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Want to make money, but you’re not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
And you're not alone. More than one-quarter (27%) of Americans earned extra income from side gigs last year, according to the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020, released in May 2021 by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
NerdWallet rounded up 25 legitimate ways to make money — at home or out and about — and listed each option based on how fast you can get started and get paid. While most people prefer fast cash, don’t discount the “slow” gigs, as they may pay more in the long run.
How to make money online
Making money online is the sweet spot people look for in the gig economy. Whether you aspire to be a six-figure social media influencer, or are just looking to supplement your regular income with some internet gigs, we've found some viable options.
1. Pick up freelance work online
Make money online through websites such as Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer.com. These sites offer opportunities to do a variety of freelance jobs, such as writing, programming, design, marketing, data entry and being a virtual assistant. Fluent in a second language? Check sites such as Gengo or One Hour Translation, or drum up business through a site of your own. No matter what kind of freelancing you do, keep track of the going rate for the kind of work you provide so you know if you’re charging too much or too little. Learn how to get started on Upwork.
Total time: It can take a while to get your first gig. Setup: 24 hours. How easy to start: Easy, if you have the expertise. Age threshold: 13+ but varies by site. Payment speed: Varies by site.
2. Test websites and apps
Another way to make money from home is on sites like UserTesting.com. You get paid for your thoughts on how well — or not so well — certain websites and apps worked. You’ll have to pass a short test to be accepted, then you’ll be paid $10 for each 20-minute test, which involves a recording and answering four follow-up written questions. Or you could earn up to $120 to participate in a video conversation with a customer after your test.
Total time: Approval time can vary. Setup: Less than an hour. How easy to start: Easy, if you have the tech gear and complete a sample test. Age threshold: 18+. Payment speed: Seven days.
3. Pick up tasks on Amazon's Mechanical Turk
Even in the age of automation, some jobs still require a human touch. Companies often outsource those jobs via services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. As a “worker,” the tasks you’ll be assigned can be tedious — tagging images, transcribing videos, classifying receipts — and can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Temporary employers or “requesters” set the price for each task and get to approve the finished product before paying you. That can leave room for scams, so do your research. Join a community like the MTurk Crowd forum, or the MTurk and Turker Nation subreddits, which can steer you away from shifty dealers. These communities and fellow “workers” can answer questions and give a realistic idea of how much money you can expect to make. Read more about Mechanical Turk as a way to make quick money online.
Total time: Several days to find out if you're approved. Setup: Depends on the task you choose. How easy to start: Easy if you have certain skills. Age threshold: 18+. Payment speed: You get paid following work approval, which can take up to 30 days.
» MORE: What job makes the most money?
4. Take surveys for money
You can make money from home by taking online surveys, but don’t expect to be rolling in the dough. Survey sites don’t typically offer a big payoff, and many sites are more useful for earning gift cards than cash. Some of the more popular survey sites include Swagbucks and Survey Junkie. Read our analysis of a dozen survey sites to find out which one is best suited for you.
Total time: It will take a while. Setup: Just minutes. How easy to start: Very. Just register and begin. Age threshold: 13 to 18+. Payment speed: Varies by site.
5. Make money from your blog as an affiliate
If you’re a blogger who gets decent traffic, you could make money by joining an affiliate network. Affiliates (that’s you) get paid when someone clicks through from the website to the partner site and buys something there. Some bloggers make a lot of money this way. Read more about affiliate marketing and other ways bloggers can make money.
Total time: It can take quite a while to build an audience. Setup: With blog templates, building a site is easy. How easy to start: Starting is not that difficult. Creating regular content may be another matter. Age threshold: Any. Payment speed: A month or two, on average.
6. Sell your wares on Etsy
Have a penchant for woodworking, jewelry-making, embroidery or pottery? Sell your goods on Etsy, the go-to site for artisans selling home goods, art and knickknacks. Etsy boasts almost 82 million active buyers and grossed over $10 billion in merchandise sales in 2020, according to the website. Learn more about how to make money on Etsy.
Total time: It might take quite a while for customers to find you. Setup: Can be quite involved. How easy to start: Leaning toward "hard" on the difficulty meter. Age threshold: 13+. Payment speed: From the next day to seven days after a sale.
7. Get advertising revenue from your blog or YouTube channel
Turn your cat videos into cash videos. If your YouTube videos or blog posts draw a big audience, you may be able to make money from advertising. With Google AdSense, businesses pay to advertise around your content. The service is free, but there are requirements you must meet. Read more about how to make money on YouTube and Google AdSense.
Total time: It can take several weeks to get up and running. Setup: Not that hard. How easy to start: Depends on how good you are at producing interesting videos. Age threshold: 18+. Payment speed: Could take a long while to earn the first payout; then monthly.
8. Become an Instagram influencer
Companies are using Instagram influencers — people with large, dedicated followings on the platform — to rep their products. You can get in on the action by applying for opportunities via a marketing platform like Open Influence or AspireIQ, or by contacting the brands you want to work with. Read more about how to make money on Instagram. (You can also make money on TikTok this way.)
