All the Ways We’ve Made Money


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That Thing Called Work

First and foremost, Johnny and I have loved diving into your reader survey responses this weekend. It was super fun and interesting to learn more about all y’alls. And our favorite part was reading your written responses. You guys are seriously the best, and every little comment will help make this site better. So THANKS. (And if you haven’t had a chance to weigh in, get at it here.)

This week, Johnny and I wanted to talk about jobs. Later this week, we’ll finally be sharing the results of the questionnaire on making money from home (which many of you contributed to — and can still contribute to if you haven’t already). We’re excited to share all the cool ways people are making it work whilst sitting on their couch in their underwear. Just kidding… as someone who works from home myself, I can attest that never happens. I make sure to at least wear a robe.

So to get things started off this week, Johnny and I wanted to share the evolution of our work histories. I’ll go first.

Joanna’s Job History

1999–2004: Babysitter for friends and neighbors – I can’t claim I was ever that girl who loved babies, but I didn’t mind babysitting. I was, however, that girl who couldn’t resist cleaning the homes while I babysat, which was probably weird.

2005: Full-time nanny – I did not like this job. Taking care of someone else’s kids all day whom you can’t really discipline is not my thing.

2006: Server at local cafe in my hometown in Alabama – The tips were great, although I didn’t love hearing construction workers yell, “Hey, waitress!” in a thick Southern drawl anytime they needed something. The lady who owned the place was a complete you-know-what, and after two months of sticking it out, I told her I wasn’t coming back. I probably should have stuck it out for the money, but quitting felt pretty nice at the time.

2005–2008: Cook/Hostess/Server at college restaurant – I started as a cook and moved up the ranks until I was a server at the “fancy” on-campus restaurant at my university.

2007: Server at a local Mexican restaurant – Johnny and I worked at this restaurant together right after getting married. Johnny and I always competed for more tips, and he beat me every time. That guy knows how to work his charm.

2008: Secretary for chemistry department – My favorite part of this job was editing professors’ letters of recommendations for various students. There were definitely a few anti-recommendations, which I found downright scandalous.

2009: Teacher’s assistant for Johnny’s NYC internship – That time Johnny interned at an NYC advertising agency, I was the teacher’s assistant (TA) for the professor heading up the internship. I got to plan out touristy activities for all the interns (and myself) and keep my eyes peeled for any misbehaving interns :).

2009–present: Editor for not-for-profit company – I can’t believe I’ve been with the same company for 4.5 years. Yowza! I get to use the editing skillz I studied in college, and I work from home in a robe, so I can’t complain.

Johnny’s Job History

1995-1996: Lemonade stand kid-trepreneur – I’d set up shop on our street corner and sell both yellow and pink (100% from concentrate) lemonades. After my initial success, I began stealing my parents’ sodas and selling a can for a dollar a pop. That moved me into the $40+/day pay-scale. That number declined as I raised prices and became less “cute” and more pushy in my negotiating tactics.

1997-1999: Nerd – I’ve always been a nerd at heart. I’d do any number of nerdy odd-jobs to make a quick buck: design websites for my parents’ friends’ businesses, sell custom-made burned CDs, data entry for educational software developers, etc.

2000: Fence painter – There weren’t many jobs for the under-16-years-old crowd, but fortunately for me, our local city had a youth employment (read: juvenile delinquent) program. I got paid to paint white equestrian fences that lined our city’s roads — most of my “coworkers” accrued hours of service to clear their records.

2001-2002: Office manager – I answered calls, made coffee, and changed the office’s telephone hold music to Rage Against the Machine. So much teen angst.

2003: Smoothie artist at Jamba Juice – To help cover my wild college freshman lifestyle of thrift store splurges and frozen burritos, I mixed smoothies at Jamba Juice. I still remember most of their recipes, so hit me up if you want to make a mean Mango-A-Go-Go.

2004: Seller of vintage clothes on eBay – This was the summer of ironic shirts. I took advantage of the moment by hitting up 5-10 thrift stores a week and cleaning out their supply of Lacoste polos, Members Only jackets, and D.A.R.E. t-shirts. I would buy around 20 items a week for $1-$3 each and then sell them on eBay with an average profit of $10-$15 item.

