How to be a Nine-to-Five Zinester

By Liz Worth

So maybe you’ve just recently joined the nine-to-five set on the morning commute and the daily grind of the office job. Or maybe you’ve been slugging away at it for several years. Either way, you might be wondering how this is affecting your true passion–zines.

Worried that a 40-hour workweek will drastically cut into the time needed for your latest issue? Or that you’ll just barely be able to scrape up the money for printing costs because your new job also came with the cost of a new wardrobe? Or maybe you’re worried that everything you’ve heard about the dismal, life-sucking, spirit-crushing, soul-stealing corporate world is true and that it will leave you completely uninspired and devoid of any of that wonderful creativity you have.

But working in a corporate environment, or anywhere for that matter, doesn’t have to be the end of your connection to indie culture. I’ve worked in all kinds of places under all kinds of guises: the intern, the retail slave, the temp, the full-timer. I’ve had to march around in skirts and pantyhose, fetch coffee and file reports. But I’ve also been able to slack with the best of ’em, and I’ve learned something valuable from being on both sides of the cubicle walls: the zine doesn’t stop when the workday begins, no matter where or when you punch the clock. Here’s the how-to on zine making in the real world.

1. Stake out the photocopier.

The most useful thing about working in an office, aside from it being a regular paycheque, is access to the photocopier. During high school, I had an internship that didn’t just let me, but actually encouraged me to photocopy my zine on their time. Unfortunately, many employers aren’t as understanding, and the more corporate your office space, the less likely it is you’ll be copying your latest cut ‘n’ paste masterpiece instead of answering phones or relaying notes from the morning meeting.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of your employer. The fastest way to illegitimate photocopies in a typical office setting is to wait until everyone else has gone home. When you tell them you’re “working late” it makes you look good in front of your boss and saves you on printing costs.

2. Scam for freebies.

Offices are usually overflowing with handy things zinesters need. Why pay for staplers, glue sticks, scissors, pens, markers, or staples when employers are giving them away for free?

Ok, so we all know that this stuff isn’t just lying around for our taking and that it’s there for office use, but zines cost money and big companies have lots of it, so where’s the problem here? It’s typical for businesses to stock up on this kind of thing, so they usually have more than they need.

Of course, freebies aren’t limited to office work. These kinds of supplies are often found in retail settings, restaurants, warehouses–wherever. How available it all is will depend on where you’re working.

Be sure to keep an eye on the garbage that’s thrown out, too. Old filing cabinets might make their way to the curb but they’re perfect for storing old zines, notes, and images you want to save for future use. A friend of mine once scored a working photocopier that his company had tossed aside in favour of a newer model. Retail jobs can also be a valuable source of trashed treasures. I once worked at a bookstore that threw away all of its old calendars, which came in handy for future cut n’ paste projects.

3. There’s more time than you think.

If we learn anything from zine making, it’s that it is a long process for often zero pay. That time stretches out even longer when you factor in a full-time job. But start to add up all those coffee breaks, lunch hours, and minutes spent on hold and your schedule won’t seem like such a barrier.

When you’ve got a break, work is slow, or you just feel the need to slack from your duties, use the time to set up interviews by sending off e-mails to your favourite bands, or even call up their record labels. E-mail a call for submissions, edit some articles, and contact distributors. If you’re a cut ‘n’ paste kind of person, take your zine along with you and work on it during lunch or at your desk when you’re on hold with someone.

4. Friends in high places.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to keep all of these new-found privileges to yourself. Now that you’ve found the time and the resources, help out your friends, too. If you know a band that needs some flyers made for an upcoming show, sneak off to the photocopier.

Access to a photocopier also comes in handy if you make a zine with someone else, as dividing up the cost of printing can be just as stressful as collaborating creatively.

5. Strange co-workers, horrible customers, or crazy bosses.

It doesn’t matter where you work, there’s always at least one thing you can take from your job and apply to your zine. Everyone has a work-related story, whether it’s about strange co-workers, horrible customers, or crazy bosses. Mine include an older man who thought the smoking areas were in the washrooms, some guys who turned the company’s warehouse into a skate park when all the managers had gone home for the day, and a plethora of customers’ sordid life stories.

Experiences like these are the best kinds of zine freebies, because without anything to write about there’s no zine to make.