What are some flexible jobs?
September 7, 2009 4:20 PM   Subscribe

What are seasonal, part-time, telecommute-friendly, or otherwise flexible job options?

I want to support myself for anywhere from six months to a couple years while I pursue some non-commercial interests of mine. Ideally, I'll be able to find a source of income that won't tie me down to a particular place year-round. Barring that, I'd like to find something seasonal or part time.

I'm young, healthy, with no dependents, so I don't need a lot. I'm hoping for a minimum of 12k a year, although preferably I'd make more. This won't be for another year so I have some time to prepare - please feel free to suggest jobs that require skills & experience that could be picked up over the course of a year.

Here are some skills & interests of mine, in no particular order:

~ good mentor & tutor for people of all ages, especially gifted children, with a particular flair for coming up with good teaching activities
~ writing: fiction, non-fiction, technical, editing & copy-editing
~ some computer programming proficiency, in a couple of fairly arcane languages (most well-known is Matlab), and I know some html/java/css
~ extensive experience doing human subjects research, surveys, study design, data analysis, etc.
~ aptitude but not a lot of experience with mathematical/quantitative work - special interest in probability and modeling
~ I've done waitress and secretarial work before, and would be more than happy to do so again, if they can give me the flexibility I want
~ various other quirks and skills, such as an eye for design, the ability to bake well, very good at giving advice and mediating conflicts

However I'm very open to ideas beyond that - these are just things I've done before and know I can do.

I'm intelligent, creative, hard-working, organized and friendly, and I pick things up really fast, so I feel like I should be ably to get by. I'm just looking for ideas to pursue.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
seasonal: have you considered treeplanting?
friends of mine go treeplanting every summer (if you're good, you can work for more than 4 months) and they make enough money to live (modestly) the rest of the year without working. i'm not sure if it's the same for all treeplanting companies, but for my friends, they get paid a certain amount (anywhere from 10 - 25 cents) per tree. it's good motivation to work really, really hard.
posted by gursky at 4:49 PM on September 7, 2009

Online tutoring? I don't work for this service, nor have I tried it myself, but it's good for telecommuting.
posted by Paragon at 4:56 PM on September 7, 2009

I worked for two years at Nature's Classroom after college. It is a teaching job, wonderful, fun, full of experiences, dynamic, creative, and impactful. It's a residential environmental education program for kids in grades 5-9. You work with them for a solid week, Monday thru Friday, and the program is fully immersive and runs 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM or so each day.

It's very intense and all-encompassing while you're there - but, it's seasonal. You work there for the spring and/or the fall, with a long furlough in winter and another in summer. You can choose to work in one of more than a dozen sites around New England, and you can switch in and out of the sites frequently for variety. You meet a lot of interesting people from a variety of geographical areas. I can't recommend it highly enough and it sounds like you have the skills. You'll easily be able to live for a year on what you make during, say, 2 seasons, since living expenses are all taken care of (except providing your own food and entertainment, etc., on weekends. You're so busy M-F you can't spend any money anyway.

Feel free to MeMail me with more questions.
posted by Miko at 5:46 PM on September 7, 2009

Anonymous, you mention writing/editing and it sounds like you may have a technical background (eg, data analysis, study design).

Anyway, you could try to get a job that specifically writes material for science journals (or whatever is related to your field with the study design etc) It would help to get writing samples and see how the industry works.

If you can do that with a good 6 months to a year (and have an aptitude for it), I'd say you could make it as a writer with a particular specialty. Even in bad months you should make a couple thousand a month, and be able to live anywhere provided there is a computer connection to transfer material back and forth.
posted by Wolfster at 5:49 PM on September 7, 2009

You seem to have experience with computers and people. I would venture to say you might want to look into some IT work, specifically at the help desk level. Help desks are generally entry-level positions, in my experience, and turn-around can be relatively high which means you may stand a decent chance of finding an open position. You really will be answering the same pool of 20-40 questions all day, every day, which will get old sooner or later. You will be a little out of your element the first three weeks, will feel confident in three months, and will feel your soul start to harden towards mankind in 1-3 years, if what I have seen is any indication. But this seems to fit with your scenario in some ways.

To wit: different organizations do things differently, but most help desks operate remotely. This would play into your need for telecommuting. Help desk positions can be brutal for some personality types, so you shouldn't have problems "taking your skills elsewhere" if you need the flexibility to move or get bored in a particular environment (there will be variation based on what exactly you will be supporting at your help desk.) And depending on the size of the organization, you could present yourself as freelance support for a group that might not be able to fund full-time IT personnel, or for a small IT department with a previously informal help desk (especially true in the case of a growing business). Not to mention that your coding skills and writing experience could also be applied to other side labor you might do in a small business environment--basic web development/troubleshooting, rudimentary PR, etc.

I suggest this because people, by and large, still do not understand computers and the average helpdesk question can easily be answered by your average computer geek, which you may be. As long as small/medium businesses keep hiring people who may be good in their field but have zero computer skills (and this happens frequently in many fields), help desk support will be in demand. If you have any questions about entry-level IT support, feel free to populate my inbox.
posted by Phyltre at 7:43 PM on September 7, 2009

Contract marketing and analyst work
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 PM on September 7, 2009

you could work at a bar somewhere upscale with a very defined tourist season, somewhere where they're busy as hell for 4 months or so, then boarded up and closed the rest of the year. live frugally, save your tips, and by the end of the season you should have a substantial nest egg for the rest of the year - my roommate saves about $10000 every summer working a bar on the coast of france, then lives off of it the rest the year.

the fact that he lives overseas somewhere cheap (with surf, obviously) the rest of the year helps stretch that $10k to cover the other 8 months.
posted by messiahwannabe at 10:49 PM on September 7, 2009

Could you have a composite career of free-lance tutoring (advertize with posters in the local library) and selling baked goods at things like craft fairs and local festivals? I know some friends that used to make 15 - 20$ an hour tutoring kids privately. I don't know how much you would make selling baked goods, but those tables get my money every time (YUM!).
posted by WeekendJen at 2:51 PM on September 8, 2009

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