - Pyragraph

Billy da Bunny explains the rules for Zine Olympics.

The good people here at Pyragraph asked me if I would write something for this month’s current theme: side jobs. I agreed, of course, being careful not to let it slip that writing for them is my side job. (Shhh… don’t tell.)

Everyone always wants to know how to find side jobs while trying to “make it” as a writer. If you ever bump into someone famous, like David Sedaris or Steven King, be sure to ask. As for me, I don’t consider myself famous, nor would I say that I’ve “made it” as a writer. But it’s all relative, I suppose.

I remember the first time I was ever paid to write.

I was living in Chicago and had become friends with a great guy, named Jay Blumenfeld. Jay is owner of Smart Alex, a fabulously hilarious greeting card company. Jay had read several of my zines and short stories, and liked my style. He asked if I could come by his office once or twice a week and help him with some of his social networking.

Over the next few months I helped him set up a Facebook account, as well as formulate an extensive email list. I then began to write regular posts and emails, getting customers and clients excited about new cards. In many ways it seemed like an easy job for me.

Occasionally I would help with the text of the greeting cards themselves, but for the most part I was sending out mass emails and updating Facebook. The reason Jay kept asking me back was that what I wrote in an hour might have taken him much longer. He was willing to pay me for my quirky sense of humor and my way with words. He would tell me what needed to be said, but I would figure out how to say it.

Of course, the whole time I worked for Jay I also worked 40 hours at a regular job. So which one was the “side job”?

I’ve worked for department stores, casinos, coffee shops; I’ve hauled scrap metal, sold stuff on Craigslist and trimmed trees. I’ve done whatever I could to make sure my rent got paid. In addition to that, I’ve sold zines, written for newspapers, and helped edit books. I’d guess about 10% of my annual income is derived from writing-based ventures. I can’t tell you which jobs are the side jobs. But I can tell you this: I am more satisfied with that 10% that comes from writing than all the rest put together.

I suppose the goal is for writing to cover 90% or 100% of my income. If I ever get there, I’ll let you know. In the meantime I’ll just keep plucking along, and be damned proud of it.

Photo by Oscar Arriola.

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About Billy McCall

Billy has been writing and self-publishing since middle school, and isn’t about to stop now. His main realm of expertise is zines, but he has also written for various magazines and newspapers over the years, published one novel, and even writes the occasional song. Currently he is living in New Mexico with his dog and two type-writers. He considers hand-written letters to be the highest form of flattery.


  1. Lex on September 2, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Man Billy! You aren’t afraid of some bunny ears. Your side job should have been at the Playboy Club. Clearly you were born in the wrong decade.

  2. billy on September 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    ha, thank you! if anyone knows anyone at Playboy, hook it up! I look good in them ears!

  3. Tonya Kay on September 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    I know a few people… Billy, your perspective is healthy. It is a pat on the back to make 100% of your income from your art(s) but if money (or lack of) ever STOPS one from creating, they need to work on their artist spirit’s health before the money issue anyway. Create! It is life!

  4. billy on September 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Totally agree. A lot of people are able to make 100% of their income from art. I never have. For me, I work a job to pay rent, then make art (writing, painting, music, etc…) in my free time. If I make money from it, all the better. But I’ll make the art no matter if I’m paid or not.

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