Eight Jobs Where You Determine Your Salary

Working for someone else can be a drag. Not only do you have to please your boss and toe the company line, but you have to deal with the innate limitations of an hourly or salaried profession: You can only earn a set amount of money.

Staying motivated can be a difficult feat when you haven’t had a raise in two years – or when you get an annual raise, but it’s the same raise as everyone else. How do you justify working harder when your big reward is an incremental 2% raise and a pat on the back? And how do you avoid stewing in your own resentment when you’re earning the same as all your slacker co-workers – you know, the ones who come in late and find any excuse to jet out the door early?

A lot of times, you can’t really justify working harder, and you’re forced to ignore the fact that most of your co-workers suck at their jobs, or risk losing your mind. And that’s why so many offices are filled to the brim with people doing the bare minimum to get by.

But, what if there was a better way – a way to earn more than everyone else if you put in the work? What if you found a job where the effort you put in had a direct correlation with how much you were paid? What if you could graduate into a career where you could determine how much you earn – and send your salary through the roof with your hard work, sweat, and determination?

Eight Careers Where You Can Earn Almost Unlimited Income

Believe it or not, there are some jobs with no set salary. If you can dream it up, reach whatever goals you set, and work harder than most people out there, the amount of money you earn can truly be limitless. While no job is perfect, and some of these options have very little safety net in terms of guaranteed pay, certain careers tend to reward people who go out of their way to succeed.

If you want the opportunity to earn more money the harder you work, here are eight jobs to consider now. (Wage data according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics unless noted.)

Real Estate Agent

  • Education required: High school diploma and real estate license
  • National annual mean wage in 2015: $58,410
  • Average wage for top 10%: $110,560

While we commonly think of real estate agents selling homes, they also help clients sell commercial buildings, farms, and plots of land. Some real estate agents focus mostly on selling and marketing existing properties, while other agents, known as “buyer’s agents,” help people find a commercial or residential property that meets their needs and negotiate on their behalf.

All real estate agents and their offices work differently, but most work by charging a set rate of commission (around 6%) for each property they sell. And when a sale closes, half of that commission goes to the seller’s agent and office, while the other half goes to the buyer’s agent and office. The way the money gets divvied up from there can vary, but this set-up still paves the way for unlimited income potential for real estate agents who make a lot of sales.

Sell more properties, and you’ll earn more money. And since commissions are generally based on a percentage of each sale, assisting with properties on the more expensive side will result in even higher commissions overall. That’s why you see real estate agents who market particularly expensive properties earning a lot more than their peers. Best of all, you don’t need a college degree to work in real estate sales; all you need is a high school diploma and a real estate license, which can usually be earned after several months of training.

Real Estate Broker

  • Education required: High school diploma and real estate broker’s license
  • Annual mean wage in 2015: $80,210
  • Average wage for top 10%: $166,940

Real estate brokers are licensed to run their own real estate business or agency. As licensed real estate agents, they often sell commercial and residential real estate on their own. On the business owner side, however, they also oversee real estate sales agents who work within their agency. As a result, they often earn more money over time – both from their own real estate sales and as a percentage of sales from the people who work beneath them.

Since real estate brokers can work as sales agents and potentially add more and more agents to their ranks, the amount of money they earn is nearly limitless as long as their office maintains a certain level of success. Like real estate sales agents, real estate brokers need a high school diploma and license to work in this profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most real estate brokers start as sales agents, then work their way up as they gain experience and achieve results.

Medical Device Sales

  • Education required: High school diploma to bachelor’s degree
  • Average wage in 2015: $59,606 (PayScale.com)
  • Average wage for top performers: $165,464

Working in medical device sales is a lot more complex and taxing than most sales jobs. First, you need to understand the medical product(s) you’re marking and selling inside and out. Second, you need to be able to sell your product to doctors and medical staff who are already inundated with new products and procedures on a regular basis. Lastly, you must be prepared to accompany surgeons and doctors through procedures in order to demonstrate, first-hand, how the device you’re selling works in the real world.

Medical device sales is both competitive and demanding, but can also be lucrative for those who thrive in this fast-paced profession. A bachelor’s degree in a scientific or medical field can also be helpful depending on the type of device you choose to market and sell although some employers may only require a history of strong sales experience instead of a degree.

Freelance Writer

  • Education required: Typically a bachelor’s degree, although not always necessary
  • Mean wage in 2015: $69,130
  • Average wage for top 10%: $114,530

The internet has made it easier for talented writers to find work and make a living. From larger corporations to medium-sized businesses and blogs, anyone with a website has a need for polished and professional content.

