I’ve always had a little something on the side.
And before you start clutching your pearls—I mean I’ve never had just one job.
Even in high school, working part time for the local news weekly, the Iroquois Post, I wrote reviews and roundup pieces for a radical librarian’s magazine in Toronto (It was the 70s). I would on occasion, on the way to my first post-university job in publishing, stop in at Fran’s to eat waffles doused in raspberry syrup with a friend who was an editor with a women’s magazine in Winnipeg—and walk away with paying assignments.
When I worked in advertising and was morally bound not to work for competitors, I did magazine pieces. And while working client side, I’d pick up freelance copywriting gigs from former colleagues who liked my style and knew my reputation for getting things done well and on time.
When I’m at my day job, it gets my full attention. But the rest of my hours belong to me—as is how I choose to use them.
Side gigs are now seen as a collection of part-time jobs that millennials have to string together to survive. I’ve viewed mine as a continuum, modular components that formed the building blocks of a more varied and interesting (and yes, more lucrative) career. My work “on the side” is also my “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” insurance against the whims of the job market and it’s been a good way to stay connected to the broader communications industry while I’ve spent years enjoying a regular paycheque writing for a very niche sector.
I’m not the only one. Variety makes one stretch, ultimately making talent shine brighter. Kurt Vonnegut did PR for General Electric and wrote for Sports Illustrated. Toni Morrison spent her daylight hours as a textbook editor. And my personal hero, Jane Trahey, ran her own successful Madison Avenue ad agency while designing greeting cards for a major retailer, writing a bushel of books and getting her plays produced on Broadway.
Clearly I’m in good company. And I feel lucky to have a naturally mobile ability. Isn’t that a prime component of the “new” economy? Job security in the form of transferable skills?
I guess I was just ahead of my time.