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From Cricket Farming to Golf Ball Diving - Weird Jobs for a Weird Economy

GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: Looking Beyond Traditional Paychecks and Profits, by Steve Gillman, author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money: Cricket Farming, Repossessing Cars, and Other Jobs with Big Upside and Not Much Competition."

"101 Weird  Ways to Make Money" by Steve Gillman
"101 Weird  Ways to Make Money" by Steve Gillman

Some economists say the recession is over, but the public doesn't seem to believe that.

Are we in a recovery? Are we headed into a new recession?

In these strange economic times the answers are not clear.

We do know that unemployment remains high and people feel less secure than ever about their jobs. That insecurity is motivating many to look at more unusual employment and business opportunities to generate extra income, replace the job they have, or even to get rich.

Why Weird?

It isn’t that people are looking specifically for odd ways, but the less-common professions have some distinct advantages that make them worth looking at. These include:

  1. Higher pay or profits.
  2. Greater security.
  3. Easier entry.
  4. Less capital required.
  5. Personal interest and enjoyment.

Less competition makes big money more likely. There weren’t many goose removal companies serving golf courses when David Marcks started "Geese Police." That left him free to build the first multi-million dollar company in this niche, with franchises around the country. Dirty work scares off the competition, leaving high profit margins for those willing to do it. Wastewater treatment employees can make up to $100,000 in New York, and many diaper services top $1 million in annual revenue.

"The odd ways to make a living are often easier to get into, with fewer formal requirements." -Author, 101 Weird Ways to Make Money, Steve Gillman

Greater security is another motivator, and this also comes with many less-competitive jobs and businesses. Restaurants come and go, but how often do you hear of a septic tank cleaning company closing down? Of course, any extra job or side business offers more security both in the form of current income and future potential.

The odd ways to make a living are often easier to get into, with fewer formal requirements. You don’t need a degree or license to start buying and selling mobile homes, and many people have built multi-million dollar businesses in this industry. What about crickets? No formal education required, small starts are possible, and Ghann's Cricket Farmin Georgia has annual revenue estimated at $10 to 20 million.

The potential to start with a smaller investment appeals to many people. If you work at a Petco store as a dog groomer, for example, by the time you save a thousand dollars and get a credit card you have the experience and capital necessary to start your own pet-grooming business. Jason Gillman ran surveillance cameras for a Michigan casino and used that experience to start Industrial Covert Unlimited, a company that sells surveillance equipment. He started with about $1,000, a computer, a line of credit, and a lot of experience. ICU topped $1 million in annual sales within a few years.

Of course tough times don’t rule out having fun while making money. Personal interest and the desire to do something you enjoy can motivate a career change. Whitewater rafting guides and animal trainers at Disney don‘t get rich, but most of the people who hold these positions love their work. What about repo-men and bounty hunters? The individuals who have parlayed these professions into reality television shows appear to be having a great time.

Golf ball divers have made up to $100,000 annually. Worm farmers have done even better. Some niche bloggers net thousands per month opining on obscure topics. Test-tutors can charge up to $50-per-hour. Medical research subjects get paid for popping pills or changing their diets. And often you can start something new and interesting part-time while still working a more traditional job—yet another reason to look into the odd opportunities out there.

Steve Gillman stole cars in the middle of the night as a repo-man. His seventy or so various occupations have included roulette croupier, process server, mobile home investor, and flea market vendor. This wide-ranging experience lead to a lucrative niche-website business and career as an author. Though he writes on a variety of subjects, his favorite is making money. His latest book, "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" was published in July 2011. Follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveGillman

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks