yikes! a life of crime is starting to sound like an option
February 4, 2009 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas and inspirational stories on finding a new way to make a living.

I used to work in computer programming, but I hurt my back and can no longer sit for very long (up to 45 minutes at a time, and altogether no more than 3-4 hours a day) or do anything that strains my back (no heavy lifting or bending). My neck was also hurt, and I cannot hold my head bent forward and frequently use a neck brace. The long hours of a programming job are out of the question and I need new ideas on how to earn a living.

So far nothing I have come up with is enough to pay the bills. Not many people need a part-time programmer and the pay is low. I did some part time writing and editing but I had problems sitting and the pay was too low. I tried a part time job at a library, but couldn't do the bending involved with putting books back. I love research and have thought of returning to academia, but even if I found a way to finance and sit it out, I no longer feel connected to the field I studied years ago.

I'm 39 years old and a woman (though don't be gender based with ideas. I have no problem doing a "guy's job"). I'm an introverted analytical thinker who loves problem solving.

Any idea that comes to mind is welcome, including ideas totally unrelated to anything I've done. I'd love to hear stories about people who found a new way to make a living. Anything that can spark an idea or hope would be great.

throwaway email account: badback.towork@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Does this mean you can't stand for long periods of time? Because if it's a matter of standing and not sitting, you could do work standing at a drafting table. I've heard that Donald Rumsfeld had a desk at which he would stand and do his work, because he hated sitting. If it's a matter of you having to lie on your back for extended periods of time, then I don't know.
posted by billysumday at 6:59 AM on February 4, 2009

but I hurt my back and can no longer sit for very long

Do you have to sit when programming? Can you lie on your back and rig a structure to support the laptop above you?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:03 AM on February 4, 2009

Here's the thing. You may be disabled and if you live in the States, employers are required to provide accomodations. I'd look into programming again with the options described above.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:11 AM on February 4, 2009

I use a Laidback Laptop stand and speech recognition software.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:42 AM on February 4, 2009

Have you spoken to an ergonomics consultant? I've known a lot of people with similar problems who were able to return to coding full time successfully after the work of a qualified ergonomics consultant. Some of them got different chairs and workspace adjustments + split keyboards, others moved to a standing environment, etc. Some moved into different jobs in the programming/sw dev field, such as management or planning.
posted by arimathea at 7:44 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you considered looking at writing/editing programs part time? A lot of companies need a simple update and do not want to pay a full fledge corporation, no matter how small a firm, to pay for simple additions. You could VPN from your home and set up hourly meetings at your inconvenience. Also, how highly accredited are you? You can offer to train people with your skills, there are many companies out there that no longer care about degrees and many people just want the training to get their foot into the door, you could train them.

Also, do you know web development? That is currently pretty high in demand right now and I hear the recent economic nose-dive has not affected that sector. You could offer your skills, if you do know web dev, to upgrade/update company websites for a fraction of what firms would charge, but still at a beneficial cost to you.

Good luck! I hope you find something!
posted by penguingrl at 8:25 AM on February 4, 2009

from the original poster:
Thanks a lot for the suggestions so far.

Important to me - I prefer to find a new way to make a living, than going back to programming (I find it too frustrating. I feel like a disabled version of my former self).

billysumday, every now and then, I have to either walk or lie down because of back pain. Though working lying down all the time is not good for me either.
posted by mathowie at 9:34 AM on February 4, 2009

If you can get disability through an employer or through Social Security, it might make retraining money available for you/. I'm not an expert, but I'd check it out. I'd also check the local Adult Ed. and colleges to see if anybody has a career program. It can be useful to do this process with a group. Go to a good bookstore and/or library and check out the career section. What color is your parachute used to be the recommended book, but that's likely to have changed.
posted by theora55 at 10:05 AM on February 4, 2009

My first job in the field of law was as a legal secretary at a workers' compensation law firm. When employers were settling with former employees now disabled, a common element of the settlement was an occupational consultant, whose job it was to work with the disabled individual to find a new career with which they could make a living. I don't know where you live, but I'd use Google Maps to look for the nearest occupational consultant near your home.
posted by WCityMike at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2009

I would suggest you go back to the writing and editing job, this time armed with a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

The latest version of Dragon is really quite a wonder. The recognition engine is fast enough and precise enough that it's three to four times faster to dictate than to type. I do 80 words a minute, and I have two different friends who clock at 200.

Take the version that comes with a wireless microphone. You will be able to pace around the room, sit, or lie, as your back allows. I would combine with a projector, to see your work from anywhere in the room, and perhaps some kind of one-handed keyboard which you can carry with you as you walk.
posted by gmarceau at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2009

I am pretty sure that I have seen at least two people in my office that work standing up...now at the time I used to work for a pretty big employer (the now notorious Citigroup) and though often I wondered why...i didnt find it weird...you dont have to be a programmer but that doesnt stop you from being a business analyst, financial analyst...or anything else that you could do in an office....
posted by The1andonly at 11:34 AM on February 4, 2009

Hmm, well, my answer is not that good since it's similar to the solution you already tried. A friend with an issue similar to yours eventually started writing copy and taglines. She still has to do some work on the computer, but she also takes walks while mentally experimenting with words to create pithy phrases. Some of the jobs paid quite well, but it took her a while to find those jobs. If your introverted thinking and experimentation lend toward verbal skills, maybe you could find a writing job that's more about finding the single perfect phrase instead of writing a long report and that might let you be on the computer less. (I don't know what sort of writing job you already had, though.)
posted by salvia at 10:07 PM on February 5, 2009

« Older Full-time medium-term volunteer work quick   |   Why am I so twitchy? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.