Freelance writers are hired to write nearly anything you might read – from fun blog posts that entertain, to product descriptions in a retail catalog, to technical manuals for the products you buy.

If you have a flair for writing or stories you feel you need to share, it’s not that hard to build a portfolio big enough to start getting paid work. And once you do find those first paid jobs, you’ll find your income is only limited by how much work you can accomplish on a weekly or monthly basis.

A bachelor’s degree is a good start for anyone hoping to launch a writing career, and a background in journalism will also be helpful. Meanwhile, basic knowledge of WordPress and some experience in the online writing world is essential if you hope to acquire work in online media.

Insurance Sales Agent

  • Education required: High school diploma to bachelor’s degree
  • Mean wage in 2015: $64,790
  • Average wage for top 10%: $122,590

Jobs in insurance sales can vary widely. Where some jobs pay a normal salary and offer bonuses when you reach a sales quota, others pay a small salary and huge commissions on products you sell. Still others offer their agents commission-based pay only. Whichever route you choose, it’s important to know that jobs in insurance sales almost always pay a lot more to the agents who perform the best.

Education requirements can vary significantly depending on the type of insurance sales job and the products you sell. Depending on your employer, you might need anything from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the type of sales job and the state you live in, you may also need to become licensed to sell insurance or related financial products.

Sales Manager

  • Education required: High school diploma up to bachelor’s degree
  • Mean wage in 2015: $130,400
  • Average wage for top 25%: $164,300

If you really succeed in sales, you might be able to work your way up to sales manager. These professionals typically pursue sales with their own set of clients, but also manage a team of sales people who work beneath them. As a result, they usually earn their own commissions plus a percentage of each sale made by any salesperson who works in their office.

Sales managers need to be expert salespeople, but also expert motivators. Not only must they perform well in their own role as a salesperson, but they must also promote an environment that encourages others to do the same. Depending on their specific role, they may also need to recruit new salespeople and arrange their initial training sessions, then mentor them throughout their careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most sales managers need a bachelor’s degree and plenty of sales experience to get started. However, some sales managers thrive in their roles with little more than a high school diploma.

Personal Financial Advisor

  • Education required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Mean wage in 2015: $118,050
  • Average wage for top 25%: $153,320

Personal financial advisors help individuals create a long-term financial and investment plan. Working for commission or for a set fee, these professionals help people decide how to invest their money for retirement, plan their estates and minimize taxes, and grow their nest eggs over time.

Personal financial advisors who work for commission can earn significantly more if they work with a lot of customers and sell a lot of investments and financial products on a regular basis. Advisors who offer a set fee or percentage for their advice, on the other hand, can earn more by taking on more clients or managing portfolios that perform well.

  • Related: What Is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor?

The BLS reports that most personal financial advisors need a bachelor’s degree to find entry-level employment. Personal financial advisors who sell stocks, bonds, and insurance policies also need several licenses that can vary by state. Advisors who work for larger firms may also need to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sales Engineers

  • Education required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Mean wage in 2015: $107,160
  • Average wage for top 10%: $165,250

Sales engineers sell scientific and technical products to business and corporations. Their role demands an excellent sales technique plus an in-depth knowledge of how the products they market actually work.

Building a relationship with scientific companies is a must for this career. Plus, you’ll need the confidence and public speaking skills required to give thorough technical presentations to both existing clients and prospective customers.

Since sales engineers usually work on commission, making a living in this profession hinges entirely on the ability to close sales and maintain satisfactory relations with existing clients. And obviously, more sales will always equal more money.

Although experience and scientific knowledge is important for this job, most employers also require a bachelor’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that individuals without a degree might find work as a sales engineer with the right combination of sales experience and job history in a technical or scientific field.

The Bottom Line

If you’re tired of working harder than everyone else but not earning more, a career with unlimited earning potential can sound extremely enticing. With an incentive to work harder, many people thrive in sales and commission-based careers so much so that they end up earning a lot more than they would in any other type of job.

Still, it’s important to remember the grass isn’t always greener. Where some jobs make it possible to earn a lot of money, they won’t reward you for simply sitting on your duff.

If you hate working under pressure, or the threat of a lean month if things don’t go your way, working in a salaried or hourly profession might be a better deal than you think. At the end of the day, it really depends on your personality, your appetite for risk, and your ability to cope with the additional pressure that comes with eating what you kill.

Have you ever considered a commission-based job? Why or why not?

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Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.