by Carson Kohler (Staff Writer)
Updated June 6, 2023
Wondering how to make money without a job? A real job? Well, by “real” job, we mean your classic 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday desk job.
Unless you win the lottery or strike inheritance gold, you can’t really live without an income. But you might be able to replace your day-to-day with more flexible side gigs and forms of passive income.
Whether you’re unemployed, disabled, a stay-at-home parent, retired or simply want some extra income, here are ways real people have made money without a typical job.
33 Ways to Make Money Without a Job
1. Invest in Real Estate (Even If You’re Not Rich)
Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.
Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.
This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).
(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since 2014, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)
You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.
Success story: Katie Smith, who recently graduated from Georgetown University, invested in real estate with Fundrise.
“I own a piece of an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” Smith says. “Property on the West Coast. Bits and pieces of apartment complexes in Texas and Denver, a construction loan, a mixed-use property.”
2. Squirrel Away Your Spare Change
Investing is a great way to potentially make some extra money.
If you’re not sure where to start, Acorns is an investment app that collects your spare change and dumps it into the stock market for you.
You can connect your debit and credit cards, and Acorns rounds up your purchases and squirrels away the change. For example, if you go to the grocery store and pay $32.02 for groceries, 98 cents goes from your account into Acorns.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders get a $20 bonus for signing up.
Success story: When Chicago meter reader Jeremy Kolodziej committed to two major trips in July 2017, he effortlessly saved more than $2,000 — and earned some returns — with Acorns. “It’s a virtual coin jar,” he explains. “You don’t even think about it.”
3. Share Your Opinions (Not on Twitter, Please)
These days, too many people resort to social media to share their opinion — wanted or not. But some companies do want to hear what you have to say. And they’ll pay you.
Survey sites are a great place to snag some extra money and gift cards.
One option? MyPoints.
You can earn gift cards for taking polls and filling out surveys. Once you complete your first five surveys, you’ll earn a $5 bonus.
Success story: We’ve talked to a lot of folks who’ve had success with survey sites, including Sarah Houston, a 26-year-old nanny and business student. By taking surveys, she’s earned $600 in about three years.
“I get the majority of my earnings from surveys [versus other activities on the site],” she says. “They run the gamut from financial services to radio music to food to restaurants to shopping.”
4. Help Make the Internet a Better Place
If you have excellent handwriting skills and a set of calligraphy tools, you can address envelopes. You could make $2 to $5 a pop just for being a talented calligraphy writer.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but book a wedding with 100 guests, and you could rake in $200 or more for handwritten invites.
Launch your own website to sell your services, or offer calligraphy through Etsy.
Success story: Margo Dittmer gets creative with her calligraphy services and sells custom wedding certificates for $175 each on Etsy.
5. Shop Through This Site to Score $10 Plus Cash Back on All Purchases
Remember when getting the mail was fun? Now it’s just bills. And Valpak envelopes.
But what if you could get a surprise check in the mail? Yup, one that you can cash into your bank account. Real money.
Rakuten has the hookup with just about every online store you shop, which means it can give you a kickback every time you buy toilet paper from Walmart — even book that flight home for Thanksgiving.
Rice says she uses Rakuten for things she already has to buy, like rental cars and flights. She even used the money she earned to help her pay for her recent cross-country move.
It takes less than 60 seconds to download the free Rakuten browser extension, create a free account and start shopping. All you need is an email address, then you can immediately start shopping your go-to stores through the site.
Plus, if you use Rakuten to earn money back within the first 90 days of signing up, it’ll give you an extra $10 on the first check it sends you.
Success story: We talked to Denver, Colorado, resident Colleen Rice, who says she uses Rakuten for things she already has to buy, like rental cars and flights. Since she started using Rakuten, she’s received checks in the mail totaling $526.44 — for doing nothing.
6. Get a $5 Amazon Gift Card For Playing Words With Friends
Got some free time on your hands? Go ahead and grab your computer or phone and a beverage of your choice and get comfortable on the couch.
