I’ve been meaning to come up with a practical, handy list of some of my favorite offbeat careers for some time now. While these lists exist just about everywhere it seems, mine has a special emphasis on avoidance of certain elements like standard work hours, confinement to one location and restriction to one function. Many of these careers are also self-directive, meaning that you are mostly working for yourself in the end.
There are a few categories I have included at the end of each career, which I give a ranking from 1-5 stars (1 being low, 5 being high, obviously.)
Do you have a steady hand, a creative disposition, a flair with words, or all of the above? If so than consider a career as a calligrapher. Much of this career is spent making contacts, keeping your clients up-to-date as to your availability, and refining your craft. Also, expect to spend a lot of time hunched over a desk working your magic with the pens. The perks of this offbeat career are many: people will appreciate your art, you can set your own hours, work where you’d like, and set your own pay. You’ll be doing a valuable service for weddings, parties, (especially invitations) funerals, and many other social functions.
Calligraphers are also usually in demand. I should know. I am a Calligrapher and have been doing it for over 10 years!
Freedom Factor ****
Skill Level Needed **** (You either have it, or you don’t!)
Pay – Self-employed Calligraphers’ earnings are directly tied to the number and complexity of projects they take on. It’s tough to earn a full-time living (but it can be done with a lot of work.) Expect $15,000 to $40,000 per year working full time and with solid contacts. It’s difficult to fathom a calligrapher earning more than $50,000 to about $70,000 per year. Perhaps the best of the best make more than this, but it’s extremely uncommon.
2. Social Dance Instructor
This is a career for those who love to move,don’t mind getting close and personal with members of the opposite sex and have great teaching abilities. It definitely takes a fair amount of time to get good enough to become an instructor. While you don’t need to be a member of the International DanceSport Federation, it helps to have at least 2-4 years of dancing experience, preferably more. There are plenty of styles to choose from, such as latin, swing, ballroom or tango.
Believe it or not, I also teach swing dance to beginners and have been dancing for 7 years!
Freedom Factor ** (This becomes 4 stars if you open your own studio)
Skill Level *****
Pay – Only the best of the best get paid well enough to “go pro.” Most dancers who teach do so because they enjoy it. It’s a good side project though. Highly-regarded dance instructors command up to $150 per hour for a private lesson. Usually an instructor will ask for a good deal less than this, and most struggle to make rent if they do it full time without another stream of income. It’s possible to open a studio and turn it into a profitable business, but this takes time.
There are actually many levels and variations within this profession. Some photographers work for a company or magazine (more than likely, more than a few) while others are totally freelance, selling their works as art and exhibiting their creations at various media fairs. You need to have a lot of patience with this career. Don’t kid yourself, it’s a difficult way to make a living, and it’s hard work. But the rewards are worth it. You can pretty much work when and how you’d like, and you get to spend time outdoors. Also check out the world of microstock photography. Even an amateur photographer can make a quick buck or two through sites like featurepics and istockphoto. These sites (and others like them) provide a way to upload your images and make money when others download them.
Freedom Factor ****
Skill Level *** (5 stars if you want to be amongst the elite)
Pay – This varies considerably for this profession. I’ve heard a few stories of stock photographers earning a livable income but they have thousands of photos online. Professional photographers struggle from time to time depending on the varying demand for their work. There is potential to make quite a bit, especially if the photographer is well established in a certain market (such as a wedding-photographer in a mid-sized city.)
Before I launch into a description of this career, let me tell you that 41% of those who responded to a 2005 gallup poll believe in ESP, so there clearly is a market here. Doing astrology charts for people isn’t just a fringe phenomenon! If you are great at convincing people that you are speaking with their dead relatives, predicting their future, or you can at least understand Tarot cards, you have a shot at this endeavor. Obviously many psychics are frauds, so you’ll want to work on convincing people that you really can see beyond the world in front of us and into the 8th dimension. You need people skills, big time.
Freedom Factor ****
Skill Level **
Pay – I have seen some successful psychics charge $45-$60 per session. Add this up to full-time and you are talking $70,000-100,000 or more per year! That’s more than many entry-level chemical engineers make. So much for science, I guess.
5. Undercover Detective
If, instead of taking advantage of people’s trust, you wish to gain their trust, consider this career. An obvious requisite here is to have been either on the police force or worked for the government. While it certainly is an exciting and adventurous career, it’s also potentially dangerous. Detectives often deal with criminals, drug lords and other folks who skirt the law. These crime-fighters have to be able to think on their feet and keep their cool. This page describes an undercover detective’s life pretty well. This a challenging career, but will certainly be exciting!
