There is this StackOverflow question as to how to monetize your LaTeX skills. So in this post, I want to discuss whether you can earn money using LaTeX and if yes, how so? I also did a little survey on my Twitter, so I can offer you more than just my own biased opinion. Especially as I have done paid work using LaTeX but I don’t regularly do paid work using LaTeX and am happy to have a job where I can use LaTeX often, but am by no means paid specifically to do LaTeX (which is something I highly recommend you aim for too). This post has gotten pretty lengthy, so feel free to read selectively and jump to whatever you’re most interested in.
Experiences in the
This is the Twitter post where I asked fellow TeX lovers for their experiences to include in this post:
Currently working on a post on “How to earn money with LaTeX / building a career with LaTeX”. I would be very happy to learn about your experiences doing paid work related to LaTeX,
Now I will sum up the answers I have received. But before I do: a big thanks to the
#TeXLaTeX community – the friendliest and most helpful people ever!
Where and how do I work using LaTeX?
From the general tone of the feedback, it seems the community – like me – thinks the most comfortable and safest way to monetize LaTeX is in a university environment where you get to typeset using LaTeX but it is not necessarily the main ingredient in your job description. You might get to use LaTeX a lot – if you’re lucky and seek out opportunities to do so – but you also don’t depend on it entirely.
Working as a LaTeX-only freelancer is rather difficult, unless you’re well-connected in an environment where TeX-typesetting is part of everyday life. If you were so lucky to find such an environment, however, it would be likely you’d have way more competition and people who constantly use LaTeX anyway might not need anyone helping them. At least not often enough that you could life off that service alone. Companies like letexml offer not only LaTeX, but also XML, InDesign or Office services. So it’s more like a general typesetting “stack” (if you want to call it that) and not LaTeX only. There are, however, some who freelance using LaTeX. Martin Sievers (director of the German user’s group DANTE e.V.) kindly mentioned some of them to me:
It seems that Digital Humanities centres are places where TeX workers have found friendly enviroments where they can make their passion for LaTeX into money (among other duties). And it makes sense, of course. Seeing as XSL-FO development has stopped since 2012 and LaTeX strives as ever, it makes sense to transform Humanities data to LaTeX for creating printables. On top of that comes the great choice of possibilities and helpful packages LaTeX offers for needs (pretty much) unique to the Humanities (like the
reledmac package for multiple apparatuses or typesetting non-latin fonts or non-standard characters, for example).
What the work will probably be like
Those who do live off LaTeX say they mostly create templates or do backend work. Tips I got were not all intuitive to me – like the insistance that it’s important you are ok discussing solutions with customers. Even though for you, the passion for typesetting and technical aspects of LaTeX are at the core of what you imagine, first and foremost you will be a service provider. A line of work with very special customs – like the fact that your customer is always right and you will have to give them the result they want, not just have fun programming what you thought was best (or the most fun). This is generally an aspect I feel people tend to forget when trying to make their passions into jobs or move to their favourite holiday place as expats. Once it’s not a just-for-fun thing anymore and a real job – your real everyday life -, it might feel very different from the hobby you love. The reality of it might not be as full of unicorns as you might have expected. Are you sure you are ready for that?
If you are aware of these things, more-or-less know what to expect and still think it’s a good idea, then it probably is and you should at least give it a try. I’ll elaborate on how I think you sould best approach this later in this article.
In the “service provider” respect, freelancing in LaTeX is a lot like typical Digital Humanities work: You have to communicate your technical stuff in a way that’s understandable to someone who might not have that technical background. Customers might have very specific ideas or needs, even if those might not conform to what you think is best. Some of them don’t want good solutions but rather quick, cheap and dirty ones. If you want to make LaTeX consulting your job, you better be ok with that. Even at DH Centres, an environment where there is generally more understanding for a technology like LaTeX, people might not appreciate its beauty like you do. Mostly everybody just want things done. They don’t care about the beauty of LaTeX. You better get results, quickly.
Another thing, Patrick also mentioned: There will be people just looking for cheap quick and dirty solutions. This is nothing a LaTeX-lover can enjoy. But this for money. Anyone will have to do this from time to time. […] I work with Universities generating corporate Design templates and automation mechanisms for technical documentation or business correspondation or contracts. Cool thing is, I can choose which projects I accept.
