Nora Curl, 51, started working in antiques more than two decades ago.
She studied communication at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and, while working in Hollywood in the ’90s, realized she had both a love and knack for finding and identifying antiques.
“On weekends, I would go to auction houses, museums, junk stores with friends and just kind of treasure hunt,” she says, adding that “I would say, ‘oh my gosh, that’s a Tiffany vase or that’s a Steuben glass piece.'”
Curl decided to pursue her passion, got a degree in connoisseurship in fine and decorative arts in 2002, moved to New York and worked a series of jobs in the industry: at magazines, antiques storage companies and a gallery space handling “original [paintings] that Norman Rockwell did,” she says. She also assisted artist Nelson Shanks, who had “the third best collection of late Renaissance early Baroque work in private hands in America,” she says.
Curl moved back to her native Pennsylvania in 2012 to help her mom, who has a rare congenital disease, and applied for a job doing online antique valuations on expert advice site JustAnswer. The site’s users pay a monthly fee and get access to experts in everything from mechanics to taxes to medicine. Curl’s been working full time on the site ever since and brought in more than $124,000 in 2022 alone.
Here’s Curl’s advice for anyone else who wants to build a similar online career.
‘Invest in yourself’
Despite her years of experience in the field of antiques and her success on the site, Curl kept learning more and deepening her knowledge.
Even after building that regular stream of clientele, she worked to become compliant with the USPAP, Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, a nationally recognized set of standards for appraisers which require a 15-hour course. She also worked to become an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers, which requires extensive training and experience. These would help to build other streams of income later on.
“It took a lot of examinations, a lot of courses and a lot of writing,” she says. “It was almost like going to college all over again.”
“Don’t rest on your laurels,” she says, adding, “invest in yourself.”
‘It’s not a guaranteed income’
To that end, if you’re embarking on a career on JustAnswer or perhaps on any other online platform, “it’s not a guaranteed income,” she says. “It does fluctuate, even if you’re using the site full time, so find areas in your expertise where you can supplement extra income.”
Curl has used her growing accreditations to build a side hustle as an appraiser off the platform as well. People find her through the ISA website and she travels locally and across state lines.
“When I write those official appraisals, I charge $175 an hour and $1.25 [per] mile for travel,” she says, adding that “sometimes there’s quite a number of hours that need to be put in. So an official written appraisal for an estate, I can earn $10,000 to $15,000.”
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