How to Become a Paid Agony Aunt or Uncle
Charlotte Craig, President of The Association of Agony Aunts, with thirty years of experience of helping famous people gives you the run down on how to become a paid agony aunt or uncle.
Agony Aunt Jobs
For every professional paid agony aunt that is doing this as a job or career there are many more who would like to, some of whom would be suitable and very good at it, given half a chance.
The reason there are less people working in this field is because there are not many opportunities and people do not know how to obtain such jobs. We see celebrity writers appearing in various magazines and newspaper claiming to be experts at giving advice,
but the only reason anyone employed them is BECAUSE they are celebrities, not because they give wise advice. You only have to read some of their articles to see that very often what they say does not make sense or is more for entertainment purposes!
When it comes to serious experts people tend to get into this line of work through being a writer or working in the medical profession, but there are a lot of people out there who are not paid writers and not professionals medically who would be good at this.
All of the people who consult such an expert are women, they are never male, and most of those are young, aged 18-25, it is very rare that a woman older than 25 bothers to consult one, even if they could for free. The majority of them want advice about a boyfriend, a husband, a man they are keen on, a man who has hurt them, a relationship that has ended, a relationship they wish would start, or a relationship that is neither one thing nor the other and confusing them a lot. This means that you do not have to be a professional writer or a medical person to be able to understand them and help them. But you would need to have an excellent grasp of women and the way women think, what they feel, what they want, what makes them tick, and how to please them.
It is not enough to simply be a woman either. You would need a good experience of the many problems women face and how to successfully face those challenges and beat them. You would also need a soft touch, because if you are rude or very blunt, even if you are correct, you will not be popular, and it is important to have a way with words if you work as one of the online agony aunts, what you say must be readable, easy to understand, concise as well as knowledgeable and accurate.
There are two types of "expert" online. There are thousands of people who delude themselves they are experts and go into chat rooms and forums giving free advice to the others. But many of these would never be good enough to be paid for their advice.
The true agony aunt is able to get a job as an expert or set up their own business doing this work, where people value what they say enough to pay them for their time. Otherwise they are simply doing it because they are bored or as an ego boost, and nobody is really taking any notice of them. Common sense is vital and you can solve a problem that you have never experienced using common sense, but a teenager cannot advise a middle aged woman what it is like to have been married for decades and have their husband leave them for a younger woman, or try to have a baby and fail. Some problems require common sense on it's own, others require expert knowledge so you would need to be able to refer people on sometimes. But if someone writes to you saying they are very depressed and cannot stand life and are thinking of suicide and the best you can come up with is that they should see their doctor or try anti-depressants, then you are not good enough to be selling advice. You need to be able to comfort them and tell them something which is not so easy they would have already thought of it or could easily get the same information from family or a friend.
One of the great things about this job is that it is up to you how much you want to put into it. You can be the same as me and start at the bottom, working your way right up to the top, where you are often mentioned in newspapers and magazines and being asked to appear on radio and television, working long hours with staff working under you. Or you can just work part time for an established qualified expert doing it in a very laid back manner. You can set up your own business and websites or you can work for someone who has done all of that. You have lots of different choices and one of them is bound to suit you, your lifestyle and ambitions.
Working in this field is very rewarding and it can be very interesting, but your main objective is to help people, not fill your time or boost your ego. If you cannot then the responsible thing to do is to stand by and let somebody who is better help them.
Whenever I advertised for agony aunts I would be inundated with hundreds and be lucky if just one of them had what is needed to do it as a paid job. The others were simply not able to do it. And it is not a job you train to do as you do it, you cannot learn how to have common sense and you cannot expect people to give you their problems and trust what you say while you are practicing.
Nor will anyone employ you and pay you to learn, they would not have the time to spend on training you while they pay you and you would not be able to be let loose on the general public anyway. If you are sure you have what it takes to do this and you cannot get a job then you can set up your own business. How good you are at working out how to do it will show that you are good at solving problems, but setting up your own business, even an ordinary website, is very costly and time consuming and requires a lot of knowledge, with no guarantees at the end, which is why most prefer to work for an established, well known senior agony aunt where they get paid while they work without investing any money or taking risks. And nobody is going to take on someone who needs a lot of time invested in training them when there are so many available who do not need any training at all.
As with all jobs you have to start at the bottom of the ladder, but a good one, if they stick to it, will rise up and can become famous, well paid, much sought after by magazines and newspapers and even radio and newspaper, once they have proved they can do better than the others. Then they would be in the driving seat and could end up with a very lucrative business with a lot of junior staff. But they must be willing to start as a junior themselves before expecting to reach that stage, and outshine the other juniors.
If you are good at writing, with good use of English grammar and spelling, good at explaining yourself without taking 300 words to say what you can say in 50, good at understanding others, then this may well be the thing for you and you may well kick yourself if you do not find out more.
An excellent website to go to for more about training and jobs is at askagonyaunt.com.