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Make Money Using Your Natural Talents

Here are 5 skills you can leverage into part-time work

Sewing man, How to Make Money Using Your Natural Talents

If you are good with a needle and thread, you can make some money doing alterations. — Getty images

En español |Some things can't be taught; they just come naturally. We're all born with a distinctive set of talents that are as singular as fingerprints. These are not skills we learn along the way or passions we discover over the years. These are inborn gifts. It's the way your voice sounds, for instance, your athletic prowess or your inner mechanical capability.

If you aren't certain what you have a knack for, ask friends, relatives and colleagues. They may point out things you simply take for granted. Think about the stuff you've been good at since you were a kid. If you're unsure, though, several organizations, including the Rockport Institute, provide career-testing programs that can help you assess your natural talents. And AARP's LifeReimagined.org offers interactive programs that help you identify your interests, values, goals and purpose.

See also: 2013 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Here are five jobs where you can follow your talent to make money. These jobs may offer flexible hours and may be done on a full- or part-time basis. Pay varies depending on the employer, your experience and your location.

1. Voice-over actor/artist

Do you have a money voice? If you've been blessed with a deep, resonating timbre or, perhaps, a smoky, husky purr, it might be time to put your vocal cords to work. The need for voice talent is rising. That's thanks to the increase in online multimedia websites and audiobooks.

The variety of possible gigs ranges from commercials to Web videos, audiobooks, documentaries, business and training videos, telephone messages and applications. This is generally a job for freelancers, and your services may be required for only a single recording session.

Qualifications: You'll probably have to invest in equipment such as recording software, a microphone and headsets if you are working from your home studio. You'll also need to shell out for a professional demo, to send to prospective clients. An acting background helps, although it's not mandatory. A few websites to check out for more information are Voices.com, Voicebunny.com and Voice123.com, which can help voice actors find work. To get higher-paying voice-over gigs, you may need to join a union such as SAG-AFTRA, the combination of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Union fees will vary depending on your market.

2. Medical equipment maintenance and repair

Were you the kid who always took things apart in the garage for the sheer fun of putting them back together? From wheelchairs to gurneys, if you've got the fix-it gene, this is a fast-growing job that plays right into your innate mechanical ability.

Medical equipment repairers maintain and fix a variety of equipment, including electric wheelchairs and EKG machines. For the most part, the tasks call for steadiness and good hand-eye coordination. But it's the inner awareness of how things work and fit together that allows you to not only enjoy this job but also to succeed in it. It can be physically demanding, as bending, crouching and standing go with the territory.

Employment of medical equipment repairers is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022 — much faster than the average for all other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Greater demand for health care services and the use of increasingly complex medical equipment will drive employment growth. Those who have an associate's degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering should have the best job opportunities.

As you might expect, openings can be found at hospitals, assisted care communities, medical centers, physicians' offices, health and personal-care stores, and medical equipment wholesalers. You might be called in for emergency repairs, so the ability to work quickly under pressure must be one of your talents.

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Pay: a median of $44,570 per year; $21.43 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Qualifications: Education requirements for medical equipment repairers are based on the kinds of equipment used in the position. So, for example, if you stick to hospital beds, gurneys and electric wheelchairs, you may learn entirely through on-the-job training. Medical device manufacturers, too, often provide technical training. If you work on high-tech equipment, such as CAT scanners and defibrillators, however, you may need a bachelor's degree in engineering or biomedical equipment technology. Even so, medical equipment technology is swiftly advancing, and new devices are being introduced all the time.

As a result, repairers must constantly update their skills and knowledge of equipment. Employers, particularly hospitals, often pay for their in-house medical repairers to become certified. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), for one, offers certification in specialty areas including certified biomedical equipment technician, certified radiology equipment specialist and certified laboratory equipment specialist.

3. Calligraphy artist

It's the power of penmanship. In our digital world, where the electronic signature is becoming the status quo, those who can create flowing cursive writing with smooth coordination and fine motor skills are few and far between. You can use your dexterity to create fonts and scripts for company logos, wedding invitations, place cards and menus, among other word-based undertakings. You probably won't get rich, but there is work for someone who practices the antique art of calligraphy. You must be detail-oriented and embrace the slow, steady pace of creating looping letters.

Most calligraphers set their own rate based on how many envelopes they can do in an hour, for example, or how long it takes to design an invitation. Pricing can range anywhere from $2 to $5 per envelope — or higher for special requests, according to the wedding-planning website theknot.com.

