12 Freelance Gigs You've Never Heard Of

Dec 13, 2013

You think you’ve had some strange jobs?

Here’s a list of twelve gigs that real-life people have actually turned into full-time freelance careers. Some are funny, some are weird, and if you have a hankering to try one you should probably start it as a side-gig before you take the full-time plunge.

1. Cat catcher

Jordana Serebrenik is a real-life freelancer who makes a living catching cats and putting them into cat carriers. The New York Times did a piece on her last year. She charges about $80 a cat-catch and clients say it’s worth every penny. If you’re good with animals, this could be a gig for you.

2. Property description writer

When you’re scanning magazines, newspapers, and online real estate listings, the property descriptions are often written by freelance copywriters. Real estate writing is a specialty. You’ll enjoy this if you enjoy interior design or architecture. Just reach out to your local real estate agency -- and if they don’t already hire a professional, send them a link to their misspelled, poorly worded house description, showing them how your services could really boost their business.

3. Date concierge

This is actually a growing field. Date concierges help couples plan dates by setting up all the details (the idea, the details, the car rental, the party invites), so that couples just show up and have a good time. New sites like HowAboutWe, Sparkology, or Kahnoodle have staffs of couple concierges who plan dates through their site, but many customers are looking for the kind of personal care and attention that only a freelancer can provide. Here’s a story on Jezebel of a real-life freelance date concierge. We’re sure you could charge more than he does.

4. Forum & chat moderator

Think that forums are “so 2004”? Well, they’re still going strong -- especially for teens who are into roleplaying. Yes, you only get paid $10 an hour, but you can’t beat the feeling of Absolute Power of the ban-hammer. If you enjoy working online from home, check out companies like Metaverse Mod Squad or ICUC.

5. Golf ball diver

You dive for golf balls in shallow, murky ponds, home to poisonous snakes and snapping turtles. But hey, some people are into that kind of thing. Professional golf ball diver Wes Stanfield says “It’s addictive, like treasure hunting.” You get a few cents a golf ball, but that adds up to a multi-million dollar industry, mostly made up of independent divers making up to $100,000 a year.

6. Office happiness consultant

The popularity of studies linking workplace happiness and productivity and the success of happiness-focused companies like Google and Warby Parker have led a growing number of businesses looking to increase the happiness of their employees. Enter happiness consultancy firms, like Woohoo Inc. run by Cheif Happiness Officer Alexander Kjerulf, who conducts workshops all around the world. I’ll admit, I find the prospect of being constantly cheerful at work to be a bit exhausting. But it is a real thing that you will get paid a ton of money for. Experience in HR, public speaking, or psychology is probably helpful.

7. Office organizer

Imagine someone sweeping into the chaos that is your home office, putting everything in its place, and making you more efficient and saner. Worth a couple hundred dollars, right? That’s what professional organizers do. If you specialize in office organization, you can charge big bucks for big businesses. If you’re looking to become a professional organizer, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

8. Braille translator

A Braille translator does just what it sounds like: reads all kinds of documents and translates them into Braille, the 26-letter reading system for the Legally Blind. It’s actually a pretty hard profession to get into: you need to get certified by the Library of Congress or the National Braille Association, and then get a few years of work (normally volunteering) under your belt before you can be hired a professional translator. You make what a typical translator makes, about $38,000 to $49,000 a year.

9. Fabric reseller

There are a couple dozen crafty folks on Etsy, Ebay, and other online marketplaces who sell small quantities of fabric, fabric squares, and color or pattern-sorted fabric sets for quilting, scrapbooking, or other crafty projects. It requires that you either buy wholesale fabric rolls, visit a lot of sale fabric bins, and then have an “eye” for assembling them in cute, coordinated packages.

10. Line waiter

I know this sounds like just about the most boring, tiring job ever, but it’s honestly a great way to do basically nothing (except stand) and make some extra side money. This service in Washington, D.C. charges $40/hour to wait on line. Robert Samuel is the founder of SOLD Inc (short for Same Old Line Dudes), and he even subcontracts to get his friends to wait on line with him. He makes about $300 a week waiting on lines.

11. Online juror

Attorneys want your “average American” opinion about cases that haven’t gone to trial yet -- and it pays a whole lot better than jury duty. You review summaries of real cases, give your opinion, and the company aggregates those responses and sends them to the attorney. Each case takes about 30 minutes, and you get $20-$60 per case. Not bad at all.

Just watch out for scammers on this one, freelancers. If someone asks you to pay to join, don’t buy it. Check out OnlineVerdict.

12. Baby name consultant

Baby name consultants will discuss possible name options with you, research the baby name history/meaning/popularity, and then give you a list of suggestions. A 30-minute phone consultation on babynames.com will run you in the order of $95. Entrepreneur Elisabeth Wilborn has made a career off of this, and although I don’t know how much she charges, she does an extensive background search for names that fit your style, heritage, and preferences. As one customer said, “Just knowing we have professional help, and that we are being proactive, puts my hormonal-pregnant-self at ease."

Freelancers, what’s been your most unusual side or freelance gig?