Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

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mikemarotta
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Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#1

Post by mikemarotta »

(See the Vendors topic area on this board.) Technically, of course, if you are getting paid, then you are not an amateur.

One of the active members of our local club is a very accomplished photographer. He displays at periodic arts and crafts shows and sells them online. (http://astronomy.robpettengill.org). Photography is one art. Painting is another. See Cary Jacobs (Kent, UK) acrylic on canvas advertised on here under Vendors.

Astronomers rely on two broad families of software: planetarium and image processing. In the first category, several commercial products such as Starry Night are well known and compete against free software such as Stellarium and Celestia. Image processing software includes AstroPix and StarTools among others. But with software, creators are passionate about their better idea. For those who love to code, the fact that others already have done it is no barrier.

You can write for publication. The channels are narrow and shallow. In the USA we have two paying magazine, Astronomy and Sky & Telescope. Both are mostly written by their own fulltime staffs. They do accept submissions, subject to a lot of restrictions. Both magazines tell authors to query first. For Astronomy, I found the Guidelines by putting Guidelines in the Search box. I could not find it as a tab, menu item or link off the homepage. Sky & Telescope is more user-friendly. The guidelines for contributors is a labeled link at the bottom of the home page.

If you like buying and selling, astronomy is a hobby that depends on expensive equipment. I will caution that buying and selling is an activity in its own right. In the five years from 1977 to 1982, computer retailers learned that a successful track record in refrigerator sales is a better predictor of success than knowledge of computers. If you do not enjoy trading, knowledge of astronomy will not provide the skills. Those skills can be learned, but it is learning by trial and error which can be expensive. In addition to online venues such as this one and similar discussion boards, local opportunities include flea markets, astronomy clubs, and similar events.

Lecturing for pay is possible. Our local astronomy club does get requests from hotels, resorts, and similar venues to provide guest lecturers for special events. They offer (modest) honoraria that cover time and expenses. You could always do your own advertising and market your own presentation services. However, as with sales, if you do not already enjoy public speaking, knowledge of astronomy will not carry you through public speaking is a learnable skill.

Your city may have a community education effort, perhaps through parks and recreation. Some restrictions may apply as to how and how much you get paid. Here in Austin, Texas, we nothing that I am aware of. However, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was an option for people with arts and crafts skills to get paid to mentor other devotees.

That leads to more formal opportunities. Generally, in the USA, you need at least a master's degree to teach at a community college. What that degree is in can be flexible. In larger cities and university towns, talent is easy to find, and you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a Ph.D. Other communities find different solutions to meet the educational needs of their populace.

And then there are the online video channels. People love to watch other people doing things. Linking that to advertising displays brings in a revenue stream. Again, it is a mode all of its own. Running a channel successfully can become a commitment you did not plan on simply because people will not return unless you keep posting new material. It is easy to recommend having a dozen or so videos completed before launching the channel. Then you just have to keep up with the viewers by always providing new material.
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Lady Fraktor
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#2

Post by Lady Fraktor »

Though many people would be interested in this type of thing, personally it would take it from being a lifetime hobby/ passion much to close to being a job.
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#3

Post by Don Quixote »

Wow, Mike!
This is a great post.
Thank you.
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#4

Post by gregl »

I'll add that writing for publication is fun and rewarding, but it's also hard work. While we have only the two astronomy magazines, consider pieces written for lay persons that might fit into adventure, in-flight, outdoor or travel magazines. Even your local newspaper might be interested in a timely piece on something any reader could see from their backyard. You won't get rich doing this, but you might get enough to pay for that Tele Vue Nagler eyepiece you lust for.

I've spent the bulk of my career in journalism and related endeavors, and I have a short piece with tips on writing for magazines that I'm glad to send to anyone who wants it. Just p.m. me with your email address and I'll forward it on to you.
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#5

Post by OzEclipse »

Lady Fraktor wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:49 pm
Though many people would be interested in this type of thing, personally it would take it from being a lifetime hobby/ passion much to close to being a job.
I agree with Gabby's comment above.

I have in the past and still get paid for both photography and more recently astronomy related activities.

In photography, I have earned money from teaching workshops, selling images, writing articles for magazines.
In astronomy, I have earned money from teaching workshops, and writing articles for magazines.

To avoid the problem that Gabby refers to, I have a simple rule, I don't chase money, I chase fun. If I get paid to do something that I have fun doing, that I would do for nothing, hey how good is that! I'll also do things that don't pay money if they are fun.

I have written a couple of larger feature articles, 10-15 pages each. One was with Sky and Telescope, we had Dennis di Ciccio sub-editing our feature. S&T approached us to write the article so there was no pitch involved. Dennis was a great guy to work with, very efficient, and it all went really smoothly.

The other magazine, had multiple levels of editors all wanting to put their own stamp or tilt on the article. The chief editor changed during the commission period. By the time it was finished they had hacked it up so much that there were contextual errors due to missing text they'd removed. I got paid $4000 for the article but I sank a lot of hours into it. I stopped counting but I'm pretty sure the hourly rate wasn't that attractive ;-) It was stressful, hard work, not much fun but in the end a good learning experience. More or less like Gregl suggested in his post.

