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5 rewarding ways to quit the 9 to 5 and be your own boss

There are many perks to being a full-time freelancer or starting your own small business. You can earn an impressive income, set your own schedule, and work from any location—including at home, in your pajamas. It isn’t surprising, then, that a recent workforce trends study estimated that by the year 2020, 60 million people in the United States will be self-employed.

If you’re thinking about leaving the 9-to-5 grind to strike out on your own, here are 5 growing fields that pay well, are relatively easy to break into, and can be learned online or through on-the-job experience.

1. Photography

Have you always had an eye for taking amazing photos? Good news! If you have a bit of artistic talent and a willingness to learn composition, color theory, and digital editing, you’d probably make a great photographer.

The kinds of freelance gigs you can get as a photographer are extremely diverse—you can make a name for yourself shooting weddings and other events, selling stock photography to websites like Shutterstock and Flickr, or capturing high-art photos and selling prints. You can certainly do a bit of each, if you like variety or need to make a quick buck.

To become a freelance photographer, you’ll obviously need to invest in a quality digital camera. You’ll also need equipment like a tripod, lenses, lighting, and specialty items like a few photography backdrops for indoor portraits. Don’t feel like you have to buy everything at once—in fact it’s better to buy the essentials and then purchase additional items as you need them.

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2. Event Planning

Do you love making sure the food is cooked, the decorations are in order, and everyone is happy during family get-togethers? Are you good at staying organized and communicating what needs to be done to others? Then you’d probably make a great event planner.

Most event planners start out by helping friends and family members with events, or by volunteering with a local nonprofit. Familiarize yourself with basic skills like booking venues, scheduling deliveries, ordering food, and providing service. Also educate yourself about permitting, as many events will require a liquor license and other special permits that must be purchased or reserved far in advance.

If you’re not comfortable learning on-the-job, you can also become certified through a training course from an accredited organization, like the Convention Industry Council (CIC), or apprentice under an established event planner in your area.

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3. Design

Is your love of art rivaled only by your love of technology? Do you enjoy taking the ideas and input of others and creating expressive, persuasive visuals? Then you’d probably make a great graphic designer.

To be a graphic designer, you don’t need a college degree—you can learn everything you need to know online and by experimenting. All you need is a decent computer, some free time, and the desire to learn. Most designers use Adobe’s Creative Suite, which you can get a free trial of here.

Once you have the programs you need, you can learn pretty much anything you need to know by watching tutorials on, a very affordable online learning database, or through free YouTube videos. You’ll also want to educate yourself about color theory and design composition, but much of this you’ll absorb as you work.

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4. Writing

Are you a whiz at spelling and grammar? Do you enjoy crafting effective sentences and editing paragraphs for tone and clarity? Then you’d probably make a great writer.

To start making money as a writer, you’ll want to build an online portfolio to send potential clients through a site like SquareSpace or Contently. If you don’t have any writing samples, try sending a few emails to small online blogs that feature a “write for us” page. You can usually become a contributor by signing up through a web application, and sites like these are happy to publish your work even if you have no experience. You can also volunteer to write copy for your local nonprofit or small businesses in your area.

Once you’ve built a portfolio, you can find countless writing gigs online, and by networking at local business events. You don’t have to be Hemmingway to make a living as a writer, and many companies will pay good money for blog content, website copy, or even newsletters and internal publications.

5. Social Media Management

Do you spend all your time updating your Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram, or uploading funny videos for your friends to watch on Snapchat? Do you find managing your online persona entertaining and exciting? Then you’d probably make a great social media manager.

Brands, businesses, and even individuals often don’t have the time or desire to monitor their own social media accounts. As a social media manager, your job is to make sure each of your clients’ accounts are posted to regularly, make sure all comments and complaints are addressed in a timely manner, and handle any advertising they might need. You will, basically, be managing the online reputation of your client.

While much of this is common sense, you’ll likely need some design skills and knowledge of advertising platforms—you can learn all of this online.

Being you own boss certainly has plenty of perks, and you can realistically make even more money freelancing than you can working a desk job. If you are self-motivated, focused, and tired of begging for sick leave and a pay raise, consider these 5 up-and-coming freelance positions.

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