Are you ready to make money in your spare time? When you shift your thinking to working from home – even just part-time, or as a side hustle – you immediately start seeing your time off as marketable. While you’re exercising on a stationary bike or binging on Netflix, you could also be doing microtasks or taking surveys. A trip to the store becomes a way to earn cash back or pick up groceries for someone else. It’s wonderful to realize the many ways in which you can monetize your free time! But it’s just as important not to go crazy. Let’s break down the opportunities.
Know Your Boundaries & Establish a System
When you decide to start monetizing your free time, it’s important to have a system in place to make sure you don’t go overboard. It’s too easy to think “well, if one little gig is good, 13 will be great!” This raises a possible problem when it comes to payment. Many extra money-makers have a minimum threshold for receiving payment. If you don't keep a good system, you may work a lot of hours and still not have a payment coming from anywhere.
The problem can also then becomes one of overwork and burnout as you never give yourself a moment of free time. The time we dedicate to downtime and relaxing is just as important as the hours that we work – to remain productive and to ensure you’re producing quality work, you must rest to recover energy and focus.
So set boundaries! Decide up front or at the beginning of the week how much of your spare time you’ll spend that week making extra money. Stick to that number. If, at the end of the week, you feel like you could have done more comfortably, increase your time spent the next week – that way you can work out how much time is just enough without losing your mind.
Get a dedicated email address for the jobs you do in your spare time. This will keep you from being distracted by work-related items when you check your personal email in your dedicated downtime. It’s hard to think “just one more…” when the alerts are showing up in a different email inbox.
Keep track of your time spent on your side hustle with a schedule or ledger. This will keep you honest in sticking to your boundaries and it’ll help you see which side hustles are working out and which aren’t. Always remember: work smarter, not harder. Only stick with those side hustles that give you a good monetary return on your time investment.
How to Make Money When You Only Have a Few Minutes
When you only have a few minutes at a time, you’ll want to stick with side hustles that correspondingly take just a few minutes to do. When your spare downtime is found in snatches between waiting for the kids to finish breakfast or sitting in a waiting room somewhere, here are some money-making opportunities that might work for you.
Swagbucks is a popular get-paid-to app that monetizes things you do all the time and offers a return on small activities. You can use their app to shop at your favorite retailers, take surveys, watch videos and more to earn points that can be exchanged for gift cards or cash.
Amazon Mechanical Turk, or mTurk, is the king site of microtasks – a “crowdsourcing marketplace” where taskers elect to do various small tasks that are simple but can't be automated – they require human attention. This could be tagging items in a photo or transcribing a minute or two of audio.
Surveys – You can take surveys for prizes and money and you'll find the opportunities spread across the Internet, waiting for you. For example, you could sign up with Pinecone Research, Inbox Dollars, Harris Poll, or National Consumer Panel. Get more details at my post on opportunities to take surveys for cash.
appKarma is another get-paid-to app that lets you earn points to redeem for PayPal cash or gift cards – you can play with apps you've installed, watch videos, earn on referrals (and their appKarma earnings) and more little activities. Get 300 points just for signing up, and check out how appKarma rates their offers to show you those of highest value to you. At the time of writing this post, appKarma has a 4.7 rating with over 300,000 downloads in Google Play.
HealthyWage – Do the holidays have you wondering how you’re ever going to meet any weight goals you may have? Put money on the line to help keep you honest – and win it back plus some when you succeed! Plus, the only time expenditure is in setting up your wage and then checking in. My husband and I both joined HealthyWage recently. He's doing a weight loss challenge. I'm doing a step challenge.
Ibotta – When you do your weekly (or more often) shopping – especially during the holidays when you’re no doubt getting extra goodies – why not make some money back on these necessary purchases? Ibotta’s app gives you the opportunity to find items in their system that you’re buying from the store, then scan your receipt and the item’s barcode to earn money back on your purchases. It only takes a few minutes before and after shopping! I have been using this program for years!
Acorns – If you find it hard to invest, let Acorns do it for you and help your money grow. Once you connect Acorns to your bank account, it automatically rounds up on your daily purchases, takes that spare change and invests it for you. This is another passive program I have been using for quite some time.
Unclaimed.org – There are billions of dollars in unclaimed property out there and some of it could be yours. Using the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators' Unclaimed Property Authority, you can search for free for money that might be due you. You just need to enter your state to get started.