A free rewards website called Swagbucks will pay you to take surveys. Yup. All you have to do is answer some questions about yourself, and you can get paid.
It takes seconds to sign up, and you can even earn a $5 bonus.
Success story: We talked to one Swagbucks user in Pennsylvania, 52-year-old Carolinda Hendrickson, who earned $1,200 in a year. Not bad for something you can do from your couch!
7. Invest 15 Cents Into the Stock Market
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: 15 cents? How’s that going to do me any good?
Well, that leftover change from your morning coffee and evening grocery hauls could turn into more than $1,000.
That’s what happened when Penny Hoarder reader Jeremy Kolodziej opened an investment account with Acorns. The app’s round-up feature bumps each of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into the stock market, which helped him mindlessly save $1,076 in about 20 months.
“It’s a virtual coin jar,” he says. “You don’t even think about it.” He used the spare change to pay for two vacations.
Plus, Acorns invested the money for him, allowing him to grow his savings — without studying stock prices or managing trades.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
8. Spend $1 to Own a Piece of Amazon, Google or Other Companies
Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and you’ll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common — they own another company.
But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.
That’s why a lot of people use the app Stash. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — buying pieces of other companies for as little as $1.*
That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google or Apple, for as little as $1. The best part? When these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.
It takes two minutes to sign up, plus Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**
Success story: Meet Robyn Bri. When we chatted with her, she was 19 and had more than $85,000 saved. How? She had a number of side hustles growing up and has been incredibly frugal. But she’s also been extremely savvy with her money and started investing ASAP.
9. Design and Sell T-Shirts
If you’ve got a creative streak — or know a catchy pun or two — consider putting your designs on T-shirts and selling them through Merch by Amazon.
Upload your T-shirt designs to Merch, then, when customers buy your designed shirt, you don’t have to worry about production, shipping or customer service. Amazon handles it all for you.
Success story: Personal finance expert Jen Smith earned more than $11,400 in 2018 through Merch. One of the keys, she says, is to spend time researching what kind of T-shirts people want.
10. Start Freelancing
Have you got skills? Can you shoot photos, edit videos or design websites? Can you write blog posts or code? Can you draw?
Why not list your skills on Fiverr, an online marketplace for creative freelance services?
Gigs on Fiverr range from standard data entry and research tasks to the truly out-there. On any given day, sellers in the “Fun & Lifestyle” section are offering thousands of unique services — from polishing a Tinder profile to creating a family tree.
Success story: Charmaine Pocek joined Fiverr back in 2011. With experience as a corporate recruiter, she advertised her resume-writing services. When we chatted with her in June 2017, she’d made about $1.2 million through Fiverr.
11. Get Paid to Lose Weight
Bottom line: HealthyWage will pay you to lose weight. How’s that for motivation?
Here’s how it works:
- Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
- Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
- Place a bet on yourself of at least $200 a month.
Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000.
Success story: Katelyn Pincock and her husband, Cort, bet $75 per month for six months. She wanted to lose 40 pounds, and he wanted to lose 60. They met their goals and ended up winning almost $3,000.
12. Rent out That Unused Baby Gear
OK, so your baby’s grown. Well, maybe not grown — but little Tim outgrew his crib a few years ago. Yet there it sits.
No, no. Don’t go all Marie Kondo just yet. Why not turn that unused baby gear into some cash? Online marketplaces like BabyQuip allow parents to list strollers, car seats, cribs and other baby items for rent.
Why? Well, families with young children who are traveling can’t necessarily carry a crib onto a flight.
Success story: Stay-at-home mom Manuela Madrid listed her baby gear for rent on BabyQuip. She works less than 12 hours a month but makes $120 to $180 with each rental. Not bad for items she’s already stocked!
13. Sell Your Smartphone Photography
Those thought-out photos you take can get you more than just Instagram likes.
Consider uploading your iPhone photos to stock photography sites. You likely won’t become a millionaire, but a site like Foap will split the profits with the photographer evenly.
