95 Things I’ve Been Paid to Do

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Nearly half (45%) of college graduates are working in fields unrelated to their majors four years after graduation, according to a 1997 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s hard to imagine when reading the want ads, which often have high expectations for candidates with specific degrees and several years’ experience in a narrow field.

The experience requirements of want ads can be discouraging to job hunters — many want to leave their current jobs because they don’t like their work, but their experience pigeonholes them into the very line of work they want to escape. Nevertheless, a career path can take many unexpected turns, and being open to new opportunities and learning experiences can prepare you to be better able to earn income from multiple sources and a variety of activities.

My own degrees are in Spanish and journalism (with a professional writing concentration). I have been paid for knowing how to speak Spanish only twice that I can remember, but my Spanish studies were vital in giving me a grasp of the grammar and structure of the English language, for which I have earned a fair income. Things my college studies trained me to do that actually earned me money include:

1. Interviewing interesting people (such as a former pimp, a Hooters girl, a brain surgeon, and a 40-year-old woman learning to read)

2. Finding answers to questions (through a job at a library reference desk, considered outside my field of study, though my training in research for journalism helped a lot)

3. Looking up and studying plans for real estate developments and construction

4. Going to municipal meetings (and later writing articles about them)

5. Writing business letters (including one to a famous serial killer)

6. Writing thank-you notes

7. Writing articles

8. Writing a chapter in a book on a non-profit organization’s history

9. Writing advertisements

10. Writing grant proposals (which earned others more than they earned me, while helping a library build an addition and buy new library books, a pregnancy care center pay salaries, and a new milk processing plant get up and running)

11. Writing other business proposals

12. Writing classified ads

13. Writing “business” plans for non-profit organizations

14. Writing newspaper columns

15. Writing product descriptions for an online hunting catalog (though I’ve never hunted)

16. Writing trivia questions on architecture

17. Writing quizzes for design-school students

18. Writing reviews

19. Writing poems

20. Writing blog posts

21. Editing grant proposals, newsletter articles, brochures, a cookbook, a handbook, and more

22. Proofreading many of those same documents

23. Proofreading transcripts from unemployment compensation hearings

24. Designing and producing newsletters

25. Designing and printing flyers

26. Teaching English/writing at a community college and a design school

27. Helping a Spanish-speaking library patron when none of the regular Spanish-speaking staff was available

28. Proofreading a Spanish translation of a document I had previously edited in English

Though I have a journalism degree, I have never held a full-time job for a media outlet. I have always enjoyed having a variety of work, which makes freelancing interesting, but when job hunting, I also kept an eye open for any kind of job that might interest me. The following things I have been paid to do were not directly related to my studies, but they came about because I pursued non-Spanish, non-writing jobs and other income-earning opportunities:

29. Going to school (the “pay” was the stipend portion of my graduate fellowship)

30. Giving tours to potential students at my college (one of my favorite jobs ever)

31. Recording myself making the announcement, “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system…”

32. Reading newspapers (and clipping construction-related information)

33. Packaging motorcycle batteries

34. Rewinding and changing large audio reels at a radio station

If you ever read your job description, you probably noticed a clause about “performing other duties as determined by management.” Here are some of those “other duties” I found myself doing, even though I didn’t expect to do them when I applied for the job:

35. Walking around a building where a white supremacist was scheduled to speak, keeping my eyes open for suspicious activities or unattended bags

36. Transcribing speeches and television programs

37. Carrying food and supplies from cars to a building where a reception was to take place

38. Registering and signing in people attending a conference

39. Stuffing and sealing envelopes (a job I loved because I could listen to audiobooks while I did it)

40. Putting together and shipping bulk mailings

41. Entering data

42. Putting UPC stickers on boxes

43. Creating report templates for a database

44. Checking out books to library patrons

45. Dealing with difficult library patrons (there are more of them than you might expect)

46. Calling the police (as a direct result of #45)

47. Walking papers to offices in other buildings to get board members’ signatures (considered a menial job, but not entirely unpleasant on a sunny day)

