Chances are, you’ve heard of the sharing economy, side hustle culture or any of the other variations on this term. Basically, they all boil down to freelancing to make extra money, build savings, or even replace a full-time income. Whether you freelance on the side, or full-time, you may want to explore diverse revenue streams as a way to add stability and variety to an uncertain sector of the economy.
The following list highlights five popular freelance and gig economy opportunities.
Microtasks and Crowdsourcing
Microtask platforms allow workers to complete small jobs that take seconds or minutes to complete. The pay is generally low; some tasks may pay a couple of cents, while others may pay a dollar. Common tasks include completing surveys, tagging images, data entry, short transcriptions, short writing projects, proofreading and just about anything else that someone can do online within a few minutes.
The most popular platform for this kind of work is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (AKA MTurk). Since the pay is typically low and the work tends to be fairly easy, some people work on microtasks in their spare time or while watching television to earn extra money. Side Hustle Nation interviewed one “MTurker” who earned over $21,000 over time doing 25 cents (and similarly paying) tasks.
Earning Potential: Variable, this depends on which tasks you qualify for and how fast you work. Members of the popular Reddit group mturk report averaging around $6 per hour — some earn more and some less. This category has the lowest barriers to entry as all you need is basic computing skills, a reliable computer and a fast internet connection.
Rideshare or Homeshare
When people think of the sharing economy, rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. Or perhaps they think of renting their property via Airbnb. These services are truly disrupters in the travel and transportation industries. Forbes Magazine published an article on “11 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming an Uber or Lyft Driver.”
Earning Potential: Highly variable depending on your location, a Buzzfeed survey found that drivers in Denver, Detroit, and Houston earned an average of $13.25 an hour after their expenses. Expenses include gas, car maintenance, cleaning their car, etc.
When many think of direct sales, they think of Amway. Sometimes people overlook or write off this option. While direct sales aren’t for everyone, it offers freedom and a fulfilling challenge for many people. If you are a people-person who loves sharing with and educating others, then it may be right for you. If you wish to explore direct sales, be sure to choose quality products that you would use yourself.
Earning Potential: Earnings potential is unlimited. It depends on how well you sell. Some people earn enough to live comfortably while others struggle to break even.
People often don’t think of service based freelancing as part of the gig economy, but it may be the granddaddy (or grand mee-maw) of the sector. Businesses and individuals need services that they cannot provide because they lack either the budget or in-house expertise. Jobs range from entry level freelance “Virtual Assistants” to high-level expert consultants. If you have the skills and ability to market yourself, you can find opportunities locally or globally. Freelancing and all side-gigs complicates taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created a sharing economy tax center resource page to help.
Earning Potential: It varies highly depending on your skills, the market rate in your industry, how much time you have to dedicate to freelancing and how well you market yourself. Seasoned freelancers report they must earn considerably more per hour than they would accept as a regular employee in their field since they are taxed at the higher self-employed rate.
There are a few basic approaches, depending on your interests and skills:
- Some people create hand-made products and sell them on their own e-commerce website, on Etsy or through a large retailer like Amazon. This is the online equivalent of selling at local craft markets (in fact, many of these people also do this with the help of a mobile credit card reader like Square).
- Some prefer to “flip” inexpensive items they purchase through Craig’s List, the Goodwill, garage sales or find in their home. They may upcycle the items or sell them as is on eBay, bid sites, Let Go, Craig’s List or Amazon.
- Some entrepreneurs engage in dropshipping. This involves choosing a product, marketing it, and selling it through a fulfillment platform like Shopify or Amazon. Dropshippers do not hold the inventory or handle fulfillment. The popular e-commerce platform Shopify created “The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping.”
Earning Potential: Unlimited, if you sell an item that is in demand and you are good at marketing. Keep in mind your revenue is limited by how much you can invest in materials and your available time.
More people than ever flock to part-time freelancing to earn extra money, build savings or pay down debt. Also, record numbers strive to earn a full-time living freelancing as they feel this lifestyle choice allows them the flexibility to raise children, care for elders, travel or enjoy a better work-life balance.