Career Advice for Job Seekers

18 Fulfilling Alternatives to the Traditional 9-5 Career Path

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
February 21, 2024

The fancy title. The corner office. The swanky suit. The big paycheck that gives you the money to buy a nice car and home that you never get to enjoy because you’re working all of the time. Does all of that status from “succeeding” at work sound like a dream come true to you, or more like a nightmare? If like a nightmare, this article is for you.

Most college and university students do not take jobs upon graduation which are related to their majors. The reasons are many but, for some, their search for that job often boils down to finding a good substitute for a traditional 9-5 job that can provide a meaningful career. Here is what 18 thought leaders have to say.

  • Start a Lifestyle Business
  • Launch a Consultancy Firm
  • Become a Freelance Tutor
  • Found a Software Company
  • Create and Sell Online Courses
  • Invest in Real Estate
  • Teach English Abroad
  • Acquire Universal Skills
  • Focus on Niche Influencer Marketing
  • Freelance or Remote Work
  • Freelance or Start a Business
  • Work in the Non-Profit Sector
  • Become a Personal Trainer
  • Join the Gig Economy
  • Start a Professional Organizing Business
  • Consider Truck Driving
  • Try Seasonal Jobs
  • Develop Mobile Apps

Start a Lifestyle Business

Having a business that’s tailor-made for your lifestyle, passions, and goals is a stellar alternative to the typical 9-5 grind.

Back in my office job, I’d often spot stuff that just didn’t make sense. But trying to fix it? Total headache. Even when I showed how much time and money we could save, it was like hitting a brick wall.

I couldn’t wrap my head around why they’d stick to old ways when there were faster, better ways to do things.

Now, with my gig, I call the shots. No more butting heads with stubborn folks stuck in their ways.

Being hands-on and seeing real changes happen in my own business is what makes the lifestyle business so appealing to me.

With that being said, engineering your ideal lifestyle and growing a lifestyle business around it is one of the best ways you can provide yourself with a meaningful career. Find your purpose and do it!

Nicholas Robb, Lifestyle business expert, Life by Design

Launch a Consultancy Firm

If you’re not comfortable working fixed hours of 9-5 but still want some room to grow, consider starting a consultancy firm in your specialty. Being a writing and editing expert throughout my career, there were days when I didn’t want to follow this 9-5 regime anymore and break free from the loop.

So, pursuing a career where you’re consulting people about the hustle you’ve already done becomes fairly easy, and your loads of experience will only help you with your credibility. I recommend a consultancy firm idea to anyone who has spent a good amount of time in the industry because it’s much easier to start since you’ve got the idea of what you’re talking about.

Now, a traditional 9-5 won’t give you time flexibility, but this alternate career will allow you to set your working hours and also the freedom to choose which clients you’d like to work for. I feel you have better mental peace and work ethic maintained if you’re in the consultancy arena and not in a job trap.

Stefan Campbell, Owner, The Small Business Blog

Become a Freelance Tutor

If you’re looking for a meaningful career option instead of a traditional 9-5 job, I would suggest becoming a freelance tutor. Yes, it depends on your interest and passion for teaching and helping your students grow. However, as a tutor, you will get the opportunity to directly contribute to people’s growth and career development. You can choose any topic of your expertise and knowledge and offer your freelance mentorship or online training classes. This way, you will gain both time and money freedom, which can be difficult with a 9-5 job. In short, this sense of impact and making a difference in someone’s life through teaching can give your career deeper meaning.

Preeti Sharma, Content Manager and Media Head, GCS Online

Found a Software Company

Become a software engineer. For a lot of software engineers, a 9-to-5 is still the norm, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, becoming a software engineer and gaining experience in the sector gave me what I needed to move away from the 9-to-5 grind into founding my own company and creating a focus app, Focus Keeper, which is my passion project. The best part about development is how diverse it is. The digital landscape is vast. With even basic abilities, you can find a good remote job, travel, and work on developing your system, whether it be a dating app or a non-profit app—your options are endless. So, while being a software engineer might start as a 9-to-5, you can quite easily turn it into the type of job that lets you focus on your passions.