48. Delivering documents to a printer’s office

49. Reading newspapers (and clipping information about my employer for a scrapbook)

50. Making photocopies (and fixing paper jams)

51. Answering telephones

52. Sitting through meetings and training sessions

53. Brainstorming

54. Teaching myself two new computer programs (for two different jobs)

55. Reading book reviews and choosing books for a library to purchase

56. Organizing and cleaning out a room full of magazines

57. Putting newspapers on large sticks

58. “De-junking” magazines (taking out all those inserts) and putting them on a rack

59. Folding brochures

60. Cutting paper flyers

61. Raising funds by phone (a job I hated)

62. Depositing donations in my employer’s account

63. Going on vacation

64. Staying home when I was sick

Though I hate the idea of networking solely for the purpose of finding work, I have to admit that I have also earned some money based only on my connections. Because people I knew were aware of my skills and availability, I have had the opportunity to earn money by:

65. Feeding my sister’s cat while she was away on vacation (the first money I ever earned from anyone but my parents)

66. Babysitting children (only once that I remember)

67. “Babysitting” camera equipment — sitting next to it with a textbook in hand, making sure no one stole or damaged it before it was needed

68. Playing piano at a wedding (also only once, for a couple I’d never met before or after the big weekend)

69. Driving around town, writing down addresses of homes with satellite dishes on them (so my husband’s employer, the cable company, could market its services)

70. Telemarketing (a job offered to the college tour guides — I called prospective students to see if they had any questions and whether they were interested in the school)

71. Teaching computer classes (when my students heard I had been a Spanish major, they wondered aloud how I wound up in front of them!)

72. Teaching students how to effectively use graphs and charts

For those who are online, the Internet offers countless ways to earn money, as I’m sure you already know. Here are a few that have brought me some cash:

73. Taking surveys

74. Reading advertisements

75. Taking a photograph of a shopping cart (a HIT on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk)

76. Searching public documents for information (also through Mechanical Turk)

77. Scanning UPCs on products I’ve bought (not an online activity, but an opportunity I found online)

78. Selling things on auction and book resale sites

Finally, even since childhood, I have found that my daily activities yield many ways to make money:

79. Getting an “A” on my report card (my parents paid me $1 or $2 each)

80. Guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar at the library (I did so when I was a child, and I won the jar, which also had a Susan B. Anthony dollar hidden inside it!)

81. Selling tickets to cow-chip bingo (a fundraiser that involved dividing a football field into squares and letting well-fed cows loose on it; I earned credit toward my expenses for a high-school band trip)

82. Picking up dropped change

83. Signing up for credit cards (which yielded more than $400 for my husband and me last year)

84. Clipping and saving incentive points (then selling them online or redeeming them for something I could sell)

85. Going to yard sales (and selling my finds online)

86. Going to auctions (also selling my finds online or at my own yard sales)

87. Holding yard sales

88. Doing crafts (and selling some online and at craft shows)

89. Depositing money in an interest-yielding savings account

90. Buying and selling stocks and mutual funds

91. Reading to my kids (Okay, so the money was actually theirs, but Commerce Bank gives them each $10 for participating in our library’s Summer Reading Club, and as they are too young to read themselves, I read to them.)

92. Clipping coupons and combining them with rebate offers to earn a dollar or two for buying a product

93. Trying a new product (and taking a survey about it)

94. Accepting gifts from friends and family

95. Returning gifts I couldn’t use to the store for cash

For this list, I have included only earnings in the form of cash or gift cards for places where I would have spent money even without a card. If I had included savings or goods/services as earnings, the list would be even longer.

Even if you plan to keep the same job for the rest of your life, I encourage you to think about ways you have earned money. Though you may have studied to be an accountant or an actor, you will probably find that you have a greater variety of marketable skills than you think. You also may find that you have more income sources than you expect, and multiple income sources are a great thing to have, especially when your main source of income decreases or disappears.

Image courtesy of boogah

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2 Responses to 95 Things I’ve Been Paid to Do

  1. Wow!! Thanks for the THOROUGH list!! It gave me some new ideas – there really are lots of ways to make money!!

  2. Mike says:

    Geez…that is kind of thorough…most of us get paid to us the restroom too…unless you punchout while in there 😉

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