How I Made $300 at a Bar by Leveraging My Writing Skills

Ryan Porter

Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

You can find freelance gigs anywhere if you're up for it. There's no such thing as set business hours.

Imagine doubling your entire net-worth in a divey tiki bar on a Thursday night.

Opportunities like this don’t come around often. Sometimes you have to grab life by the horns. Or in this case, grab life by the brim of your mai tai glass.

You’re probably wondering how I did it. I was just some 22-year-old college grad. I didn’t have a job. I was living at my parents house. I wasn’t feeling desperate for work, but my savings were running dry.

All of a sudden, I stumbled onto a freelancing gig. “Is this what adult-life is like?” I thought. “I just go to a bar in my hometown, talk some people up, and get a job?”

Here's how it happened:

I was waiting for an open spot at a pool table. This tall, long-haired fellow and his friends were finishing up a game. I asked if there was anyone else waiting to play after them, and from there, we struck up a conversation.

Turns out, this guy ran his own design company in town, and he seemed interested in my journalism degree. He asked me to write an article about the town’s shift from a quiet beach town to the lively bar-hopping city it was turning into.

From there, we chatted about the idea. We had drinks, played pool together, and brainstormed ideas. I got his email, and we collaborated on a 2,000 word blog post. I interviewed his company and three other art and design spaces nearby.

The whole process took a lot of effort, but I finished the job. It was the first time I earned cash as a freelancer, and I was proud. I made money on my own, and I didn’t need to be on payroll to do it.

I learned that it's actually possible to find freelance opportunities. Everyone has the potential to get gigs, but they have to be ready for it.

Open yourself up to all kinds of possibilities

When it comes to money, especially if you don’t have a lot of it, you might need to pick up jobs that aren’t necessarily ideal. It depends on your situation of course. If you live with your parents and aren’t stressed financially, you don’t need to beg for work.

Open your heart to the opportunities in front of you. You can manifest work opportunities all you want, but if you can’t see the potential gigs that are under your nose, then you need to work on your motivations first.

To start, you can at least freelance for your friends. If you never thought about this, think again. You already have an expansive network at your disposal.

Present yourself to others the way you look at yourself in the mirror

If you’re a young, hip college graduate, like I once was, then people will gravitate toward you. People want to work with you. You have a natural aura that people want to be around.

Be kind to others. Having a nasty attitude won’t get you anywhere in this world. If you want to do what you love, you have to show some love back. People want to work with others who attract positivity.

You are your own brand. Most people don’t realize that, if they use their internal skills, they can make more money on their own than with a company behind them. It’s all about the connections you make and how long you can keep them.

One good connection is better than five flaky ones. If you can be a genuine person that works hard for one company, they will keep calling you.

Participation points matter

As hip and cool as you are, you still need to talk to people. The world is on pause right now, so you have an excuse for the time being. I for one am not meeting many new people, so I get it. I just started going back to work in person, and I’m just getting accustomed to having regular conversations with people again.

When the universe lets us hit the play button again, put your foot on the gas. You can find work opportunities online, but these are hardly human interactions.

  • Be a human
  • Talk to people
  • Build unexpected relationships

Every connection you make is another opportunity for work. You don’t have to awkwardly approach people and ask if their companies are hiring either. Just spark up a regular conversation and see where it goes.

Market your skills as if you're a professional in your field

You don’t have to be an expert at something to make money doing it. If you are a photographer, you should have a camera, and you should know how to use it. You should also have a portfolio to show people if they want to see it.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer, however, but you do need to market your skills.

When you’re in talks with a potential client, you need to talk about your skills. Show them what you can do. Present an example of past work you are proud of. People don’t need to see all of your work, they just need to see your best.

If you have multiple skills, talk about them. Explain how you can weave them together.

At the bar, I didn’t just tell the guy that hired me that I was a writer. I told him I had experience interviewing subjects, and I was a photographer with a nice mirrorless camera.

You’ll see light spark in their eyes. They’ll be interested in you because you can do things that they can’t do.

Final thought

Remember, as a young freelancer, you’re cheap labor. Don’t take that the wrong way. Use it to your advantage. I probably spent 10 total hours on that $300 job. At $30/hour, I thought I was a king.

I gained priceless experience from that gig. I added the article to my portfolio, and one of my photos ended up on the cover of a magazine.

Take the work while you can. At some point, you’ll be so good at what you do that $30/hour sounds like a waste of time.

Open yourself up to the opportunities life throws at you.

Don’t be shy around people. Talk to them. Get to know them, and tell them about yourself. Ask them if their businesses have any pains.

Tell them you can solve their pains.

Don’t forget that people want to work with you. You are a smart, young entrepreneur. People would rather pay the young and hungry freelancer with modern skills.

Don’t go to the bar expecting it to be a goldmine. I’ll admit I’ve only once networked at a bar and actually completed a job. That isn’t the point though.

The point is that you can network anywhere. You never know when an opportunity will arise, so you always need to be on your toes, and ready for the work.

Maybe you’ll stumble on an opportunity like I did. Until then, watch the mai tais. Those things have a ton of calories. I learned the hard way.

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I write about startup culture, productivity, and life's moments. My goal is to serve as a teacher for the next generation of content creators.

Los Angeles, CA

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