Critique the Work of Others – and Get Paid for It!

Whatever your specialty or area of expertise, you may have an overlooked opportunity: critiquing the work of others for money.

Take my case. As a freelance advertising copywriter for 30 years, I was often hired to critique direct-mail sales packages – at $2,000 to $4,000 per assignment.

Aside from the payment, which was not too shabby, I enjoyed other rewards. These jobs served as a welcome break from copywriting. I could do them quickly. It was fun to be a coach or teacher occasionally, and I often learned as much as I taught.

You say you’re not a copywriter? That’s okay. Many others have seized this niche.

Consider Lori Haller, a top direct-response graphic designer. She does several critiques every month for clients for whom she routinely also does design work, but who don’t have the budget to hire her for every project. Another reason: Sometimes she doesn’t have time in her schedule for full design, even when the client is willing to pay. Like me, Lori talks enthusiastically about the numerous benefits this sideline gives her.

Shelly Perry, a freelance photographer, serendipitously discovered iStockphoto, a site offering millions of images for sale. She began uploading her own work to the site. Then she was hired as an “inspector” to evaluate the submissions of other photographers. Shelly is also a photography instructor and routinely critiques the work of her students, both in intensive one-to-one discussions and as a judge for student competitions.

Yet another fertile area is editorial critiquing. Many people review and comment on book manuscripts for authors and publishers, and are well compensated for their efforts. Others critique screenplays, songs, resumes… you name it.

Whatever your field, opportunities abound, often in surprising places. Early in our careers, neither I nor the other professionals cited above ever expected to enjoy this interesting and profitable sideline. So ask yourself how you might find ways to apply your experience and knowledge to a lucrative niche as a critiquer.

[Ed. Note: Don Hauptman writes ETR’s Saturday column, “The Language Perfectionist.” The above article was adapted from his just-published e-book The Versatile Freelancer: How Writers and Other Creative Professionals Can Generate More Income by Seizing New Opportunities in Critiquing, Consulting, Training, and Presenting. It includes additional advice on critiquing, along with details on diversifying into other rewarding sidelines. The book comes with a free bonus report and a 100 percent money-back guarantee of satisfaction.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.