We all have a pretty set idea of the kind of careers freelancers tend to have, don’t we? In the realm of common experience are freelance writers, architects, web designers, cake makers, photographers, actors… most freelance jobs we’re familiar with tend to be creative or teaching roles and the work done tends to be projects; finite items that are required then completed, be they articles, house designs, a child who can now talk French or play the piano.

But the scope of freelance work goes far beyond this and if you need a recent example, what about the robot arm designs recently completed by freelancers for NASA?

Out of this worldThe Stranger Side of Freelancing

Over the last few years, NASA has been using Freelancer.com to host crowdsourcing campaigns designed to find innovative solutions to some of their engineering challenges.

The most recent of these challenges invited contestants to design an attachment and orientation arm for Astrobee, the flying robotic assistant that will provide support to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) and replace the existing SPHERES robot in 2019.

Three of the winners have already been selected. 23-year old Nino Wunderlin from South Africa is studying for a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and applied his knowledge of electronics, aerostructures for light-weight design and 3D-modelling to the ‘Design an Attachment Mechanism’ challenge.

Myrdal Manzano, a 37-year-old Conceptual Engineer from the Philippines, used his skills in 3D design, PCB layout design, manufacturing, robotics and automation to win the ‘Design a ‘Smart’ Attachment’ challenge.  Amit Biswas, a 36-year-old Software Engineer from India, entered the challenge with his company Triassic Robotics and used his skills in mechanical engineering, CAD and electronics to win the ‘Design a Simple Deployment Mechanism’ contest.

The Astrobee Challenges Series is still ongoing as there are nine contests that have not been unlocked yet and there’s still money to be won. But perhaps your skills lie elsewhere?

Fun, freaky, festive or fulfilling: the freelance jobs you never think about

If you’ve ever watched Who Do You Think You Are and wished that someone would take the time to professionally research your family tree in that detail, then you’re in luck. You can hire one of the very same genealogy and history experts that have worked on the programme and many others, including Gene Detectives, Heir Hunters and Meet the Ancestors.

Among other things, you may have seen Anthony Adolph telling Gary Lineker that one of his ancestors was a poacher and talking about the ancestry of the Prince George on ITN just as the royal baby made his first public appearance.

However, Anthony doesn’t reserve his skills for the rich and famous. Anyone can hire him to research as much or as little of their family tree as they wish, and he also writes up family histories, something he definitely finds fun and fulfilling.

“Writing up and explaining the results of research is one of the most rewarding parts of my work – apart of course from making incredible discoveries and cracking long-standing mysteries,” he says on his website. Of course, you need a very specific education and set of skills to become an expert in this area, but it can be a worthwhile freelance career.

While writing is a common enough freelance career, most people outside the sector think of all writers as novelists or journalists for magazines or newspapers. Even those of us inside the sector can be a bit narrow-minded. But there are writers out there making money from writing best man and bar mitzvah speeches, humorous personalised poems, eulogies (funeral speeches) and even sermons! Writers like Lynne Hackles have made a career out of writing about anything and everything, and for anyone, that comes along.

Look in the right places on the internet and you’ll be amazed at what people will pay you for. Voice overs, a role as an extra milling about in the background of a scene, manning a stand at a fair, passing on your business or IT knowledge, 3D food printing, recording the height of 200 everyday objects, holiday or travel itinerary planning… the list is endless.

Dog sitting and house sitting have both seen a real boom in recent years, certainly where I live in East Anglia, and of course come Christmas time, there are numerous jobs for freelance elves, fairies and Santas.

Are you short of money, work or both at the moment? Or perhaps you’re just stuck in a rut? Then why not see what unusual jobs you can find on the internet? PeoplePerHour’s ‘extraordinary’ category may be an interesting place to start.