If nothing else, No Joe Schmo has proven that people find their jobs in the most unexpected places. A cop injured in line of duty was forced to medically retire from police work, so she turned her passion for animals into a nonprofit organization. A successful lawyer tinkered with LEGOs after work as a creative outlet, and eventually left Wall Street to play with bricks full-time. A divorced, burnt-out corporate slicker sang karaoke only to make some extra cash until a DJ told him he’d make a great Elvis impersonator.
Many seemingly odd, entrepreneurial ventures can be great launching pads to personally rewarding careers. I recently came across a book that promotes the same message: 101 Weird Ways to Make Money by Steve Gillman. Gillman points out that “‘normal’ ways to make money suddenly have less competition — and more income potential — once you come at them from a new angle or find a new niche.” He admits that not every niche is a good one; some are bound to leave you financially strapped. Nevertheless, your experience, willingness to take risks, and understanding of what it takes to own a business will give a leg up (well, three legs up, I guess…) in a fiercely competitive market. Plus, most niche-specific jobs are easier to start, as they have more relaxed requirements.
After reading 101 Ways, I realized why unusual jobs and No Joe Schmos are truly so important — besides, of course, being fun to read about. Gillman offers three distinct reasons, which I’ve paraphrased:
1. It’s more fun to make money doing something cool and innovative than sitting at a desk or in an assembly line day after day, week after week, year after year.
2. These “odd jobs” have much less competition, so they provide opportunities to get rich by offering services that nobody else does. Perfect example: The guys that clean eight-story IMAX screens recognized a gap in the screen-cleaning market; now, they receive business internationally.
3. You might find something that you never considered before as a viable career, but it makes you want to get up and go to work every morning.
After more than three months of interviewing No Joe Schmos and hearing their ups, downs, and aha! moments (here’s looking at you, Oprah), I know one thing for certain: I’ll never settle for a career that I don’t love.