Sangwon Kim, CEO, Focus Keeper

Create and Sell Online Courses

Productize your skills and expertise by selling them as an online course. There is an adage that says if you know how to do something, don’t do it for free. Sell digitized course content of any skill you have, and offer coaching programs to subscribers for a fee. Leverage the opportunities of the internet and the capacities of digital technology we have at our disposal nowadays. This venture will only require an investment of your time and labor at the beginning, but you can reap rewards in your sleep once you get the wheels turning.

Baidhurya Mani, Founder, Sell Courses Online

Invest in Real Estate

A good substitute for a traditional job is real estate investing. I used to be a pharmacist, but I quickly realized that I wanted a more meaningful career and the financial freedom to do things like travel and pursue hobbies—without having to wait until my retirement at 65. After working two jobs and saving up as much as I could, I bought my first investment property in 2016, and I’ve invested in additional properties ever since. The result? Thanks to real estate, I’ve been able to quit my job in my early thirties while helping the college students I rent to get safe, affordable housing. It’s a win-win. And the good news is, you don’t need to be an expert to start investing in real estate. If you’re willing to learn and adapt, that’s a good foundation to build on.

Ryan Chaw, Founder and Real Estate Investor, Newbie Real Estate Investing

Teach English Abroad

Teaching English abroad is a gratifying and often lucrative job that can easily become a career if you enjoy the work and want to pursue further education. There is always an extremely high demand for English teachers in growing countries such as China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait—and the pay often exceeds the qualifications necessary for mid-tier schools or training centers—often requiring only a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate to land a job. For better schools or international schools, you’d likely need to pursue a teaching certification (which can often be done online and is reimbursed by schools). Many individuals who move abroad to teach English are surprised by the light workload and end up spending extra time on hobbies, developing other skills, or earning extra income through tutoring and part-time work. I’ve taught English abroad in China as a break from the grind of working in Los Angeles—and ended up spending over seven years teaching English and starting up my own business. I have zero regrets.

Kristine Thorndyke, Co-Founder, TEFL Hero

Acquire Universal Skills

One option that can provide a meaningful and flexible alternative to a traditional 9-5 is to learn a skill set that can be applied in many different fields or industries. Whether it’s something technical like coding, creative like design, or consulting practices, gaining expertise in a ‘universal’ area allows you to take your talents anywhere. You could also explore careers centered around high-demand technologies like AI, which tend to be more future-proof.

Whatever you choose to focus on, select something that truly aligns with your strengths and interests. Not only will building competency in a self-driven passion be personally fulfilling, but taking jobs or projects that energize you naturally attracts more relevant opportunities over time.

As your knowledge and experience improve, exciting new career and business pathways have a way of revealing themselves. You’ll be ahead of the curve, set on a potentially more dynamic career path than a single niche job. The best part? You’ll future-proof your life and will not be devastated if you get laid off or your position gets replaced by AI—because you have a ton of options to apply that skill elsewhere.

Juliet Dreamhunter, Founder & AI Strategist, Juliety

Focus on Niche Influencer Marketing

Niche influencer marketing is not going anywhere. Becoming an influencer who caters to the audience is not going to work since there are already thousands of popular influencers for that. Instead, see which niche interests you, and then start making videos only for that niche. It might be cooking, painting, giving product recommendations, testing new tech tools, trying new hacks, giving lesser-known facts, and so on. The options are vast. You only have to find the gap in the market, see what is there that no one is doing, and tap into that market. This will help you build a good career and can help you earn a good amount through ads and sponsorships.

Ozzi Jarvinen, Founder, Iglu

Freelance or Remote Work

I was a fitness coach/personal trainer for nearly a decade. This provided so much meaning because I was able to help people transform their lives; I chose my hours and had a lot of flexibility.

Similar to running a business, becoming an independent freelancer or consultant in your field of expertise can allow you to work more flexibly, choose your projects/clients, and still find meaningful work. I am currently running my own SEO consulting services, which allows me to choose my hours and work anywhere remotely.

There are a growing number of fully remote-friendly companies that allow employees to work from anywhere, set their hours, and have control over their environment and schedule. I landed an SEO job shortly after COVID-19 and worked entirely from home for nearly two years.

