We all could do with a few extra dollars in our pocket, but unless your boss is a fan of giving you free money, you’ll probably have to work for it. Thankfully, you can do a lot of that work in your spare time. Here are some of the best ways to make some extra money, ranging from the super-lazy to the intensely-engaged.
To be fair, the amount of money you’ll make from a side gig depends on your skills and time commitment. Maybe you’re just looking for some extra spending money, or maybe you have a specific goal. Here are some options, sorted by how much effort you want to put in.
- Low-Effort, Passive Techniques
- Moderate Effort, After-Work and Weekends
- Significant Effort, Skill-Based, Scheduled Activities
- Techniques that Require Dedication or Regular Attention
Low-Effort, Passive Techniques
The best money-making techniques are the ones that require the least effort, right? If you’re super lazy or you’re already tapped out, try these methods to make money in the little spare time you have.
Sell Your Unwanted Stuff
The fastest (and admittedly most obvious) way to make some extra money is sell stuff you don’t want. Have a ton of books you’ve read or don’t read? Try to sell them before you donate them. Old furniture you’d like to replace? Offload it to a neighbor or on Craigslist. We’ve shown you how to sell just about anything for the most possible money, and the beauty is that once you’ve done the legwork of taking pictures and writing a good description of your item, you’re good to go. Post it on Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, Etsy, or wherever else you plan to sell your stuff, and walk away. Let the auction run its course or wait for someone to pick up your item from its Amazon listing, and you’re in the money.
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Rent Out Your House or Car
If you don’t mind dealing with people or you travel often, consider renting out a room in your home on AirBnb or HomeAway. If you live in a major city or metro area, renting your room can bring in serious money. For example, I live in Washington DC. The short-term rental market during the Presidential inauguration went through the roof, with 4-day stays getting as high as $10,000 in some places. I could have rented my place to tourists for enough to pay my monthly rent and then some while I visited friends or family out of town.
Even if you’re home, you can rent a spare room to passers-through, tourists, or traveling students. In most cases they won’t need anything from you but a bed to sleep in. If you’re the hospitable type, you can be quite the local ambassador to your guests. Granted, this comes with its own set of issues, and AirBnB’s legality is in question in some cities. Make sure you’re aware of your local laws before you dive into room-sharing or house-renting when you’re out of town, and follow our tips to not get screwed.
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If renting space in your home isn’t your style, why not rent your car or parking space if you have one? Parking spaces lease for good money on Craigslist. Sidecar lets you rent space in your car to someone who’s headed the same place you are, whether you’re commuting or road tripping. RelayRides gives you a way to turn an idle car into cash by renting it out when you’re not using it. If you work from home or only commute a few days a week, or if you have a spare car sitting in the garage you don’t drive often, you can turn it into a regular income stream. FlightCar lets you rent out your car while you’re out of town (and you get free airport parking in addition to the money). All of these services offer their own insurance protection for renters and car owners so you don’t get screwed renting out your car. Here’s RelayRides’ $1 million policy, for example.
Sell Your Body
You probably already know that you can donate blood, but many clinics will pay you for those donations to the tune of $30-40 each, and some will allow you to donate twice a week (but not so frequently that you become a regular face). You’ll have to provide some medical history and information to qualify, but if you do, it’s good cash for a good deed.
You can also sell your hair. It may sound strange, but natural wigs and weaves all come from somewhere. Sites like Hairwork and Online Hair Affair both specialize in hair auctions. You can also list your hair on eBay. Watch out for scams (since much of the human hair trade involves poorly-paid “donors” from third world countries), and follow these tips from Wise Bread to get the most money for your locks. Remember, if you’d rather donate, Locks of Love will always take your hair, too.
Jokes aside, eggs and sperm will net you a tidy bit of money as well. Donated eggs can earn upwards of $1500 per donation (approx 10-15 eggs). Don’t be fooled though—the process is intensive, uncomfortable, and requires several visits to a clinic to complete. You’ll be screened, tested, and then the process itself takes place in an operating room. This Wikipedia article and this FAQ from Johns Hopkins both do a great job of explaining the process. Men have it a little easier, but the returns are lower. Sperm donations can net you between $50 and $200 per donation, depending on your health, age, ethnicity, and personal background. Similarly, candidates are tested and screened, so be warned: You don’t just walk into a sperm bank and offer to make a donation—most are screened out long before they’re given a cup to fill, and even that donation is actually part of a months-long process.
Monetize Something You Already Do for Fun
Perhaps the most low-effort way to make money is to monetize something you already do. That way you don’t add more to your plate. If you enjoy shopping, for example, consider becoming a mystery shopper, or someone paid to shop in retail stores and report on the service you received and your experience in the store. It’s an industry rife with scams, but real mystery shoppers do exist, and there’s even a professional association you can join and get certified with to get access to legitimate listings. Competition can be fierce and sometimes you have to pay up and then be reimbursed for the things you buy and your time, but there are success stories.
