There’s no shortage of new opportunities to make money online, from selling your sneakers to renting out your backyard.
13 min read
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From renting out rooms on Airbnb to snagging odd jobs on TaskRabbit, it’s not hard to find opportunities to make a little extra money online. The gig economy has become a part of our work culture, while e-commerce marketplaces have created a global playing field for ordinary people looking to sell products and services.
Against that backdrop, there are many time-tested opportunities out there to make some money on the side, from selling your photos online to taking paid surveys. Yet as sure as the sun rises each day, the online world continues to produce a variety of new ways to make some cash.
Let’s take a look at some of those emerging opportunities, whether it’s an entirely new way to generate a little extra income or a fresh approach to an existing method. Some of these are easy, but others take time, creativity and even a bit of overhead. And, as always, do your own due diligence to make sure these options are right for you.
Become a sneakerhead
Selling sneakers online is becoming big business, and not just for Nike and Adidias. Platforms like StockX, GOAT, Stadium Goods, Flight Club and Bump are fueling a boom in the shoe resale market. Sneakerheads are flocking to these platforms to flip rare kicks, which they usually snap up directly from big brands before marking up the price online.
A big player here is StockX. Befitting its name, its website looks more like a stock trading platform than an online shoe store. For example, if you click on a pair of Yeezys, you’ll discover how its sale price has fluctuated over recent months, a “ticker” and a gauge for price volatility. Buyers place bids and sellers place asks, and a transaction happens automatically when the two sides align. StockX collects a 3 percent payment processing fee on all sales, plus a 9.5 percent fee for all shoe sales (the site also sells other collectible items, like handbags and watches).
Not convinced? A pair of Nike Dunks that once retailed for $200 sold on StockX for $13,500 in July 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The takeaway: The secondary market for collectible shoes is having a moment. It takes some overhead and legwork, but if you’re game, you can still make money on the fly.
Weigh the implications of selling access to you
Personal data is in demand, and although it’s controversial, you can capitalize on that if you’re unconcerned about privacy.
Look no further than Facebook, which now offers payment in exchange for permission to track your phone usage. In 2019, the social media company launched Study from Facebook, a market research app which collects user data about phone activity in return for a monthly payout. The company says it won’t use the data to target advertisements or to sell to third parties; it simply aims to learn about the habits of smartphone users. You have to register and receive an invite from Facebook to participate, with the app only available in the U.S. and India for those ages 18 and older. Facebook doesn’t disclose how much it pays participants, but the company says everyone who takes part is compensated.
Selling personal data online isn’t entirely new. The company Datacoup has been around since 2012 and offers to help people sell their data anonymously. Then there are options like Panel App, which doles out rewards to users who take location-based surveys. Overall, this trend should continue to provide regular opportunities for people hoping to make money. Case in point, on Prime Day in 2019 Amazon offered U.S. customers a $10 credit if they let the e-commerce giant track the websites they visited.
The takeaway: If you’re not attached to your privacy, opportunities to sell your personal data shouldn’t be hard to find.
Follow the example of thrifty teenagers
People have long gone online to clear out their closets, but Gen Z is now getting in on the action. Look no further than Depop. It’s a shopping app similar to platforms like Poshmark and ThredUP, but it’s become particularly popular among younger audiences.
Often described as a mix of eBay and Instagram, Depop is an international marketplace for fashionable secondhand items, from vintage Prada to newly trendy Old Navy sweatshirts from the early 2000s. Sellers have profile pages where they post pictures, descriptions and hashtags, while buyers can follow their favorite sellers and scroll through their posts in a feed. Like other online marketplaces, there are potentially some overhead costs for sellers and Depop takes a 10 percent cut of each sale.
The platform was originally launched in Milan in 2011, but in recent years it has grown to command a cult following, with 15 million users in 147 countries around the world. Among active users, 90 percent are under the age of 26, while an estimated one-third of all 16-to-24-year-olds in the U.K. are registered on Depop, according to one of the company’s investors.
The craze appears to be taking hold in North America as well. Depop says the number of items sold in the U.S. doubled last year, and there are now 5 million users stateside. It’s also attracted a wave of glowing coverage from publications like The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Cut.
The takeaway: Depop is far from alone in the online thrifting space, but the platform has tapped into a market of teenage tastemakers, creating a vibrant new way to buy and sell online.
Sell away on social media
Take Facebook, for example. The social media company announced in 2019 that it’s adding new shopping features across its family of apps. That includes new shipping and payment options for Marketplace, Facebook’s sprawling e-commerce platform where you can swap everything from furniture to cars. The move will allow Marketplace users to ship items anywhere in the continental U.S. and pay for their purchases directly through Facebook (something it previously did not facilitate). This comes after Facebook began letting users hire contractors, cleaners, plumbers and other home services through Marketplace starting in 2018.
Not surprisingly, Instagram is also beefing up its e-commerce features. Influencers, creators and online businesses can now tag products directly in posts, making it easier for their followers to buy from them. Facebook is also adding new business tools to its messaging platform WhatsApp, which will allow people to view a product catalog directly within the app when chatting with a business.
The takeaway: In its drive to facilitate our every online action, Facebook is making it easier to buy and sell a diverse array of products and services.
Consider investing in fine art and classic cars
An ordinary person probably can’t afford to buy a vintage Ferrari, but what about investing $50 in a single share of a classic car? There’s an app for that, called Rally Rd.
Rally Rd. operates a platform where members buy and sell equity shares in classic cars for as little as $50 through a series of SEC-registered initial public offerings. The company reported in 2018 that it had 50,000 members who have combined to invest millions, with an average age of 26 among its user base. It has now expanded to offer other collectibles, from a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to a Honus Wagner baseball card.