Brian Kiselstein, SEO Specialist, Screw The Daily Grind

Freelance or Start a Business

A viable alternative to a typical 9–5 workday that might provide a fulfilling career is embarking on a career as a freelancer or an entrepreneurial journey. People can have greater authority over their work, follow their passions, and build a career that is consistent with their values by taking up freelancing or opening their own business. Sites that match independent contractors with a variety of assignments allow for flexibility regarding working hours and location. Building something of one’s own through entrepreneurship promotes a stronger sense of meaning and ownership. Digital platforms and the gig economy have democratized opportunities, giving professionals a worldwide platform to showcase their skills. Although these routes have their share of challenges, there is also the chance for growth—both personally and professionally—creative fulfillment, and the capacity to influence one’s journey.

Jeremy Bogdanowicz, Founder & CEO, JTB Studios

Work in the Non-Profit Sector

A viable alternative to the traditional working paradigm that imparts a sense of purpose and fulfillment is a career in the non-profit sector. Engaging with charities, NGOs, or advocacy groups allows individuals to work on issues they are passionate about, directly impacting communities and contributing to societal change. 

Those employed in the non-profit arena often report higher job satisfaction due to the alignment between their values and their professional endeavors, forging a career that’s both meaningful and rewarding.

Ivan Brozincevic, Owner,

Become a Personal Trainer

Being fitness-conscious, I’ve always admired personal training as a career. Not only does it seem rewarding due to the real-life physical transformations of your clients, but it’s also an excellent way of staying fit yourself—the complete opposite of a 9-to-5 desk job. I’ve come across plenty of personal trainers at gyms I’ve joined, earning good incomes while working fewer than 30 hours a week. Interestingly, one of my trainers was also a talented freelance web developer who had a tech degree but was unwilling to work a corporate job. He later went on to open his gym, which is highly successful now, so I believe he never regretted his decision.

Joe Coletta, Founder & CEO, 180 Engineering

Join the Gig Economy

Pursuing a career in the gig economy can be a great substitute for a traditional 9-5 job. Jobs in this sector, such as freelance journalism, graphic design, or consulting, allow you to leverage your skills on your terms. You have the freedom to choose projects that resonate with your interests and values, bringing more depth and fulfillment to your work life. While it requires self-discipline and a proactive approach to networking and developing your skills, the gig economy can provide a dynamic and rewarding career for those seeking autonomy and a direct connection between effort and reward.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Consultant, Life Coach for Men, Life Architekture

Start a Professional Organizing Business

In my opinion, becoming a professional organizer offers the chance to make a significant impact on individuals’ lives by transforming their living and working spaces. Organizers help clients declutter, streamline, and create systems that promote efficiency and peace of mind. 

This career path requires a keen eye for detail, strong interpersonal skills, and a methodical approach to problem-solving. The joy of delivering solutions that enhance daily life, along with the personal satisfaction of seeing immediate results, makes professional organizing a rewarding career for those passionate about helping others achieve order and harmony.

Ryan Zomorodi, COO & Co-Founder, Real Estate Skills

Consider Truck Driving

Truck driving is a great alternative for someone who does not want a traditional 9-5 job. You can train to become a truck driver in three weeks and hit the ground running. The pay and benefits are great, and you will have a flexible schedule. You also won’t feel ‘trapped behind a desk’ as you drive around the country, getting to see the sights while also doing a job that you enjoy.

Lauren Gast, Head of Communications and Marketing, Truck Driver Institute

Try Seasonal Jobs

I have some friends who have chosen the “go hard for a season or period of the year, and then relax” approach. There are some compelling seasonal jobs that provide incredible compensation during the work period. Once you’re off, you have your freedom and can do anything you like.

Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench

Develop Mobile Apps

Developing mobile apps combines the thrill of technological innovation with the satisfaction of creating tools that enhance daily life. App developers enjoy the challenge of translating complex problems into user-friendly solutions, staying at the forefront of technological advances. This career offers the chance to reach a global audience, impacting how people interact, work, and play. The continuous evolution of mobile technology and the potential for significant impact make app development an exciting and rewarding field.

David Gaglione, Founding Partner, PS212

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