7 Gigs For People with Unruly Brains & Bodies

6 min read

I have always struggled to maintain a conventional job. You know, 9 to 5 in an office. Or set shifts at a restaurant job or a retail gig requiring constant human interaction.

For those of you who suffer from chronic or even temporary health conditions, you know the struggle. If you’re going through treatment, you simply cannot commit to a firm work schedule. If you struggle with mental illness, have chronic pain or are on the spectrum, you may not be able to sustain work in traditional job settings.

The gig economy has been an awesome way to supplement my disability support. Having an income also gives me greater independence, or at the very least, a sense of having exchanged a product or service that is valued by another.

Whatever challenge life has thrown at you, the age of apps and tech have created employment options that never used to exist. These jobs are available to you when you’re having a “good day” and some can even be completed when you are in bed under your covers staring at your phone.

But note: these jobs will not make you rich.

Here is a collection of apps, flexible jobs and gig programs that I have tried. There are many more available, so this list is simply meant to give you an idea of what is out there.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Survey Junkie

I truly look forward to doing the surveys on this app. I like the repetition of the questions, the format of the surveys and the website is easy to use via smartphone or desktop. Plus, the surveys are asking questions about me and what I like, which is strangely therapeutic. Even on my most dysfunctional days, I can sit with a cup of tea on my couch and earn enough money to buy a box of pasta. Most surveys pay around 30 points, but some pay as much as 90. (Each point is worth $0.01.)


  • You can work on the surveys anywhere there is internet access — transit, coffee shops, malls, waiting rooms, your bed, etc.
  • If you do not qualify for a survey, you will still be rewarded two or three points for filling out any screening questions.
  • The structure and repetition in the surveys feels a bit like a simple video game that you can improve at over time.


  • You will only qualify for about every 1 in 5 surveys. If you are employed at a government job, a marketing company, as a journalist, etc.,you will not qualify for many of the surveys.
  • If the company’s server is overloaded or their website goes down (which happens regularly), don’t expect to have access to the latest surveys for an hour or so.
  • Often, by the time you receive an email notifying you that a survey matches your profile, that survey is no longer taking participants.


This app is the new Craigslist. Sell all the knick knacks you just don’t want anymore right here. Your approximate location is included with each item you post so most buyers will be nearby, making it easier to meet up. I sell plants that I propagate or household items that are still in decent shape. Some investment in communicating with potential buyers is needed. It’s best to keep things clear, concise and friendly.


  • Can be accessed on a desktop computer or your smartphone. The app is really handy!
  • It is easy and fast to post items for sale.
  • You can view stats about how many views your item received and tips about how to improve sales.


  • Buyers on letgo expect a deal, so you won’t be able to sell items for the same price as a retail store.
  • You will need to go and physically meet up with the person to exchange the item for cash.
  • Sometimes your item will sell immediately. Sometimes it will take three months.
Photo by Nadi Whatisdelirium on Unsplash


This is a pet sitting and dog walking service, but you can customize your profile as needed. For example, I only do house visits and overnight sitting, and I do not offer care for dogs. But a friend of mine only offers dog walking. I also chose to only take clients that are within walking distance of my home. However, if you have a vehicle, the entire city is yours! Pawshake provides insurance for you and the pet owners, plus they host a profile page for you on their website.


  • Once you have won the hearts of a few regulars, you can count on those clients to book with you for the remainder of their pet’s life.
  • Pawshake handles the processing of all payments through a third party (usually Paypal), ensuring that you cannot be scammed by a client.
  • You can turn down or accept bookings at your own discretion.
  • The office staff at Pawshake are incredibly helpful, though they only communicate via email.