I enjoy teaching the workshops on photography and nightscape astrophotography. I teach both through a photographic arts centre. They pay me for teaching but more importantly, the workshop profits generate vital income for the centre and that is my primary motivation for teaching them. They are hard work but being enjoyable, they don't feel like a 'job.'

So in all of this, I've managed to mostly stick to my, "only if it's fun" rule over the past 25 years. I have turned down opportunities that were just money but didn't seem like they'd be fun. The total made from all these activities haven't made me rich but more than paid for all my photo and astro gear over the years, and a good portion of all my world travels. I had the luxury of being able to do pick and choose because I have a full time day job that I didn't give up. It becomes a very different proposition if you give up the day job and need to make all your income from these activities.

Joe
Amateur astronomer since 1978
Astronomical interests : astrophotography, visual observing, nightscape photography, solar eclipse chasing
asteroidal occultations, nightscape astrophotography workshops
Bortle 1-2 skies, 149 E, 35 S
web site : http://joe-cali.com/
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#6

Post by jrkirkham »

I am also going to echo some of the thoughts in the above contacts. I have had a job all my life that put me in the public eye. My current hobbies are photography and astronomy, both of which are good hobbies for a recluse. I have occasionally taught classes in both. My pictures have been in a few galleries. I've shot a few weddings, portrait sessions, etc. It didn't take me too long to realize that I was headed down a path that wasn't right for me. Having the ability to earn a few dollars with my hobby doesn't mean I have the inclination to turn my hobby into a business. If business energizes you I think go for it. If it drains you keep your distance.
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#7

Post by OzEclipse »

I should also have mentioned that I have friends who are full time professional photographers. On attending my exhibitions and seeing my work, they have told me that they are jealous. The reason being that running a photography business means spending 99% of your time running the business, accounts, invoicing, promoting, looking for work and <1% of the time actually doing what they loved-being behind the camera.

The grass is rearely greener on the other side of the hill, it's just an optical illusion!
Joe
Amateur astronomer since 1978
Astronomical interests : astrophotography, visual observing, nightscape photography, solar eclipse chasing
asteroidal occultations, nightscape astrophotography workshops
Bortle 1-2 skies, 149 E, 35 S
web site : http://joe-cali.com/
SCOPES - ATM 18" Dob, Vixen VC200L, ATM 6"f7, ED80
MOUNTS- EM-200, iEQ45, Push dobsonian with Nexus DSC
CAMERAS : Pentax K1, K5, K01 / VIDEO CAMS : TacosBD, Lihmsec
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#8

Post by gregl »

It's hard to generalize. Some folks can merge a hobby and a job with great success; others not. I fell into the former category and remember thinking at times, "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this!"
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#9

Post by OzEclipse »

gregl wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:25 am
It's hard to generalize. Some folks can merge a hobby and a job with great success; others not. I fell into the former category and remember thinking at times, "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this!"
I know. That's how I feel when teaching photo workshops. I never lose sight of the fact that it is such a privilege to be in that position, and I have it in my day job as well and a far cry from scrubbing algae off tiles in swimming pools, my part time job when I was at university.

Joe
Amateur astronomer since 1978
Astronomical interests : astrophotography, visual observing, nightscape photography, solar eclipse chasing
asteroidal occultations, nightscape astrophotography workshops
Bortle 1-2 skies, 149 E, 35 S
web site : http://joe-cali.com/
SCOPES - ATM 18" Dob, Vixen VC200L, ATM 6"f7, ED80
MOUNTS- EM-200, iEQ45, Push dobsonian with Nexus DSC
CAMERAS : Pentax K1, K5, K01 / VIDEO CAMS : TacosBD, Lihmsec
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mikemarotta
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#10

Post by mikemarotta »

gregl wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:31 am
. I'll add that writing for publication is fun and rewarding, but it's also hard work. ... adventure, in-flight, outdoor or travel magazines. Even your local newspaper might be interested ...You won't get rich doing this, but ...
I've spent the bulk of my career in journalism and related endeavors, and I have a short piece with tips on writing for magazines that I'm glad to send to anyone who wants it. Just p.m. me with your email address and I'll forward it on to you.
I also quit counting publications at 300 about 20 years ago. I sell at least four pieces a. year. It is work, but if you enjoy the doing, then that makes it worthwhile. I have not used Writer's Market in many years, but it is a resources. Internet or not, hundreds of outlets will pay for interesting articles. I agree that the local newspaper could be a venue, if the story could be tied to a local interest.
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mikemarotta
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Re: Getting Paid for Amateur Astronomy

#11

Post by mikemarotta »

OzEclipse wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:27 pm
. ... To avoid the problem that Gabby refers to, I have a simple rule, I don't chase money, I chase fun. If I get paid to do something that I have fun doing, ... S&T approached us to write the article so there was no pitch involved. ... The other magazine, had multiple levels of editors all wanting to put their own stamp or tilt on the article.
I agree that the easy sale is best. I also went through the editorial wringer once. The same sorts of problems attach to every endeavor. If you want to buy and sell eye pieces, you go through lost packages and otherwise unhappy customers. It's always something. But, again, if you enjoy the doing, then that's fine.
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Michael E. Marotta
mike49mercury@gmail.com
Senior Technical Writer
NecessaryFacts.blogspot.com
Celestron EQ 130 Newtonian w. Lens & Filter kit.
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
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