Diversify, DIY, or die - Page 2

CAREERS & ED: How to turn economic crisis into professional catharsis

"I got my BA in English literature by writing papers on books and plays I'd never read while paying my rent on papers that I was writing on subjects about which I knew little to nothing," boasts John Dillion.

"No matter if you want to sell stained glass sculptures or quilts, there's someone out there on Craigslist who's interested," Brown adds. "If you know how to market and make a good product, it will sell."

Lysa Aurora knows what Brown says is true from firsthand experience.

Aurora also juggles jobs: she works part-time for a nonprofit and as a marine biologist lab manager. While she enjoys her work at both places, her true passion lies in hat design.

"There's a buyer for everything — even for my hats!" Aurora says.

Aurora, who calls herself "a Renaissance woman ... the kind who only needs a glass of water and a broom to work my way to the top," decided to try her hand at hat design because she wasn't working full time and wanted some extra money. Now, she's the founder of De La Lucha Designs and sells her hats at stores around the Bay Area. Her side business helps her make rent, but it's also her dream — and something she may not have pursued if she had a more stable job: "These are hard times and [my hat company] directly translates from the struggle. Through the ugliest of situations, we find ourselves."

It's not only current members of the work force who are diversifying. Soon-to-be college graduates, like Connie Wang, are frightened by the state of the economy and taking precautions to make sure they'll be able to get by until the market gets better. Wang has always longed to be a fashion journalist, but admits that in times like these, "knowing about the latest runway trends and what the editor-in-chief of Vogue is doing is kind of nonessential. I'm still trying to build up my résumé with internships before I graduate in May, but print clips don't exactly pay the bills."

In order to make money while still doing what she loves, Connie started her own fashion blog, www.prettylegit.blogspot.com, where she posts about trends and writes product reviews. As her site gained more popularity, companies began sending her free products in exchange for write-ups.

"Unfortunately, what interests me more than honest-to-blog fashion reporting is not starving, so there have been a couple times where I've found myself reviewing products that didn't exactly fit in with my readers for a little extra cash," she says. For example, she was just sent a new Google phone — trendy, but not exactly wearable. Wang does have limits — once, she was sent a set of "fancy douches," which she chose to disregard. "If I get sent something that is completely irrelevant and/or offensive, I won't write about it. I'm not evil, I'm just poor."

Wang says she feels more confident graduating this spring with a steady, albeit small, stream of income — as well as an online portfolio and an abundance of free goods.

If you can't find your inner blogger or designer, you could always try growing out your hair. "The economic situation has resulted in a substantial increase of users on our site," says Jacalyn Elise, the executive partner of www.hairtrader.com, which is essentially a hair-specific version of eBay.com. "Predominately, the people who visit our site seem to be those who were going to donate their hair to groups like Locks of Love, but now they're in a financial bind, lost their job, need money to help pay the rent ... selling hair helps."

Elise started the Web site a few years ago to help a friend who needed some extra money and had 12 inches of hair to spare.

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