What Would You Do for Money?

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. There’s an old joke that goes something like this:

A man approaches a beautiful woman and asks her, “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?” She says, “A million dollars? Sure.”

He says, “Would you do it for 50 bucks?” The woman says, “50 bucks? What kind of woman do you think I am?!”

He answers, “I think we’ve established what kind of woman you are. Now we’re just haggling over price.”

When I was visiting Las Vegas–specifically the “Strip”–I saw a lot of interesting people. There were people dressed in costume, such as Darth Vader and Chewbacca, the Transformers Bumblebee, a gladiator, and Freddie Kruger (who looked so real *shudder*). There were artists and street performers, including a man with a karaoke machine and a microphone who sang Motown as well as I’ve ever heard. There were people handing out flyers for “personal entertainment” later that evening, including photos to advertise. All trying to make a buck.

But it was this guy that made me wonder about what we will do for money:


Of course I’m not the only one who has wondered what people will do to make money.

The question is raised when discussing immigration policy. Living near the border between the U.S. and Mexico, I am all too aware that illegal immigrants come here and do work that many Americans don’t do quite as readily. (And having seen some of the destitute areas in Mexico, I don’t blame them for crossing and trying to get a job here.) Are those who come from such difficult circumstances more willing to do back-breaking work?

This was also the theme of the series Dirty Jobs, in which host Mike Rowe demonstrated what disgusting things people do for a paycheck. In particular, I recall thinking that I would have to be pretty desperate to work at the cloth diaper cleaning service. Cleaning my own babies’ poop was quite enough, thank you very much.

Movies have also broached this subject. From Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) in Gone with the Wind (1939) wearing curtains as a dress to impress Rhett Butler, to Edna (Sally Field) in Places in the Heart (1984) picking cotton until her fingers bled, to Fantine (Anne Hathaway) in the recent Les Miserables (2012) being driven to prostitution to feed her child. And then there is the joke mentioned above played out in the movie Indecent Proposal (1993), in which Demi Moore sleeps with Robert Redford for $1 million.

The subject even arises in my parenting. While my sons have certain regular chores they do no matter what, others are on more of a work-for-fee basis.

“Son, will you wash my car?”

“How much are you paying me?”

I’ve learned that the correct answer is not “a kiss.” He wants cold hard cash.

Sometimes when I see authors selling their books for $.99, I wonder about this issue as well. Did they really spent hours, days, months in creation and anguish simply to sell their product for less than a soda at McDonald’s? Sold in sufficient volume, this may work out well.

But rather than any of these money-making endeavors, would it be easier at times to just take a swift kick to the groin, double over in pain for a minute or two, and collect your $20?

What would you do for money?

I know what I wouldn’t do for money, even a million dollars. I would not hurt anyone in my family. I would not renounce my morals. I would not enter a room filled with roaches. I would not offer my private parts for injury.

I consider most types of work to be honorable, so I don’t think any type of work is beneath me as long as it doesn’t assault my conscience. For a paycheck, I have cleaned public toilets, mopped up child vomit, picked up half-eaten food, and worked for lawyers. See? Nothing beneath me.

However, I am quite thankful at the moment that my jobs are wife, mother, writer. Speaking of which, here is my…

ROW Update


  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. I mostly walked around brainstorming ideas last week, but I finally wrote 757 words of a different opening.
  • Work with editors on short story for Orange Karen AnthologyDone.
  • Revisit GRACE & FIRE (1st novel) and run through one more round of edits. I want to wait for a bit while I focus on other projects.


  • Write one full short story. I purposefully let my story sit this week, so I can get some distance and approach it for editing next week.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. Posted Embarrassing My Kids and #ROW80 on Sunday and If the Brownings Tweeted on Wednesday.
  • Start plotting sequel to GRACE & FIRE (working title: HOPE & ASHES). Nope. Still working on research.


Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. I watched a Galapagos turtle pass me yesterday. It was more motivated to move than I. *sigh*
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. Yes!

I’m not seeing as much editing and writing progress as I’d like, but some of my goals are going well. Now be sure to visit my fellow ROWers–an awesome group of writers! You can find a list of them HERE.

What odd or painful tasks have you done for a paycheck? What weird jobs or ways to make money have you seen others do?*

*Reminder: I try to keep this a PG to PG-13 kind of place.

33 thoughts on “What Would You Do for Money?

