The Secret Life of a Freelance Writer

Those of you who paid for premium cables channels in the 80s may remember Angel.  It was the tale of a girl who’s momma left here alone with a $100 bill one day who decided to make a living on the streets.  She had a secret life–High school honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night.

Brett Giddens has a slightly less dramatic secret life.  Then again, he’s a real person.  He’s an Oklahoma high school basketball coach by day who spends his nights singing in small casinos as an Elvis impersonator.

I have a secret day/night life, too.  Mine doesn’t rival the Angel story and it isn’t as fun as Giddens’ tale.

Sometimes, in the evening, I write things that pay next to nothing.  And I do it just for fun.

Tonight, I noticed a content writer on a forum who mentioned that she was struggling with a deadline and had some overflow work to do.  I couldn’t resist.  Within an hour I was composing a series of six SEO articles on an incredibly uninteresting topic.  I just finished them moments ago.

Last night, I signed up for a little-known content writing site that supplies material to webmasters who believe the road to awesome SEO is paved with short keyword-heavy articles.  I actually wrote one of the entry-level articles for a rate that would make even the staunchest content mill supporter blush.

When I’m done with this post, I might take a minute to write a “Top Five” list at, which may or may not produce more than a dollar in annual ad share revenue.

Brett swivels his hips for Oklahoma grannies willing to take a break from the slot machines.  Angel scoured the sad streets of late night LA for tricks while avoiding murderers.  I check forums and search out low-rent content sites.

I don’t spend much time on these endeavors–just an hour or or so here and there.  Sometimes, I’ll do a little something as a break in the action between my everyday work.


Why would an honor student become a hooker?  Why would a seemingly normal guy want to paste fake sideburns to his face and singe “In the Ghetto”?  Who knows?

Okay, Angel had to do it to make ends meet.  North Oaks was an expensive school.  And lots of people dig Elvis.  I suppose I do need more of an explanation than they do.

Here’s why I maintain my secret life:

  • I’m buying my neighbor’s 150cc Tank scooter and I don’t want my wife to find out.  Thus, I need secret cash.  That’s not really why I do these things, but it will be fun to buy it without anyone knowing how or where I got the dough.
  • It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of what I do.  I guess it’s sort of like those perfectly normal people who have an inexplicable love of a stupid sitcom or who spend hours reading the worst romance novels you can find at a granny’s garage sale.  It’s a mental break.  I turn the brain off and play with words for awhile.
  • It’s a zero pressure situation.  I don’t need to sweat every word.  I don’t need to play with multiple title variations or fix that inadvertent use of the passive voice in the third paragraph.  It’s a liberating kind of writing because, quite frankly, almost anything goes.
  • I meet cool people.  Many of the folks I’ve met doing things like this turn out to be good buddies and great people.  Some are new writers who are just getting started.  Some are experienced content writers who grind out articles on the side.  Some have no idea of what in the hell they are doing–but they’re still cool.
  • Occasionally, real opportunities emerge.  Occasionally, you’ll accidentally kick open a door that leads somewhere more interesting and more lucrative.  It doesn’t happen most of the time, but it does happen.  In other cases, I’ve been able to do something for someone and then convince them to do more/better/different/etc.  That’s always fun!

How about you?  Do you have a secret life?  Do you do things that would make Angel blush?  Maybe you impersonate Elvis Costello instead of Elvis Presley?  Are you churning out Associated Content articles under a pen name?  Watching sitcoms?  Are you racing me to find these stray gigs at odd hours?


6 responses
  1. Jeremy Powers Avatar

    I have re-written several non-profit “walker” landing pages over the last few months. Everytime I see “default” emails and landing pages for non-profit walks/runs/fundraisers for friends, I can’t help but call. “Jim, do you want people to actually donate to this cause. I mean really donate? OK, good. Lets try something.” Then we proceed to fix the personalized page. I am in my first year of self-employment, so I figure helping this way is worth more than what I could afford to donate.

    On the more selfish side, I have at least ten fiction book outlines that I tinker with from time to time, but I never seem to have the courage to develop a timeline a finish one.

    1. Chris Avatar

      Same here with the fiction tinkering. One day I’ll finish a book, I swear!

  2. Chris Avatar

    I thought I was the only one! I write for a content mill under a pen name. The rates are low, but every now and then they have stuff I enjoy writing about. Sure I’m embarassed to show people some of the articles, but hey– I have a pen name so no one will ever know, right?

    I’ve also considered taking on a sports blogging position for next to nothing, just so I can write about the Houston Texans.

    Finally, I maintain my own blog,, that makes me literally ZERO dollars at this point. Maybe it’ll generate some revenue in the long run, but frankly, I just enjoy writing about writing.

    Anyway, great post. Thanks, it hit home!

  3. Surge Supressors Avatar

    last time, i joined a writing contests on the internet and i won a small price for writing a nice piece of writing *.;

  4. Bruno Marques Avatar
    Bruno Marques

    Hi Carson

    “Why would a seemingly normal guy want to sing ‘In the Ghetto’?”
    I don’t know either, but praising your writing skills, I have a feeling you’ll be great writer when you do.

  5. Tammera Melbye Avatar

    Living without the presence of strategies to the difficulties you’ve fixed by way of your good guideline is a crucial case, and those which could have in a wrong way affected my entire career if I had not come across the website.

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