The side hustle: a legitimate (if not unorthodox) way to score some extra cash. But forget babysitting, lawn mowing and dog walking. Because in the new gig economy, earning money for groceries, the mortgage and everything in between has never been easier. Not long ago, “money for nothing” was a suspicious phrase.
With con artists and flimflam men out to scam the unsuspecting, it was smart to be wary of too-good-to-be-true schemes. But today, unconventional paydays are not only legitimate, they’re part of a whole new money-making market. And while you can score big from low-commitment gigs to time-sensitive promotions, it helps to know where to look before diving in. To kickstart your own side hustle, here are 9 of the best money-making opportunities out there.
Be a Mystery Shopper
Planning a trip to the grocery store anytime soon? Odds are, a company will pay you to rate product displays and services while you’re there. Retail chains use mystery shoppers to check their franchises for quality standards. And you can be their very own detective, just by downloading an app.
As a mystery shopper, you’re given an assignment and location. Often, you’ll use your phone to take a photo or video of a store’s products or displays, to then upload to a mystery shopper app. Other tasks include talking to employees to check the store’s customer service skills and provide feedback. In any case, if you’re already out and about, being a mystery shopper is a fun, easy way to make a buck. Average pay is about $5 per job, and most gigs only require a quick stop.
Review Websites and Apps for Usability
Companies are constantly working to improve the user experience of their websites. And as a user tester, you can make fast cash by visiting their app or website, doing a few tasks, and providing feedback. At 15 – 20 minutes per test, user testing is an easy way to earn cash from the comfort of your couch. Average pay is $10 for a 20-minute test, although you can make much more if you’re interested in longer jobs.
Participate in Online Market Research Studies
Market research is done by major companies to test the success of brands and products; basically, these companies will pay you for your opinion. Studies often screen for a particular audience (think age ranges, professions, or income levels), but if you meet the demographic, you simply apply with a short pre-screen survey to be approved. These studies can include an interview (via webcam), online surveys or even focus groups. Average earnings vary but expect to gain $50 to $100+ per study.
Try Passive Data Collection Apps
Of all the side hustles on this list, this might be the easiest. Market research companies want to understand trends and where people spend their time online. And if you share your browsing habits, they’ll pay you for it. All you do is register and install an app, which runs in the background of your phone or browser, sharing information with the market research firm.
Your data is kept confidential, but it’s up to you whether you feel comfortable allowing a company to monitor your browsing habits. If so, you can literally make money going about your day as usual. Average earnings are $5 to $10 a month. Not a huge payday, but pretty good for doing nothing.
Use a 2% Credit Card
Cash back credit cards pay big bonuses for loyalty. And while there are many, finding a 2% cash back card means little work for a large payoff. Here’s how it works. With a 2% card, you earn 2% in cash of everything you buy, whether that’s gas, groceries or clothing. And while that seems small per transaction, it adds up fast if you’re consistent using the card at the register.
Like any credit card, it helps if you have decent credit (above 600) to qualify. And, of course, you must be responsible in making purchases and payments. But overall, the benefits are well worth the two-minute online application. Average earnings vary, but if you use the card regularly, $300 to $400 a year is quite realistic.
Switch Banks to Earn with Bank Promotions
Perhaps one of the easier ways to make $200 is to take advantage of a bank promotion. Awarded after you open a new checking or savings account, most banks only require that you enroll in direct deposit and keep the account open for a couple of months. Average earnings can be between $100 to $300 per promotion.
Be a Research Participant for a Local University
Local universities pay hundreds of dollars for individuals to participate in academic research studies. Demographic factors determine your eligibility, such as your age, health or life circumstance. While many fear the fate of a lab rat, most research requires you only participate in interviews and questionnaires. And not only do academic studies reimburse handsomely, but you also help further important research for the betterment of mankind. Average earnings for becoming a research participant can vary. Universities will pay anywhere from $30 to $300+ depending on the commitment.
Sell your Unused Internet Data
Unless you’re downloading content like a maniac, odds are you’ve got unused data from your home network (or smartphone). And for that remaining bandwidth, there are companies that will pay you to use it.
Using your unused data, these companies can rent out your bandwidth to other users through your IP address, a service that provides added security and privacy to networks. Other companies utilize your unused data to help power nearby servers to improve internet performance for users. Average earnings for your gig contributions can be as high as $30 a month.
Be the Concierge of your own Home
Not everyone wants to pay for a hotel when traveling. With online lodging marketplaces, you can list your house, room or even a backyard (yes, people will pay to use your backyard as a campsite). While this practice requires you to set some ground rules, it’s a safe, popular way to earn some extra cash. Average earnings can be anywhere from $40 to $300+ per night. You set the rates.
A side hustle shouldn’t cost you a lot of time and money. Your goal should be to free yourself, with additional earnings, of existing bills and obligations. But you don’t want to create more work and headaches to replace them. These money makers can help you get there, boosting your earning power without a big commitment.