These “odd jobs” and hobbies are also the most unusual careers and creative ways to make money. Why drag yourself to to work every day when you can be enchanted by your job?
In How to Start a Life History Writing Business, I describe how I turned my writing hobby into an actual career. Writing memoirs or life histories can be a fascinating and creative way to make money – especially if you’re genuinely interested in people and their past lives – but it isn’t the oddest job on the block. I started my life-history writing business two decades ago, long before I started blogging for a living. Now I earn over $100,000 a year as a blogger; while blogging is a creative way to make money, these odd jobs and hobbies are even more unusual ways to pay the bills…
I researched these odd jobs and hobbies about a decade ago, when I was pitching a column idea to Canada’s version of The New York Times. At the end of this list you’ll find the actual query letter I sent to the editor of the newspaper. Feel free to use it as you wish! Maybe it’ll help you take the next step to finding your own creative ways to make money with your odd job or hobby.
25 Odd Jobs and Hobbies That Make Money in Creative Ways
In this article, you’ll find:
- A List of 24 Unusual Jobs and Odd Hobbies That Make Money in Creative Ways
- My Query Letter for an “Odd Jobs” Column in the New York Times
- A Resource for Making Money in Creative Ways
- A Sample Column for the Oddest and Most Creative Job
I also included a few quotes and links to internal and external articles that describe different odd jobs, hobbies, and creative ways to make money.
1. Odor Sniffer – The Best Way to Detect Environmental Changes?
If you’ve ever driven by a farm, you know that “fragrant” is an understatement. Try sniffing livestock to pay the bills. Dr Qiang Zhang of the University of Manitoba once led a team of odor sniffers who worked in “10 minutes on, 10 minutes off”shifts. They studied the odor and greenhouse gas emissions from hog operations.
2. Eyeball Painter – a Creative Hobby Turned Into an Odd Job
Penelope Lantzer (not her real name) of Toronto, Ontario hand paints custom artificial eyes while the client poses. She recommends removing the artificial eye for cleaning, but knows some people who haven’t taken their eyes out for 40 years.
3. Page Turner – a Finger-Licking Way to Make Money
Some lucky pianists depend on the skill of someone who can’t miss a beat, but who rarely gets a mention. It’s a finger-licking science: page turners make sure the musicians are on the right page at the right time. At the upcoming Toronto Summer Music Festival, three page turners will accompany Andre Laplante, Anton Kuerti and Manahem Pressler.
4. Scat Detecter – a Creative Way to Make Money in the Park
Shadow failed at aggression training for the RCMP, but he excels at sniffing out bear scat. Shadow is a German Shepherd who works as a Scat Detection Specialist with Dr Mike Gibeau of Parks Canada. Bear scat reveals a bear’s home range, diet, travel routes, and general health. DNA in the scat can even reveal if the bear is male or female, what species it is, and how it’s related to other bears.
5. Dinosaur Duster – a Night Job at the Museum
Imagine spending your nights in a dimly lit space packed with looming skeletons: tall Tyrannosaurus Rexes and hulking Triceratops – not to mention the vicious meat-eating Albertosauruses and Tarbosauruses. Donald Wilson is Tyrrell Museum’s dinosaur duster. While we slumber, he cleans those billion-year old bones.
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6. Crime Scene Cleaner – a Traumatic Housecleaning Job
Bodily fluids are considered “hazardous”, which is why some provincial regulations state that blood and bodily fluids must be cleaned according to certain standards. Trauma scene cleaners clean up after crystal meth or ecstasy labs, suicides, human decompositions, and deposits of wildlife feces.
7. Blimp Pilot – an “Odd Job” in the Skies
There are two airship pilots in Canada. One of them, Ontario-based Hokan Colting, not only flies blimps, he also built the largest motorized soccer ball in the world: a spherical airship powered by four engines.
8. Noise Maker – an Odd Job in Movies and TV Shows
The door creaks, the knob rattles, the cat howls…in movies and television shows, those sound effects are created by Foley Artists in a soundproof music studio loaded up with “junk.” Vancouver-based Richard Dolmat is a sound engineer, producer, and composer whose clients range from Ugly Betty to Starbucks.
If you’re retired from the job you did most of your life and you’re looking for creative ways to make money, read Help Finding Part Time Jobs for Seniors and Retirees.
9. Totem Pole Carver – One of the Most Creative Hobbies That Make Money
Wade Baker, a Kwakiutl native based in Vancouver BC, carves totem poles. He hasn’t created a shame pole yet – they’re designed to humiliate individuals who don’t pay their debts – but he has made money. In 2000, his design for the 25 cent piece was chosen out of 60,000 across Canada.