Freedom Factor * (The job is always changing, but you are just about always working for a police force or insurance company. Even a Private Detective generally does this.)
Skill Level *****
Pay – Seems to be in the $60,000-$90,000 range depending on location. Obviously, the longer and more established a detective will earn more than one that’s been doing it for a few years.
6. Industrial/Organizational Consultant
This is a growing field that few people really seem to know much about. Basically the role of an I/O Consultant (or I/O Psychologist) is to get to the root of the problems of various workplaces around the country (and sometimes the world).
They will usually sort through the issues that the HR department is having trouble picking out and issue a report to the owner of the company detailing where the problems are and who (if anyone) should be fired and/or promoted. Like a Psychologist, their clients choose their services and the I/O consultant will try and fix the problem.
Freedom Factor *** (They get to go to various workplaces, but spend a good amount of time in an office. Still, there is a lot of on-the-job freedom and travel associated with this career)
Skill level **** (Usually this field requires an advanced degree in applied psychology or business)
Pay – An I/O Consultant who opens a successful practice in a great market can become a millionaire fairly quickly. This is a profitable business, but, like anything that commands high earnings, it requires hard work, a good amount of education, and being in the right place at the right time.
If you love to draw, have great sense of humor, and loved to goof off in class back in high school, maybe you should consider this interesting career.
If you think about it, there are really very few “super-comic strips” that made their authors immortal. “Peanuts”, “Calvin and Hobbes”, “Garfield”, and “The Far Side” are some of the big ones, but for each of those there are hundreds more that spend a short time in syndication and are forgotten. It’s a tough career to break in to – many would be cartoonists submit and submit endlessly to papers in magazines hoping (often in vain) to be discovered. But if they make it, it’s a very rewarding feeling to see others laughing at their creations.
Freedom Factor ****
Skill Level ****
Pay Level – Let’s be honest here: only cartoonists who are published in quite a few papers and have some degree of prominence on the market can make a real living from doing this. (Though the advent of the self-publishing online has created some sensations like xkcd.) There is a large curve here, as the most successful cartoonists can do very well. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, actually refused to sell out and licence his characters, something that could have earned him quite a bit more. For him, his creation as a work of art was more important.
This is a great career for someone who wants to open their own business and help people in need. The long-term career outlook for locksmiths is fantastic. As long as there are places we don’t want others to go, and things we want potential thieves to keep their grubby mitts from, we’ll have need for locksmiths. It’s possible that with changing technology, there will be some crossover between a locksmith and a computer hacker! (Ok, so that isn’t really a career!) While becoming a locksmith requires some training, it isn’t too difficult to break into this relatively unknown field.
Freedom Factor ***
Skill Level *** (Definitely requires some degree of training)
Pay – The average locksmith makes around $31,000 per year. If you open your own practice, you will make more and can have others undo the locks for you.
9. Professional Gambler
You wont find this career in many books. It’s exciting, illicit, and romantic as much as it is difficult, tedious and time-consuming. Just like any other job you have to be willing to learn, work hard, and (more than many other jobs) cut your losses.
It’s not easy to make it is a professional gambler either. Many try, most fail. However, the ones who do succeed spend many hours online or in often unhappy casinos counting cards, counting earnings and trying hard not to go on tilt (let losing get to them and make bad decisions.) You have to be very emotionally strong and learn not to give anything away, especially with poker. Oh, and you also have to track your earnings and pay taxes on everything you make!
Freedom Factor *****
Skill Level *****
Pay – Varies enormously. If you win a major tournament you can become a millionaire and retire. But this doesn’t necessarily qualify you as a “professional gambler.” Usually it’s difficult just to make ends meet and you can expect to live a very menial existence while you learn the ropes.
10. Funeral Director
If there ever was a career that would frighten away all but the most strong of heart, this might be it. One common misconception is that any career involving the dead requires that one actually physically handle the dead. In reality, a funeral director may only deal with the planning of funerals. Of course, the higher paying positions in this career tend to involve embalming and preparation of the body. Anyone can clean out caskets and prepare a lobby for guests. It is not a competitive career, but one thing is for certain: unless the mortality rate dips below it’s current standing at 100%, there will always be plenty of openings.
Freedom Factor **
Skill Level **** (This career requires extensive training and certification)
Pay – The average salary ranges a bit, but generally is in the $50,000-$60,000 per year range. Not bad at all. Beats most office jobs.