  1. Wow, that sign about kicking him for $20 is sad. I saw that Demi Moore/Robert Redford movie and it does make you really think about what you’d do for money – and how much money, above all.
    I have had many jobs and, like you, some were kinda gross but it earned me a decent wage. I once cleaned public toilets after the flea market ended. Talk about GROSS! And there ARE jobs that Americans seem to NOT gravitate to because they’re back-breaking and pay little. And then those same people complain that the “people from across the border” who take those jobs should “go home”. Doesn’t make any sense to me, but…
    That a turtle could pass you by caught me by surprise and really made me smile this morning. You’re so funny.

    1. Thanks, Patti! I agree that it is sad. This guy looked young and healthy, and I wanted to say, “Go use your real talents in the world!” (Even sadder perhaps, instead I snapped a picture. *sigh*)

      Don’t let that turtle get you this week! Have a great one.

  2. I’ve definitely become picker through the years on what I’ll do for money. Of course, I started out at Burger King, there’s a long way up from whopper flopper, lol. Another interesting question is what we’ll do for no money. Hmm…
    I’m glad that you are giving yourself time, I’ve found brainstorming and preparation are keys to success. Hope you have a great week.

    1. Yes, I’m even more amazed at what people will do just for reality TV. LOL.

      I bet you learned a lot from being a whopper flopper, though. My job in restaurant service changed how I approached my food servers; I’m much more patient, forgiving, and gracious because I know it isn’t easy. Thanks, S.J.!

  3. Like you, Julie, I’m in a happy enough place that I don’t have to do certain jobs (many the same as you’ve listed… and oddly, some of the worst ones are ones I still do as a volunteer, such as sorting salvageable food that grocery stores donate to the Regional Food Bank–the PAID Food Bank employees rarely want to do this work!)

    Anyway, I’m with you. Real work is usually honorable. I’ve never looked down on the ones who scrub the the toilets or mopped the floors. I am often thankful that they’ve taken that job and made my life a little more pleasant by doing so.

    Wonderful post, Julie. And while I somewhat understand your self-recrimination about the guy in the picture, He’s clearly doing something he’s chosen to do. At least there in that place…. Hopefully he’ll find himself in a better place eventually.

    1. It is interesting to think about what we volunteer for. I have volunteered for church camps for a few years, which has included dealing with bloody noses and snarky kids at times, but it has also been very rewarding. I’m sure your food bank service is much appreciated! What a great contribution to your community. Have a lovely week.

      1. I agree totally. But it’s odd that the people who volunteer often are willing to do work that is less “nice” than those people who are actually willing to pay for it.

        I’m sure psychologists have had a field day already with the concept, but then how could they not? Humans are fascinating.

  4. Yeah, I heard about that guy. Ouch, is all I have to say! It is certainly an interesting question, to be sure. I don’t think I’d mind a diaper cleaning business, if I had the right equipment. I’ve cloth diapered two kids, though, so that may have something to do with my poopy diaper tolerance.

    $.99 books are a conundrum, to be sure. I’m not above using a cheap price point as a loss leader, but these days, 99 cent books don’t seem to get you a lot of downloads or actual READS for that matter. I noticed that my more expensive books are the ones that people tend to review. Probably because it cost them more to buy it.

    1. That’s very interesting that people review the more expensive books. It makes sense, though. When you have to pay more, you feel a little invested somehow. Thanks! Have a lovely week.

    1. I’m sure I got a very skewed version of Las Vegas by just staying on the Strip. 🙂 Next time, I’ll need to branch out a little and see more of the beautiful city. Thanks, Raelyn.

  5. Interesting question in regards to some other blog posts I read this week. Harry Connelly, who wrote the Twenty Palaces novels, posted about not going back to the series (he was dropped by his publisher) until he was sure that he could make money on them, and for now was focusing on new projects. Which of course led to the whole question of ‘why’ we write. Is it some noble, selfless act where we’re happy to just get our work out into the world? Does writing for money cheapen it? I don’t think it does; a writer has to eat like anyone else, and I think the sort of romanticized, privileged view of writing as a reward in itself is both true and harmful at the same time. I certainly would like to make money doing this. It would be fantastic to be able to provide for my family and my daughter doing something I find fulfilling.

    There’s things I would do on an ethical level, but a million dollars, even after taxes, could provide a lot of security for my family, so there’s probably a whole lot of things I would do for it that I haven’t even thought of.

    1. I agree that some people have almost set up this “writing is a higher calling” perspective so much that certain writers feel a little soiled accepting money for it. I agree with you, though. It’s a job. It’s an awesome job! But it’s a job. I want to be paid. Indeed, many writers simply cannot continue if they never see a profit…because at some point, we have to eat. Thanks for your comment!

  6. For some reason the song, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that” comes to mind. There is an awful lot I wouldn’t do. If it puts me in any box I don’t want to be in or becomes arduous torture, I am out!