2006: Web designer/office assistant for college apartment complex – In addition to basic web design, I helped with the new-resident orientation for a certain young lady who I ended up marrying just a year later.

2007: Server at Mexican restaurant – I was good at refilling drinks (something I quickly realized affected my tips more than anything) and asking terrible questions (Me: “Hey there! What’s the big occasion?” Family dressed in black suits/dresses: “A funeral.” Me: “I’ll be right back with your chips.”)

2008: IT Teacher at college – To put it shortly, I taught teachers and faculty how to use computers.

2008: Marketing guy for local company – This is where I discovered my love for advertising/marketing. My proudest achievement here was renting a llama for a campaign.

2009–2010: Marketing guy for software company – More marketing, more confirmation that it was a good career fit.

2010–2013: Copywriter at a few different agencies – From NYC to Boston to Raleigh, I made the switch from marketing to an advertising copywriter. For those unfamiliar, I am responsible for writing all © symbols on ads… kidding. But seriously, that’s what my parents probably still think I do. The copywriter is responsible for writing all the words you see/hear in an ad. In radio or TV, it’s the script. On a print ad, it’s the headline and body text. When the objective, client, and budget align, it’s a fantastic occupation.

2013–present: Marketing guy for tech company – Now I’m back at the marketing thing. Part of me wishes this story ended with me being a lemonade stand operator again, but a middle-aged dude sitting on a corner selling lukewarm lemonade sounds really depressing. So I guess we should all be glad it didn’t come full circle.

And that is the evolution of our careers. What’s the most memorable job you’ve ever held? Stay tuned for more job talk later this week!

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35 Comments

  • Reply Lilybett April 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Most memorable was probably a factory worker in a chicken factory. Definitely not memorable for any particularly good reasons. But I know what’s in a McDonald’s chicken nugget, how they get the grill marks on Burger King grilled chicken, exactly how gross Pizza Hut’s chicken pizzas are, and that I will never ever eat turkey again in my life.

    I’ve also been a housekeeper, Downton Abbey style, in the south of England (although without the dressing the ladies part) and a journalist (covering the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami was horrific).. Now I teach media and communication at university and I love it.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Haha. I’m tempted to ask about the chicken nuggets, but in this case, ignorance is bliss-ish. Your current job sounds awesome. I’d love to be a teacher covering your very exact subject. I’ll vicariously live that dream through you.

  • Reply Mark Ross April 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Interesting. :)

  • Reply Kasey @ Debt Perception April 7, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Berry Fulfilling recipe?

    Memorable in a good way? I think my current job will likely be that down the road because it’s pretty awesome now. Memorable in a bad way was working at Jimmy John’s as a cashier. The assistant manager was a jerk to me and contradicted everything the manager said. I will never, ever work in fast food again.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:33 am

      Oooh, that one wasn’t around when I worked there. I’ll see if I can sneak behind the counter the next time I’m in a Jamba and pass the secrets along.

  • Reply Lizzy K. April 7, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Most memorable (in a good way) was the year I spent working at a bagel shop in college. Free food? Yes, please! The staff & boss were wicked cool. Pay wasn’t great, but the good hours, fun atmosphere, free food (did I mention the free food already? cause it was pretty awesome), free coffee (I basically ran an IV of it into my arm) & nice customers (tons of regulars) made it stand out. Also, my boss would never ask me to do something she herself wasn’t willing to do, which I hadn’t had at a job before or since.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:35 am

      Wait, did you get free food? :) I failed to include that aspect in my server job at the Mexican restaurant. No matter how the night was going, I always knew a free pork chimichanga was waiting for me. Your bagel shop job sounds awesome. That’s a pretty great college gig.

  • Reply insourcelife April 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Most memorable? Gravedigger at age 15 was probably the most memorable for me. I still use those skills to this day in our garden. My wife says I love digging holes. Planted 3 trees and a bunch of bushes yesterday so I guess she’s right.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:36 am

      Haha. Awesome. Slightly morbid, but awesome.

