The easiest buck I ever made was in 1994.
Before I tell you what the job was, let’s talk about easy money.
I often see business coaches posing this question:
“Do you feel guilty charging for work that feels easy?”
They post it on Facebook and Twitter, offering to help people break through this so-called “money block.”
My answer is, WHA? Hell no I don’t feel guilty. Bring on the easy work.
If it’s effortless for me, I feel even better charging for it.
Do you want to hire a plumber who grunts the whole time he’s fixing your toilet and tells you, “This is really hard”? No, you want him to snake that baby in two seconds, flush it successfully, and be out of there.
Same with a web designer. Or a surgeon. You want to hear, “This is child’s play for me.” Not, “Yikes, this is a tricky one. A real doozy.”
We want people who do their job naturally and easily, don’t we?
My best work moments are the ones where a copywriting client watches me type (through the shared-screen miracle of google docs) and, on my first try, says, “That’s it! That’s the line I was looking for!” And then we have the luxury problem of figuring out what to do with the rest of the hour.
But on the easiness scale, no job holds up to the one I had a couple of decades ago. Here’s what it was:
Michael, a guy I’d worked with at SPY Magazine, had started an internet company.
What that meant, no one really knew. In 1994, we got what email was (though we still used the hyphenated term “e-mail”). But what else did you do with the Internet?
Michael explained. His site, called Transom, would provide a thing called “content” and had a “bulletin board.”
This was the Flintstones version of a forum. (I guess the Jetsons-age version of a forum is Facebook.)
Michael would pay me to be a plant. A ringer.
My job was to post once a day or so, to help Transom look like, and become, an active, thriving community.
Any topic I wanted, Michael said. Just get conversation going.
Naturally, I posted about current events: Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210.
On Melrose, this was during the cliffhanger-heavy days of Allison (Courtney Thorne Smith) becoming a drunk and Kimberly (Marcia Cross) destroying lives and ripping off her wig.
And on Bev Hills, Dylan McKay was in a thrilling drug-addiction spiral, even doing the hard shit like heroin, which he smoked off of tin foil. (This is called “chasing the dragon.”) Like all addicts on TV, he did this while driving on the side of a mountain.
Brendan, Brenda, Kelly, Steve Sanders and the gang staged an intervention. They brought in a drug counselor played by Mackenzie Phillips as sort-of-herself.
I got paid to discuss this stuff!
Had I known that Mackenzie Phillips would one day reappear on Celebrity Rehab, I’d have had even more material. Not that I was lacking. The ever-widening gully between Tori Spelling’s surgically FUBAR’d boobs was worth whole threads on its own.
The engagement my writing got was off the charts. By “engagement,” I mean one flirtatious guy named Geoff who also liked to talk about Melrose and Bev Hills. (I met up with him once in real life, at a place downtown called Temple Bar. He brought his fiancee.)
By “off the charts,” I mean there were no charts for engagement back then. Remember, few people even knew how to get on the internet, much less measure it. One ongoing conversation about a couple of primetime soaps was considered viral.
I earned a weekly retainer for this job. I forget how much, but I was still living at home with my parents rent-free, so any money was gravy. Or, more accurately, lipstick money (Mac Twig and Bobby Brown Shimmer #4).
And, the best part, I made it doing something I gladly would’ve done for free.
Do you feel guilty charging for work that’s easy?
What’s the easiest gig you ever had?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
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