09/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Is Work? Odd Jobs for Laid-Off Full-Timers

New York City voice-actor Jeremy Redleaf , 25, has found success in a highly on-demand business.

He's been narrating commercials since he was a kid. In November, he'll be voicing a new character on Sesame Street. His career has taught him a ton about the world of self-employment. A leading piece of info: he didn't like waiting for the phone to ring.

So when some of his friends in formerly "steady" jobs like banking got laid off, Redleaf decided to help his friends adjust to the rules of freelancing.

There was just one problem:

"They had no clue what to do," he said. "They had no actual real-world skills."

And so, he founded Odd Job Nation.

The site features a job board that combines some of the more unusual requests posted on Craigslist. He also gets some direct postings. Some of the site's odd jobs are more "jobby": someone to move stuff in an hour; someone to write web site content.

Other jobs from Odd Job Nation would look extremely odd on a traditional resume.

According to Redleaf, a woman recently posted this request: She knew her friend's husband was cheating on her. But she didn't want to tell her friend this, personally. Instead, she offered $50 for someone to pretend to be a co-worker of the cheating husband and call the woman with the bad news. Several people replied.

From a psychological point of view, odd-jobbing is a great way to reinforce that who we are does not have to equal what we do for work.

From a financial point of view, if you work at it, you may be able to earn a living odd-jobbing. But there's a lot of hustle involved.

That goes for Redleaf, too. He's been selling resume T-shirts on his site, and looking into other ventures. But the venture closest to his creative heart is a hilarious and charming web series called Odd Jobs starring Redleaf as Nate, a Michael Cera-esque laid-off twenty-something, Devon Retray as Joe, a Jack Black-ish odd jobber, and Alexandra Daddario as Cassie, Nate's Joe-hating, Nobu-loving girflriend.

Redleaf's original dream was to have the series picked up by a Hollywood studio. But as Hollywood fell in love with his project, he realized that he was an indie guy at heart. So he's looking for a sponsor to fund it, as a way of keeping his creative control.

As career coach Deb Robins noted earlier in this series, career success -- and happiness -- is a by-product of working for, and with, the things we love personally. Jeremy Redleaf's creation of Odd Job Nation illustrates this principle.

Redleaf also embodies last's week's career tip from "Executive pervert" Mollena Williams. Wanna find your dream career? Williams said. Service the people who share your passion. Jeremy's dedication to friends in need -- and the freelance-community at large -- embodies this idea, too.

Here are some more tips from Jeremy Redleaf on transitioning from a full-time job to freelancing/odd-jobbing, or from one freelance gig to another:

1. Reach Out and Ask Someone

"Every time I reach out to the world, I'm amazed what people come back with," Redleaf says.
The key to getting help is to ask for something specific.

For example (to use a subject of importance to me):

I just finished ghostwriting a book for this extremely cool CEO. Do you know anyone who might be looking for a ghostwriter? is specific.

Got work? is not.

2. Keep Your Balls in Motion

Isaac Newton noted a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an equal and opposite force.

Redleaf's theory about job-finding dismisses the outside forces. Keep asking, keep test-driving. Keep doing stuff in addition to job-searching and you'll run into your future.

A relative of his recently found her job by joining a volleyball league. She mentioned her passion, in an offhand way, between balls. Before you could say, "Spike!" she found herself hired by a teammate.

3. Be Open to the "Not-It"s

Okay, so you're looking for That Job. Say: "Mid-level sales executive in the beauty products industry, leveraging my expertise in colorless mascara marketing and foundational research."

This leaves about a billion other jobs that "aren't It."

Redleaf's advice:

Try one or more of your "Not Its" while you're looking for your next Big Job. At the worst, you'll have a better idea of what you don't want to do. At best, you could find job joy in an unexpected place.

4. Do Some Stuff You've Always Meant to Do

A lay-off can be " a chance to be a better person." Redleaf uses his friend, an ex-banker, as an example.

Before he got laid off, we may assume, Redleaf's friend had little time to get laid. But once he got laid off, the friend dedicated himself to becoming a better lover, something he'd been wanting to do for some time.

5. Start a Business

If you're on unemployment, why not use your paid time to start a business in addition to looking for a job?

(NB to readers: You'll need to check your benefits fine print on this to make sure it's kosher. That's me, Sharon here for a minute, not Jeremy. What can I say? I worry.)

"All you need is a business card and a web site," Redleaf says.

A market and a smart approach doesn't hurt either.

Redleaf launched in February. Things have gone so well, he's had to hire folks to keep the site running. His partner, Matt came to him in the best possible way -- through the odd jobs site.

As for the future?

As any successful freelancer knows, the job-conomy moves in cycles.

Redleaf can picture a day, in the not-too-distant-albeit-rosier future, when the market for odd jobs won't be as hot as it is now.

So, he's thinking ahead. His inner business-dude is committed to finding a model that works. His creative soul wants to keep making things that feel right to him.

"If I can create my vision and fund it," he says, "that's the best of all worlds."