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How to Survive as a Broke-Ass Writer: Using Your Domestic Awesomeness For Cool Side Jobs

Updated: Sep 03, 2014 11:38
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There are grown people in this world who won’t know how to separate colors when washing clothes.  There are people who cannot hand wash dishes without leaving food caked on the edges of plates and glasses.

As a broke-ass writer and avid traveler, I started realizing that my domestic skills could be a big help in allowing me support myself as a broke ass writer.   Whether I was dog and apartment sitting in Central Park West in New York City or being able to cook a wonderful hearty meal for my rock and roll male housemates in Baltimore and San Francisco, I have been able to be a loving and useful friend, domestic goddess and confidant for a number of people over the years.

What do you have to offer, particularly when you are trying to make it in a major city on a writer’s pay?

Learning domestic skills will offer you a place in a field that is flexible and will never run short of opportunities.

Dishes –

Dishes are the number one most annoying chore in the Universe.  It is a meticulous job, and even if you have a dish washer, everything has to be sorted one by one.

Buy dish soap. It’s always cool to buy your own soap, have dishwashing, laundry and soap to shower with on hand so you’re not using other people’s toiletries and cleaning supplies. It can be a little expensive, but a good it is a expense that will help you avoid conflict.

SCRUB – scour, then wash.  Even if you don’t see gunky food on plates, make sure you scour dishes (obviously not crystal or certain glass dishes) with that rough green side of the sponge first.

Line things up on the drying rack by size and by the type of dish.  It makes your dishwashing look organized and intentional.

WASH SILVERWARE AND THE SINK-  Don’t try to avoid washing silverware.  Also, wash the sink when you are done. I know this all seems really silly, but it makes a huge difference when it comes to completing a job to where it is satisfactory to a discerning eye.

Counters and Surfaces –

Be mindful of how kitchen and sink counters are left.  If you brush your teeth or wash your face and drench the entire bathroom counter, someone is going to come in, lay their clean clothes down before a shower, only to have them become soaked (it happens to me all the time, and I can’t stand it.) It makes people really angry.

After you cook in the kitchen or use the sink in the bathroom, make sure you clean and dry counter and sink surfaces.

Laundry –

Washing towels is a great skill to have.  Keeping the bathroom loaded with clean towels and washcloths is so helpful. No one wants to jump out of the shower to find there are no clean or dry towels anywhere!  It just makes life so much more comfortable.  Make sure when you fold the towels they are all facing the same way when put away in the closet. You want everything to be stacked and looking great.

Separating clothes by color in the wash is crazy important! If you think you can throw a red sweater in the washer with a bunch of white towels, you are totally wrong. Wash whites with other light colored clothes, make sure dark colored clothes are washed together, and fabric that are bright colored should be washed together.

Beds –

Make your bed and change your drooley pillow cases often.  Enough said.  Learning how to make a bed takes practice. Just make sure the sheets and comforters don’t have major wrinkles and everything is tucked in and looking crisp. Have high expectations for yourself and high standards for your bed. You know what a beautifully made sleeping area looks like.  Push yourself until you know how to make your space and other’s sleeping areas pristine.


Animal Sitting –

Animal sitting has to be the most lucrative domestic skill you can have.  Being able to connect with, walk, clean up after, play with and maintain a relationship with other people’s pets can bring you a lifetime of paid animal sitting gigs, and usually very nice temporary roofs over your head.

Taking care of animals is not really something that can be taught.  Making sure their food and water dishes are full is one thing, but being able to communicate and having an animal obey you and want to spend time with you is another thing. If you genuinely don’t like animals, don’t fake it, and if you have allergies, don’t send yourself to the hospital just to tack on another hustle.

You’ve got to be pretty emotionally open to take care of pets.  Make sure you are there for them and not just for the money or the nice digs.

Be sure to ask your clients for referrals!

Babysitting –

Kids are loud and sticky, but if you have the patience to take care of them you will be able to supplement some income while you are work on your writing career.  If the child or children are under a year old, you can count on them sleeping all the time, and you’ll only have to make sure they are clean, dry, fed and comfortable.

If the children are older, you’re going to need a lot of patience and the ability to connect with very young, dynamic personalities.  You’re communication skills and emotional intelligence has to be strong, because during one gig you could be sitting a shy quiet child, and they next weekend you could be watching an intense extrovert.  Nanny or “manni” skills are incredibly useful.


Arm Candy –

I am a total feminist, but in regards to being helpful, awesome and a joy to be around – making yourself available as arm candy is a wonderful way to establish yourself with friends and people who can help you stay on your feet as a broke-ass writer.

Are you a good date?  Are you charming, diplomatic and funny?  Can you fit in in any social circle you’re thrown into?  You can totally network in circles you wouldn’t normally have access to if you keep yourself looking nice, and have a great attitude.

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Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth is a musician, music journalist, author, model and the founder of The Process Records Media Group. Jordannah started Jordan’s River Promotions in 2004 in Denver, CO where she specialized in art and music event coordination, and artist and model management at 18 years old.

In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles and started The Process: Net Label to organize her personal music catalog that was growing harder to manage each year. In November 2010, she started booking events in partnership with Hangman Booking for Fat Baby in Manhattan, NY and other clubs in the Metropolitan area.

Jordannah Elizabeth currently works as an arts and culture journalist and and the editor of The Deli Magazine San Francisco. She contributes to a plethora of reputable websites and print publications. Jordannah’s passion for music, fashion and culture is unprecedented, and her wide range of knowledge of indie, psych, and experimental rock makes her a sought after insider in the music industry.