If you love photography, you can sell or license your photos. Flickr makes it easy to license through Getty Images, or you can sign up with a stock photo site like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto and sell your photos there. If you’re the crafty type, Etsy is still a great place to set up shop and sell the things you make, whether you knit hats for cats or you have a special spice blend that all of your friends beg you to make. Love listening to music? Slicethepie will pay you (not much, but still) to listen to review new music. Again, competition on all of these services can be fierce, but once you’re set up, you’re good to go.
Moderate Effort, After-Work and Weekends
If you’re willing to put in a bit more sustained effort, or do something you wouldn’t normally do, there are some more time and energy-intensive options out there. They’re usually a bit more reliable, and payouts vary depending on how much energy you really want to put into them:
Answer Questions, Do Research, or Complete Simple Online Tasks
You might be surprised how much work and research there is for a real person to do on the internet. Even in the age of Google, there’s plenty that teachers, journalists, students, and paralegals need actual human eyes on. Sign up for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, for example, to try your hand at some of those tasks that require human eyes and can’t be done by a machine, or ShortTask if you want a less-flooded alternative.
If you’re the question-answering type, you can get paid for thorough, well-researched answers to questions at sites like Just Answer, filling out surveys at OpinionOutpost, Springboard America, The Harvard Business School’s research study program, or Pinecone Research. If you’re willing to leave the house, 20|20 Panel and Focus Forward will both pay you to participate in focus groups that may decide the future of products and services you actually use. For more like these, check out our guide to simple online tasks that can make you extra money in your spare time.a href="http://lifehacker.com/5770451/make-money-in-your-spare-time-doing-simple-online-tasks" target="_blank"">>
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Sign Up for a “Runner” Service or Sell Your Expertise as a Freelancer
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TaskRabbit’s sign-up page makes it easy to get started (you’ll be background checked before you start getting gigs), and the pay can be pretty good depending on what jobs you take on. Fiverr is similar, but you get to set the price and the job you’re willing to do. Everything starts at $5, and again, competition for customers is fierce, but if you have a unique skill or live in an area where lots of people have errands, you can make money pretty quickly.
Perhaps you’d rather become a freelancer. List your services on sites like Elance or Freelancer.com. They’re not a great way to make a living long term, but they’re good for people just starting out who need to find clients and build a portfolio. Plus, they avoid you having to work for free just to get started. Again, the competition can be ridiculous, and you may compete with someone from a country where the dollar goes much farther for the same job, but again, if you’re in it for side income, money is money. Both sites have opportunities for writers, developers, designers, marketers, and more. Once you have a body of work, start networking, get real clients and new ones through word of mouth, and you won’t need the sites anymore. You may even be in a position to go full-time freelance, if you’re ready for it.
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Sell Your Services to Your Neighborhood: Babysitting, Pet-Sitting, Yard Work, or Dog Walking
Cut down on competition and offer your services to people in your neighborhood—people you actually know and can interact with in person. Most people still want someone trustworthy to watch their kids while they slip away for dinner and a movie, or someone to feed their cats when they’re on a business trip, or walk their dog while they’re at work during the day. If you work from home, this can be even easier: It’s not much to get up once or twice a day, visit a few friends in the neighborhood, check on their pets, then go back home and go back to work.
Offer to rake leaves, cut grass, or shovel snow for your neighbors. You’ll have to clean up your own yard, why not get a few bucks for doing your neighbor’s too? Handy with computers? Offer to fix your neighbor’s PC—for a fee, of course. It’s an especially good option if you live in a neighborhood with busy professionals, elderly neighbors, or anyone else without the desire or means to do the job themselves. Even if you donate your services a few times, it won’t take long before they offer to pay you for the work, and you’ll foster a friendship with your neighbors at the same time.
Significant Effort, Skill-Based, Scheduled Activities
Now we’re getting into activities you need to set aside time for and require specific skills. By contrast, that also means they’re worth more money, and you can either set your own prices or charge more because there’s less competition for your services. Here are a few you can start with:
Tutor Students or Teach a Class
Everyone has something they can teach to someone else, and tutoring students or teaching your own class is a good way to make some extra money teaching someone something you love. Tutoring is especially great if you have a few hours a week to dedicate to a student and you’re familiar with a subject area enough to help them with their curriculum. Take on multiple students and you have a pretty steady revenue stream. You can offer your services on community message boards or through Craigslist, or you can sign up and get certified on sites like Tutor.com, Chegg Tutors, or TutorVista to open yourself up to online students.
If you’d rather create the curriculum than help someone stumble through it, consider teaching a class at your local community center or community college. If you’re certified or have a degree in a topic, you may already be eligible, and in some cases all you have to do is submit your course idea (along with your expertise in the area) to the school to get it approved. As an example, I once applied for a technology job at a community college where I used to live, and the school looked at my resume and instead asked if I wanted to teach some of their continuing education classes in science and computer technology instead. One of my friends’ mother taught a great night class in “organizational skills and time management,” for which she was paid well to help people get organized and be productive. Odds are you have a skill you know well enough to teach someone else, too.
Bartending is a tricky business to get into, but it’s worth mentioning here. You can find bartending classes almost anywhere, but The National Bartenders School has a network of classes and schools around the country that don’t just teach you how to mix drinks, but also can help you network and get leads for a job once you’re certified. If the national schools aren’t available near you or aren’t up your alley, check out Yelp for local bartending schools and see which ones are highly rated and well-regarded. Worst case, ask your favorite bartender where they trained up and what they’d suggest you do.
Don’t think you’re going to go from figuring out which end is the jigger and which end is the pony straight to raking in hundreds of dollars in tips every night at a posh downtown nightclub. If you have friends in the industry, you might get an off-hours slot at a sports bar or nightclub if you’re lucky, but most new graduates work at bars in chain restaurants and grills long before they get a shot at becoming a “mixologist” at a fancy gastropub. Plus, if this really is a side gig you want to do nights and weekends, keep in mind you’ll be competing with everyone else for those premium after-work and weekend-night bar hours. You can make decent side-money as a bartender, but it’s much harder to replace your primary income as one. Keep your expectations realistic.
Techniques that Require Dedication or Regular Attention
Finally, here are some money-making methods that will take some real effort and dedication. In return, they can pay back handsomely, but you have to put the energy into them to get the returns. Before you get started with some of these, make sure you have a bit of a passion for them:
Start a Blog or YouTube Channel
Starting a blog, by itself, is not a good way to make money. You don’t just start typing and watch the money roll in. However, the keys to a successful blog have been the same for years: write in your own voice, cover things you’re passionate about, use the right tool for the job, and get the word out by engaging the greater community. It’ll take time, but as you find your niche and stick to your guns, an audience will find you.
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Don’t be afraid to monetize your blog. Banner advertising and affiliate programs can bring in a good amount of money. Some of the web’s most popular blogs rely on affiliate links, including the great guys at The Wirecutter and the style and design blog Notcot. Amazon’s Affiliate Program is one of the web’s biggest, but Commission Junction supports thousands of online retailers as well. Check with your favorite retailers and see if they have a program you can sign up for. Just make sure to steer clear of shadier advertising methods so you don’t risk your site’s credibility.
If you’re not interested in starting your own blog but you wouldn’t mind getting paid to write, you can always sign up for a content farm like Demand Media or Yahoo Voices (formerly Associated Content) to produce articles for sites like eHow, Livestrong, and Answers.com. They usually pay pennies—in some cases $0.99 per article—but if you’re a quick writer and can tackle basic topics or write ordered lists concisely, it may be worth looking into. If you’re looking for a career in writing though, steer clear.
If you’d rather show than tell, consider a YouTube channel. Depending on what you want to do, that ship may have sailed and there’s way too much competition to get noticed (e.g. Let’s Play videos, game tutorials, makeup and style guides, unboxing videos, etc) but if you have a good niche or a great angle for your videos, it won’t take much to get noticed. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, share your hard work, and get eyes on what you do, whatever that is.
Build a Mobile App
You’ll need the skills to write an app first (skills you can learn easily online—we’ve shown you Android development and iOS development classes in our Lifehacker U series), or at least a great idea and friends with skills (unless you want to hire one from one of the services we’ve already mentioned) but developing a mobile app is a great way to spend a good, long amount of time doing one thing and then letting the money come later. If your app is good and fills a real need, it’ll get picked up by users, tech blogs, and if you’re lucky, featured on the app store you publish it to.a href="http://lifehacker.com/5974371/plan-your-free-online-education-at-lifehacker-u-spring-semester-2013" target="_blank"">>
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If it’s a free app that’s ad-sponsored, you’ll rely on those ads for income. If it’s a paid app, you’ll get a portion of every sale. Again, it may not be enough to live off of (or it might, depending on what you build and how popular it gets!) but a small stream of side income from an app you built is always a good thing. However, building an app isn’t a fire-and-forget operation. You’ll have to return to it to fix bugs, re-submit updates, test, respond to comments and reviews, repair it when a new phone or mobile OS breaks it, and so on. It takes dedication and passion to be a mobile app developer, and in some cases it doesn’t pay terribly well—but it can pay handsomely if you have a great tool that fills a real need (or a specifically fun game).
Depending on the amount of time and energy you have to put into some of these, you may be thinking you should just get a second job. Some of these very well may be more like second jobs than side-gigs that you can do in your spare time, but it’s all about where your passion lies and what you do with that spare time now. If you already dabble in mobile development and want to learn how to build apps for iOS, Android, or any other mobile platform, going all out and bringing it to life wouldn’t be a waste of your time, and you can get paid for it. Similarly, if you dabble in archeology and go dinosaur bone hunting on the weekends, teaching a class on your findings at the local community college is less of a “job” as it is “show and tell.”
Whatever you choose, make sure you pick something that matches up with the amount of time and energy you have to offer, and maybe even lines up with your passions. You may find that your passion for writing, for example, leads to a lucrative career blogging on one of your favorite productivity sites (see what I did there?)
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