The 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival has been cancelled and many of us are upset and unsure about how we’re going to make a living for the foreseeable future.

Over the past decade that I’ve been a TV comedy writer, I’ve done a bunch of other things to help make ends meet.

So here are 14 things that people with our skill set can do right now that people are willing to pay money for.

1. Enter the Comedy Writers Association of Australia coronavirus comedy writing competition

Enter your best one-liners about coronavirus by 2pm this Wednesday 18th March.

How much can I make?
The 5 funniest one-liners will get $40 each.

Next steps

2. Host Trivia Nights

I hosted trivia for SoundStorm for 7 years and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had doing something loosely related to comedy. The skills required to be a trivia host come naturally to a comedian. And there isn’t the pressure of having to be funny.

How much can I make?
On average, between $100 to $200 a gig (2-4hrs work).

Next steps
– Start by Googling trivia companies in your city.
– Send the owner of the company an email.

3. Write an article for a newspaper or magazine

Newspaper & magazine editors still dream of receiving well-written articles they can put straight to print. If you have opinions (and every comedian does) write them down in 500-800 words and send them to some editors.
You can write funny articles like this, or serious articles like this.
Funny articles with a point tend to be a rarer commodity on an editor’s desk, because not everyone knows how to write funny things like you do. So they can be a good way to stand out.

How much can I make?
$10 to $500 for columns or blog posts. Up to $1000 for features.

Next steps
– Go to a big library, where it’s free to read magazines and newspapers.
– Think about what you like and what you’re good at. Then see if there’s a magazine for that. I once wanted to be a golfer, so when I was starting my writing career I wrote for golf magazines.
– Flick through some Australian magazines and newspapers. Decide which ones you think you could write something for.
– Note down the editor’s or submissions email, which can usually be found a few pages in on the contents page.
– Send your article to the magazine you most want to get published in. Follow up with a phone call in a week if you haven’t heard back.
– If they pass, send your article to multiple publications.

4. Write comedy for companies who have a sense of humour or that you think are cool

A few years ago I was walking along the street when I saw a truck drive past. On the side of the truck was a joke about pasta. So I got in touch with the company (a food ingredients company) and asked if they wanted some more jokes about food for their trucks. They did. They bought two jokes about food for $1000.

How much can I make?
$5 to ∞

Next steps
– Keep an eye out for companies that use humour in their advertising or marketing.
– Think about things you love and if the companies that make those things could use some humour in their marketing.
– Get the company’s email off their website or Facebook ‘about’ page.
– Write them an email saying that you love what they do and that you’d love to help.

5. Read The Barefoot Investor

The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need’ is the best book I’ve ever read on money. The author speaks our language (he’s from Victoria) and his book has been the best selling Australian book of the last decade.
The tips in the book can make you money right now, but they’ll make you even more in the future.

Coronavirus isn’t the first time the livelihoods of people who do what we do have been threatened and it won’t be the last. It’s absolutely worth becoming good with money so that the next time something like this happens, you have enough money saved up to see you through any unexpected loss of work.

How much can I make?
As much as you want.

Next steps
– Go to a library and borrow ‘The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need’.
– Read it!

6. Make a voluntary contribution to your super

If you are a low or middle-income earner and make personal (after-tax) super contributions to your super fund, the government also makes a contribution (called a co-contribution) up to a maximum amount of $500.
How good is the Australian Government? Just kidding.

How much can I make?
From $20 to $500 per financial year, depending on eligibility and how much you voluntarily contribute.

Next steps
– Check out this link to see how much the Government will contribute to your super fund.

7. Cold Call

Most people are too lazy or too scared to pick up the phone and pitch themselves cold. It is scary! But I’ve found you tend to overcome your fears when you realise that even in 2020, it’s still the most effective way to quickly get work. There are countless businesses all around Australia who would love to work with someone friendly, funny and reliable who has the confidence to pick up the phone and ask for the gig.

Next steps
– See tip No. 4.
– Pick a company to call. Find the name of the person you want to speak to.
– Decide on what outcome you want from the call.
– Write a short list of the things you want to say.
– Pick up the phone and make the call.
– If they don’t have anything for you, ask them if they know of anyone who does.

