Over 30 million people have lost their jobs in the past couple months in America alone, and a far greater number than that are currently spending the majority of their time within their homes. Many people may be wondering what skills they can develop to turn time at their computer into a productive or even lucrative activity. If that describes you, then you’ve come to the correct page!
This article will highlight five such jobs, each selected because Logical Increments has a relevant ‘big guide’ PC building article about it on our main site. Then, in the conclusion, I’ll briefly cover the next steps to take once you’ve picked a path.
Most of these tasks have a high potential to earn money for dedicated and persistent learners, but I’ll also be including one or two that should not be considered reliable paths to steady income—which I’ll mention when I come to them.
1. Video Editing
Video editing is the act of taking raw source video, audio, and image files—then splicing them together and/or applying effects to them to produce a singular finished project. At the low end, this skill can be used to make personal travel blogs (when traveling becomes a big thing again). At the high end, this skill can be used to play a critical role in the final look and feel of a feature film.
If you’re planning to use video editing to build up your own YouTube channel, be prepared for a long journey (typically over a year even in favorable situations) before you see even small returns. If you’re planning to use video editing to work freelance jobs for pay, the potential for earnings will come much sooner (possibly in just a month or two depending on your speed at learning the software).
2. 3D Modeling and Animation
3D design is the act of working with highly specialized and hardware-intensive programs to create virtual imagery. The most advanced work in this realm is probably either making models of prototypes for engineering firms, working on AAA games, or creating CG effects and footage for big-budget movie projects. Lower-stakes work with 3D modeling and 3D animating could include making custom intro and outro segments for online content creators, or creating animated short films.
Work in this field may be less common for a freelancer to find, but—due to the somewhat steep learning curve on its software—competition for jobs may be lower and jobs may pay at higher rates.
- Main guide: How to Build the Best PC for 3D Rendering and Animation
- Best Free 3D Design Software: Blender
3. Live Streaming
Streaming is the act of sending out a live feed of your activity to be viewed and commented on by users. The vast majority of streamers run their streams through either Twitch or YouTube, although Facebook and Mixer are also relevant platforms. Most streamers are broadcasting footage of themselves playing video games, but other popular activities include creating visual art, making music, and playing tabletop games like D&D.
Out of everything listed in this article, this is the one that is least likely to quickly become a source of income. Unless you happen to already be famous, it is very likely to take multiple years of dedicated effort to build up a sufficient audience to live off of income from streaming. While it can certainly be a fulfilling and worthwhile way to spend one’s time, live streaming is the only item on this page that I can not recommend as a primary career path for newcomers under almost any circumstances.
- Main guide: How to Build a PC for Streaming: Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube Gaming
- Best Free Streaming Software: Open Broadcaster Software
4. Music Production and Audio Editing
Audio editing is the act of taking raw source audio files and splicing them together and/or applying effects to them to produce a singular finished project. If you found that description to be similar to the video editing description above, that’s because they have a lot in common. But audio editing work is its own massive enterprise, with the top-level professionals working on the albums of famous musicians and mixing audio for the film industry. At the other end of the spectrum, even small YouTube channels and starting musicians require a bit of audio editing work.
While it is definitely possible to use this skill to work on one’s own music career, the prospects there are admittedly low. The more profitable path here is freelance audio editing work for other musicians, filmmakers, and online content creators.
- Main guide: How to Build the Best PC for Music Production and Audio Editing
- Best Free Audio Editing Software: Audacity
5. Photo Editing and Graphic Design
Photo editing and graphic design are interrelated disciplines encompassing all kinds of 2D design and image work. If you’ve ever heard anyone say they’ll “just pay someone to Photoshop their picture,” that person ended up paying a photo editor. The low end here would probably be activities done by many users without thinking too much about it, like meme creation. But the high-end is professional marketing and photo correction work for big-budget magazines and creative projects.
Graphic design, on the other hand, involves a number of artistic sensibilities relating to the layout and content of pages online and in print. Arguably moreso than any of the other items in this list besides 3D modeling, one can probably not learn to be excellent at graphic design just by learning how to use relevant software; this is because the discipline of design involves a broad skillset that usually has to be learned separately.
- Main guide: How to Build the Best PC for Photo Editing and Graphic Design
- Best Free Image Editing Software: GNU Image Manipulation Program
Once you’ve selected what skill you want to develop, and figured out from the linked guide whether you have a PC that is up to the task, then it’s time to start learning.
While you should figure out which software is considered the most important for the work, and then start learning that software if you are able to afford it—going with one of the free options linked above would still be an excellent starting point. Moreover, some of those free options are widely considered to be professional-grade software (such as DaVinci Resolve and Blender).
After you’ve made a software decision, the actual act of learning will involve watching and/or reading tutorials, experimenting with the relevant software on your own, and asking experienced users for advice on forums.
Later, when you feel that you have a firm grasp on what is entailed in bringing a project from start to finish in your software of choice, then you have the option of getting ready to seek work. If you don’t have existing contacts that will pay you for your efforts, it is a good idea to build up a small portfolio of a few example projects that you feel are indicative of your quality of work. That way, even if you don’t have a lineup of references yet, you can show potential clients what you’re capable of!
Finally, if you’re not chasing one of the difficult audience-building tasks like streaming or YouTube, you’ll need to actually find clients. Help with finding clients in a more old-fashioned personal-network-building way can be found in some forums (like /r/freelance and the many subreddits linked in its sidebar). Or you can get started on a freelance platform like Fiverr, Upwork, or Guru.
Whatever your goals in this arena may be, I hope this article has been a small help to you in choosing a direction!