Love to Work With Your Hands? 3 Cool Alternatives to Sitting In Front of a Computer All Day

October 12, 2015 |

Are you the kind of person who trembles at the very thought of assembling an Ikea bookshelf? Or do you revel in the challenge?

If you fall into the second group then chances are you’re well-suited to a livelihood that allows you to work with your hands.

Up until the Industrial—and now the Information—Age, most people made their living either by making and selling something or repairing something made by someone else.

Today people exploring self-employment tend to zero in on businesses involving activities like analyzing, planning, or writing—the kind of work I refer to as “head work.”

Follow Your Heart--computer

And that’s great, because the internet makes it possible to do all manner of “head work” like running an online business or freelance writing.

But even if you’ve never considered yourself “handy” you may be among the growing numbers of change-seekers drawn toward alternatives to sitting in front of a computer screen.

That’s because “hand work,” where you can actually see the fruit of your labor, has an entirely different feel—a distinction I first experienced while taking a stained-glass class.

As I sat at the grinding wheel slowly smoothing the jagged edges of the glass, I was consumed by an overwhelming sense of peace and calm.

I realized then that delivering a performance review, outlining the new company communication plan, and other activities that made up my then corporate management job, while engaging, simply didn’t provide the same sense of accomplishment as making a tangible product that you can touch and feel.

If you do want to work with your hands, here are three ideas to get you started

Make and Sell Stuff

Are you a whiz with a needle and thread?

Depending on where you live, it may be hard to compete price-wise with a local seamstress or tailor doing basic alterations. All the more so if your goal is to live in the Caribbean or Belize or another place where the wages are low.

But if you have an eye for fashion trends—or can otherwise create one-of-a-kind clothing—you can still stitch together a nice little income by selling online. is a great retail website linking producers and consumers around the world.

If you can produce art, craft, or design work you can post it on Etsy and find buyers from just about anywhere.

(Remember, if are considering living internationally and you’re living in a low-cost country and earning First World wages, your money is going a long way. Work those latitudes to your benefit.)

Follow Your Heart--craft

If you enjoy tinkering in a woodworking shop, you can capitalize on the unlikely comeback of the simple wooden toy, a phenomenon first brought on when millions of toys manufactured in China were recalled due to lead paint and other dangerous chemicals.

According to an article in the New York Times, home-based, wooden-toy makers like Ron Voake of Vermont Wooden Toys can barely keep up.

“Every time there was a story about a recall,” said 61-year-old Ron, “I got flooded with orders.”

Ready to go big time?

Thanks to specialty retail trade-show NY Now, even small emerging makers of handmade items have a shot at getting their wares into high-end retailers and museum stores.

If you are a talented designer in business for one year or less—or an artist entering the wholesale marketplace for the first time—you can apply for the chance to have your handmade product line showcased at the trade-show.

Get Paid to Repair Stuff

If you’re mechanically-inclined and live in an area where half the population gets around on a Vespa, you might love a business fixing motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, and other motorbikes.

Brian Taggerty of the Doll Clinic in Elmira, New York and president of the Doll Doctor’s Association learned the craft of repairing dolls from his mother and grandmother.

Nor do you need a brick-and-mortar operation to do it. Brian has a large backlog of damaged dolls he receives by mail from grateful customers around the country.

Restoring quilts or other treasured heirlooms can be done from anywhere.

As long as you’re willing to include free shipping, your customers can just as easily send their item to you in Colombia as they can to Canada or Cleveland.

Follow Your Heart--loom

Work Seasonally

If you have carpentry skills… or bake wedding cakes… or love landscape gardening, you could always take on small contractor jobs abundant during the warmer months then head elsewhere for the winter.

You can make your overseas life part-time, earning an income in your home country during the summer months.

If your output is more tangible, you can always leave your own products back home and get someone else to do the selling for you while you wander the world.

When I was a kid my hobbyist woodworker dad took out a small magazine ad to sell replicas of the Cape Cod-style cranberry scoops often used to store magazines or knitting.

Had my dad coveted the traveling life, he could have easily built up his inventory while in the U.S. and then arranged for someone else to drop-ship orders while away.

Starting a successful business doesn’t have to mean sitting in front of a computer.

Whether you live in Rapid City or Rome there are endless opportunities to both fund your life and still enjoy the satisfaction of working with your hands.

And if you happen to love travel, it’s a lot easier to fund a life overseas these days than you may realize.

And I’m not talking just about portable incomes that travel with you and provide you the “cushion” you need to just go… but also about profit centers you can put in place once you’re settled abroad as well…

You see you really CAN create the kind of life you don’t need a vacation from. Everything you need to learn how is going to be at

International Living Magazine’s Fund Your Life Overseas Conference

Join me, my team of on-site Business Idea Generators, Making a Living Without a Job author Barbara Winter, and other career and life change experts this November 12-14, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ to learn how to create the life YOU really want!

Early Bird Savings Ends Soon!

Register by October 14th to SAVE $200!

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I’d love to meet you there!

A version of this article previously appeared in Incomes Abroad, a fabulous monthly newsletter for people who want to fund their travel life published by my friends at International Living magazine.