part time jobs
August 26, 2004 9:27 PM   Subscribe

What's a good part-time job that doesn't suck? One that's flexible, pays more than minimum wage, and won't have you reaching for the cyanide pills after two weeks. [MI]

Sitting behind a desk all day doing someone else's drudgery didn't work out. Full-time freelancing is a financial highwire. So there's gotta be something in between, to augment the latter: a good 20-or-so-hour-per-week gig for a 30-something with too much education and a short attention span. Something to cover the bills.

In a perfect world it would have flexible hours (and you could do it anywhere), it would be at least somewhat mentally challenging, pay decently, and not require another degree or months and months of training.

I've considered: working in a bookstore (dull, but you can read on the job) or outdoor gear store (up my alley, but retail - ug), substitute teaching (high stress, but over at the end of the day), full-time teaching (use the masters', challenging, maybe even rewarding, but high stress and low pay), playing in a band again (fun, but bar smoke shortens lifespan), and waiting tables (actually, no - swore I'd never do that again).

I was inspired, kind of, by a formerly-drifting friend who just got certified in massage and reflexology. Pays great, totally flexible, short certification process, relaxed working environment. I'm thinking something like that, just one where you don't have to touch strangers all day.

So come on - what are the great secret semi-careers? What can you learn relatively quickly and then do occasionally and make decent cash doing? Something like...nursing sounds perfect, except for the years of training. What else? Real estate agent? Building inspector? Pizza delivery? Birthday clown?
posted by gottabefunky to Work & Money (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh my God, we're in the same boat I guess. I'm basically getting by, financially, by picking up temp jobs when I have bills to pay. I'm seriously, no joke, 100% considering selling my worldly possessions, fleeing the Western world, and taking up residence in an underdeveloped country where the dollar can go far and I can become a property owner and perhaps own a tea plantation.

Do you have a family?
posted by crazy finger at 9:35 PM on August 26, 2004

Check out the local hospitals. They are always open, so you'll end up having to work some weekends and holidays (depending on the department) and they usually have a ton of jobs that only require a high school education. Generally the pay is better than minimum wage too.
posted by Apoch at 10:10 PM on August 26, 2004

Can you spell? Copy-editing (sub-editing in the UK) for newspapers is the great secret career. Nobody aspires to it, every paper is desperate for good casual workers, the pay is cracking and there's a shift out there that suits the hours you want to work.

Practice writing headlines and captions first, though, cos you only get one shift at a new paper to prove yourself. Blow it and you're history.
posted by bonaldi at 10:54 PM on August 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

I did a lot of small jobs in the computer support realm. If you can install a printer you're better off than a lot of people. Seriously. And the business really has a way of spreading itself. Everyone has friends with broken down computer stuff, and once you make someone's day by solving their little problem, you're on your way to becoming a word of mouth phenomenon. Aim for mobile consultant types. They're a gold mine.

True, it's kind of a drag to drive over to someone's house to install a printer for them, but if it only takes you 20 minutes, but you have a 1-hour billable minimum, and you charge $50 an hour (that was the standard rate I charged) then you've just made $50 on a lunch break. You can easily take down $100 for setting up a wireless router and cleaning out a mouse. And - get this - some people will actually pay you to take their new computer out of the box and set it all up. That's good fun to me. $50/hour!

It can become tiresome assisting stupid people. But try not to think of it that way. Think of it as doing really easy stuff for a lot of money. And the most important thing is not necessarily being the smartest computer whiz in the world, but focusing on helping the person solve their problem. Most people want to know what went wrong in terms they can understand, and it helps a lot if you can explain what you've done to fix it in equally simple terms. Most tech support types are short on social skills. If your bedside manner is good, people will really appreciate you.
posted by scarabic at 11:18 PM on August 26, 2004

Incidentally, I found it an easy way to meet a lot of professionals. This is good if you're into networking.
posted by scarabic at 11:20 PM on August 26, 2004

You could be a lifeguard. Seriously.

I did it part time in high school, and I'm doing it to work my way through college. Hours are pretty flexible, the certification process isn't real intensive in most places, and you meet lots of interesting (read: strange) people.

