20 unusual ways to earn extra cash

Almost everyone can use a little more cash in their pocket from time to time. As we pointed out in the article "50 Ways to Make a Fast $50," expenses can arrive when you least expect — and often at the least convenient time:

No matter how carefully you plan, money can run a little short at times. Maybe your child needs new shoes. Perhaps your car broke down, or you just want a night out on the town.

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.

Personally, I'm intrigued by the idea of selling things of potential value on Ebay and renting out space in my house — or renting out the whole house.

Whatever the reason, we have a slew of unusual ways for you to bring in extra cash:

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20 odd ways to make extra cash
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20 odd ways to make 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, while there are big bucks to be made with the right hair.

Photo credit: Getty

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 ClinicalTrials.gov. Use the advanced search feature to find trials that accept healthy volunteers. 

Photo credit: Getty

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. 

Photo credit: Getty

4. Walk some dogs — or clean up after them

Spread the word to family and friends that you are available for dog-walking services for pay.

You can also join a website like Rover.com or Thumbtack.com, 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 can advertise your services to clean up after dogs. Some owners will gladly pay someone else to do the dirty work of picking up their yards.

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Photo credit: Getty

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, including Rover and Thumbtack, offer potential sitters the opportunity to connect with homeowners who need someone to keep an eye on their houses for an extended period. 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. 

Photo credit: Getty

6. Get creative and open an online store

Various types of websites make it simple to create designs or products and then market your wares. To learn more, check out “4 Ways Creative People Can Make Money Online.”

Additionally, online marketplaces for freelancers, such as Fiverr.com and Thumbtack, enable you to sell your creative skills themselves rather than a product. 

Photo credit: Getty

7. Become a translator

If you’re multilingual, you’re a hot commodity. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that interpreters and translators belong to one of the fasting-growing occupations in the nation. Demand for these professionals is expected to jump more than 28 percent from 2014 to 2024.

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 marketplaces like Fiverr, Guru, Thumbtack and Upwork. Or check out Gengo, which is solely for freelance translators. 

Photo credit: Getty

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. 

Photo credit: Getty

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 their couch.

Some companies outsource customer calls to at-home representatives. And as we reported in “Top 25 Companies for Work-From-Home Jobs,” customer service is one of the top career fields for remote workers.

To do this work, you may need a landline, specific equipment and a quiet, child-free zone.

Photo credit: Getty

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.

You can find them on websites like FindFocusGroups.com or do a web search for the words “focus group” and your closest metro area. 

Photo credit: Getty

11. Take surveys for cash

Rather than spending hours in a focus group, you could spend minutes filling out an online survey to make some cash.

To learn more, check out “Survey Sites to Turn Extra Minutes Into Extra Money.” 

Photo credit: Getty

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 lose 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. 

Photo credit: Getty

13. Find some gigs online

Another option if you have some free time is to check out Amazon Mechanical Turk, a platform through which businesses and other organizations can crowd-source small tasks to individual workers. You might do something like entering a few bits of data, for example.

It’s easy work that, in some cases, will pay you literally pennies. To maximize your potential earnings on MTurk, check out “ The Browser Extension That Can Earn You Thousands of Dollars.” 

Photo credit: Getty

14. Rent out a room

It’s definitely not as unusual as it was a few years ago: A lot of people make extra money by renting out a room in their home to travelers.

Airbnb is the biggest name in the business, but other big sites offering to facilitate room rentals include Homestay.com.

To learn more, check out “15 Steps to Making Money Renting Your Home to Strangers.” 

Photo credit: Getty

15. Rent your space

Instead of renting a room at your home, just rent some space.

For example, if a local festival means public parking is at a premium, charge a few 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. Check out “Need Extra Cash? This App Helps You Rent Out Your Yard (and Hot Tub)” for details.

However, keep it legal by checking with your municipality first to make sure it’s allowed.

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Photo credit: Getty

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. 

Photo credit: Getty

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.

Photo credit: Getty

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.

Also check out:

Photo credit: Getty

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 — for example, 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.

To learn more, check out:

Photo credit: Getty

20. Crowdfund your dreams

Finally, you could simply ask for money. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo enable you to solicit money from others for a wide variety of reasons.

What do you think? Are you going to try any of these unconventional ways to earn money? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories. 

Photo credit: Getty

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