With salaries up only 1.7 percent for the year--a repeat of last year's meager 1.6 percent--many Americans must look beyond their regular jobs to boost their incomes. There are ways to make extra money, some of them new, others tried-and-true, says Randall Hansen, founder of the career development website Quintessential Careers. Couple your ingenuity with your skills and, in some cases, Internet-based opportunities, and you can expand your bottom line even in these tight times.
Crowdfund your invention. As recently as a few
years ago, inventors required bankers or venture capitalists to realize
their ideas and move them to the marketplace. Now, crowdfunding sites
like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com allow anyone to raise money from
friends and strangers who want little more than to help bring an
offering to life. Of the more than 30,000 projects successfully funded
on Kickstarter since its 2009 launch, the vast majority have been the
work of an individual, not companies, says a Kickstarter spokesperson.
One recent project sought $250,000 to mass-produce "Impossible Instant
Lab," a cool gadget that turns your digital iPhone pictures into actual
Polaroid analog photos. Users set their phone screen onto a cradle atop
the lab and press a button. The lab then spits out a picture.
Contributors who pledged $149 or more received, at minimum, a discount
on a limited edition Lab with free film. The largest givers received
To participate on Kickstarter, you simply create an online
account, write a brief description of your vision (in a few cases, like
technology projects, Kickstarter requires a working prototype); decide
what goodies to offer donors in exchange for their financial
contributions, such as an early sample of the product or a phone call
from you; and designate a total dollar target. The site usually emails
you within one to two days as to whether your project has met its
guidelines--which include fitting into its established categories
ranging from art, publishing, and games to music, film and
technology--and is accepted. You only receive money if you reach your
goal within the specified time period, which can be anywhere between one
and 60 days. Kickstarter deducts a 5 percent fee, but only if you hit
your target. Several projects have raised more than a million dollars,
but the company says the average is about $5,000. And, for many people,
that can be the difference between getting their product to market and
leaving the idea in their desk drawers.
Indiegogo is more wide open. It does not vet its projects and
offers participants the option of collecting contributions even if they
don't reach their targets. The fee is 4 percent if you reach your goal
and 9 percent if you fall short.
One other point to consider: In September, Kickstarter ranked
348th in the country in site traffic, according to the traffic monitor
Alexa.org, compared to 759th for Indiegogo, which means it offers a
significantly larger donor pool for participants to tap into.
Moonlight. Some 3.6 million Americans took on a
second job part time in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Aside from providing extra money, holding additional jobs
can help you explore a potential career or learn skills that may apply
to your primary employment, Hansen points out. Moonlighting often brings
to mind holiday hiring by retailers, which can yield attractive
discounts, too. In general, though, you will make better money
capitalizing on your specific work skills, he notes. For example, if you
have writing talent, can design websites, keep business books, pet sit,
or fix computer problems, you can advertise your services on sites like
Craigslist or offer your talents directly to local businesses or
You can also teach what you know to others as a tutor. Gaye
Weintraub, 38, of Katy, Texas, has done this since 2009, when she began
supplementing her full-time paralegal income by helping local students
with their English writing assignments. Soon, she expanded to additional
subjects: creating a PowerPoint presentation, photography, elementary
math, study skills, and how to use YouTube and other online websites
(which she taught to a 93-year-old client, among others). After
Weintraub was laid off in 2011, her thriving side business provided a
valuable safety net. She has since expanded it to include writing and
other freelance work in addition to tutoring.
Besides spreading the word locally, would-be tutors can post
their offerings on websites like Tutorspree.com or Wyzant.com. And
people who are strong in math, science, or other sought-after school
subjects can teach individual students online through websites like
Share your home. One way to lower monthly
housing costs is to take a renter into your home. According to the U.S.
Census Bureau, 6.2 million adults lived with someone who wasn't a
relative in 2010 (the most recent figures), up from 5.3 million in 2007.
