Unique Jobs = Unique Experiences

A few years back, I wrote a post called My Great Big List of Little Jobs. It was a compilation of the various income producing activities that I’d had throughout my life, from voice-over artist to landscaper. While some folks might look at a list like this and see what amounts to a piecemeal resume, I look at it with great fondness. I’ve had some great experiences (and of course, some not so great ones too) and I was paid to do them!

Since that list came out, I’ve added a few more interesting hustles to it, ranging from the normal stuff (like freelancing as a grant writer) to the ones that make people say “someone paid you to do that??”. I believe it was last year that Angie and I got a gig cruising hotel parking lots after dark to write down any business names found on the cars parked there (like Joe’s Construction or Sally’s Interior Designs). I’m pretty sure the hiring agency was trying to put together a list of businesses to reach out to for their travel discount program. Regardless, we made more than $600 for the 4-day project and we had fun doing it.

Which leads me back to the present…

Back in August, I answered an ad on Indeed for a Field Researcher in the metro-Nashville area. The job was a quarterly gig that involved driving around new neighborhoods to gather information about the homes being built there. It didn’t pay much in an hourly wage but it sounded like fun and something Angie and I could do together, plus it paid mileage. I was hired. (Side note: The more unique the gig is, the better your chances of getting hired. Why? Because most folks pass over these really part-time opportunities because they are looking for “career jobs” or at least, traditional part-time employment.)

We completed our first route in September and were soon asked if we’d like 2 routes this time. Of course, we said yes since we’re 100% relying on gig work to support ourselves now. This time, we had part of Williamson County, TN – home to everyone who has ever thought themselves a country music star. Don’t believe me? Just Google “celebrities that live near Franklin, TN” and you’ll get a list that includes folks like Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw. But I digress…

We spent 3 full (8-hour) days in the car cruising neighborhoods under construction. Angie drove while I filled in maps and forms. Yes, it was exhausting but it was also fun. We had a car picnic for lunch every day, got to see some really unique Christmas decorations (including two reindeer in a very compromising situation), and viewed some of the most ridiculously humongous monstrosities ever to be called houses.

When I interviewed for the job, the hiring manager told me that most folks love the job because they get to look at all the new houses. Some folks even used the job as a way to find a new place of their own. Us…well, we love to look at the new houses too…but for a different reason. Perspective. Every time we entered a neighborhood full of 4,000 square foot homes on tiny lots with 3 car garages, we noticed one thing – no one was home. Not even on Saturday. I don’t know where they were but the one thing was certain, they weren’t there enjoying their big, fine home. Seeing these huge empty homes reminded us why we are minimalists, and it made us appreciate (once again) the many perks of living in an apartment (from not having a huge mortgage to being able to call the landlord to fix the AC). But mostly it served as a sort of inspiration, if you will – an inspiration to be even more true to ourselves, our goals, and our beliefs than we already are.

I’m not knocking big homes (okay, maybe I am), but bigger is not always better. A 4,000 square foot home for a family of four essentially means that every member of that household has an amount of space equivalent to the size of home that our parents and grandparents (and some of us) were raised in. It’s an amount of space larger than your average apartment. With that kind of space requirement per person going forward, at some point, we as a society are going to run out of…well, space. And resources. And land to grow food. And on and on I could go.

I don’t envy the big homes I see. I feel sad for the occupants. I may be out cruising their neighborhood on a Saturday for a few bucks an hour but at the end of the day, I get to curl up in my 700 square foot “nest” knowing that this little gig is all we need to do this month to pay the rent. It’s a peace that I wouldn’t trade for any amenity a “planned development” neighborhood could offer. No great room or even a great-great room can compare to the great feeling that comes with freedom.

Aside from starting a discussion on housing in America today, the real point of this post was about alternate income streams. Money can come from so many sources besides the traditional “9-to-5” job that it’s almost a challenge in itself to find them. At least it is for us. I understand that a life of never knowing what the next gig might be may not sound like fun to you. I understand that because for a long time, it sounded downright scary to me and I refused to go all in with it. Being a minimalist. Being debt-free. Being frugal. These things make it so much easier to pursue a non-traditional income-seeking path. We are these things and right now, we’re having fun with work for the first time in a long time. Will we feel this way 6 months from now or when we have to dip into our reserves to pay for something? I don’t know. For now though, we’re going to ride the wave and see what other unique experiences we can add to our list.

The Things We Do For Cash

It’s finally official! As of last Friday, I am no longer employed! I will say, leaving a job when you are a remote employee is kind of…well…disappointing. I got a nice card in the mail but there was no farewell party, no cupcake toast in my honor. The same folks who forgot I was there when I was working, also forgot to say goodbye. But it’s all good. I realized as I was typing my “catch you on the next one” email to my coworkers – I don’t really know them either! The team that I started with started leaving last year and I was the lone holdout.

When I woke up on Monday morning (my first day of freedom), I had coffee, read for an hour, and opened my laptop. I may have left my job, but I didn’t opt out of work completely. I mean, I still have to pay for Netflix and all…so I got busy.

Truthfully, it’s been a pretty busy month. Kind of chaotic, really. I didn’t exactly coast out of my regular job. I was writing fast and furiously up until 10 AM of my last day there, and all the while I was lining up new freelance writing contracts and a couple of side gigs. I just didn’t expect to land so many, all at once! But…abundance is a problem I’m happy to have, because in the world of gig work, abundance itself can be a short-term contract.

So, what did this chaos look like exactly? Well, let me tell you…

  • We earned $260 from approximately 12 hours of retail merchandising through Easy Shift, Field Agent, and Retail Merchandising Services, Inc. (RMS). Easy Shift and Field Agent are phone apps, with jobs often taking less than 10 minutes to complete. We mostly took jobs at the shopping center next door, where we could combine a few minutes of work with a nice walk. RMS is a dedicated merchandising gig at Target. I will be getting 4-5 hours a week from them and the work is fairly straightforward – straighten reading glasses, restock a 4-foot section of toys, count Rand McNally atlases, etc. It’s something that can easily be done in a morning, followed by a picnic lunch in the park.
  • We earned $280 from writing a capital campaign grant for one of my nonprofit clients.
  • We earned $20 (and a jar of peach butter) for checking in on the neighbor’s cats while she was away for the weekend.
  • We earned $282 counting houses. Sometimes really cool gigs just appear out of nowhere and this was one we couldn’t pass up. We spent one Wednesday and one Saturday driving around new subdivisions counting the number of houses under construction. Not including our stops for a picnic lunch and a visit to the organic grocer while we were out, we spent about 14 hours on this gig. And it was something we got to do together, which made it even more fun. This is one that we’ll be doing quarterly going forward. (The company is called Hanley-Wood/Metrostudy in case you’re interested to see if they have this gig in your area.)

And though, I haven’t clocked any billable hours yet, I also started contracting with a nonprofit in California.

If you add all this side-hustling up, you’ll get a grand total of $842 – or as some of the more pessimistic folks in my family like to point out, not even enough to cover our rent.

Oh, negative people, I have no space for you these days!

We may be canoeing against the current here, but negative thinking can sink a ship faster than hitting an iceberg. (I’m not sure if that’s a mixed metaphor, but I like it, so I’m leaving it 😊)

We opted to be proactive this month, which led to a lot of small money-making opportunities all at once. And for that, I will be nothing but grateful. Who cares if it doesn’t meet someone else’s ideal! We had fun. We feel free. We are happy. And isn’t that the real goal anyway?