What jobs allow mostly-solitary, focused, part-time work?
February 17, 2018 2:35 PM   Subscribe

I described my ideal workday inside; what jobs does it sound like? To summarize: independent, relaxed but focused work that requires some thought/creativity, doesn't require much interaction, and has part-time hours with a stable ~$25k salary. Basically I'm trying to figure out specific jobs I'd enjoy, so I can minimize bumbling around in positions that are poor fits since I'll be basically entering the workforce at the age of 31 or so.

It's a weekday morning; I don't work on the weekends. I have breakfast with the kids and see them off on the school bus. Then I go to work, which is at my home or within a short bike ride. I'm wearing casual clothes. If I have any co-workers, I greet them. Then I go to work. I have my own project or task, which I work on independently with minimal distractions. I work on one thing at a time. I think I'm more drawn to creating than to maintaining. It could involve working with my hands or on the computer, but is not super repetitive and requires at least a little bit of thought or creativity. It's fine if it requires a lot of thought/creativity, but I'm always able to work systematically and thoroughly without being rushed. It's not a high-pressure or high-stress environment. I don't hustle and don't spend much (or any) time with customers/clients. I can move around in my space and work sitting or standing. I leave or stop work with enough time to be home with the kids after school. Work hours are about 9am-3pm M-F, salary is $20-$30k, location is Connecticut, start date is 2020. From now until then, I'm learning skills and possibly working 6pm-10ish pm any or all days.

That's my fantasy, but real life is not often like dreams so I'm definitely open to exploring jobs that aren't perfectly like my ideal. I really don't want to hustle, and I really really really don't want to be talking all day to customers/co-workers/bosses. Ideally also attainable... I hear it's harder than it sounds to sell a novel.

I've got a bachelor's in English and a paralegal certificate; I'm not particularly talented in or passionate about anything, but I'm pretty okay at learning. I'll learn anything if it'll lead to a stable, satisfying job! Er, but I shouldn't take on more student loan debt for the next 3 years or so.

Re: the paralegal thing... now that I know a bit more about the ethical and legal requirements of the relationship between the supervising attorney and paralegal, I think most jobs would require much more interaction and oversight than I'd be happy with. But let me know if there are some specific types of jobs that would fit!
posted by Baethan to Work & Money (16 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
You described my sister's job. She works from home in Europe for an American company while her kids are at school. She is an academic credentials evaluator for international students who want to transfer to the U.S. I used to occasionally help out with translations for extra money ($20-30/hr and up)--you'd be surprised about the investigative procedures, decisions, and judgment calls that the job requires.

She gets paid per transcript and can choose how much work to take on. She sets her own hours but has to meet deadlines, with express services paying more. Her only interactions with colleagues are emails with her boss and trips to the U.S. headquarters every few years.

She doesn't have any technical qualifications to do the work (her formal education is an MA in Accounting), but through research has amassed a very good understanding of educational systems throughout the world. She is good with languages but uses Google Translate and the help of friends when needed. All of her evaluations get stamped by an authorized reviewer before they're sent off to educational institutions, so she's not legally liable either.
posted by halogen at 3:02 PM on February 17, 2018 [9 favorites]

Copyditors and archivists can work this way and that work can be creatively stimulating. Some paralegals (especially for in house counsel for media and publishing companies) do a lot of contracts and document review that isn’t closely supervised, but not creative unless crafting elegant legal language gives you a charge (works for me.)
posted by kapers at 3:15 PM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

You want to be a proofreader or copy editor. I too have never wanted to interact much with people like clients or customers, in person or (worse yet) on the phone. Copy editors and proofreaders usually don't have to deal with authors or anyone but project managers, in book publishing at least. Without contacts or demonstrable experience, it could be hard to break in, but I would suggest replying to ads for those jobs by offering right up front to take their test or do a small job on spec. Training: You appear to have a good command of the mechanics of written English. Get a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style and read it, or at least browse thoroughly. Learn how to use Track Changes in Microsoft Word and learn the traditional proofreaders' marks. It couldn't hurt to learn how to mark up stuff in Acrobat, too. I would say copyediting requires more thought and creativity than proofing, but the lines are often blurred. Both are crafts, though, and satisfying in that way.

Freelancing (offsite) is more likely to happen if you want to do books. Few publishers hire in-house copy editors and proofreaders any more, but (to my knowledge) law firms and ad agencies do. Hope this helps, and good luck!
posted by scratch at 3:19 PM on February 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Rah rah records management!

It's a career choice that is available to many people and you can grow a fascinating career that spans many roles and industries and plus it is full of passionate people who understand the power of connecting people to the information they need

My current job is much like your job fantasy - I oversee all aspects of a content management system where I'm a department of one and don't have to interact with people much :)
posted by Calzephyr at 3:57 PM on February 17, 2018

I have a job like that, as a marketing manager for a small(ish) business — it’s part time, some of that remote. I set my own hours and meet with my boss once a week for updates.