  • Sometimes my senior clients struggle with the online-only payments and website navigations. I’ve instead had to refer them to local companies that take cheques or provide printed paperwork to fill out.
  • Pawshake takes 19% of your income to cover insurance and operation costs. This is reasonable, though, as Pawshake deals with some of the aspects of business I find less enjoyable.
Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash


This app connects people in need of a handyman or at-home assistance with gig workers in their area. You must have a special skill to offer in order to be accepted by the app. Helping someone move, being a personal assistant, delivering packages or assembling furniture (they’ve actually partnered with Ikea!) are all gigs you can pick up. Because the jobs are labour intensive (moving) or require skills (personal assistant) you can charge a decent price, which really makes each gig worth your while. Once you’ve signed up as a “tasker”, you will be notified when there are jobs in your area that match your profile.


  • You can accept or turn down jobs as needed. Are you in too much pain to work today? Turn down the job. Are you feeling good? Take a couple of jobs.
  • Unlike when you’re a freelancer, TaskRabbit collects payment from your clients and ensures you are paid. No need to chase down a payment — that is TaskRabbit’s job.


  • It is a bit of a process to sign up. You will need to provide TaskRabbit with your identification, SIN, undergo a criminal record check and attend an information session. You also need a chequing account for money to be transferred to. Of course, these are all important steps which protect you and your future clients.
  • 15% of your income goes back to TaskRabbit to cover operation costs.
Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Not my favorite, but some people love it. If you’d like to learn more about working as a mechanical turk, this video may be helpful.


  • Can be accessed from anywhere where the internet may be.
  • If you can figure out the best time/payment ratio and become skilled at understanding the assigned tasks, you can make $20.00-$50.00 per day. This podcast has some tips.


  • Most workers earn very little. The average wage for turking is $6.00 per hour.
  • Sometimes you will not receive payment for your completed task because of things like the “Submit” button not loading properly or a vendor improperly monitoring completed tasks.
  • You will not qualify for most of the higher-paying tasks because the participant requirements are very specific (veterans, people who survived Hurricane Harvey, cancer patients, etc.).
  • If you live outside of the states and do not have an American bank account, you’re getting paid in gift cards, not cash.
  • You will need to wait a few days for site sign up to be completed or to even receive an email from Amazon that allows you to complete your worker profile. And they’ll want everything, including your tax information.
Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

Craigslist Gigs

There is a little section of Craigslist entitled “Gigs”. It’s filled with weird, one-off jobs that people in your city are willing to pay for. It could be anything from cleaning to landscaping to cooking. This summer I was paid $65.00 to dig through someone’s hedge for three hours to look for their lost turtle. The turtle was later found inside their house. I regret nothing.

  • Be careful to never take a gig where you will be isolated or alone with the person requesting your services.
  • Note that unless you have personal insurance, Craigslist does have insurance for workers who take gigs from its platform.
Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Paid Participant Research Studies

Search online for your local university’s paid participant research board and you will find a plethora of government-funded studies. I have found that they often pay $10.00-$20.00 for one to three hours of your time. It varies. If you have an illness or medical condition, lucky you! The university probably has a paid study related to your condition, and they want to study persons like yourself.

There are paid studies outside of the realm of educational research, too. Check your local newspaper out. I once participated in a year-long study for an injectable botulinum toxin. At the end of the year, I receive a cheque of over $1,000.00. Plus, I discovered that the injections helped to reduce my anxiety!

In conclusion, being prevented from working a steady job is frustrating. All you can do is your best. While these gig options may not pay a lot, they can still bring in money, and that helps. I feel proud when I am creative about earning money. I feel proud about each new skill I learn. And I feel hopeful.

End Note: If your chronic disability is preventing you from earning enough income to survive in the United States or Canada, it may be time to apply for government support. Keep in mind that in Canada, disability support varies by province. Be prepared to wait for several months or to have your doctor’s first request for disability support rejected by the government. It took me 2 attempts and 8 months before I received my Canadian disability supports. Be patient. Ask for help. If you are disabled, the supports are there to improve the quality of life for people like yourself, so do not feel shame about accessing the services.

Melissa Graf Mental health advocate. Writing about how to live with illness and gain greater independence. Freelance writer and content creator based in Vancouver, Canada.

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