10. Scribe – One of the Many Writing Jobs That Make Money
While training to be a monk, Robert Soucie learned calligraphy skills. He’s one of a handful of people who make a living as a scribe in Canada. “Jeez! How in heck do you do that stuff? It’s gorgeous!” is he often hears when people see his certificates, invitations, citations, or book covers.
11. Chick Sexer – Not the Most Creative Hobby
One of the jobs at Anstey Hatcheries in Saskatchewan is “wing sexing”, which involves separating the pullets (female chicks) from cockrels (male chicks) based on the way feathers grow on the wings. To the inexperienced eye, the chicks are identical – but these odd jobbers are amazingly fast at sorting the chicks.
12. Toy Tester – Once a Childhood Hobby, Now a Money-Making Job
“Toy manufacturing engineers and designers dream up the latest toys and gadgets put in plenty of real work,” writes Bambi Turner in How do you get a job testing toys? on HowStuffWorks. “But, they also enjoy one fantastic job perk: They get to be the first to play with their creations. Of course, it’s strictly business – someone has to determine whether those rockets fly high enough, those building blocks fit together or that action figure looks just right – but part of the design and engineering phase is toying around with each prototype until it’s perfect and ready to head to store shelves.”
More Common “Odd Jobs” and Hobbies That Make Money:
- Script Supervisor
- Bomb Sniffer (police or drug-sniffing dogs)
- Porta-Potty Servicer
- Mosquito Researcher
- Egg Inspector
- Cattle Hoof Trimmer
- TV Costume Coordinator
- Diener (prepares dead bodies for autopsies)
- Bee Wrangler
- Food Artist
- Skyhawks or Snowbirds
- RCMP Musical Riders
- Paintings Conservator at Museums or Art Galleries
If you’re a hobbyist looking for creative ways to make money, read How to Turn Your Hobby Into a Business.
My Query Letter for an “Odd Jobs” Newspaper Column
I sent this query letter not to the editor of the New York Times, but to the Canadian equivalent. This is just an example of a creative way to make money as a writer…
Dear New York Times Editor,
If you think your job stinks, try detecting flatulence, evaluating bad breath (does Scope really kill morning breath?), or boiling animal hair. Or, if you think it’s hard to work on a computer all day, image what it’d be like to test tampons (37 in a day’s work!) or reach into a chicken and pull out its guts without breaking the fragile, poisonous gizzard inside. Some of these unusual and odd jobs in America will make you grateful for the work you do, while others might prompt a career change.
More Than an Article: An “Employee of the Month” Column
Picture this: The New York Times honors Americans by profiling hundreds of unusual occupations on a monthly or bi-monthly “Odd Job or Hobby of the Month” page. The column would highlight different people in different states in a wide range of odd jobs that make money in creative ways: Crime Scene Cleaners, Scat Sniffers, Totem Pole Carvers, Scribes, Bee Wranglers, Cattle Hoof Trimmers ….it’d be a great way to show America who we are. I have a list of 25 possible odd jobs and hobbies that are creative ways to make money – and that’s just scratching the surface.
Below my signature line is a sample profile: “The Artificial Eye Maker.” Each job profile would be 250-300 words, describing the best, worst, and most surprising parts – along with a colorful “action shot.”
This would become the best reason to read the New York Times! People would be wondering: Which odd job or unusual hobby is highlighted this month? What state? Will the New York Times surprise me yet again with something I didn’t know about how American workers and entrepreneurs find creative ways to make money?
Of course, I could be convinced to write the column. 🙂 I’d love to do it! What a great way to connect with readers and honor who we are.
About me. I’m a full-time freelance writer and blogger in Vancouver, BC. I’ve written for magazines such as Reader’s Digest, Heath, Woman’s Day, MSN Health, alive, Spirituality & Health, and More. My newspaper writing experience includes a column for the Bowen Island Undercurrent (it ran for 2 years).
My undergraduate degrees are in Psychology and Education, and I have a MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC. I lived in Africa for 3 years, teaching at an American school for kids of ex-pats – an odd job! I recently signed with a NYC literary agent who is thrilled with my nonfiction book proposal (if he sells my book, it won’t interfere with my writing gigs). And, I created a successful series of Blossom blogs, including HowLoveBlossoms and Health Blossoms.
