A few weeks ago I had an unexpected contact from someone I had worked with many years ago at a local newspaper chain. He had remained long after I left, had survived corporate takeovers and various bosses but had now been told this was his last week. He's just a few years short of retirement age so of course that's extra bitter: it will be very hard to find a new job. Fortunately he has always done some side work; that's why he was calling me.
His job at the newspaper was layout: mixing in ads and content to produce a good looking and effective paper. It's the kind of work that requires artistic sense but of course a lot of politics comes into it also. He definitely has the artistic talent and managed to navigate the political terrain for several decades, so he doesn't lack for skills. His side work was banners, signs, graphics for web pages, that sort of thing. He was calling me because I client wanted a web page that would require backend programming; he asked if I could help him with that. Of course I'd be happy to. I brought him up to speed and showed him that he might be able to avoid custom programming by using a platform like WordPress with plugins. He was unaware of Php or CSS so I gave him a quick overview and pointed him at web links for more education. He's not afraid of programming - he used to do a little BASIC now and then - so I think he can do fine with this and of course I will help him with anything he needs.
A few days later I thought of something else that he might do to pull some money out of the economy. I ran this by him and he seemed to understand what I was preaching, but I'll also present it here for someone else to chew on. If you have the right skills, this is a service that you could offer over the web.
The Ugly E-Book
A lot of us bloggers have e-books. We sell 'em or give them away for promotion or do both. Why not? There are no technical difficulties in producing or distributing an e-book. You write them with a word processor and distribute them using simple services like E-Junkie. Piece of cake.
Well, except that most of us aren't layout design people. Choosing good looking fonts and font sizes is not something I have any clue about. If I used pictures or illustrations, merging them with text is not something I'd do artfully. It came to me that if I could use help with the layout of my e-books, other people could also. There's a business opportunity for someone with the right skills.
Obviously this isn't a big ticket item. As noted, a lot of e-books are given away as promotional devices so can't carry much extra production cost. On the other hand, I would think that for a person well skilled in these areas this wouldn't be something that requires a lot of work but does have plenty of opportunity for up-selling: a better cover, suggesting an illustration here and there, offering alternate formats (epub, etc.).
I did a Google for "e-book layout and design service" and found that, yes, there are people offering such services. I didn't follow through to check what kind of money they'd be getting but there do seem to be quite a few of them.
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