The goal is to eventually sell these items to private collectors at a profit. Of course, this type of alternative investment comes with risks, and there’s no guarantee the value of these assets will appreciate. Still, investors with the right appetite should find plenty of opportunities to get in on this trend.
Another player here is Masterworks, an online platform focused on fine art. Founded in 2017, it extends shares in works from Picasso, Monet and Warhol. Then there’s Otis, an app that sells shares in contemporary art, sneakers and collectibles for as little as $25. Otis recently offered up its first piece for investment, a painting by Kehinde Wiley (who painted President Barack Obama’s presidential portrait). The company reported that more than 600 investors took part in the sale.
The takeaway: Buying shares in fine art or cars might not be for everyone, but if you’re an investor interested in alternative asset classes, online platforms like Rally Rd. could be right up your alley.
Keep up with gig economy opportunities
The gig economy is nothing new at this point, thanks to companies like Grubhub, Fiverr and Rover. But the gig landscape continues to change, and you can still find new ways to make money from this flexible style of work.
Take Uber. The ride-sharing giant recently rolled out a new app that matches gig workers with a variety of different temporary jobs. The project, called Uber Works, launched initially in Chicago in October 2019. The company has partnered with different businesses in Chicago to offer gigs doing everything from assembly-line work to bartending.
But Uber Works is far from the only new gig economy opportunity. For example, the recently launched app Drum promises businesses access to a network of salespeople on demand. And for restaurant workers, there’s Pared, which connects roving chefs, servers, dishwashers and line cooks to shifts. Then there’s Steady, an app launched in 2017 that’s intended to make finding gig work easier, while providing tools to track your income.
The takeaway: New opportunities continue to arise in the gig economy, allowing more people with different skills to earn money online.
Influencer marketing isn’t just for celebrities
You don’t need to be a celebrity influencer to make money on social media. These days, Instagrammers or YouTubers with as few as 1,000 followers can attract sponsors.
These online tastemakers are often dubbed as micro-influencers or nano-influencers, in marketing jargon. Micro-influencers generally have between 2,000 to 50,000 followers, while nano-influencers have 2,000 or less (although the exact designations are very much up for debate).
These types of influencers are in demand because sponsors prize engagement, and the biggest social media stars aren’t guaranteed to deliver the best results. In fact, influencers with only 1,000 followers can generate 85 percent higher engagement than those with 100,000 followers. Many of these influencers are regular people posting about a hobby or trade they’re particularly knowledgeable about, from owning a photogenic hedgehog to offering up cleaning tips. As a result, their followers often get a more personal experience and their recommendations come off as more trustworthy.
The numbers back this up. A 2017 study suggested that 78 percent of millennials were either indifferent or had a negative view of celebrity endorsements. That’s led to brands spending 40 percent of their influencer budgets on micro-influencers, with only 28 percent devoted to celebrity influencers, according to a 2019 study.
Micro-influencers don’t command six figure deals, but there’s still money to be made. Rates vary, but an influencer with 5,000 to 10,000 followers can command up to $500 per post, while followings of 25,000 can net $800, according to a blog post from Instagram marketing firm Later.
But how can you get sponsors aboard? You can contact a brand directly, and there’s also an entire industry devoted to connecting sponsors with relevant influencers. Options include TapInfluence, Tribe, Fohr and Grapevine, among others. There are also platforms like Patreon, which allow independent content creators to make money by selling memberships to their fans.
The takeaway: It’s not easy to build a large following on social media, but artful videos of you rolling dough could bring in a little extra dough, even if you only have a modest following.
The rental economy continues to open up
Basically everything you own can now become a source of extra income, thanks to the rental economy. The model popularized by Airbnb has now gone far beyond renting rooms and homes.
Some newer Airbnb-style marketplaces include Jettly, where you can rent out a private jet, or Swimply, where you can rent out your swimming pool. Then there’s Rent the Backyard, a new company helping homeowners turn their unused outdoor space into rental housing by fronting the costs of building studio apartments in empty backyards.
Others have been around for a while, like car-sharing platform Turo or peer-to-peer boat rental company Boatsetter. There’s also Hipcamp, the “Airbnb for campsites.” Renting out activities is a trend too, with companies like BonAppetour allowing you to invite strangers over for dinner. The list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, Airbnb isn’t standing idle as new startups join the fray. In October 2019, the company announced it would start allowing people to rent out animals as part of its experiences section. That means people can now paddleboard with corgis or go skateboarding with a bulldog.
The takeaway: Like the gig economy, the rental economy continues to evolve, with opportunities to loan out your belongings extending to nearly every corner of existence.
Live mobile games are in play
From professional eSports tournaments to gamers earning a living off their Twitch streams, there’s some serious cash up for grabs in online gaming. But what about for normal folks with mediocre hand-eye coordination?
In recent years, live mobile games like HQ Trivia have become an easy way to have some fun and potentially make a little money. HQ Trivia popularized live mobile gaming in 2017, when it began hosting twice-daily competitions that attracted millions of people to compete for prizes reaching into the thousands. As of 2019, HQ Trivia has reportedly paid out $6.25 million in prizes, although some winners have complained about delays in receiving their payouts. HQ Trivia’s breakout success paved the way for similar games, including FiveAlive, Swagbucks Live and Joyride.
A new player to watch is Tally, a startup founded by Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson and backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. In 2018, Tally revealed a pop-up mobile game where participants can win cash prizes for making predictions around major live events, from NFL games to the Oscars. For the 2019 Super Bowl, Tally offered a $250,000 grand prize to anyone who correctly predicted 16 questions about the game.
The takeaway: You’re probably not going to get rich playing games like HQ Trivia, but they do provide an entertaining way to potentially make some coin.