Total time: You'll need to stick with it. Setup: Quick and easy. How easy to start: Not that easy. It's a very competitive platform. Age threshold: 13+. Payment speed: Varies on partnerships.
9. Monetize your Twitch channel
Gaming could be a way to make money from home if you have a steady following on Twitch, the go-to site for gamers. Broadcasters can receive donations from viewers and even get a share of subscription and ad revenue if they reach Affiliate or Partner status. Learn more about how to make money on Twitch.
Total time: This can be a long game. Setup: Quick and easy. How easy to start: Easy to start; takes a while to build a following. Age threshold: 13+. Payment speed: Monthly.
» MORE: How to make money as a kid
10. Sell your photography
Turn your photographs into cash via sites like Fine Art America, which lets you upload your images to sell as prints, T-shirts, phone cases and more. Other marketplaces for photographers include SmugMug, 500px and PhotoShelter. Some sites require a subscription but may provide features ranging from cloud storage to password-protected galleries and a customized website.
Total time: Buyers need to find you — and like your work. Setup: Just a few hours. How easy to start: If you have a library of photos, you're on the way. Age threshold: Any. Payment speed: Depends on your sales platform.
How to make money from home
Some side hustles don't even require you to leave the house. Or if it does, it might just be a short walk around the block with a furry friend. Working from home requires a little creativity and a stick-to-it spirit.
Here are some excellent ideas for work-from-home gigs:
11. Become a dog walker or dog sitter
Love dogs? Make money by becoming a dog walker. Apps like Wag and Rover offer on-demand dog walking, so you can pick up walks when your schedule allows. If you have space (and your landlord’s permission, if you rent), you could offer overnight dog boarding. Read the fine print if you sign up for these services
Total time: Building a client base may take some time. Setup: Takes about a week or so. How easy to start: Love pets? You're good to go. Age threshold: 18+. Payment speed: Two days to a week.
12. Sell unused gift cards
Make extra money by selling unused gift cards on a site like CardCash or GiftCash. These websites say they will pay you up to 92% of the card’s value. On CardCash, you can also trade in your card for one you’ll use. Read more about what to do with unwanted gift cards.
Total time: Depends on the popularity of the gift card. Setup: Easy. How easy to start: The more gift cards you have to sell, the better. Age threshold: Old enough to have a credit card. Payment speed: Varies by sale method.
13. List your spare bedroom on Airbnb
Renting out your home or spare bedroom on vacation rental sites is another way to make extra money. Be prepared to spend some money to clean and keep up the property, replace home goods and pay toward service fees. And scrutinize your rental agreement before you get started.
Total time: Demand drives success, and that depends on your location. Setup: A listing can be created and live in hours. How easy to start: If you have a place to rent, it's a simple process. Age threshold: 18+. Payment speed: About one day.
How to make money offline
There's online and at-home ways to make extra money — and then there's a third alternative: offline. This version of the gig economy may require a little more legwork, but the upside can be substantial. Here are offline ways to make money:
14. Sell your gently used clothes
Selling clothes you no longer wear is a quick way to make some money. Start with local consignment shops for faster cash or use sites like ThredUp and Poshmark to find buyers. If you go the online route, be sure to take clear, well-lit photos of your pieces and research similar items to set competitive prices. Get tips on how to sell your clothing.
Total time: Varies by sales channel. Setup: Easy and fast. You can simply go to a consignment shop or fill a box with clothes and send it in. How easy to start: Easy. Cleaning out the closet may be the hardest part. Age threshold: Any. Payment speed: Varies by sales channel.
15. Trade in old phones, electronics for cash
Have an old phone, iPad or gaming system lying around? Sell it on a site like Swappa or Gazelle. Check out Amazon’s trade-in program, which pays participants in Amazon gift cards — and eBay, too. If you’re in a rush, try an ecoATM kiosk, which offers cash on the spot for your device.
Total time: Lots of options, so your time spent will vary. Setup: A breeze. How easy to start: Easy. Have phone, sell phone. Age threshold: Any. Payment speed: Varies by where you sell.
16. Get a babysitting gig
Everyone from college students to recent retirees can make money by watching other people’s children. Word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family are still a great way to get started, but you can also create a profile for free on Care.com or Sittercity to expand your reach. Note any specialized skills, such as CPR certifications, to make yourself more marketable.
Total time: Online setup takes minutes; neighborhood referrals may take a while. Setup: Just minutes. How easy to start: Getting the word out is the main thing. Age threshold: Very young if you're using referrals. 18+ online. Payment speed: When the parents come home.
17. Rent out your car
City-dwellers often don’t use their cars for days or weeks at a time. That idle time can translate to extra money with services like Getaround and Turo, which let you rent out your car by the hour or day. You take home the majority of those earnings, while Getaround or Turo takes a cut for protecting your car while it’s being rented.