    1. Ah, Meat Loaf! 🙂

      I agree that no job should feel like literal torture. I include the word “literal” because my teens try to convince me that I’m torturing them when they get their list of chores. LOL.

  7. I agree that there are some jobs Americans,just don’t want to do but you also have to remember that a decent number of these jobs don’t pay enough to support a family, mortgage etc.at least no on Long Island.

    I’ve been a mechanic, janitor in a factory, research assistant which included weeding, harvesting, planting in 90 degree plus heat.

    Congrats on your goals. Woot!!

    1. Very good point, Donna. By the way, I could really talk about illegal immigration, its causes, consequences, etc. and go on some rants, but I mostly try to stay out of politics on my blog. (Is there an emoticon I can put here showing that I’m biting my tongue? LOL.)

      I love that you’ve been a mechanic. I can’t fix a thing! Go you.

  8. I loved your post. When I was last in Vegas in January, we saw a guy with cardboard which said: “Let’s be honest, I want cash for booze!” His cup runneth over! Honesty pays, and he didn’t even have to get kicked in his privates. Ouch!

    Indecent Proposal – oh my, I cried buckets and screamed at the TV – “No, Demi – Don’t do it -(for money, buy hey, it’s Robert Redford, how bad could it be?)- what about your hubs?! 😀

    I’ve been without money, and I’ve worked pretty yucky or difficult jobs, but no, I’d draw similar lines to your good self Julie. Although – I would NEVER work for a lawyer? :p

    Great going on your goals! Progress is certain. X

  9. The thing that I’ve realized recently is that money is not as important as time. I want to make enough to live off of, but after that I will choose time to write and rest over making more money so that I can buy more things. Right now I work 80 % time and it is enough. I much prefer a little less money to a lot more tired. I realize this is not exactly the question you asked, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. 🙂

    1. I agree with that, Emma. I would prefer having enough money and more time, than more time and not enough time.

      You can always comment whatever you want. This isn’t class where you must answer the question asked. 😉 I liked your thoughts about work in general. Wonderful!

  10. I think what we’d do for money really comes down to how desperate we are – and what motivates us. I’d do quite a bit if I had to to feed my family. But in reality, I’m happy to leave those choices to my characters! They’ve stolen, killed, and given away government secrets because they were in that bad a place. Good luck on your goals this week, and have a good one!

  11. A quote from your post: “For a paycheck, I have cleaned public toilets, mopped up child vomit, picked up half-eaten food, and worked for lawyers. See? Nothing beneath me.” Really? That’s interesting, since you know that your mother (me) has been working for lawyers for more than 30 years and, as far as I know (you may dispute this), I’m still sane! I’m just saying . . . . .

    1. I knew you’d catch that! Yes, I went for the cheap lawyer joke.

      In fact, most of the lawyers I worked for were quite wonderful. Only a few were shudder-worthy. But as to whether anyone in our family is sane, that’s a whole other question. 😉

  12. My husband and I used to argue about this while watching Fear Factor. I almost always said, no way and he would look at me incredulously, as if I was tearing up 50K. In college, I once delivered phone books. I think I ended up losing money because I had to make 2 separate pick ups for the books because my car was so small. 🙂

  13. Great post, Julie! Looks like you’re making good progress on your goals. Keep up the hard work! I hear ya on the exercise thing. I finally decided that for Lent I would exercise M-F, no matter what. It’s more of a motivator, but I’m sure not perfect at it!

    Scuzzy jobs? The worst for me is the food service industry. As a high school teen, I worked at a Roy Rogers, back when the girls had to wear red cowboy hats, short red skirts, and white puffy blouses. As cashiers, we were told to greet customers with: “Howdy, pardner, is this for here or on the trail?” I kid you not. We only ever said that when the manager was in earshot, LOL. But everything in involved with food – preparing, serving, and cleaning up – is pretty gross when you’re talking about fast food grease, milkshakes, and sticky sodas. Ugh. Every day, I’d come home reeking of greasy hamburger. And I made $2.85 an hour. So glad I don’t have to do that anymore!

    1. I know of Roy Rogers restaurants! (I’m trying to imagine you in costume. Nope, can’t do it.) I worked at a Holiday Inn buffet restaurant on the Corpus Christi beach and bussing tables after kids have strewn food and regurgitated pieces onto their plates was…an education. I’m glad I did it, but I’m glad I’m not doing it anymore! Thanks, Kathy.

  14. Whoops – just catching up. What a thoughtful post! Good to see you are taking your ROW80 goals at a reasonable pace.
    And as for strange jobs, I think the strangest one I’ve ever heard of has to be the guy who sits inside the fake cow when prize bulls are ‘milked’…

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