In 2012, Nora Curl, now 51, had been living in New York and working in the world of antiques for about a decade.
But she realized she needed to move back to her native Pennsylvania to take care of her mother, who has a rare congenital disease. "I got back to northwestern Pennsylvania and I'm thinking, how am I possibly going to make a living in the art antiques world?" she says.
She started a website for appraising antiques and sold items on eBay. Then, in September of 2012, she saw an opening for an online, work-from-home antique valuation role on joblist site Jobrapido. "I didn't hesitate to apply," she says, and a few weeks later she got an email saying she'd been approved as a new antiques expert on advice website JustAnswer.
JustAnswer features experts in an array of topics including lawyers, electricians and vets. Users pay a sign-up fee plus a monthly fee and have access to all experts on the site. They can submit a question any time of day and get answers on JustAnswer or speak to an expert on the phone.
Curl has worked full-time on the site since 2012, bringing in more than $124,000 just last year.
Here's how she built her career on the site and her advice for anyone who wants to find similar success.
Curl studied communication at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and began her career managing restaurants. After moving to LA to work in food services and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood elites, she landed a job executive assisting film producer Elie Samaha. But it wasn't the job of her dreams.
"I never had a desire to be part of the Hollywood rat race," she says. "On weekends, I would go to auction houses, museums, junk stores with friends and just kind of treasure hunt." And she'd often know what was on display. "I would say, 'oh my gosh, that's a Tiffany vase or that's a Steuben glass piece.'" And she was surprised to find her friends weren't as in-the-know.
"Since infancy my parents were weekend warriors going to auctions and antique shops," she says. She realized she'd picked up some knowledge in the space and that, maybe, she even had a knack for it.
"So I ditched Hollywood."
Curl got into auction house Christie's postgraduate program in 2001 where she studied connoisseurship in fine and decorative arts. She graduated in 2002.
She then held a series of jobs in and around the world of antiques working in magazines, storage and the gallery space. The latter let her handle "original [paintings] that Norman Rockwell did," she says. Eventually, she worked for artist Nelson Shanks, famous for painting icons like Princess Diana and Ronald Reagan. She liked that job in particular.
He had "the third best collection of late Renaissance early Baroque work in private hands in America," she says. "And that was part of my specialty. So I ended up becoming his assistant and handling his exhibition contracts and working with his models."
She worked for him until 2012.
JustAnswer came at just the right time. But even as she dove into work on the site, she did so skeptically.
Experts on the site have professional experience in their field and have been verified by a third party confirming they have the right "education, credentials, licenses," according to the site. Some answer questions full-time, others just a side hustle. They make $2-$20 per answer, according to Sidehusl.com, depending on expertise and status on the site (users can rate them).
"It's very self-guided, self-directed," she says. "You just kind of have to figure out your way." She started answering questions for people about their paintings, Hummel figurines, vases. Within days, "I'm up near $1,000," she says. "And I'm thinking, is this real?"
Sure enough, the following month, she got paid.
For a while, she was working about eight hours per day and making anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 per month. "During Covid lockdowns, I was nonstop about, 14, 16 hours a day," she says. In 2021, she made an average of $12,600 per month.
These days, she's back to working about eight hours per day.
"My prime hours are about 4 p.m. to midnight," she says, answering user questions through the site or on the phone. That works out with her clientele, which is based all over the world. "At night when I'm working, a lot of the requests come in from Australia and New Zealand," she says. "Morning is a lot of people from the UK."
Many people want to know if they can sell their pottery, sterling silver pieces, etc. She often recommends selling online. "eBay is really an excellent platform for selling," she says, adding that it's "international, 24/7 exposure."
In terms of advice for others who'd like to try their luck with JustAnswer: "Don't quit your day job," she says.
"Give yourself some time participating on the platform, you know. See if it really works for you."
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