Total time: Demand for your car will depend on the local market. Setup: It takes about a half hour to set up an account. How easy to start: With an appropriate vehicle, it's easy. Age threshold: A valid driver's license and 21+. Payment speed: Varies by site.
18. Sign up for TaskRabbit
If you actually enjoy putting together Ikea furniture or standing in long lines, you may be cut out for doing tasks for others. Websites like TaskRabbit can connect you with people who need help with a variety of things, such as moving, cleaning, delivery and handyman services. The site also offers several virtual and online tasks, such as helping with a research project or data entry. Read about how to get started on TaskRabbit.
Total time: Local demand for your skills will determine the time you spend. Setup: A couple of hours, then some time for approval. How easy to start: Easy, though you'll need to do some research. Age threshold: 18+. Payment speed: A few days after a job.
19. Become a private tutor
Parlay your math, science, foreign-language or test-prep expertise into a lucrative side gig by becoming a private tutor. You can tutor people online or in-person. What you charge can depend on your experience, expertise and what’s in demand. To get started, see what types of tutors are needed on Craigslist or create a profile on sites like Tutor.com or Care.com. You can also advertise your services at local schools and community centers.
Total time: Varies by subject matter. Setup: Can be a bit involved. How easy to start: Students will have to find you, and that might take a while. Age threshold: Any. Payment speed: Usually pretty fast; often right away.
20. Drive for Uber, Lyft
Join Uber or Lyft (or both) and make money by driving passengers around. Just don’t forget to factor in gas and maintenance costs. You need an eligible car in good condition and must agree to a background check and a review of your driving history. Learn more about what it takes to drive for Uber and Lyft.
Total time: Depends on your market demand. Setup: A few weeks. How easy to start: Not difficult, but you'll need the right type of vehicle. Age threshold: Licensed to drive in your locality with one year of licensed driving experience. Payment speed: Very fast. Either instantly or within days.
21. Make deliveries for Amazon, Uber Eats
Take advantage of the growing delivery trend and sign up for a service like Instacart, Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash or Amazon Flex. You get paid per delivery, in most cases, and can even earn tips. A car isn’t always required — Postmates and, in some cities, DoorDash, lets you use a bike or scooter to make deliveries. However, a background check almost always is part of the deal. Learn more about how to get started with Amazon Flex, Uber Eats and Instacart.
Total time: Depends on your market demand. Setup: About a week. How easy to start: Easy, if you have dependable transportation. Age threshold: 21+. Payment speed: Varies by vendor.
22. Find work as a housesitter
If you’re willing to watch someone’s home — and maybe feed the pets, water the plants and take out the garbage — become a housesitter. Tap your personal network for referrals or try out HouseSitter.com, which connects homeowners with housesitters. People often make $25 to $45 a day, according to the company’s website.
Total time: Depends on your market demand. Setup: Minutes — or more if you try to drum up business by referrals. How easy to start: That can depend on the need in your area. Age threshold: Varies by site. Payment speed: At the end of a gig.
23. Sign up to be a mystery shopper
Businesses often want to know how they’re performing from a customer’s perspective. Sign up to be their eyes and ears. You can apply online via sites like IntelliShop, BestMark and Sinclair Customer Metrics. Just beware of scams and do thorough research before signing on.
Total time: Varies by site. Setup: Applying takes little time, but approval can take a while. How easy to start: Relatively easy if you have required transportation and tech. Age threshold: May vary by site, but typically 18+. Payment speed: Varies by company.
24. Find seasonal work
Need a gig for a few months? Try something seasonal, like being a lifeguard, shoveling snow or working at a retailer during the holidays. Employers typically staff up a month or two before their busy season, so plan ahead to get on their payroll. Check storefront windows, Craigslist and local classifieds for seasonal opportunities.
Total time: Varies by job. Setup: Job searches and interviews can take weeks. How easy to start: Not difficult, particularly if you have skills that fit your market. Age threshold: Minimum age depends on the job. Payment speed: Varies by company.
25. Put your drone to work
The market for drones is expanding. Companies hire out work like aerial inspection, photography and land mapping. So if you’re already a drone enthusiast, why not make extra money with your aircraft? You first need to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration and obtain certification from them for commercial use. Then, you can apply for gigs as a drone pilot. Learn how to make money with drones.
Total time: Depends on demand. Setup: You'll need to make time to pass a test. And then find clients. How easy to start: If you already have a drone, you're likely qualified. Age threshold: 16+. Payment speed: Varies by company.
Watch out for making money scams
The internet is full of opportunities to make money online or from home, but many are questionable, if not outright scams. Be wary of any “opportunity” that asks for an upfront fee, wants you to pay for certification, or requests your Social Security number or any financial information, such as your credit card number.
Still unsure if an opportunity is legit? Look for community forums, like those on Reddit, for unfiltered reviews and complaints. (Workers on TaskRabbit, Uber and Lyft, for example, each have their own subreddit.) Also, check if the company has a Better Business Bureau profile. The BBB assigns ratings based on reported complaints, business transparency and other factors.
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» LEARN: How to make money online in Canada