Jobs That Are Harder Than They Look

Save yourself some time and learn before you leap into these four careers.

Difficult career composite
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Selling insurance is also a long slog, he says, because you really have two sales you're depending on for each policy: "First, you have to get the client to say, 'Yes, I want that.' But then the second sale is getting the insurance company to approve it."

Knox says he has seen a lot of people quit after not getting that second sale. It just becomes too demoralizing.

Substitute teacher. Why you may be considering it: The hours are pretty good, and if you have kids, you'll likely be home when they are. If you're looking for extra money, it can be a nice gig, and if you need a transition career, it can look good on your resume. Plus, getting a license for substitute teaching often isn't that difficult, assuming you have a bachelor's degree and can pass a background check. This is a career that often doesn't take much time to get into, unless you start looking into it at the beginning of the summer.

Why this career is harder than it looks: There's the stranger-in-a-strange-land issue. Unless you're subbing for someone on, say, maternity leave, each day you'll rub elbows with new teachers and stand in front of a new class of kids. It isn't easy, says Joanne Larson, chairperson of the education school at the University of Rochester: "Even when the students are cooperative, teachers sometimes don't leave plans, and the substitute is left to figure out what to do on their own."

But substitute teaching isn't dull, except when it is (you're instructed to have kids open their books or turn on their tablets and read). Paula Cohen is a retired special education teacher in Middletown, Ohio, who substitute teaches regularly. In the last two weeks, among other things, Cohen has sent a child home with lice, called the school nurse for two children with bed bug bites, welcomed a transfer student who was homeless and hungry, and encountered a student who was extremely defiant—a kindergartner. But Cohen says she loves substitute teaching, adding that there are plenty of opportunities to still make a difference in a child's life.

[Read: 10 Hidden-Gem Careers for 2013 and Beyond.]

Still, it can be difficult for some people to adjust to substitute teaching. You're on-call day to day, often not knowing until the last minute whether you're going to be subbing or not, which will make your income unpredictable. Your schedule also varies: One day, your lunch is around 10:45 a.m., and the next, 1 p.m.

Voice-over artist. Why you may be considering it: You can do your work in your sweatpants. The pay can be pretty nice, although it's impossible to say how much one can make since there's so much varied work out there, from radio commercials to corporate videos to video games. A good rule of thumb is to expect to make between $200 to $1,000 per gig. You might make $150 for 30 seconds of work, but the rate goes down as the time goes up, so if you do an hour's worth of voice-over work, like for a corporate training video, you might make $500, says Mary Catherine Jones, a Burlington, Vt., resident who has been doing part-time voice-over work for several years.

Why this career is harder than it looks: Yes, it may sound like you've hit the jackpot—making $150 for 30 seconds of talking—but you have to remember that it might take you weeks or months to land that 30-second commercial.

"I remember reading somewhere that doing the voice-overs isn't work—it's getting the voice-over work that is the work. Very true," says Jones, who formerly was a director of sales and marketing at a small publishing company and then a stay-at-home mom before going into voice work.

This isn't a career you start doing one day and within a few weeks are making a full-time living. "Think of it like getting into acting," advises Jones. "You may be the next Meryl Streep, but you could spend your life waiting tables nonetheless. Luckily, it's very possible to start this kind of work up as a side business and let it grow until you feel comfortable in letting it support you."