Some of them also state that their projects are less about freelancing but more about the general Open Source idea of spreading a technology worth spreading. Some focus on people with technical backgrounds who are already heavily using LaTeX but might need help with the details, while others focus on bringing this great technology to people who are not yet part of the typical “target group”. That’s also what I am doing with this blog. I try to provide some interesting content for those who are already advanced users of LaTeX and want to improve, but on the other hand try to provide easy starting points for a public which is not already convinced of why they need LaTeX so far.
Selling your typesetting services is pretty much like any kind of graphic design freelancing (I suppose). You would have a pretty narrow target audience, but hey, self-help gurus always say to find your niche. So maybe this is it. I personally have made money from making posters with LaTeX, for example. The software was not a requirement. I was free to produce the result in any way I wanted, but LaTeX is what I do best, so that’s what I did. In this regard, it was just like any other contract work. Contributing to the LaTeX project probably won’t do you much good (money-wise) since it is an Open-Source project. But I don’t know enough about it to tell for sure.
So, to sum it all up, “work using LaTeX” ranges from creating your software product using LaTeX, working as a LaTeX consultant to creating templates. Now, I want to follow up with some concrete advice how you could go about it.
Practical advice from yours truly
Get a job where you can use LaTeX, not one where you’re specifically hired to do so.
Integrating LaTeX in your current job can be relatively easy if your job allows it. Or take a job where it is likely you will be able to incorporate LaTeX, then build a good reputation and maybe you’ll get more work involving LaTeX and will be sought out to officially do LaTeX work. Taking this path will be a lot easier than trying to go for LaTeX freelancing directly. And, more importantly, it will be a lot more secure. I would not suggest quitting your job to try and work in a field where you don’t already know you have a market and that the demand is sufficient for you to make a living out of it.
Do I have enough skills to do paid work using LaTeX?
Well, if you can get a paid job doing so, I’d say yes. Don’t wait until you’re an “expert” because that’s a subjective term and you might never feel like an expert, not even in 10 years. If you want to get started, you might as well do it now. In case you get stuck, you can look up what you need online. Once you are able to look up things online, adopt them to your needs and get things to actually work, you are ready. Also, if you’re not yet sure whether you can charge a fee for your services, work for free on 1-3 smaller not critical or urgent projects. This allows you to safely build a portfolio and confidence. Should it really go wrong you don’t have to worry too much since you didn’t get paid. Also, I suppose you might not be able to scrape a paid job rightaway anyway. So starting on a free project might be a good way to go. This also allows you to assess whether the service you aim to provide actually is in demand. If you’re unsure about the skills you possess, offer only what you are comfortable you can manage and you’ll be good.
Start with a side project
“Try out” your new business idea as a side project. Try to find a paid little thing to do. So, once you decide to really start working with LaTeX, you will already have customers willing to buy lined up. This is advice most guides on how to become a freelancer or entrepreneur give and that’s because it’s just sensible advice. Don’t quit your job if you’re not sure whether you will be able to live off your new business idea. Assess the idea is worth going for and collect objective proof of this by getting paid work. See whether you actually like the job. (Even if you love LaTeX, you might end up hating doing it for money and on the customer’s terms.) Start it as a side business and transition only once it’s profitable. Read John Sonmez’s Soft Skills and the Software Dev Career Guide for more advice on starting your own business.
Some sample job descriptions from Upwork
Also, to get started freelancing, think about taking a few mini jobs on online freelancing platforms. For example, I found little jobs like this doing a quick Google search:
Looking for experienced developer who can automate latex converter from multiple source.
Convert word document (Mathematics study booklet) into LaTeX using a given template. I’m looking for a competent LaTex user who knows Mathematics as well.
There are around 10 documents that need to be converted into a LaTeX template.
Template is already made for you to use.
I have uploaded a sample booklet using the template and a sample content document (Bivariate Data). Each booklet can be anywhere between 10-40 pages but some are already typed. Some are hand written. I need someone who has clean code.I require someone who can use TiKz and/or Pgf plot so that you can draw diagrams neatly. Please don’t insert images.
