How I Made Thousands Turning My ‘Star Trek’ Fandom Into a Geeky Lucrative Side Hustle

by posted in MAKE MONEY, Passive Income Ideas, Remote Job Opportunities, Side Hustle Ideas

I’ve been a Star Trek nerd my whole life. I watched the shows, read books about making them, and wondered at the miracle that people got paid to write about something I loved so much. I would’ve done it for free–in fact, I did it for free as a nerdy student.

I grew up in Canada, so when my history teacher asked us to do reports on famous Canadians, I chose William Shatner and James Doohan, of course.

We had to give speeches; I gave one about science fiction.

Book report? The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield. I probably put more effort into it than any kid in the history of book reports.

Decades later, I would turn that childhood desire into a delightfully rewarding and surprisingly lucrative side hustle.

I’d worked as a TV producer and a website director, but I was always a writer at heart.

The idea of making money from researching and writing about something that already fascinated me was revelatory. I had a blast writing the piece, and it jump-started a side hustle that brought in extra money and would connect me professionally to a franchise I’ve loved since I was a kid.

Becoming an Expert

Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and DeForest Kelley in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

I managed the digital team at the TV network Fuse, and when the editorial team had a Star Trek story to cover, they’d ask me to do it.

I envied people who got to spend their day writing stories about Star Trek. In an attempt to avoid sinking into a well of self-pity, I emailed the managing editor of TrekMovie to see if they were hiring. I got a reply about a half hour later: They couldn’t pay, but they could offer…no, not that old “exposure” scam, but press tickets to events, products to review, occasional swag, and opportunities to do interviews.

Thanks to TrekMovie, I developed a body of work. I got hired by paying outlets to cover other shows, but most of what I sold was about Star Trek.

I wrote about the philosophy of Star Trek for Biography, created listicles for ScreenRant, conducted interviews, essays, and lists for the official Star Trek site, created viewers’ guides for The Water Cooler, and wrote about fandom for Taffeta, which hired me to cover other topics, too.

I had officially become a freelance writer, adding to my income with a steady stream of articles.

How Much Money Are We Talking About?

“Code of Honor” (The Next Generation, Season One, Episode Four, 1987)
Image Credit: Paramount Domestic Television.

My income varied depending on the outlet. The official site pays $200 for a story; I’ve mostly sold them listicles and interviews but occasionally been able to simply sell my opinion about Star Trek, like one of my favorites, “In Defense of Captain James T. Kirk.”

Taffeta pays by the word range, so depending on the piece, I could make anywhere from $75 to $200.

ScreenRant, which has long changed its policies since I wrote for them, used to be good for $200-$500 based on traffic and let me play with a wide range of themes for my listicles.

The Water Cooler only paid $50 a pop but didn’t ask for much and let me be their Star Trek expert while I was writing for them.

This supplemented my income nicely, helping me pay for family vacations and cover surprise expenses for our kids.

Ultimate Side Hustle: A $3,000/Week Dream Hustle

Laurie interviewing Ethan Peck of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

When the Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, went off the air in 2005, we all thought that was the end of it. The J.J. Abrams movies started up a few years later, but Trek on TV was dead…or so it seemed.

But then, Paramount announced a new show, Star Trek: Discovery, that would premiere in 2017.

CBS All Access, the show’s streaming service, decided they wanted an aftershow. They’d seen the success of Talking Dead, the Walking Dead aftershow, and hired the same company to produce it.

At that point, I hadn’t worked in TV for over 15 years. The industry had undergone technological changes, but the executive producer didn’t feel that posed a problem. “The only difference,” he told me during my interview when I asked about tech, “is that you used to hand someone a tape, and now you send them a digital file.”

He hired me. They offered me $2750 a week as the supervising producer, a decent rate, and even though I would’ve done anything for that job, I asked for $3000 a week and got it.

Our first assignment was to watch the Discovery pilot, which would not premiere on TV for another month. I had achieved the pinnacle: I getting being paid to watch Star Trek.

