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March 11, 2002
Counting Maggots And Other Employment When You're Between Work At Home Jobs
by Sherril Steele-Carlin

Sometimes, freelancers seem to think they have the monopoly on strange jobs. We often work at home, alone for days at a time, never interacting with anyone other than our computer, and our family (once in a while!). As we struggle with the up's and down's of self-employment, sometimes it seems like we'll do just about anything that's legal and pays us decently, while the people that know us secretly wonder "when are you going to get a real job?

While what we do may seem strange to a lot of people, there are plenty of jobs out there that really are "stranger than truth," and now seems like a good time to take a look at some of the really weird things people do in the name of employment.

One temporary worker (remember this the next time you consider temporary work to tide you over) took a four-day job in a candy factory. His duties? He got to spend each day separating Skittles candies into their color groups. Good thing he wasn't color blind!

The food industry seems to come up with some of the strangest jobs. Another worker remembers "sitting in a room with containers of untreated strawberries, a pencil and a notepad. My job was to take the stalk and plug out of the strawberries and count any maggots found in either the berry or the plug." Yum, I'm sure this wasn't a long-term career.

Another happy self-employer farmer has a worm farm in Visalia, California. He says at any given time he's raising over 200,000 worms, and teaching people how to use them for garden health and composting.

Then there's the Pizza Farmer in Fresno, California. He's turned a half-acre farm into a giant pizza, representing the ingredients that are needed to make a complete pizza pie. He grows a section of wheat to represent flour for the dough, mushrooms, a cow for cheese, and even tomatoes for the sauce. The farm is open for kids to tour, and learn more about agriculture and food. One section he's missing in a slice of his pie? There isn't a fish tank for the anchovies.

Lots of authors, actors, and artists tell of strange jobs they've taken to support their craft. Most of us know singer Rod Stewart once worked as a grave digger. One band new to Hollywood couldn't find work, so they took a job dressing up as giant teeth. Or, you could be the aspiring actor who pretends to be a patient so medical students can practice on him. The REALM web site tells of Dov Mickelson, an Edmonton actor who is occasionally hired to play a patient in medical school testing scenarios. In the spectrum of Mickelson's acting career, the gig falls somewhere between doing Shakespeare, and the time the stocky, red-haired actor impersonated Elvis and toured a supermarket chain. 'You're presenting the medical students with as real a situation as possible. I guess it's what Method acting would really be like,' he says."

One unusual freelance opportunity that really sounds like fun is the career Unity Schooley has chosen. The Canadian loves kids, and creates balloon animals to entertain them. He works for farmer's markets, craft fairs, and other venues, entertaining the children with his balloon-art creations. He learned his craft after watching a clown in the park when he was younger.

One of the best strange jobs has got to be that of the La-z-Boy Company. They employ furniture testers to check out their more than comfortable recliners. I wonder where I can sign up?

So, the next time one of your friends or loved ones wonders when you're going to get a "real job," you can always threaten to choose one of these odd careers. Odds are they won't think freelancing is so unusual any longer.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a full-time freelance writer from Reno, Nevada. She's published numerous articles in print and online publications. She's also the author of the new e-book
"How to get a Life by Living and Working in a National Park."
"How to Break Into Casino Jobs."
Visit her web site at

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