Create print ready equations. Equations were created with Word’s equation editor, poor consistency. Please see a sample of an engineering book that contains many equations that were created in Word’s equation editor. I would lhe equations in the kindle and print file to look cleaner. I understand thaht there is software (GrindEQ ) that can do this quickly.. Ideally the whole file could be corrected at once wthe the equations remaining in their place within the text.
Help with citations in Latex. I have written an MBA thesis in Latex, using Overleaf.com. I need to follow the APA citation style, but I am having a problem doing so. […] I am also having a hard time indicating in my code how the citations for a website and their date of retrieval are to be shown. […] 3. While I initially, in the latex code, introduced single empty lines between each paragraph and the next, somehow these do not appear anymore when I compile my code. I must have made a mistake somewhere. I need these single empty lines back. […] The deliverables are as follows: 1. References that follow the citation style indicated in the above link. 2. Website references are to follow a certain style. 3. Introduction of single empty lines between each paragraph and the next. You are kindly asked to indicate which lines of code you have written to implement any changes.
Answering questions found online
There is this StackOverflow question on whether you can or how to earn money using LaTeX and I think there was this one on quora where they said you couldn’t make money from LaTeX. This was the inspiration for my post, so I decided to explicitly answer it again.
The Quora question
This is the Quora answer to the simple question: “How can I make money from the LaTeX programming language?”. I am not entirely sure the person actually meant it because I find it highly biased and frankly, weird and totally unrealistic:
Some people do likexcept that they developped ConTeXT, a better LaTeX with some Lua empowered TeX engine inside, so they are real world experts about TeX and typing nice documents. Also, there are a lot of people out there that know how to type LaTeX documents, so you’ll have a lot of competition. And the LaTeX skill is not in short demand (less jobs). And typing a lot of LaTeX documents a day, will probably bore you to death at some time or create some Repetitive Stress Injury. So, I wouldn’t recommand the business model of earning money through LaTeX. But hey, it’s just my opinion. I can be wrong ^^
The commenter says correctly that some people do make money from it. But then, incorrectly states that “the LaTeX skill is not in short demand”. I find that advanced LaTeX skills are, in fact, not all that common. Sure, anybody can quickly type up a LaTeX document which will compile. But more complicated uses? Not in my experience. Also the comment on repetitive stress injury? Honestly?
Discussing the StackOverflow discussion
After helping a friend designing a flyer for a telecom company (for which she got decent remuneration), I find myself wondering whether there is a market for freelance TeX-related jobs, on which I could perhaps make some extra bucks for rainy days. As an amateur TeXnician with limited general knowledge of graphic design, but with a growing portfolio of decent-looking documents produced with TeX & friends,Who, if anyone, should I attempt to sell my TeX skills to?
- Who, if anyone, should I attempt to sell my TeX skills to?
- Would, say, a publishing company be interested? Or do they generally seek people with a much stronger background in TeX & friends than mine?
- If you are directly getting paid on account of your TeX skills, how did you get started?
I will cite some of the answers and comment on them below.
My answer is neither authoritative nor positive, so just a comment: the problem is that the major consumer of TeX, academia, consists of a lot of very proud, independent people who mostly don’t value skill in it but wouldn’t let anyone else do it for them. You will therefore not make any money from them. You might make money from their academic publishers but I doubt they need freelance work; since the authors all write their papers themselves they probably keep a TeX editor around to standardize them. I have never found a good answer to your question. – Ryan Reich Sep 27 ’13 at 1:58
Why do some people tend to just insult everyone in Academia without knowing anything about them? Why do people think that’s ok? I also noticed this general anti-Academia narrative just recently in the book Antifragile which I had been keen to read, but stopped because I felt I was being insulted constantly… Academia is pretty diverse and not everyone is the same. But if you dislike people (influenced by some bias of yours) and let it show, they will probably notice and accordingly, not treat you as nicely as they ordinarily would. I work in Academia and yes, of course there are some difficult arrogant people, but mostly, they are very nice people who will be happy about your help! Arrgoant people can be found in any job, and – not to insult anyone – but arrogance is actually pretty common among a lot of tech people, so I don’t really see why they like to make these wholesale judgements about academics when their field isn’t exactly better. Mostly, Academdia is filled with people who are expected to work like a one (wo)man army and are supposed to excel in millions of skills they were never formally taught (from accounting, grant writing and teaching to typesetting). They will therefore be grateful for help.
