What do a tea shop owner, an auto mechanic, a private detective, a disk jockey, and a blacksmith all have in common?
They’re all day jobs for urban fantasy protagonists.
One of the differences between urban fantasy and high fantasy protagonists is that in modern day fables, your protagonist needs a job. He or she has bills to pay. In fact, every significant character in your story needs a way to pay for food and rent and gas and all the other elements needed to maintain their life style. It’s not easy to earn a living as a vampire or a wizard (just ask Harry Dresden). Generally speaking, while superheroes can be wealthy (like Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Iron Man’s Tony Stark), the urban fantasy milieu generally lives a grittier, more humble existence.
Like a family background, a job defines a significant part of your protagonist’s personality. It provides a portfolio of skills that impacts the character’s struggles to achieve his or her goals in the story. For example, bounty hunters generally have a strong background in law enforcement, yet are perceived as being a bit unorthodox and outside the mainstream. They aren’t as constrained by legal technicalities as police or military professionals. It’s an active role, requiring that they seek out and confront their enemy. On the other hand, business proprietors (like the owner of an occult shop), because their business is tied to a specific location, are pretty much forced to stay in one place. Trouble comes looking for them, often from more than one enemy at a time. They are knowledgeable in sophisticated security measures, be they technological or magical. They are part of a neighborhood business community, so must conform to the cultural norm for the area and generally keep a low profile.
It’s not by accident that most protagonists in the urban fantasy genre have a certain amount of flexibility in their day jobs. Working with vampires, mages, witches, werewolves and demons can require a protagonist’s attention at any time of the day or night. And since we’re talking about the urban fantasy genre, their job should have something to do with the supernatural community. Whether it’s a family business, law enforcement, food service, or even the entertainment industry, give your protagonist a job that makes sense in his/her world.