  • Reply Miranda April 7, 2014 at 11:50 am

    My husband and I also waited tables together, and he always beat me in tips, due to the same ‘charm’. So frustrating…

    My first job was at a snow cone stand. I’m sure I complained immensely at the time, but now I’m really nostalgic about it, so much so that I’ve considered owning one of my own someday.

    Also, this video fascinates me.. 10 Weird Jobs That Pay Super Well
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bUt7x0A36U

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:39 am

      Joanna doesn’t know this, but I was never afraid to show a little leg. And then be asked to go home early for the night for traumatizing our patrons. :)

      That video’s great. Embalmer? Pass.

  • Reply Brian April 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    My most interesting job was designing repairs for aircraft landing gear and wing sections.

    One of my more weird jobs was running an ice plant in town. The most memorable day was the time I came in and one of the walls and ceiling colapsed overnight. Nothing quite like having to call the VP of the company at 6:30 am giving him the “good news.” I did get to spend the rest of the week driving a bobcat around so that was a plus for me. Over all that was a fun job. I got to meet a few famous musicians when I had to make some deliveries to the concet venue. My favorite was meeting Lil’ Jon and he gave me a can of “Crunk Juice” and said “Yeeeaaahhh” when he did it. It was pretty epic.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:43 am

      Haha. You delivered ice to Lil’ Wayne?! Plus crunk juice?! Man, that’s gotta rank up there as coolest experience ever. And so just to clarify, the ice plant made lots of… ice? Like frozen water? I mean, I know grocery stores sell ice, I just didn’t realize there are businesses that specialize in making frozen water cubelets.

      • Reply Brian April 8, 2014 at 7:24 am

        Yes, frozen water, not drugs… You are correct. In the United States there are a couple of major players and I worked for one of them. Right up to the point they wanted me to move to a state that I didn’t want to move too…

  • Reply Maureen April 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Being a nanny is the WORST! I did that the summer after high school, 3-4 days a week, 4-5 hours a day. The family was very wealthy, so my pay was amazing, but they were crazy. I was working 2 other jobs at the time and the mom had no worries coming back an hour later than scheduled, so I would literally speed to my 2nd job. They called me up the next summer, but I was too “busy” to take the job! 😉

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:46 am

      Joanna still tells me babysitting horror stories. Having been a “babysitter” (okay, “dad” is probably better) for the last 15 months, I can’t imagine doing that for someone else’s kid who you don’t have mind/punishment control over because they’re not your kid.

  • Reply Andy Tindall April 7, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Working at Pinkberry on Melrose in LA. Interesting serving the.rich and famous. Although I did not expect tips it was always interesting to see who would tip and who wouldn’t.

    Thanks for the dime Kirsten Dunst and the sweet smile Leonard DiCaprio……

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Haha. Those two are punks. That’s a super cool experience though. Love me some Pinkberry. Assuming they throw in a free yogurt each shift, I should probably see if they’re hiring.

  • Reply Anneli @thefrugalweds April 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for the breakdown, guys! Def cool to look back on this – maybe my hubs and I can put this together too :-)
    To be honest, I’ve only ever had 3 jobs in my life:
    1. Called UCLA alumni to donate money at the UCLA Foundation.
    2. Worked as a student advocate for the UCLA Students Association.
    3. As a high-powered head-hunter in Marketing and Advertising (LoL)
    In all of my jobs, I loved networking with people., I love making connections, and helping people get their dream job now – I never get sick of doing that!

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:50 am

      My alumni calls me every.week. about donating. Don’t get me wrong, I love my school, but dude, give me a few more years before you start hitting me up for MORE money than I already forked over for tuition.

      And assuming you’re still doing #3, I’ll keep your email on speed dial the next time I’m itching for a change of scenery. :)

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone April 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I’m crazy-weird careful about not talking about my career on the internet! I just work really hard to keep my professional life professional, and my blogger life…blogger????

    That being said, my most memorable job was being a nanny. I loved it with my whole heart. I loved those kids so much! In fact, I wish that I could have been a nanny for the rest of my life, rather than going to graduate school and getting a “real” career.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:52 am

      Totally get the professional/blogger thing. We make sure to never name drop employers or say anything too negative, because all it would take is a simple Google search and boom, there we are.