At least, I hope to provide the good answer to this question which he says he has never found so far with this post.
I have friends who take papers that have been TeXed by the authors, and “augment” them to work with the journal’s specific packages, etc. They make a good deal of money ($30/hr, 40+ hours per week). EDIT: I should mention they are employed by the journal. – Steve D Sep 27 ’13 at 6:10
Some mention people employed by journals who “augment” or correct submitted articles and can make a living off that.
I’d say that wherever the end product needs to be a PDF, there’s your market. Where TeX has an edge over competition, IMO, is automatic generation of documents. Think of catalogues generated from relational databases and stuff like that. – morbusg Sep 27 ’13 at 7:22
Yes, this! Totally my opinion!
@RyanReich I agree with you that one cannot make money from academic stuff, but at least in my case this is due to the fact there is in general no money in academic sphere. […] The market might be scientific or technical books, where TeX has its advantages – Pygmalion Sep 27 ’13 at 7:48
> @Pygmalion I think that many full professors have sufficient funding to hire people to do clerical work for them, and in many cases do. However, even if they break the barrier of letting someone else write the paper for them, it is in any case easier and cheaper to make that person an undergrad and not a freelancer. – Ryan Reich Sep 27 ’13 at 14:11
Well, here I can provide some insider knowledge: There isn’t a lot of money in Academia, in oppositon to what a lot of people from the outside / regular economy think. Especially in the Humanities everyone is broke and there isn’t any money. However, you will find that there still is some money for tasks like this after all, every once in a while.
And the thing about the undergrad – yes, that might be true 😉
Well, of course, if you actually are a software dev freelancer since people get way higher rates in programming and computer science. If you are used to Humanities and Academia work, you will probably be able to make a decent living and find a job you like, if you’re patient enough.
The comments mention that free services, like LaTeX typesetting, might ruin your offer (from what I saw on the page, it’s not even a free service…), since it’s competition offering value for free. I don’t think this is actually a relevant point. Of course there are free resources but someone willing to pay is not the same customer as the ones who will do it themselves given the right tools. Your customers are the ones who can’t or don’t want to do the work themselves, so don’t let these comments scare you.
I don’t consider a blunder to advertise this site: It is not my concurrent. I’m not aiming at customers with more or less good latex knowledge and the skill and the time to ask single, well phrased questions with MWE which I can answer in 10 minutes: the overhead for bookkeeping etc would eat up the gain. My customers have a lot of errors, large (often faulty) templates, no clue where to start to solve their problems or to implement some requirements and time pressure. They want continuous support over days (and also for “dumb” or localized questions). – Ulrike Fischer Sep 27 ’13 at 7:46
Making your source code inaccessible to your customers should also be considered to prevent others from using it free of charge. (one of my business strategies) – kiss my armpit Sep 27 ’13 at 8:04
In the LaTeX-support business it is up to impossible to keep the code away from the customer. It is also impossible to avoid that they learn how to handle latex problems themselves: that’s actually a vital part of my service. Also — sorry — my main aim is not to milk as much money as possible from other people. I have been helping people for free for a lot of years and I don’t intend to stop. My customers get all the code – they can add it to the tons of free code floating around anyway and (re)use it if they have the skills to do it. – Ulrike Fischer Sep 27 ’13 at 9:20
Ulrike Fischer’s answers are great, of course.
The only way I would assume realistic is by providing typing services to professors, but that usually requires domain-specific knowledge… So, while a nice skill to have, Latex is not something that will make you rich.
Typesetting stuff for professors doesn’t necessarily require domain-specific knowledge. A general idea of what’s going on and some interest for the subject won’t hurt, however. Also, like some of the comments somehow suggest – you won’t be writing a professor’s paper and they wouldn’t consider your typesetting their article as “you writing their articles”. This is ridiculous and just shows the commentators’ lack of knowledge about Academia. Academic publishing (with peer review and so on) is something where you actually depend a lot on collaborative work and it’s a totally normal part of academic work.
And: True, it probably won’t make you rich. Work in the Humanities doesn’t either. But it’s a passion for many and having work you love has a value of its own.
And again: me answering the question
Yes, you can totally earn money with LaTeX. But as with any other job, you need to place yourself in an environment where there is a sufficient demand for the service you provide. Ergo, you need to be in a place where things get typeset and published. Your first association with this requirement might be a publishing house. But here it is likely to be difficult to get in without formal credentials and they will already have their way of doing things. If they don’t already use LaTeX and they don’t see why they should change their whole workflow, they probably won’t hire someone without qualification or experience in the typesetting business and charge them with the great responsibility of revolutionizing everything.
What I would recommend as a starting place instead: Universities. Tons of things get published here from information flyers, advertisment posters, conference posters, PowerPoint presentations to books. There is a huge demand but hardly any professionals in typesetting to meet this demand. Here, publishing is something that people mostly do as an (mosty annoying and time-consuming) addition to their actual completely different job responsibilities. At universities, lots of people never formally learnt how to typeset, edit or publish things, yet they constantly have to do it. Many of them are very busy and might even have the means to outsource some work (like professors), so you could actually do work for them as opposed to just consulting. With others who don’t have lots of resources at their disposal, any help would be highly appreciated. Most of those people are not typesetting professionals themselves, so they probably wouldn’t care or notice if you are not a professional or lack formal qualification. Helping out here is a low-risk way to get some experience. And not even to mention all the students who might want help typesetting their thesis. You just need to make sure people know which services you provide. Also, universities might look for corporate design etc. Though this is probably not something you will be hired for without prior experience.
Target “accidental editors” & provide good value
You could start freelancing helping out the thousands of “accicental editors” at universities. Here, it will be most important that they know about your services (advertise on campus) or get in touch personally. If you ask nicely, somebody might be willing to forward your contact via their department’s or faculty’s distribution list. Somebody always needs help typesetting. You might be able to beat more experienced competitors by just being noticeably cheaper.
Mostly, people at universities don’t need the perfect results they might get from a “professional”. They only need something ok, something that’s just a little bit better than what they would have been capable of doing themselves. In my experience, people were most thrilled with some super simple output I provided. They might not be in a position to really be able to judge whether the quality is better than what they are used to. Just the fact that LaTeX looks plainly different from Word output is something which makes them stand out among their colleagues, even though they might not really appreciate or be able to judge typographical superiority.
Choosing a profile
When narrowing down how to market yourself, be sure to have a clear picture of what the services are you are willing to provide: For example, university IT centers might be a place where you could find a job if you focus on helping people installing and getting started with LaTeX, a bit like Troubleshooting-TeX maybe. Universities also tend to have their own publishing houses which might be a place where you could end up. University publishing might also be interesting if you are willing and able to combine your LaTeX work with proof-reading and so on. Technical universities and publishing houses frequently use LaTeX for the math and formula support.
Actually, yes, it’s been known to happen. I have earned money doing LaTeX. I typeset exhibition texts. I typeset two of my own books (which was not, strictly speaking, paid work but at least the credential of having my typesetting accepted by a publishing house). I do some LaTeX in my DH work (conference posters, outputting our repository’s data, creating a stylesheet for our repository’s PDF output, creating worksheets for a school-related digital project). I do typesetting for a scientific society I am part of. I taught some LaTeX in a class on annotation. I help friends out with LaTeX. As you see, it’s a lot of unpaid work. But it helps build credentials and every once in a while, when there is money to be handed out for typesetting, I get it.
So to answer the main question as to whether you can earn money using LaTeX, I would say: Yes! But… it will be easier in a university environment and best done step by step building credentials while your income stream mostly consists of something else. Then, once you’ve (publicly) done this for a few years, you might end up being able to do it full time. However, I would not suggest you aim to go full-time really fast. Just aim to getting a first paid LaTeX-related job and get active in the community. Make sure people actually know that you offer to do paid LaTeX work and advertise it subtly. People might not yet realize they could use someone who does paid LaTeX work. If our surroundings don’t even know what LaTeX is and what the advantages are, you probably won’t get a job. Get people interested in and aware of LaTeX. Mention it whenever you can (without being annoying).
You might also be able to scrape a “normal” typesetting or even graphic-design related job and then just do it in LaTeX instead of other tools available. (At least, that’s what I did.) Check out if people like the results. Advertise it. Make LaTeX your niche and make sure people know about it.