For five blissful months, my job was to supervise After Trek. The highlight was directly emailing the writers and producers with questions about that week’s episode. We read scripts, watched rough cuts, and then asked about details that caught our eye.

Provided by Laurie Ulster

They sent us photos of props, rehearsals, and sets. I got paid a sweet salary to fulfill a childhood dream, using the experience I thought I’d left behind. I wrote trivia questions and staged Tribble gags. We didn’t have a stage manager in our tiny studio, and I got to fill in there, which I loved.

I bossed Star Trek people around!

When the show wrapped, we did a pilot for another Trek show, which bought me another two months of employment doing deep dives into Trek trivia. We needed prizes for our players, and the team at CBS let us plunder their merch closet.

“Take what you want for yourselves, too,” they told us. We held back initially, but they encouraged us to help “clear up some space.” We happily obliged.

There’s more than one way to get paid…

Star Trek Discovery - Becoming Captain
Image Credit: Columbia Broadcasting System.

Money is ideal, but indirect financial benefits make much of this worth doing.

I’ve gone to New York Comic-Con almost every year without paying a dime, and if there’s a Trek event, I get a reserved spot and a seat at the press table. I go to the yearly convention in Vegas and don’t have to pay for tickets. When a new book comes out, I can request a free copy to write a review.

Here in my home office, I’m surrounded by cool products I never had to pay for: a Borg Cube advent calendar, a Trek portable Wi-Fi charger, Chateau Picard wine, Trek watches from Vannen, and weirder items too: a Star Trek cheese cutting board, ship-shaped salt and pepper shakers, USS Enterprise socks.

Eight years after I started, working on TrekMovie has helped bolster my creative reputation as a professional who covers Star Trek. Though still a side gig, the credibility it gives me has boosted my ability to pitch and sell to paying outlets.

… And there are skills to pick up along the way.

Star Trek Discovery - Reconciling With Spock
Image Credit: Columbia Broadcasting System.

In addition to an outlet for my constant stream of uncontainable Star Trek information, TrekMovie gave me authority.

I got increasingly comfortable with interviews as the actors, writers, directors, and PR people became familiar with me. I got on Comic-Con’s press lists and became a known authority on the subject.

I’m very picky about what I’ll do for free; everything I choose contributes to my goal of becoming a payable expert. I co-host a weekly podcast (All Access Star Trek) and guest on others.

Want To Write About What You Love? Here’s My Advice

“State of Flux” (Star Trek Voyager, Season One, Episode Eleven, 1995)
Image Credit: Paramount Network Television.

Here’s my advice if you want to write about the things you love.

Tailor your work to the publication

I used different writing approaches depending on the outlet.

For, I could assume the readership knew the basics of Star Trek and wanted to go below the surface; for Biography, the facts, dates, and details mattered; for The Water Cooler, I wanted readers to skim along the surface to lure in newbies; and for Taffeta, I wrote about a personal journey that women of a certain age could relate to.

Do the thing you love until you can get paid for it

If having a portfolio applies to your side hustle, create one. Don’t do free work for large companies that just rip you off; instead, work on your own projects or ones created by other like-minded people. Your future employers will need to see your work.

Don’t tell anyone you work for free

You have no reason to share that information. It’s professional work. That’s all anyone needs to know.

Find groups (in real life or online) who share information

There is no shortage of this in almost every field. There are groups full of people who can discuss rates, challenges, triumphs, places to get work, inspirational ideas, and sob stories. Find them!

Tell everyone what you’re doing

Unless you tell them, people won’t know you sew costumes, make chairs, paint portraits, translate French, or whatever your thing is.

Once they know, when they encounter someone who mentions they need that translation, some furniture refinished, or a costume for an audition, they’ll recommend you.

It really does work, and you don’t have to be obnoxious about it. You’re not trying to sell yourself to people; it’s just something you love to do, so you talk about it.



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