6 Proven Ways to Make a Living That Don’t Involve a Boss, Cubicle or Commute

More than 20 million Americans are self-employed, and other developed nations around the globe also have similarly large groups of people working for themselves. The rank of the self-employed is growing fast as people discover the freedom of being their own bosses.

For those of you considering a new career path that keeps you free from the Dilbert/Office Space lifestyle, here are six tried-and-true options you might want to check out:


Freelancer is a broad title that can apply to a any number of different professions. The term applies to any self-employed person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any particular employer. In recent times, it has become especially associated with website designers, computer programmers, advertising professionals, copy writers, copy editors and business consultants. By becoming a freelancer, you’re essentially trading guaranteed work convenience and benefits for the freedom of working for yourself and often greater income potential.

Independent Software Developer

Application platforms have become the new hot thing ever since Facebook unleashed theirs back in 2006. The iPhone has also become a huge marketplace for new applications. Many of the hottest applications on these new platforms are written by a single independent developer. SocialMedia, an advertising network, claims that some independent developers are pulling in over $100,000 per month. Those lucky developers are definitely a small minority, but there are many more who make a comfortable living.

Interior Designer

Design has become quite a popular topic recently with all of the television shows featuring designers and design competitions on networks such as HGTV and TLC. There’s a reason it’s so popular, since interior design is a discipline that affects everyone (positively or negatively) every day. There are many schools which offer formal training in interior design, although none is required to be successful. Some states have rules about who can call themselves an “interior designer” exactly. About 1 out of 4 designers are self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


There has been much debate recently over how many bloggers actually make a living just by blogging. The 2008 Technorati “State of the Blogosphere” survey showed that blogs that have 100,000 or more unique visitors per month earn an average of $75,000 per year. The top 1% of active bloggers are thought to earn $200,000 or more per year. It’s clear that not everyone can make a living only by blogging. However, for many blogging seems to open doors to other income possibilities from speaking engagements or consulting gigs.

Real Estate Agent

This may seem like the worst time to get involved in real estate. The S&P Case Schiller Index shows home prices have declined for 27 straight months across the country from their peak just a few years ago. While sale prices are down though, sales volumes are actually up dramatically due to foreclosures and short sales. If you become an agent now and have what it takes to make it through this downturn, you’ll be well prepared for the next upmarket when it starts.

Professional Photographer

A friend of mine started a professional photography business a few years ago after finishing art school. She’s quite busy these days, shooting weddings, portraits and events. She also dedicates some of her time to fine art and travel photos. Such is the life of the professional photographer. Most pay the bills with commercial work while keeping artistic options open. This is a do-it-all type of business, where you’re responsible for everything from sales and marketing to accounting to client relations. Freelancing for magazines can be a fantastic option if you like to travel.

Are you planning to become part of the 20+ million self-employed in the U.S.? Are you already working for yourself? Let us know in the comments! We’ll continue to profile interesting flexible career options here.

I'm Corbett Barr, founder of Fizzle and Palapa and co-host of The Fizzle Show. This is where I write about building businesses, living the good life, and doing work that matters. More about me »

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I'm Corbett Barr, founder of Fizzle and Palapa, and co-host of The Fizzle Show. Sign up for updates and I'll send you new posts as soon as they're published.

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