You can teach classes on LaTeX (at universities, at publishing houses, etc – the demand isn’t huge, but if you can find your niche of clients, it can be done). Again, the university environment is your friend.
Place yourself in a setting where there is a considerable demand for typesetting and publishing, like a university.
Teach PhD students to typeset their dissertations. Offer to convert from Word to LaTeX output (including correcting whatever might have gone wrong or even proof-reading if you’re confident you are capable of that).
At universities, tons of people end up as editors who have never learnt how to typeset things. They are usually self-taught and get along but you could either cater to their needs and offer to typeset things for them (if they have the budget to hire someone to do it) or you could offer classes for the “accidental editor”. And there are really many of those around universities, believe me. Most would probably respond better to introductions to Adobe Illustrator. But, depending how “formula-focused” the things they have to typeset are, they might be interested.
Many people have already heard about LaTeX but the initial hurdle to starting is too big. If you can facilitate and smoothe out that initiation, you might end up with some valuable customers. You just need to be able to convince them, why they should bother using LaTeX. A few attempts at that explanation can be found on my blog 😉 Feel free to use them in your own self-marketing!
But if I teach someone to do it on their own, won’t I lose myself the few customers available to me?
Well, no. If you ask me, you don’t. Ever read Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon? To sum it up in very few words, he argues that in creative work we constantly “steal” anyway. It’s what they call inspiration. So the creative market flourishes if we share. It is no good trying to hide your work or keep your knowledge secret out of fear this will lose you authority and/or money. Sharing valuable content is basically what nearly all self-help gurus nowadays recommend. If you share valuable content, it shows that you are knowledgeable which, in return, will give you authority and notoriety in your field. And once people know you are valuable because you have proven, over and over again, your capability of creating valuable content, they will seek you out for paid work as well.
John Sonmez speaks of “inbound marketing” where you focus on “drawing in” potential customers by offering 90% of your good value for free, rather than trying to get someone to buy a product. Advertise your competence by giving away value for free and people will come to you. You just need to be patient and persitent. When people come to you, you can charge higher fees than when you try to get someone to buy a service they didn’t want intrinsically or beforehand.
Nobody wants to buy your creative work that you have been hiding for years out of fear of not getting anything back in return. Creativity and improvement don’t come from creating one great work. This is also a communis opinio (general opinion) among self-help books. They all cite the example of the arts teacher who divided their class into two groups: one would be graded on one perfect output and the other would merely be graded on the amount of output. All the really good output had come from the “quantity” group. By failing fast and often, they had fine-tuned their skills whereas the “perfection” group had spent all their time theorizing and lacked the experience to produce high quality output.
So the point I wanted to make with this is: If you teach someone, you do enable them to do things themselves. People like to feel independent and they don’t like experts hiding their money to force customers into having to “buy their competency”. They like being enabled to understand the basics but they will also realize that they can’t do the difficult stuff on their own, still. So they will seek you out, the expert who has demonstrated skill and true dedication to helping them in the way they want. Customers want what’s best for them, not what’s best for you. So when trying to get customers to buy from you, you have to cater to their needs, not try and cheat them. This is what they famously call “the win-win situation”. You want to earn money from your work, customers want to be helped in the best way possible (that is, in the way they want).
Prerequisites and How to get started
First make sure you actually have “active” LaTeX skills, i.e. you can do more than the average user. Like with teaching, it’s enough to be just one step ahead of them. Then you could start helping out users with advanced needs. Make sure you’re good at debugging common errors.
If you see yourself as more of a technician – help Windows users setting up LaTeX. This could easily made into paid work. You just insert yourself into the line of work of technical helpers. Also, maybe try to do this at universities where there actually is a lot of need for typesetting (maybe even using LaTeX).
If you aim to do something in the area of “Graphic Design”, learn TikZ like your life depends on it because it will.
Producing a print-ready output
Only because you know some LaTeX doesn’t necessarily mean you will know how to cater to the needs of a publishing house. Try to get the opportunity of working with them for free. Again, small publishing houses or university publishers often offer the option that you hand in the final PDF which comes a lot cheaper than having them typeset it for you. This will save the scientist in question a lot of money (500-2000€ depending on the amount of work). Offer to some university professor that you will typeset their book for free, so you will have done the interaction with the publisher at least once, have a credential to show and know what publishers want. Also, don’t underestimate how long it might take. There is a reason a job like this can pay up to 2000€. Especially scientific publications often have a million changes and corrections before they are finally ready for print. It will probably be a lot more work than you might have expected. Anticipate this (!). Publishing houses also tend to find typographical problems you hadn’t even dreamt about beforehand.
[ While writing this, I noticed I would have a lot more to say about how to schedule and go about the work with your “customers”, so I made an extra post about it. ]
In the Humanities, it is most imporant that you learn all the features MS Word offers and how to reproduce a Word-like-but-better look. If they are to let you use LaTeX, you first have to prove it has all the features they are used to from MS Word.
During the process, you might realize that producing a PDF which corresponds exactly to the publisher’s criteria is more difficult than you would think. At least, that was what it was for me. I had used LaTeX and knew how to do the customizing needed to make my thesis advisors happy, but the publisher ended up wanting a million things changed I had never even dreamt of doing in LaTeX. Advisors will quickly be happy with nicely typeset output and correct citations. Publishers, however, want a very specific look. For example, the first thing I had to change is the typesetting of the footnotes which no advisor of mine had ever cared about. I had never customized footnotes before and wasn’t even aware that could be an issue. So if you haven’t done any of those things, I suggest you start reading up on them now. (An upcoming post on LaTeX for the Accidental Editor will explain all those things).
The sorcerer’s apprentice: How to learn the tools of the craft
If you are still at the very beginning of your journey and don’t really have any certifiable competencies yet – don’t try to “help” a professional. You will only make a fool of yourself. If you want to start doing “real work” as quickly as possible, offer unpaid help to non-professionals. Be honest about the fact that you are not yet a professional but would really like to do some free work for them as to build your credentials.
Learn from a professional. Seek out a professional whom you know to use LaTeX and volunteer. Do the work they delegate to you, try to be as helpful as possible. Listen very carefully to their insider information they gathered from their years of experience. Be very open about the fact that you do not yet have lots of competencies but are willing to learn. Aim for a (probably unpaid) internship. This will be a valuable experience and you can add it to the list of credentials on your CV if you don’t have a lot of time to lose.
However, if you want to get going and receive paid work opportunities really quickly – probably trying to earn money using LaTeX is not the right route for you anyway. It’s more of a career path you can transition to if you are patient and in a suitable environment for this quest.
Join a user’s group. There, you can learn from the member’s years of experience and maybe hear about it when there are jobs.
Where is LaTeX used in the real world where there could be jobs?
This post discusses LaTeX in industry and gives some examples, in case you are interested in that.
Open Access / e Publications
Many e-publication platforms use LaTeX to generate their PDFs. While I don’t know him personally, Lukas C. Bossert creates LaTeX solutions for the German Archaeological Institute, for example a citation style. So, yet again the general takeaway is that you should join an organization with a big publication output and specific needs you can help them with.
To sum it all up
Yes, you can earn money using LaTeX.
Practical tips: Place yourself in a university environment where there is a lot of demand for typesetting but few typesetting professionals.
Practise LaTeX, learn all the most important things (citations settings, formatting footnotes and bibliographies) for scientific publishing, get credentials from a real publishing house so you can prove you are able to cater to their needs.
Austin Kleon, Steal like an artist, 2012.
John Sonmez, The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide: How to Learn Your Next Programming Language, Ace Your Programming Interview, and Land The Coding Job Of Your Dreams, 2017.
John Sonmez, Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual, 2014.
(I will do a post on John Sonmez’s work soon, he has some really interesting advice and I highly recommend you read his books. They are also available as audiobooks which I like to listen to while riding my bike to work 😉 )
Also, see these two articles concerning LaTeX consulting:
Boris Veytsman, TEX consulting for fun and profit, in: TUGboat, Volume 32 (2011), No. 1, https://tug.org/TUGboat/tb32-1/tb100veytsman.pdf
Amy Hendrickson, Real Life LATEX: Adventures of a TEX Consultant, TEXNorthEast Conference, March 22–24, 1998. https://tug.org/TUGboat/tb19-2/tb59amy.pdf
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