  • Reply Rob April 7, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Hi guys! Very interesting to read your past employment experiences,

    Of all the jobs that I’ve had over the years (prior to retirement) I’d have to say that the most memorable job (if not all that enjoyable as it turned out) was back when I worked as an IT manager for one of our Canadian provincial government ministries. I had a staff of 23 reporting to me, worked on average about 12-14 hours a day and did it for 3 years. This was at the time that our two kids were both under 5 years of age – a pretty tough time for my wife. I finally decided that a job change was required as I was pretty burnt out by then. So as it turned out my government job wasn’t all that cushy of a job (as I had first expected) but indeed was quite “memorable”.

    • Reply Johnny April 8, 2014 at 1:57 am

      Sounds like a rough schedule. And nothing like the government jobs some of my friends brag about. You must have been working for the Canadian version of the NSA or something. I don’t know if I should trust you anymore, Rob…

      • Reply Rob April 8, 2014 at 6:42 am

        Funny thing is, Johnny, that’s what my wife tells me sometimes when I try to get away with things (which with her never works)!!! :-)

  • Reply Little House April 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

    I’ve also held quite a few jobs here and there throughout my lengthy work history, but the more memorable was hot dog vendor (of sorts). I quit my corporate job when I was in my mid-20’s, simply because I couldn’t stand the office politics, and started a vending cart with my soon-to-be-husband. It didn’t last long because we really couldn’t pay the bills with it, but it was fun while it lasted!

    • Reply Johnny April 11, 2014 at 12:05 am

      That’s awesome! I’ve always secretly had a dream of running a vendor cart. In New York City, there are these incredible iced coconut treats called Coco Helado and I’ve wanted to take their product and try peddling it on the desert hot streets of Las Vegas. Joanna doesn’t seem too keen on the idea, but I’m not going to quit until we at least give it a shot.

  • Reply Erin @ Gen Y Finances April 9, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Hmm, most memorable job? I’ve had a lot of jobs in the past nine years (age 15 to 24) and I’ve had some I’ve loved and others I’ve hated. I think the most memorable was when I worked at a smoothie shop and got fired (only time ever!) because of my resting bitch face. Yes, I’m serious…

    • Reply Johnny April 11, 2014 at 12:15 am

      That’s deserving of its own post. But only if it includes photos of said fire-able face.

  • Reply Slinky April 10, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    The one people are most bemused by would be harpist, from age 11 to 18. These days I only play for fun or as a special favor for friends (generally weddings). I’ve been thinking about doing some busking this summer though, just for fun and whatever extra cash I pick up.

    • Reply Johnny April 11, 2014 at 12:24 am

      What?! That’s amazing. If you were local, I’d hire you in a heartbeat. We don’t really host social events, but a harp soundtrack would seem appropriate for a Board Game Night, right? :) Seriously though, I love the harp. We had a church member who used to play and it was simply magical listening to her.

      • Reply Slinky April 11, 2014 at 9:42 am

        Ha! Yeah, that’s the reaction I typically get. :) At least until I tell people I charge $100/hour. I’m about to buy a flight case for my new travel sized harp, so feel free to fly my husband and I out for a weekend. We’ll bring board games!

  • Reply Tarynkay April 12, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    I have had a lot of jobs. The weirdest ones have been:

    1) Washing school busses
    2) Working at a reptile breeding facility
    3) Telephone psychic

    My favorites were:

    1) Working with juvenile delinquents for the public defender
    2) Managing an upscale bakery
    3) Framing art and doing framing consultations at a frame shop

    • Reply Johnny April 19, 2014 at 9:59 am

      A telephone psychic?! That’s awesome! Were there any position prerequisites like, oh I don’t know…. being psychic?

      Looking at your list, Joanna and I have lead very boring lives.

      • Reply Tarynkay April 19, 2014 at 10:44 am

        For the psychic job, I just had to sign a thing that said that I felt I had “intuitive abilities.” The people who called were mostly just lonely and needed to talk through their problems. It actually had a lot in common with doing wedding cake consultations at the bakery and with working at the public defender. You know how it is- the objective size of people’s problems vary, but not the subjective size.

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