When her marriage ended and her women's clothing business went on
the rocks two years ago, Beth Gross-Santos decided to rent out two
bedrooms in the five-bedroom, Portsmouth, N.H., house that she shares
with her teenage sons. Thanks to the Indian, Polish, and Peruvian
natives she has rented to so far, the living arrangement not only pays
nearly half of her mortgage and home equity loan, which she took out to
try to save her business, Gross-Santos says, but it has also turned her
home "into a mini-United Nations, which has been great for my boys."
City dwellers who don't want to take on a long-term tenant can
consider hosting tourists passing through town. Mikey Rox and Everett
Morrow regularly rent the guest bedroom in their New York City condo to
visitors who pay nearly $90 a night. In three years, they've made more
than $75,000 by advertising on Craigslist, and Airbnb.com and
roomorama.com, which both take a percentage of the total booking fee
paid by the guest. Rox and Morrow tend to prefer guests referred through
the latter two sites because they gather more information on travelers,
which seems to invite better behavior. They have had a couple of
unpleasant experiences over the years of petty theft, says Rox, but
ultimately, "the pros outweigh the cons."
Be sure your rental complies with local laws and your condo or
homeowner association rules, cautions Annamarie Pluhar, author of Sharing Housing: a Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.
You will have to pay taxes on the income, but you can deduct a
percentage of your mortgage or rent, electric bill, and maintenance
costs based on the size of the space you're renting and how many days it
was occupied. Before anyone moves in for longer than a weekend,
everyone should agree on shared living rules, including cleanliness
standards, chore distribution, guest policies, daily routines, and
acceptable noise levels, Pluhar says.
If it's a more permanent arrangement that you're looking for,
potential roommates can be found through Craigslist or paid services
like Roommates.com, which match landlords with would-be tenants
registered on the sites.
Turn a hobby into cash. Craft sites like Etsy
and ArtFire aren't just for artists selling their works; people make
money selling a wide range of products, including handmade furniture and
purses. Two years ago, Dennis and Sylvia Lai of South Florida decided
to turn the wedding favor they had created for their own nuptials two
years earlier into an offering on Etsy and other sites. The Lais mix and
design unique blends of spices and seasonings, then personalize the
bottles with photos and descriptions of the bride and groom.
So far, they've brought in $7,500; not enough to quit their day
jobs (yet), but "we get to express our creativity and also bring in
bonus income," Dennis says. Etsy takes a cut from each sale amounting to
3.5 percent of the sale price; ArtFire charges sellers $12.95 per
In some cases, you can cut out the middleman and sell from your
own website. Although Jennifer James McCollum bought her first camera
only five years ago, the executive director of the nonprofit Oklahomans
for the Arts, in Oklahoma City, has turned her budding love of
photography into a profitable side business. The thousand dollars she
averages each month taking commissioned photos for various organizations
around the state, as well as selling notecards through her personal
blog and online sales page, "has been enough to pay the monthly mortgage
for the past three years," she says.
Meanwhile, the explosive popularity of eBooks has made it much
easier to turn your prose into extra income. In 2010, Web strategist
Scott McIntosh dashed off a 61-page eBook based on his knowledge of
search engine optimization, then uploaded it onto the websites of Amazon
for the Kindle and Barnes & Noble for the Nook. While Google Juice may not ever be a bestseller, it has netted McIntosh several thousand dollars.
Not a techie? Free software, such as Calibre, can be found online
that will convert your Word document into all the popular eBook formats
with the click of a button.
Create an app. Benny Hsu knew nothing about
programming when the 35-year-old manager of his family's Jacksonville,
Fla., restaurant seized on an idea last year that he thought would make a
perfect iPhone app. What soon became the hot selling Photo 365 enables
users to take and save (or post to a social media site) a single photo
each day, in effect creating a visual diary of the year.
Hsu's total cost was just $1,900, much of that the fee he had to
pay the programmer he found by posting at Elance.com. Odesk.com is a
similar site that he now also uses to find other contractors. The $.99
app proved so user-friendly it was featured by Apple, and it has so far
earned Hsu $55,000. He recently released his second app, Gratitude 365, a
daily diary of appreciation.
