Weird jobs with decent pay

Personal Finance

July 10, 2007|By Eileen Ambrose | Eileen Ambrose,Sun columnist

We're not all cut out for the corporate world. And that's a good thing. But finding a dream job that pays you well might take some creative thinking.

"There are thousands of ways to make money," says Abigail Gehring, author of Odd Jobs: 101 Ways to Make an Extra Buck. Gehring encourages people to think outside the box. Way outside.

She says her book can be useful to new graduates who have been under pressure in college to choose a career, find a job with insurance as quickly as possible and stick with it for life. "No one should be pigeonholed into doing something they don't want to do," she says.

It may also inspire those soon to be retired who are in the mood to try something entirely different.

If nothing else, some of the jobs listed in Gehring's book would certainly make a resume stand out. She uncovers jobs that you probably didn't even realize were jobs.

Human scarecrows? They shoo away crows and magpies from valuable crops for $10 to $15 an hour.

Vacuum dust sorters wade through full vacuum bags from commercial cleaners in search of coins, gems and other treasure. (Those with allergies need not apply.)

Virtual assistants earn $20 to $45 an hour doing administrative assistant duties online from their home computer.

And motivational dancers are peppy people paid $30 an hour to get others up on the dance floor at bar mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteen birthdays and other such parties. Next time someone pesters you to dance, he or she may be just doing their job.

"A lot of these jobs have been around forever. People never really think about them," Gehring says.

Some pay pretty well. Hot dog vendors can earn up to $100,000 a year in Manhattan, or $30,000 to $80,000 elsewhere. A professional sports mascot can command a six-figure salary.

Gehring gives tips on how to get started as well as the pros and cons of each job. The downside to hot dog vending is bad weather; mascots must deal with hot costumes and abusive fans.

Gehring, an English major with an interest in dance, speaks from experience. Unable to find a job in the arts after college, she ended up tackling a quarter of the odd jobs in her book, including henna tattoo artist, dance host, beer promoter and Cinderella at a 3-year-old's birthday party.

Her oddest job? Lipstick reader at parties. "You ask ladies to put lipstick on and kiss a blank piece of white paper," and then try to divine their character, she says. It paid $100 an hour. Creativity, intuition and a bit of diplomacy required.

(My own fantasy job is grounds-crew at Camden Yards, specifically pulling the grate to smooth out the infield between innings. Job perks: You're outdoors, you get exercise and you immediately see the results of your efforts. Low stress, too. If you mess up after the third inning, you'll get another chance after the sixth to fix it. Gehring says this is another version of hockey's Zamboni machine fantasy.)

Of course, a job that offers insurance, a 401(k) and reliable paycheck is invaluable.

"I found I was able to live fairly comfortably, but it was a challenge to budget when you didn't know where your next paycheck would be coming," Gehring says.

The 23-year-old now works full-time as an editor for Skyhorse Publishing in New York, which published her book. Still, she does the odd job every now and then.

Questions? Comments? Write personal.finance@baltsun.com.

MORE AMBROSE Find Eileen Ambrose's column archive at baltimoresun.com/ambrose

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