The job is challenging but not frustrating, creative, but also data-driven. I’m also a ‘department of one’ so I do a wide range of things instead of specializing, but I enjoy that. Skills needed are a good command of written English (which you have) for copywriting, working knowledge of social media platforms, SEO, AdWords, and tracking a database of clients to keep in touch with. You don’t have to be a super expert (I’m certainly not!) but a willingness to jump in and really work to understand the results you’re getting and how to improve them goes a long way.

I’m not sure how unusual my situation is, but I’m sure if you spend some time learning the ropes you can certainly get a job in the field — social media management alone is particularly sought-after and pays at least the range you listed.
posted by ananci at 4:22 PM on February 17, 2018

Freelance translation is not unlike this, if you are likely to be able to develop enough fluency in a second language to be able to translate reliably into English by 2020. Salary and work hours vary considerably depending on what translation companies/clients you work with and what kind of jobs you are willing to take on. There would be more work if you were willing to work evenings and weekends (although you could get around the "evening" thing by learning a language where the major clients are in a different time zone, so that someone in Asia places an order in your morning and receives it in their morning, etc.). You can work at home at your own pace (as long as you meet the deadlines) and wear pajamas if you feel like it. There is plenty of work (until our machine overlords take over, anyway) for anyone with the requisite competency.
posted by huimangm at 4:41 PM on February 17, 2018

Bookkeeping/accounting. Lots of businesses only need someone part time.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:36 PM on February 17, 2018

There are plenty of paralegals who have very little day to day interaction with the lawyers who supervise them, like check-in once or twice a week for 15-30 minutes. For the first year or so, you'd need a lot of feedback and guidance. But once you're familiar with the specific ways things are done where you work, you can run your own show within your sphere. The job varies a lot depending on what kind of lawyer you work for, but there are a lot of lawyers with the sort of personality that would mesh well with what you want.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 6:28 PM on February 17, 2018

I also came to say copy editing. I have been doing it for a few years (mostly for an academic book press, some private clients). Sometimes it's stimulating, sometimes it's not. It's rarely torturous. I deal with authors and the press, all by email. Most people are pleasant. 20k-30k is plausible with the work hours you sketch.
posted by Beardman at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2018

GIS analyst or cartographer. Except you'll probably earn more money if that's OK.
posted by fshgrl at 6:48 PM on February 17, 2018

Sounds like part-time bookkeeper to me.
posted by Toddles at 10:57 PM on February 17, 2018

Contract instructional design, if you can find a part-time gig. You get to constantly learn about new stuff, and translate technical or esoteric concepts into accessible, informative training materials. If you want, you can also teach yourself eLearning software like Captivate, Articulate, or Camtasia, and become even more employable.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:06 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you’re drawn to data and have an analytical bent, consider becoming a Salesforce Administrator. I do this for an employer, but also on a contract basis from home. Develop the skills from home and if you can find a local nonprofit who uses it, you could volunteer a bit to get some experience. If, after you google around a bit, you are drawn to this feel free to PM me with questions.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 5:54 AM on February 18, 2018

I used to work part-time as a content marketer for various startups. I alternated working as a freelancer and working part-time or full-time as a remote employee. My day was pretty similar to yours. In most cases I only spoke to my direct boss during the day as I was a department of one, and I made my own hours so long as I fit a minimum and overlapped enough with my boss's time zone. When freelancing I managed my hours however I wanted, so long as my articles were handed in on time.

Another option, which is what I do now, is programming. It sounds like you want to work for someone else rather than starting your own business, but both could be options. In the time you're going to be learning, you could also be slowly building your own business until it makes the salary you need. But working for someone else as a programmer can also get you part-time work where you don't interact with clients, you have flexible hours, don't work weekends, and can wear casual clothes.

Good luck!
posted by bellebethcooper at 5:27 PM on February 19, 2018

Thank you everyone for the awesome responses! You've given me a lot to research and think about, and a renewed sense of excitement about the possibilities. I appreciate you all!
posted by Baethan at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2018

If at all possible, learn a language and translate! It's what I do, my schedule is my own to dictate, I work from wherever I happen to be sitting at the moment (I have my laptop open in the back of a taxi in traffic right now), and once you get a stable roster of clients, you'll be comfortably above your stated income goal if it's one of the more popular language pairs. Many clients are willing to take a "risk" on you for a discounted rate and a solid test draft, and you can integrate this into your learning process.

Mine is Mandarin-English, and there's no shortage of people in the market, but the demand is overwhelming. Same seems to be the case for English-Spanish, Russian, French, Japanese, Arabic, etc. You could also aim for one of the smaller languages, but unless you get really good at it, you're competing for a very small pool of work, and you'll have a hard time learning it. Learning a second language from home is hard, but possible, and best left to a separate question.
posted by saysthis at 10:55 PM on February 21, 2018

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