Qualifications: You don't need a formal degree to land work in this field, but taking art courses in calligraphy can ramp up your natural talent for handwriting. Look for offerings at a community college in your area. There are also professional associations for calligraphers, including the Society of Scribes and the Society for Calligraphy. Members can enroll in workshops and attend annual conferences, as well as tap into professional listings and networking prospects. The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting offers a selection of free online courses. And the nonprofit Washington Calligraphers Guild connects calligraphers with peers and potential employers.

4. Senior fitness trainer

If you're a natural athlete, working out is in your blood. That's why teaching active-adult exercise classes might just be your dream job. More fitness clubs and gyms across the country are offering classes catering to older people, according to fitness industry experts. Overall, employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trainers lead group classes and one-on-one sessions that usually run 45 minutes to an hour. Knowledge of human physiology and proper exercise practices, along with an ability to judge a client's fitness level, is crucial. And you might even take a dive into the pool, given that low-impact aqua aerobics are popular — as is "accessible" yoga, which adjusts techniques for people with chronic illness and physical disabilities. Hours are generally flexible, but plan on evening workouts. What's more, it's not unusual to have a class load of two dozen sessions a week.

The median pay is $15.25 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in larger cities, hourly rates may be $60 to $100 or more.

Qualifications: Certification generally is not required by law, but most fitness clubs require it. Several groups offer some type of credential; these include the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, the American Council on Exercise, the International Sports Sciences Association, the National Exercise Trainers Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, YMCA Silver Sneakers and the Arthritis Foundation.

See also: Let Life Reimagined help you jump into new possibilities

Programs generally cost upward of $400 and consist of a written test and a practical exam. For all credentials, an added certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation is required. Insurance might also be necessary.

5. Seamstress and tailor

Sewing like a pro is a nifty mixture of sharp hand-eye coordination and artistic flair. The job boils down to dexterity and details. And the truth is, for many people, simply threading a needle is maddening. Old-fashioned sewing has become a fading art, even though the demand for workers who can perform the task with panache has been rising steadily.

Sewers may also tap their talent to make handcrafted items such as quilts, placemats, napkins and table runners. You might find work in a dress shop, department store or dry cleaner. But nearly half of all seamstresses and tailors are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The highest-paid tailors and custom sewers earn more than $20 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Qualifications: Informal on-the-job training is standard for those working in a shop or store setting. Sewing is a solitary task, but to keep customers coming back with pants to be hemmed, dresses to be taken in or buttons to be sewn on, you'll need to draw on your people-pleasing skills, too.

Bonus job: Organizer. If you're great at and enjoy organizing offices, kitchens, bathrooms, garages, sheds and other spaces, consider creating a business in which you offer your organizational skills to others. Your knack can come in handy particularly for retirees who are seeking to downsize. You could even offer additional services, such as selling property on eBay and through other means.

Tips for Getting Started

Setting up a home-based business to make money from your natural talents requires some extra work. Here are some resources, as well as things to consider:

Rethink your career.

AARP's LifeReimagined has a number of ideas to help you plan your next career move. From the website's home page, click on Work to access resources on starting a business.

Sell your talents.

You can list your services on websites such as Upwork.com. It is free to join, but Upwork charges you a 10 percent service fee on payments. You can sell your goods online at Etsy.com. It's free to become an Etsy seller, but you'll pay a fee of 20 cents to list an item for four months. When it sells, you pay a 3.5 percent commission to Etsy plus a 3 percent and 25-cent processing fee. At Fiverr.com, you can offer a service that uses your skills (voice-over for a Web ad, designing an invitation, etc., starting at five bucks a pop. Fiverr keeps $1, and the seller gets $4 per gig.

Pay attention to the paperwork.

If you're running a small business out of your home, you will probably need tax registrations, business and occupational licenses, and permits from federal, state and local governments to operate legally.

Check your insurance.

It's smart to add an insurance rider on your homeowner's or renter's policy in case a deliveryman falls on your steps. Contact your insurer about coverage for valuable work-related equipment you keep at home. Each state has rules about insurance that can be offered to home-based outfits. For more, go to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org), an industry trade group and information clearinghouse.

Don't forget the IRS.

Independent contractors pay federal and Social Security taxes on income. You will need to pay estimated taxes throughout the year, instead of once a year. Go to the IRS Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center (at IRS.gov) for help. Depending on your business's location, you may be required to file state and local income and business taxes.

Kerry Hannon, AARP's jobs expert, is an award-winning author and nationally recognized authority on career transitions and retirement. Her latest book is Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. She has also written Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills. Hannon has spent more than 25 years covering all aspects of personal finance for national media outlets. Find more from Kerry at Kerryhannon.com.

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