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05/07/2020

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anonymous

Depending on where you live, giving public talks and writing for newspapers can be a nice small side income. I started doing this shortly after my PhD, while being on various postdoc contracts. I did not do with with an eye on income, but it turned out to be a nice side line of income (being in employment, I now donate most of that extra money to charities). Also, if you write trade books, there can be some money from royalties (more than for academic books). I'm not saying this is the best income-per-hour-spent-relation, but it's a) fun (if you're that kind of person), b) feels meaningful because you get to engage with "real people" about your work, c) can lead to other stuff such as policy advisory roles. In terms of how it affects your chances on the job market, I'd say it's a mixed bag: it can make you more visible, but that very fact can also lead to resentment on the part of colleagues who feel that THEY should get that public attention.

DS

One reasonable thing to do is teach GRE/SAT/ACT prep classes. If you have a PhD. in philosophy, you probably did very well on the GRE, and as long as you took it in the last 5 years, you could walk right into that. Also, you could probably do well on the LSAT. It would be reasonable to study for the LSAT solely for the purpose of working for one of the review companies, as it pays quite well for a part time gig. Also, there is almost no prep. All the lesson plans are pre written. You just follow them.

Then again, not sure how in-person test prep is going in the COVID-19 era.

Amanda

I don't know if anyone would want to do this, but there are editing services like upwork where you can do freelance work editing papers of professional academics and grad students.I know some people who make a full time living doing this, but it would be easy to do part time. are ads on Craigslist for professional ghostwriters.

And I know this probably sounds horrifying but I have known professors who did adjunct work at other universities, or ones who took on extra classes at their own university (if that's an option.)

Coaching a local high school debate team usually pays a few thousand. I'd only recommend that if you also love it, because the work is a lot.

Amanda

anonymous: How did you get into doing talks and writing for newspapers? I would love to do something like that for fun/experience (not the income.) But at least for me, I've never seen an easy way to get started. All the talks and newspaper opportunities I've seen are volunteer, and very competitive. It didn't make sense for me to put in all the effort.

Mike

This doesn't count as a side-gig for philosophers (qua philosophers), but in the past I've coached youth cycling (like, competitive track cycling) and worked at a bike shop.

I think it's great if you can convert your philosophical work/skills/interests per se into a side gig (e.g., giving public talks or writing for local newspapers), but also keep in mind that your other hobbies and interests can be converted into side-gigs, or even whole alternative careers. Cultivating interests outside philosophy, I've found, has also broadened my social circles, gave me perspective, and just helped to make me a more well-rounded person. For example, I haven't been in the "academia or bust" mindset for years, despite still not securing permanent full-time employment, because I can envision and pursue alternative career paths related to my cycling interests. I think that's healthy. (And fwiw, in graduate school, I was definitely one who thought I could "only be happy doing philosophy"; I now see I was wrong about that, and that I simply lacked the needed experience and imagination.)

anon

At one point, I was a contract worker for accessibility services at a university, taking notes for deaf / hard of hearing students. They liked that I had academic experience because I was supposed to use that to structure the notes intelligently rather than just write things down word for word. It paid about 40/hour.

(Not sure what the prospects are for this kind of work in COVID times, though.)

anonymous

@Amanda: it took a while, with quite a few rejections and failures at the beginning. But these days there are lots of opportunities to learn about op-ed writing, for example (check out the Op Ed Project webpage). I learned by doing it, tried to cultivate the relation with journalists who seemed in principle interested even if their edits felt like they were slaughtering my texts at first. You might also want to find out about possibilities at your university, sometimes press officers might put you in touch with journalists, or help you write a piece about research and place it. And ask around among colleagues and philosophy friends, sometimes there are opportunities to write guest posts at blogs, that’s good for getting exercise in a different genre...
So it takes a while, but that has the advantage that you also develop a bit of thick skin meanwhile, because you might need that :) Getting attention for your work can also attract trolls and idiots, but I would say it’s worth it overall!

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