Ebates is one of the oldest and biggest sites out there that pay you to shop – they’ve been around for about 10 years. Go about your normal purchases, but make sure you stop by Ebates first to use their affiliate link at your retailer of choice; you can also install their browser extension. Doing this, you'll get a percentage back on every dollar you spend and make your time work for you! I have been using this one for a long time and look forward to those quarterly checks. Ebates is especially useful this time of year when you may be doing quite a bit more shopping than usual.
How to Make Money With a Few Hours Per Week
If you have more time you can devote to earning money in your spare time, consider these side hustle options.
Sell Unwanted Items – If you feel like you’ve got too much stuff in your house, you’re probably sitting on a gold mine. Or at least a side-cash mine. Take a hard, honest look at what’s collecting dust or sitting in your closets and sell those items! You can sell off unwanted books and films and TV shows at Decluttr or SecondSpin; you can sell gently-used clothes on Poshmark or Swap.com; you can get help selling textbooks you no longer need on Bookscouter or Cash4Books. Send your old cell phones to Gazelle, and gift cards for retailers you never shop at to Cardpool. You can also sell your unwanted stuff right on Amazon!
Become a Freelancer – Put your marketable skills to work as a side hustle! If you’re a writer, you can write articles, blogs, resumes, copy, and more. As an artist, you can design logos or create art for games or books, or even design websites and ads. If you know how to edit video, you can produce videos; if you have a good voice and know how to record, you could do voiceovers or narrate audiobooks. The opportunities here are endless!
Airbnb – Do you have an extra room or plan to be away from home for a while? Make those empty home spaces work for you by becoming an Airbnb host. You can let your room to travelers, and know that your home is insured with $1 million dollars in property damage protection and the same in accident protection. You’ll spend time here preparing your space for guests and setting up an attractive listing on Airbnb.
Rent Your RV – There’s no reason to leave your RV to take up space in your driveway all year long when you’re not using it. Using sites like Outdoorsy, you can list your RV for rent and participate in peer-to-peer RV rentals. Vet the service before you use it, but most will provide free roadside assistance, insurance coverage on both you and the renter, and they'll make sure you get paid and get to review the people wanting to rent. Time investment includes prepping your RV for rental and doing the legwork listing your RV and reviewing potential renters.
Teach English Online – If you’ve got some extra time early in the morning or late at night, teaching English could be the perfect opportunity! Many English-teaching apps and services are dedicated to Asian markets and involve using company-provided lesson plans to teach students one-on-one or provide lessons to small groups of children. Lessons are generally an hour or less, and you don’t need much prep time when the plans are provided for you – just an upbeat attitude and a great Internet connection.
Become a Blogger or YouTuber – Put your passion for a subject to work and become a blogger or a YouTuber! Whether you love coming up with new recipes in the kitchen, delivering humorous video game analyses, or showing people great beauty tips, you can find a way to monetize the content you produce through ad revenue and more. This is one area where a hobby or a passion could turn into too much work, though, so remember your boundaries and don’t burn yourself out.
Search Engine Evaluation – Advertisers and search engines like to know their results are lining up correctly with search engines, and so companies like Lionbridge and Appen contract with people like you to spend a few hours each week doing specified searches and analyzing the results. If you have a solid grasp on contemporary pop culture and history and politics in the US, this could be a good gig for you.
Rent Your Stuff – If there’s some stuff that you don’t use often but can’t bear to part with, why not go halfway and rent it out? Using a site like Zilok, you can rent out anything from your car to your power tools to your turntable. Women with closets full of clothes can share the fabulous with other women using StyleLend, where you can list your clothes and ship them to renters – you get to keep 80% of the rental fee and your items are insured.
Do Some Grocery Shopping (for Someone Else) – Harness your grocery shopping powers for good and turn them into a side hustle by shopping for someone else. By working with a service like Instacart or Shipt, you can pick up and deliver someone's groceries and help out your community members whether disabled, elderly or too short on time. If this type of work sounds like fun, don't miss these jobs like Uber that can have you delivering food, groceries, packages and more!
Be a Laundry Valet – If you're in one of the following areas, you can become a “Rinse Valet” with Rinse: San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, or Boston. This means you can get paid to pick up and drop off clothes sent out for clothing care – such as dry cleaning, or wash & fold services. This is a part-time gig that they say is shift-based and pays $20 per hour and up.
Remember: only do as much work in your spare time as you decided up front! Burnout is no joke, and it’s important that you don’t let your side hustle compromise your main income. So, stick to your limits – and happy earning!