20 Odd Ways to Make Extra Money
By Maryalene LaPonsie
There comes a time when almost everyone could use a little more cash in their pocket.
While a part-time job may be your best bet for a steady stream of income, delivering pizzas or waiting tables might not be your thing. Or maybe you just need a little extra fun money to support your designer shoe habit.
Whatever the reason, we have a slew of unusual ways for you to bring in extra cash.
1. Sell your body. No, not that way! Instead, sell your plasma or even your hair. Either can be legally sold for money. Unfortunately, the government frowns on you selling a kidney -- something about ethics, I hear. (In fact, it's illegal.)
Plasma will garner you pocket change -- maybe $15 to $40 -- while there are big bucks to be made with the right hair.
2. Participate in a clinical trial. Do your part for science and earn some cash on the side by participating in a clinical trial.
Clinical trials are often intended for people who have specific medical conditions in the hopes of seeing how they respond to new treatments. However, some clinical trials also recruit healthy adults as a control group.
If you don't mind being a guinea pig, you can find clinical trials by searching on the National Institutes of Health database or this Food and Drug Administration page. In either case, use the search words "healthy" or "normal" to find trials recruiting healthy volunteers.
3. Round up scrap metal. If you have access to a truck or trailer, you can collect old metal items and head to your local scrap yard.
You need to do a little research to learn which items can be scrapped and where to find them. But this can be a lucrative niche for those who know what they're doing.
4. Walk some dogs -- or clean up after them. Spread the word to family and friends that you are available for dog-walking services.
You could also post an ad on Craigslist or contact local kennels to see if they need anyone to exercise the canines under their care.
At the same time, you could also advertise a service to clean up after dogs. Some owners will gladly pay someone else to do the dirty work of picking up their yards.
5. House-sit. Baby-sitting kids is one way to earn money, but why stop there? Houses are so much quieter, don't need to be fed and never talk back.
Several websites offer potential sitters the opportunity to connect with homeowners who need someone to keep an eye on their houses for an extended stay. It might be a good way to see the world, even if your compensation is just free room and board.
Advertise locally for people who are willing to pay you to check in on their house and maybe perform some light maintenance -- such as lawn mowing -- while they're gone.
6. Get creative and open an online store. Sites for Etsy, Zazzle and CafePress make it simple to create designs or products and then market your wares.
To get started, check out this article with tips to cash in on creativity.
7. Become a translator. If you're bilingual or multilingual, you're a hot commodity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that interpreters and translators belong to the fifth-fasting-growing occupation in the nation. From 2012-2022, demand for these professionals was expected to jump more than 46 percent.
Of course, you can still make money off your talents without working full time as a translator. Advertise locally or work on a contract basis through websites of such firms as Elance and Guru. Or check out Gengo, which is solely for freelance translators.
8. Make money with your phone. You're attached to your phone 24/7, so why not let it make a little money for you?
We've got a big list of apps that can make your smartphone a money machine.
9. Work at home as a customer service rep. When you dial a company's 800 number, you may well be speaking to someone wearing fuzzy slippers and sitting on the couch.
Several companies outsource their customer calls to at-home representatives. To do this work, you may need a landline, specific equipment and a quiet, child-free zone.
West at Home and Alpine Access are two of the biggest companies hiring at-home customer service reps.
10. Join a focus group. Companies are willing to pay consumers to provide feedback on products or share thoughts on a new idea. Often this is done through focus groups, which typically compensate members for their time.
Opportunities for focus groups are better in larger metro areas, but many marketers are moving to online discussions that can include consumers nationwide.
FindFocusGroups.com, FocusGroup.com and PlazaResearch.com are three websites where you can find them. You can also do a Web search for the words "focus group" and your closest metro area. The pay for participating in focus groups can range from $50 to $200.
11. Take surveys for cash. Rather than spending hours in a focus group, you might spend 20 to 30 minutes filling out an online survey. On the downside, you earn peanuts for your feedback -- payments seem to top out at around $3 per survey.
Since there are plenty of survey scams on the Web, search for reviews before inputting all of your personal information at an unknown site. To get you started, Pinecone Research, Viewpoint Forum and Ipsos are all tried and true survey companies.
12. Enter contests and sweepstakes. It's unconventional, but some people make extra money from sweepstakes. It's probably only a marginally better option than hitting the casino, but at least you won't be losing any money.
To give it a try, head to a site like Online-Sweepstakes.com, which categorizes all the sweeps by date, prize and how often you can enter. There's also a forum in which you can connect with other sweepstakes fans.
13. Find some gigs online. Another option if you have some free time is to check out TaskRabbit or Amazon Mechanical Turk.
At TaskRabbit.com, you bid on work that may include such real-world jobs as running errands and weeding gardens. At AmazonMechanicalTurk.com, you might do something like entering a few bits of data. It's easy work that, in some cases, will pay you literally pennies.
On other hand, if you have a talent that you think is worth $5 to someone else, post it as a gig on Fiverr.com.
14. Rent a room. It's probably not as unusual as it was a few years ago, but a lot of people make extra money by renting out a room in their home to travelers.
Airbnb.com is the biggest name in the business, but other sites offering to facilitate room rentals include Roomorama.com and 9flats.com.
15. Rent your space. Instead of renting a room at your home, just rent a space.
For example, if a local festival means public parking is at a premium, charge a couple of dollars for people to park in your driveway or on your lawn. Or rent out space in your pole barn or garage to those who need to store items.
However, keep it legal by checking with your municipality first to make sure it's allowed.
16. Rent your friendship. Of all the things you could rent out to others, your friendship might be the strangest.
Sites such as RentAFriend.com allow people to rent someone's companionship for a day. Supposedly, it's all on the up and up and the outings are strictly platonic.
17. Be a tutor. You suffered through all those long years of algebra, geometry and grammar. As a tutor, you can get a little payback for the knowledge you gained.
Local schools or colleges might be a good place to look for tutoring opportunities. Otherwise, you can find online gigs at websites such as Tutor.com and InstaEDU.com.
18. Flip items on eBay. The 50-cent finds you discover at a local thrift store or garage sale might be worth a whole lot more on the global marketplace of eBay.
It might take a little trial and error to learn what's worth money online, and you can search for "flipping on eBay" or "reselling on eBay" to learn the tricks of the trade.
19. Become a mystery shopper. Many years ago, I worked as a mystery shopper, gathering information for businesses about their customer service and compliance with regulations. It was an excellent way to eat for free at high-end restaurants and earn some nice side cash.
Just be aware that mystery shopping isn't nearly as easy as you might think. My experience was that some shopping scenarios were a bit contrived -- e.g., requiring you to ask strange questions or make returns immediately after a purchase. Once you finish shopping, you typically need to whip up a narrative of your experience, so good writing skills are a must.
If you want to give it a try, head to Volition.com, a website with a comprehensive list of legitimate mystery shopping companies as well as an active shopper forum.
20 Crowdfund your dreams. Finally, you could simply ask for money. Crowdfunding sites are available to let you solicit money from others for nearly any reason.
Check out this infographic from Inc. magazine's website, which highlights 22 crowdfunding sites.
What do you think? Are you going to try any of these unconventional ways to earn money? Tell us about it in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free!