We’re all looking to increase our bottom line in a meaningful way.  Often times, that means cutting costs, but that only goes so far until you hit baseline – then, nothing.  So, the obvious solution is to make MORE money.  Depending on your skill set, availability, and interests, there are any number of ways you can make extra money on the side, even if you work full-time.  Rather than give you a generic list post, I thought I’d share some unique and inventive ways people I know personally have made extra money on the side.  Even though these measures may not work for you specifically, surely, the thought process and ideas behind each of these ventures may spur your creative juices to go out and start your own venture – quickly and profitably

  • The Carpet-Bagger – A buddy of mine told me about an interesting way his brother used to make a killing in college.  Each year, when all the students were moving into their dorms, there was nothing nicer than having a nice warm carpet on the floor instead of that cold, hard, terrazzo flooring.  While students were mulling about moving their stuff in for the year and waving bye to mom and dad, this entrepreneur was out makin’ money.  What this guy did, was he would borrow his dad’s van, buy tons of carpet remnants from his local carpet store for next to nothing, then drive his van from dorm to dorm selling the remnant squares for like 30 bucks a pop.  If he paid $3 each and unloaded 100 of these at the start of a school year, he netted $2700!  Now, perhaps September is the best and only time to do this in volume each year, but surely this has your creative juices going right?

Can you think of other big annual events?  Items in short supply?  Items that are easy to mark up and sell in volume?  I bet you just thought of an idea already.

  • The Shame-Saver – A guy in my B-School told our class about a buddy of his who used to make a killing selling diapers! Yes, diapers!  No, he wasn’t the guy that made last week’s cover of BusinessWeek from diapers.com.  His business model was much more creative.  See, there’s a whole set of clientele that wear diapers that aren’t too proud of it – Older Men.  As guys get older, they start to experience “leakage” and other various urinary maladies.  I’m not judging, because that will likely be me in 40 years too.  BUT, what this guy did was cater to their market.  See, when an older guy needs some Depends, he doesn’t want to walk into the grocery store and pick them up.  He’s naturally embarrassed about it and doesn’t want the neighbor rollin’ up next to him at the checkout while he’s got a big box of these things.  If ordering through the internet, these guys also get pissed when the Fed-Ex guy leaves a giant box of Depends on their door-step, or worse, has a neighbor sign for the delivery!  What this cunning guy did, was to develop a website and cater to the “anonymous” crowd by basically buying up entire garages full of Depends undergarments, promising to disguise the packaging for shipping, and then ship out with a mark-up on eBay of a couple bucks per pack (after he got a volume discount from baseline as well).  Because of the embarrassment this method avoided, and the recurring customer base he established, older men were willing to pay a few bucks extra per pack, and he was able to turn this into a nice 5-figure side gig for years.  By now, I’m sure the word’s gotten out on this business model and arbitrageurs have bid down the opportunities (or companies figured out to ship certain packages with discreet packaging), but Wow!  What an idea, huh?
  • Surveys – At first I didn’t think much of online survey sites, but then someone told me how much he was making from them and I was astound. Just from survey sites he is bringing in almost $600 a month and spend about 32 hours a week on it. I know $600 ($7200/year!) may not sound like a lot but for 8 hours a week that is pretty darn good! What would you do with an extra $600/month? payoff that credit card debt faster? go on a nice vacation? Companies collectively spend billions a year on finding out what consumer want and like, so there is always someone looking for your opinion. Making money from surveys can add up quickly and since it doesn’t anything to get started.
  • The Middle-Man – Aside from the generic “sell your stuff on eBay” bullet you’ll see on virtually every side-income post, how about doing this in volume?  Kinda like the woman from 40-Year Old Virgin with the “We Sell Your Stuff on eBay” store, here’s a common situation.  We all have a ton of stuff laying around our home that we should get rid of on eBay or Craigslist.  However, we each know tons of people who are in the same situation who are either as lazy or MORE lazy than we are.  What if you went to these people, like your parents, friends, neighbors, anyone who wants to unload their junk while making money effortless; go to them and say, “If I can unload a bunch of your junk and spend the time doing it, would you be willing to give me a cut?  I’ll do all the legwork, you just tell me what you want to sell and how much you’d be willing to sell it for”.  This is especially easy for people who live close to you.  So, in a single Saturday, you could go through, take hundreds of pictures, upload a hundred ads on Craigslist (free) or eBay (for premium items where you could make more money) and basically act as a broker for all those transactions.  You could keep a record to share with your friends and family so they don’t think you ripped them off, but in essence, you make money by “batch processing”.  You do all the work in spurts, and collect some residuals.  If you can round up 10 people willing to participate, sell $500 worth of their stuff each, and collect 20% of the revenues, then you just made $1000 for dealing with some shipments and people stopping over your place from Craigslist ads.  It’s not huge money, and it’s kind of labor intensive, but if you’ve got time on your hands and you’re organized, why not?

Here’s something to chew on:

  • You know tons of people that are lazy
  • You know tons of people that pay for convenience
  • There is a ton of “hidden value” out there in opportunities like this
  • You want to make some extra money

What’d Ya Think?  Did These Ideas Get Your Wheels Spinning?  Any New Ideas?



Founder and owner of Darwin’s Money, ETFBase and other Money sites.