En español | Some things can't be taught. They just come naturally to you. We're all born with a distinctive set of talents that are as singular as fingerprints. These are not skills that we learn along the way, or passions discovered over the years. These are inborn gifts. It's the way your voice sounds, for instance, or your athletic prowess, or your inner mechanical capability.
If you aren't certain of what you have a knack for, ask friends, relatives and colleagues. They may point out things you simply take for granted. Think about the things you've been good at since your were a kid. If you're uncertain, though, several organizations, including the Rockport Institute, provide career-testing programs that can help you assess your natural talents.
Here are five jobs where you can follow your talent to make money. These jobs may offer flexible hours and can be on a full- or part-time basis. Pay varies depending on the employer, your experience and where you live.
1. Voice-Over Actor/Artist
The nitty-gritty: 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 it 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. Last year, the freelance website Elance.com touted voice acting as one of the fastest-growing fields, with a threefold increase in job postings on the site.
This is generally a job for freelancers, and your services may be required for only a single recording session. That means you'll probably have to hustle to build a viable business. Once you're established, though, it can turn out to be a great part-time job.
Pay: The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't track wages of voice actors but includes them under the actor banner, which pays a median $17.50 an hour. An average salary of $66,000 is reported by Indeed.com. Typical rates for a recording session generally are between $75 and $350 per hour.
Qualifications: You'll probably have to invest in equipment such as recording software, a microphone and headsets if you are working from your home office. You'll also need to shell out for a professional demo to send out to prospective clients. An acting background helps, although it's not mandatory. Some resources to tap into are forums such as voiceactingalliance.com, Voiceactingclub.com and websites likeVoice123.com and Voices.com. To get higher-paying voice-over jobs, 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
The nitty-gritty: 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 from electric wheelchairs to 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 work, but also 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 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the average for all occupations. As you might expect, jobs 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 fast work under pressure must be in your wheelhouse.
Pay: A median of $44,490 per year; $21.39 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Qualifications: Education requirements for medical equipment repairers depend on what kinds of equipment you're in charge of. 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 coming onstream all the time. As a result, repairers must constantly update skills and knowledge of equipment. Employers, particularly in hospitals, often pay for their in-house medical repairers to become certified. For example, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) offers certification in three specialty areas: Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician, Certified Radiology Equipment Specialists, and Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist.
3. Calligraphy Artist
The nitty-gritty: It's the power of penmanship. In our digital world, where the electronic signature is becoming 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.
Pay: Most calligraphers set the rate themselves based on how many envelopes they can do in an hour, for example, or how long it takes to design an invitation. $30 to $50 an hour plus the cost of supplies is standard, but it can be higher. The average annual salary for calligraphy jobs is $64,000, according to Indeed.com.
Qualifications: A formal degree is not necessary to land work in this field, but 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. The Washington Calligraphers Guild, a nonprofit organization, connects calligraphers with peers and potential employers.
4. Senior Fitness Trainer
The nitty-gritty: 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 the silver-hair set, according to fitness industry experts. Overall, employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, 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, proper exercise practices and an ability to judge a client's fitness level are crucial. And you might even take a dive into the pool. 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, and it's not unusual to have a class load of two dozen sessions a week.
Pay: The median is $14.95 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.
Programs cost around $200 to $400 and generally 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
The nitty-gritty: 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, truth is, for many people, simply threading a needle is maddening. Old-fashioned sewing has become a fading art even though the demand for someone who can perform the job with panache has been in steady demand. It requires a built-in precision to cut and measure fabric. Altering or repairing clothing and creating custom garments demands an inner focus and patience. Sewers may also tap their talent to make handcrafted items from quilts to 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.
Pay: The median is $8.31 an hour. The top 10 percent earned more than $17.57, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. PayScale reports annual salaries as high as $45,000.
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 the customers coming back with pants to be hemmed, dresses to be taken in or buttons to be sewn back into place, you'll need to pull out those people-pleasing talents, too.
Next page: Tips for getting started. »
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 plan your next career move. From the website's home page, click on Work to access resources on starting a business.
Sell your talents
Elance is an online marketplace where jobs are posted and freelancers bid on them. If your bid is selected, you pay Elance a service fee of 8.75 percent of what you earn. You can sell your hand-stitched goods online at Etsy. 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. At Fiverr, you can offer a service that uses your skills — voice-over for a Web ad, designing an invitation, and so on — 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, 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 Individual Tax Center for help. Depending on the location of your business, you may be required to file state and local income and business taxes.
Find a mentor
PivotPlanet, a new virtual mentoring service, lets you connect with expert advisers via one-on-one video and phone conferences. The service offers access to expert advisers in hundreds of fields for people looking to change careers or add a business. It's designed to help build a concrete mentor relationship that can evolve over a series of sessions at regular intervals and on an as-needed basis. These meetings are billed hourly and can range in price from $50 to $200.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Hapy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills.