Good news, readers. There’s never been a better time to earn extra cash in your spare time. The traditional job market may be sinking, but the number of easy-to-use money-earning Internet platforms is on the rise. These platforms are exploding because they work. They enable ordinary people to become Internet entrepreneurs instantly, without a computer science degree from Stanford or a venture funding.
This might be the most accessible way of earning extra money that humankind has ever come up with, and we have written this guide to get you started. The platforms we’ve outlined are not the only way to be a micro-entrepreneur, but they are an easy entry point to finding work online for services done offline.
Whether they call themselves micro-entrepreneurs or not, most are using these services to make extra cash to augment their main source of income. Others use them to get by when unemployed, and avoid going crazy when broke. For some, being a micro- entrepreneur is a form of networking that leads to permanent jobs.
We at Shareable are enthused about the possibilities this shift offers: increased economic opportunity for the un and under employed, more flexibility, and reduced environmental impact.
However, these platforms are no panacea to the job crisis. There’s a pressing need for long-term solutions. In the mean time, you need extra cash to survive. Here’s how.
Boarding the Starship Micro-enterprise: General Tips
Businesses have many functions. In big companies, these are broken into departments. But in a micro-enterprise, you do them all yourself. Thankfully, a lot of the platforms automate these functions. Etsy, for example, has a calculator built in for shipping costs, and Airbnb sends out federal tax forms at the end of the year so renters don’t have to keep tabs all year.
The most important thing to focus on is reputation management. In most of the platforms, past customers can rate your product or service. Ratings are usually displayed prominently on your profile and will influence the buying decisions of future customers. So, give sterling customer service, and then get customers to comment. A good reputation will help you thrive.
Remember that some people use these services because they don’t like the impersonal treatment of big companies. So give good service with a personal touch. Anticipate your clients’ needs. Respond quickly to questions. Own up fully when you make a mistake, and correct mistakes quickly. Do something big companies can’t – care!
In short, treat people the way you like to be treated – like a human. And use the age old secret to success – always deliver a little more than you promise. To stand out, you must exceed your customers’ expectations, not just meet them.
So below are the platforms…Note: this ain’t all of them, but a sample of leading sites to get you started.
Rent Your Car to Neighbors or Strangers Alike with RelayRides
RelayRides is a national service in the U.S. that enables you to rent your car to neighbors and strangers alike. You list your Jetta, Camry or Volt, how much it costs per hour and day, and when it is available, then someone will make a request to rent your car. There are some basic requirements you’re car must meet in terms of age and mileage. And yes, they cover the insurance and do billing for you, and you’re paid out monthly.
Key Tips: The two most important things for success are good reviews and a high response rate, According the company. To get started, check similar cars in your area to determine your pricing. List your car or truck at a low rate to start. This will enable you to get a lot of business and feedback quickly. You can raise your rates to the average for your car in your area once you’re established.
Like most services, good descriptions and photos are important. RelayRides allows you to upload up to 20 photos. Be honest about your car and the charming little foibles that make it, ahem, unique – is it comfortable? Stable? Good for long hauls?
CEO Shelby Clark has some excellent advice about marketing: "One of the great things we've seen on our marketplace is how many of our car owners– especially folks making more than the $250 per month average – discover an entrepreneurial zeal they didn't know they had.
The most successful owners on our marketplace, some making over $1,000 per month, are the people who view having their cars on the marketplace as somewhat of a small business venture, using creative tactics, such as Craigslist and social media platforms, to market their cars to neighbors and engaging with renters to keep them happy and coming back to rent.
For any newbies, or folks new to any similar peer-to-peer marketplace, we suggest channeling your inner small business owner to make the most of your potential."
Average earnings: $250 per month
Top earnings: Top earner Curtis Chong made $12,000 off of his car, a 2006 Honda Civic worth $4,800, in 18 months.
Got a Spare Hour? Use TaskRabbit to Find an Odd Job Using Your Smartphone
TaskRabbit is “a task service by safe, reliable, awesome people.” Currently available in Boston, SF Bay Area, San Antonio, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles & Orange County, and New York City, but they are accepting applications from other cities.
Most tasks are what used to be called odd jobs. While some tasks offer ridiculously good money – like $40 for getting someone a cup of coffee – most of the pay is what you’d expect for odd jobs. Common jobs include event help, shopping, and household chores. Plus, there’s a virtual help section, meaning you can do tasks from your computer from anywhere in the world.
To become TaskRabbit, you must go through a background check and video interview. Once approved, you can then bids on tasks needed by customers in their extensive marketplace. TaskRabbit takes a 20 percent cut for tasks under $50, and a smaller percentage as the task price goes up.
Key Tips: Here’s where doing a good job and making sure your happy customers comment on your work really pays. Because it’s essentially temping, TaskRabbit can be a way to get longer gigs. Small businesses use TaskRabbits during the holiday rush, so that’s a great time to sign up too.
Racking up points in their point system is key to getting jobs. You are listed as a candidate for tasks in order of how many points you have. There are many ways to rack up points, – doing Tasks, getting referrals, extra points for weekend tasks. The setup is here.
You can offer discount codes for your services, plus specialize in certain tasks: HTML coding, snow removal, detailed carpentry if you can sling that. You post a photo, write a description of yourself, and you can also link to your Linkedin profile.
If you are trained in a specific field, it’s actually a great place to do sideline work for things like yoga or painting. Take a look at the task list.
Interesting uses: The number one task is putting together IKEA furniture, but they’ve had everything from practical jokes (“wrap every item in my coworker’s office in plastic wrap) to “write a letter to my ex-girlfriend to get her back.”