I have sent this pitch to Oprah magazine, The Economist, and several newspapers. I didn’t know who would be interested in this idea, so I cast a wide net. Reader’s Digest wanted it, but wouldn’t offer me a 6 month contract. They want to run it for 2 or 3 issues, and see how it goes. That doesn’t work for me — I’d like at least a 6 month trial period! So I turned them down.
What do you think?
A Resource for Odd Jobs and Creative Ways to Make Money
In 101 Weird Ways to Make Money: Cricket Farming, Repossessing Cars, and Other Jobs With Big Upside and Not Much Competition, Steve Gillman reveals unusual, sometimes dirty, yet profitable jobs and businesses. He interviewed unconventional entrepreneurs – and used his own experience with odd jobs – to find the most creative ways to make money. Whether you’re looking for a job that suits your independent spirit, or want to start a new business, this unique book shows you moneymaking options you haven’t considered.
Most of these odd jobs and hobbies don’t require extensive education or training. They’re also scalable as money-making businesses, which allows you to build on your initial success.
- The jobs and businesses covered include cricket and maggot farming, environmentally friendly burials, making and selling solar-roasted coffee, daycare services for handicapped children, and many more.
- Each chapter features a “where the money is” section on how to scale-up and be profitable
Gillman also has a popular website and email newsletter on creative ways to make money with odd jobs and hobbies.
A Sample Column for the Oddest and Most Creative Job
And here is the sample of the odd job I chose as the first newspaper column – I interviewed an actual working ocularist for Reader’s Digest a decade ago, but I don’t want to publish her real name here on my Blossom blog. Maybe she’s on the lam, or just wants to avoid the burst of fame and fortune that will accompany this exposure.
By the way, if you’re hoping that blogging or online writing is one of those creative ways to make money, read What Types of Blogs Earn the Most Money?
Eyeball Painter – a Creative Hobby Turned Into an Odd Job
“Someone once found one of my eyes in a beer carton,” says Penelope Lantzer.
It wasn’t an eyeball from her head, but it did come from her hand. Toronto-based Lantzer is an ocularist or artificial eye maker – one of about 30 in Canada. How did she see the possibilities of this odd job as a creative way to make money? Twenty-two years ago, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from a TV program on artificial peepers.
“I approached the eye-making businesses in my area, and found a job behind the second door I knocked on,” she says.
Her commercial art background helps as she hand-paints “iris discs” to match seeing eyes and shreds red silk thread to create life-like veins for the whites. Though Lantzer makes six eyes a week, she doesn’t work with dogs, horses, or babies – but some ocularists do.
She says that losing an eye can be more difficult than losing a limb; her clients are coping with accidents, disease, and birth anomalies. One man lost his eye to a flying rock while he mowed the lawn. Years later, another rock almost took out his seeing eye!
“It makes you wonder how you manage to get through life with both eyes,” says Lantzer. “My oddest request was from a forensic detective. He needed two brown eyes for a skull he was reconstructing.”
Glass eyes aren’t in vogue now – though ocularists once had drawers full of them. Today, fitting artificial eyes is a job that requires a five year apprenticeship and regular certification updates.
When clients ask if they’ll actually see out of their new eyes, Lantzer admits she can’t restore their vision. However, she does restore their appearance. She helps her clients look forward to the future – and that’s what she loves about her odd job.
Being an ocularist is more than a creative way to make money, isn’t it?
Dear Reader, what say you about these creative ways to make money from odd jobs and hobbies? I welcome your big and little comments below! What is your dream job, and how do you see it unfolding in your life? If you’re a writer who wants to make money writing, let me know below. I’ve written dozens of articles for writers, and would be happy to share a few ideas and links.
If you’re considering a midlife “pivot”, read What You Need to Know About Making a Career Change at 40.
Help Transitioning From Hobby to Money Making Job
In Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, Jenny Blake describes the best way to make a career change or start over in a new industry or field – even if you “just” want to learn creative ways to make money from your existing hobbies or odd jobs.
When you pivot, you double down on your existing strengths and interests to move in a new, related direction. Instead of looking so far outside of yourself for answers that you skip over your hard-won expertise and experience, you actually use your own experience and skills to navigate changes with flexibility and strength—now and throughout your entire career.
In this book, Blake shows how pivoting can also be a successful strategy for you if you want to make a change in your work life – whether you’re changing roles or businesses, or setting your sights on bigger shifts. Like learning creative ways to make money from your unusual hobby or odd job!
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May you find hope, strength, energy, and joy as you explore a new area of your life. May the winds of change blow freely, and may you navigate the journey with faith and freedom. May God bless you with the peace that surpasses all understanding, and His spirit that holds all things together.