8. Write jokes for online crowdsourcing platforms like Pitch app, Comedywire and Write Label

These platforms buy jokes and ads from writers all over the world. It’s nice to be a part of a global online community of comedy writers, plus if you put in the time, you can actually make a bit on the side by writing for one or all of these platforms.

How much can I make?
US$10 to $100 per joke or ad.

Next steps
– Visit the sites and see what you think. There may be others.
Pitch app
Write Label

9. Write Greeting Cards

I was in a gift shop one day looking at funny birthday cards, when it hit me that, “Oh yeah, someone needs to write that.” In my experience you’re more likely to sell lines to UK and US greeting card companies, but it’s always good to reach out to some local makers of funny cards first and see if you can do some writing for them.

How much can I make?
$30 to $80 per card.

Next steps
– Visit some gift shops, newsagents or markets. Check out their greeting cards.
– Any that you find funny, note down the name of the company that makes them. This info can be found on the back of the card.
– Google funny greeting cards.
– Reach out to the companies and ask if they’re open to submissions. Most will have something on their website about whether they are.

10. Online surveys & market research

Companies that conduct this research are always looking for smart, articulate people to provide feedback on everything from new products to advertising campaigns.

How much can I make?
$10 to $100 in cash or gift cards.

Next steps
– Google ‘paid online surveys Australia’ & ‘paid market research Australia’.
– Try reaching out to the companies that facilitate this research directly.

11. Collaborate with a cartoonist

Some people are great at drawing, some are great at coming up with great visual jokes (ie. you). Combine the two and you can create funny drawings that newspapers and magazines may want to publish.

How much can I make?
$50 to $200

Next steps
– Read some New Yorker cartoons for inspiration.
– Find an Australian cartoonist whose work you like, but whose work is going under the radar. Work with someone your age or thereabouts, so you can work your way up together.
– Introduce yourself and suggest collaborating to create some humorous cartoons.
– Send the cartoons to publications you think they’d be suitable for.

12. Set new boundaries around what you will and won’t do for free

Comedians or any other sort of artist are often the first people to be asked to work for free. No matter how experienced we are, we all need to work for free sometimes. Maybe we’re learning a new skill or writing something nobody will pay us for, but will lead to paid work.

When you take an unpaid gig, make sure you’re very clear on why you’re taking it. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to another opportunity that hasn’t come along yet.

Setting new boundaries around the type of unpaid work you take on can be incredibly liberating. Saying no to any old unpaid work and saying yes to meaningful unpaid work will lead to more regular and satisfying paid work in the long run. Start doing this now and the next time you experience temporary loss of income, you’ll have made and saved so much money from all the paid gigs you’ve allowed into your life that you’ll be able to ride out the rough patch.

How much can I make?
As much as you have the courage to allow yourself to make.

Next steps
– List all of your unpaid gigs.
– List all of your paid gigs.
– For each unpaid gig ask yourself, “Why am I doing this gig?”
– If you can’t come up with an answer that is going to help you reach your goals, stop doing the gig.

13. Get some counselling

When you’re in a good place mentally, everything in your life seems to come to you, rather than you having to chase it. Money included. It’s weird how confronting, processing and eventually coming to terms with the relationship you have with your parents can lead to more gigs, but it happened to me and could absolutely happen to you!

How much can I make?
Almost as much as a psychologist.

Next steps
– Ask yourself if there is an inner or outer problem in your life that you are unable to solve on your own.
– See if you’re eligible for the government’s Mental Health Care Plan.
– Even if you’re not, invest in yourself – get a referral from your GP and see someone who’s job it is to help people like you be the best versions of themselves.

14. Hire a comedian or comedy writer

You never forgot those who give you a gig when you need it most. What goes around comes around.

How much can I make?
Smiles, hugs and future jobs.

Next steps
– Think about any projects you have ongoing right now that would benefit from some extra comedic minds.
– Hire comedic minds.

For more support, join the Comedy Writers Association of Australia here.