River/ocean guards make bank, but the training is a little more intensive than flatwater.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:24 AM on August 27, 2004

I'm currently in the same boat as you, gottabefunky, and I've been doing what scarabic suggested since the beginning of the year (I charge my business clients a little more than I charge my residential clients, but my rates are still about half what the local Mac service shops charge per hour.) But we're a bit different in that I'm still hoping to find a better full-time job. At least I've found a way to make money while I'm also trying to score job interviews.
posted by emelenjr at 1:44 AM on August 27, 2004

In college, I worked for the (major daily) newspaper's classified advertising department taking ads over the phone. Busy busy busy and there's a decent starting wage plus commission. If you keep your eyes and ears open there's lots to learn about advertising, newspapers, and business. There will also be an interesting diversity of people to work with. You may even like it and go further -- I learned as much there as I did at the University; ended up promoted and stayed for some time--I'm now in a related profession and my experience there was invaluable.
posted by mimi at 6:01 AM on August 27, 2004

I used to score essays for a company that had a contract to evaluate all of California's High School Exit Exams. All they required was a bachelor's and passing their certification, and it paid $12-18 an hour. I worked from home in pre-scheduled 4-hour blocks of time. It was a great supplemental income. I don't know if they're still recruiting for those types of jobs, but since (nearly?) every state has those types of exams, I'm sure there's more than one company doing the same thing.
posted by acridrabbit at 6:34 AM on August 27, 2004


Hit the places that sell high end brand names at a big discount (DSW, Ross, TJ Maxx, Filene's Basement, etc) and flip 'em on ebay. Kid and infant stuff works the best.
posted by rschroed at 6:57 AM on August 27, 2004

Consider bartending or waiting tables. The money is good and the shifts are flexible. As for intellectually stimulating, many customers who sit at the bar are looking for someone to shoot the shit with, and you will find yourself in plenty of rewarding conversations.
posted by vito90 at 7:01 AM on August 27, 2004

I'm into math tutoring.
I can go pretty much anywhere in the country and get by just fine...
posted by kaibutsu at 7:24 AM on August 27, 2004

If you're considering life guarding, beware that for a certain kind of person, it can be deathly, deathly boring, especially at a pool where people just lap swim.

If you can handle staring at water-filled box with little other stimulus & are a strong swimmer, though, I would reccommend it.
posted by dame at 7:40 AM on August 27, 2004

As acridrabbit says, test scoring for ETS or the other outfits that do this in the US isn't a bad way to go. I did this as a part-time gig for a year or two. Basically all the standardized tests that No Child Left Behind is making schools give, as well as the tests they already give, are being scored by dorks like me, working from home in their pajamas, plus a few English teachers.

I think you need to apply on their web site for the specific test you think you'd be good at, have good test scores, put up with a lot of BS [since they bascially have to oversee hundreds of scorers, if you give them any lip or outside the box thinking they don't appreciate it much] and be willing to work 40 hours a week for about 10-15 weeks a year. It's erratic weird work, but you can work from home [if you have a windows box and a second line or broadband] and it sure is a weird world to get to know. Email me if you want any more info on it.

I've also done the freelance tech support route charging what scarabic charged and found people more than happy to pay for basic maintenance and problem-solving stuff. I had a regular gig with a few lawyers and from their perspective, paying me $50/hour to fix something that they'd be bogged down in NOT making $200/hour was money well spent.
posted by jessamyn at 8:44 AM on August 27, 2004

If you like kids, the going rate in my neighborhood for childcare is $10-12/hr, plus tip. It helps to be a friendly, non-threatening woman, but I know guys who do it too. I started working for one family, they told their friends about me, and gradually I got more and more offers. The best gigs are like 7pm to midnight when the kids go to sleep at 8pm. Just raid the fridge, watch cable (or write or whatever) and collect the cash when the parents come home. There's also the added bonus of getting paid in cash, and I've gotten lots of hook-ups (free stuff, jobs, help moving, etc.) from people whose kids I watch. If you're good, people will go out of their way to butter you up so you'll give them priority booking. Seriously.
posted by bonheur at 5:21 PM on August 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

Organisations that assist people who live with disabilities always need staff. There are a variety of organisations, eahc with different shift times, clients and locations. You have to go through the criminal reference check, often a medical test and something of a personality assessment (generally type-a behaviours are less favoured than type-b, but that's not necessarily true). Certification is relatively easy. And you see the world differently.
posted by philfromhavelock at 8:06 PM on August 27, 2004

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