Programming for the increasingly popular Android phones may be
even easier to accomplish, now that Google and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology have launched a new online tool, App Inventor
(appinventor.mit.edu). "It's a real game-changer in that it was designed
so that folks with no experience can begin building apps almost
immediately, without learning to write code," says David Wolber,
professor of computer science at the University of San Francisco. Other
resources for navigating the app world are iPhone Application Development for Dummies, Android Application Development for Dummies, and Wolber's tutorial at Appinventor.org.
Profit from your videos. Professional filmmakers
aren't the only ones who can make money from their creations, as Wayne
Perry of Schenectady, N.Y., discovered this year. Like millions of other
parents, Perry had filmed his newborn's first moments in 2010 and
posted the results for friends and relatives to watch on YouTube.
Because his newborn had grabbed hold of the doctor's instrument, Perry
intriguingly titled it: "Newborn baby helps doctor cut umbilical cord"
A few months later, Perry was shocked to discover that his home
movie had reached 50,000 views. Last October, when it hit 750,000 (it's
now 1.7 million, and growing), he signed up for Adsense
(www.google.com/adsense) and checked the box allowing commercials to run
before his four-minute video. Since then, between $1,000 and $1,500
each month has been automatically deposited in his bank account. Of
course, luck also plays a role: Perry has since uploaded several animal
videos, but none has made even close to that amount.
Another way to profit from your videos is to sign up for the free
YouTube Partner Program (www.youtube.com/yt/creators/partner.html). In
effect, this gives you your own "channel" on the site, something that
may be worthwhile if you plan to upload a series of well-done works with
a common theme. Humor represents four out of the top five channels on
YouTube. Gaming represents the fifth. Anyone can opt in to monetize his
videos if he is the intellectual property owner, confirms YouTube
spokesperson Kate Mason, who notes that thousands of channels brought in
six-figure incomes this year. In addition to allowing ads, the program
offers training and mentoring to improve your video skills.
Cobble together odd jobs. People with access to a
computer can get paid to do a variety of unique activities on their own
timetable, says Christine Durst, a home-based career expert and
co-founder of RatRaceRebellion.com. Each assignment pays from $5 to $50.
-- Put your high-speed Internet access to use securing tickets
for popular concerts and other events. Ticketpuller.com pays an average
of $10 to $20 for successful "pulls," which usually consist of more than
one ticket--and you use their money for the purchase, not yours.
Because tickets are sold to the buyers at face value, this is perfectly
legal, the site says. Your commissions are drawn from a percentage the
client pays as a "convenience charge."
-- Individuals who need someone to physically check something far
from where they are--whether it's a pricey item they are considering
buying on eBay or the status of their rental home after a
storm--describe their request on WeGoLook.com, which pays $25 and up for
each completed task.
-- Act as a juror and render a nonbinding verdict for legal cases
online, at eJury.com and JuryTest.com, as a way to help lawyers test
the strength of their case. Pay is from $5 to $50, depending on the
-- Provide candid feedback via audio and video of your gut
reaction as you visit and navigate a designated website at
Userlytics.com, which charges companies for this valuable information.
You get $10 and up per completed review.
Ask for a raise. Wages are stagnant in many
sectors, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to get a raise.
Especially if you are a top performer, you may be able to make a
successful case, Hansen says. According to a study by Towers Watson, a
professional services consulting firm, companies are planning to give
pay increases averaging 4.7 percent in 2013 to exempt employees
receiving high performance ratings. The key to getting a raise is
documenting everything so you can make your case with specifics. Keep a
log detailing all your accomplishments both at and away from your job,
including new degrees or certifications and ways you've saved the
company money or have enhanced revenues.
In addition, it's smart to carefully research, through industry
associations and sites such as Salary.com and SalaryExpert.com, the
going salary for someone with your education, skills, and experience.
When you meet with your boss, don't say you are asking for extra money
because you need it; instead, make the case for how you've strengthened
the company's bottom line. If the type of job you have doesn't directly
lead to profits, you'll likely have a tougher time, but it still may be
Whether you think you can get extra money or not, be sure to get
your annual review. This is the best way to identify the skills your
boss believes you need to develop to earn a raise or a promotion, if not
now, when the economy eventually improves.