Tip from CEO Leah Busque: “The key to being a successful TaskRabbit is to simply focus on doing what you love. To ensure success, focus your efforts on building a business around your core interests and skills. Success will follow!”
Average earnings: The company wouldn’t say as earning vary widely. Some Rabbits do one task a month, some two to three per day.
Top earnings: $5,000 a month
Similar services: Zaarly, Uniiverse, TaskRunner
SkillShare: Share What You Know for Extra Cash
Skillshare is a global peer to peer marketplace for teaching and learning. No teaching credentials necessary, and you can teach locally in-person or globally online. Classes include event planning, computer programming, or how to dance socially (for dudes).
Skillshare plays on the reality that everyone has something valuable to teach. Classes run from free to hundreds of dollars. You design your own curricula, and the different cities all have a bunch of possible venues for you to hold your class. Many of the classes are ‘hybrid’, splitting local and online time. It’s free to post a listing; Skillshare takes 15 percent of class sales.
Key Tips: A high quality class listing is crucial. It should contain info on who should take the class, what will they learn, your background to teach, and why they should take the class.
It’s essential to promote your class. Some students come from the website, but not all classes are featured in the top spots. Use social media, email, your personal networks, and even Craigslist to attract students. They recommend teaching classes that last about 1.5 hours, on weeknights, early in the week.
Teachers who make Skillshare a fulltime gig typically offer a series of classes or use classes to help them find consulting or other freelance work.
Interesting uses: Skillshare focuses on five areas: creative arts, culinary arts, entrepreneurship, technology, and to a lesser degree lifestyle classes. They’re going for things that aren’t available elsewhere. Teach anything from “Dumplings and Wontons” to “Intro to Ruby on Rails.”
Average Earnings: Around $275 per class.
Top Earnings: Avi Flombaum made over $25,000 teaching computer programming classes in June, 2012.
Etsy: Open an Online Store In Minutes at the World's Largest Craft Fair
Ah, Etsy – the applique'd, tintyped grandma of them all – simply an amazing platform. It has trained thousands of artisans how to run successful online businesses or supplement their day jobs or brick-and-mortar shops. At Etsy, vintage goods meet search engine optimization.
For buyers, it is a giant online mall of almost all handmade items; for sellers, it is a very easy-to-use platform to list inventory, take sales, calculate taxes, and streamline a lot of other tasks that interfere usually take time away from being creative – plus you get a built in audience of thousands.
If you fall within the description of the type of items they offer, Etsy makes a lot of sense.
Key Tips: Etsy has a training section that should be read by anyone selling online. It's free to start a shop and it costs 20 cents to list an item. They charge 3.5 percent on sales.
The advice to beginners is to just start listing, even if it's just one item. And get good at search engine optimization (SEO) since much of the shopping there is done by search. The site offers good SEO tutorials.
Tutorials for more advanced users include creating a look for your store, having excellent photos and live models, and how to draw in repeat customers.
Tip from Etsy’s Michelle's Traub on How to Succeed: "The key to success on Etsy is telling your story. 19 million shoppers from around the world come to this marketplace, inspired by a fundamental desire for objects with meaning. Our community has turned away from anonymity to have a conversation at the farmers' market, discover the history of a vintage find, or buy directly from a maker. So own your personal narrative — share photos of your studio on your shop's About page, blog about your process, engage in conversation on social media. There is no one else who can sound quite like you, and that is your ultimate marketing tool."
Interesting uses: Too many to name. Vinyl records made into clocks? Just go look. And then there’s Regretsy, a site that curates the worst of Etsy.
Average earnings: approximately $350
Top earnings: Yadanbeads is on track to make over $200,000 this year.
Use Airbnb to Rent Out Your Place to Travelers
Airbnb is like a giant, distributed hotel with more than 230,000 listings in 192 countries, but with one vital distinction: it offers unique accommodations from private individuals to help guests connect to the local culture. Hosts can rent out apartments, spare rooms, tree houses, garages, and even their couches.
Booking is online – they find your place through Airbnb’s marketplace. You pick available dates and price. Airbnb covers you with $1 million “host guarantee.” They’ve booked more than 10 million nights as of June this year. During the 2010 foreclosure crisis, Airbnb reported that at least 300 of its users saved their houses buy renting them out.
Key Tips: Again, think online marketing. The photos sway most people, so put up an adequate number of high quality photos. People want to see where they’re going to stay. Share a little bit about yourself in your listing. People are coming to Airbnb to avoid the facelessness of a hotel chain, and it's often the little touches – towels, flowers, a six pack of beer in the fridge – that make people feel at home.
And perhaps most importantly, help people connect to the all the best things in your neighborhood. Airbnb travelers value unique experiences, things that a typical tour package can’t deliver. You’ll be an Airbnb kingpin in no time if you do all of this well.
Interesting uses: Got a 727 fuselage lying around? You could always perch it on a cliff, make a house from it and then rent it out!
Airbnb's Six Golden Rules of Hosting:
Be transparent about your place
Update your calendar
Respond to communication promptly
Schedule your check-in in advance and be there on time
Use Vayable to Give Tours of Your Favorite Local Experiences
Vayable is a peer-to-peer tour guide service based on the principles that we all have cool local experiences to share and that good stuff is off the beaten track. There are more than 2,500 guides currently offering fishing expeditions, street food in Queens, a favela tour in Rio, and much more.
Tours can be booked by as few as one person, and as a tour guide, you decide the shape of the experience you’d like to give. Vayable reports that quirky local tours are often written about in local newspapers, so the more unique your tour the better.
Key Tips: The best guides are always the most passionate and knowledgeable people, talking about things they love and know well (it's another form of teaching).
Earnings: Tour prices range from $5-2,500.
Similar services: Guidehop