Success story: Brad Hines, a passive income expert, uploads his iPhone photos to stock photography sites. He says not to worry about getting the most perfect professional shot; many of these sites are trying to get away from the “perfect” photo and are looking for more realistic images.
14. Sell Stuff Through Amazon’s FBA Program
If you’re looking for a hands-off way to make money selling, well, anything, the Fulfillment by Amazon program (commonly referred to as FBA) could be what you’re looking for.
Here’s how FBA works: You send products you want to sell to Amazon. It’ll house them in a warehouse until someone buys the items. Then, Amazon handles the entire process from packing and shipping to handling returns and customer service inquiries.
Success story: We chatted with Tyler Philbrook, who’s made some serious money through Amazon. He did $74,000 in sales through FBA in 2018, which equated to about $15,000 in profit. (Yes, there are costs and fees involved.) This, he said, was a result of doing it very part-time — a true side hustle.
15. Sell on Etsy — Without Crafting a Thing
Millions of folks shop on Etsy to find the perfect birthday present, bachelorette party supplies or customized T-shirts. And, yes, traditionally items sold on Etsy must be handmade or vintage, but did you know you can also sell craft supplies and tools?
This alleviates the hours you put into your work and simply allows you sell the supplies to folks who want to tap into their creative sides.
Success story: Janet Berry-Johnson, a CPA and freelance writer, earns an extra $200 a month on Etsy — without crafting a single thing.
She loves cross-stitching but knows selling her own designs isn’t a moneymaker. Instead, she buys kits and patterns at local thrift stores for a few bucks each and marks them up anywhere from 400% to 1,200% for Etsy buyers.
16. Search for Unclaimed Money
State treasuries throughout the U.S. have had more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds at one time, according to The New York Times.
To see if you have any unclaimed money, check with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. (Beware: There are several look-a-like sites out there. Be sure you’re searching legitimate ones.)
Success story: Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice, performed a quick search and found unclaimed money in her husband’s name. Sure, it was only $56 in an old insurance claim, but that’s not bad for an unexpected check, right?
17. Walk Into (and Shop at) Stores
No extreme physical activity or pulled muscles required for this money-making trick. All you need to do is download the Shopkick app.
Once you sign up, the app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, T.J.Maxx and more). You can redeem them for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy.
It pays you even more kicks for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you purchased in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases. You don’t have to do anything; your linked cards will automatically apply your kicks.
Success story: Shopkick fan Khiem Nguyen has earned more than $400 in gift cards from Shopkick in four years.
18. Get Paid to House Sit (and Even Travel)
Are you obsessed with HGTV and those dream homes? Well, you could get paid to hang out in one with a house-sitting gig.
Choose to housesit in your neighborhood or find gigs across the world (free travel accommodations!). Check out these five house-sitting websites to get started. A few have annual membership fees, but the experience — and income — could be well worth it.
Success story: We wrote about Canadian couple Dalene and Peter Heck, who traveled the world via house-sitting gigs — from Honduras to Paris.
19. Become an Instagram Influencer
In the age of social media, you can make money doing just about anything, including posting to Instagram. Yup, the photo-sharing platform hit more than 1 billion monthly users in July 2018, according to TechCrunch, and users are learning how to capitalize.
Your first step? Find your focus. Next? Amp up your follower count. Companies will pay to tap into your audience. Get as big as Kylie Jenner, and companies just might be willing to pay you $1 million per sponsored post, according to Hopper HQ’s 2018 Instagram Rich List. Crazy, right?
Success story: OK, so we’re not all a Jenner, but you can still find success. For example, Shelcy Joseph makes $1,600 a month through Instagram. She manages an account with her sister, and they split the income — that $1,600 is after the split.
The duo, who have more than 10,000 followers, makes money from sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, YouTube advertising and private consultations.
20. Offer Babysitting or Nannying Services
If you grew up babysitting or raising your kid sister, why not advertise some part-time nannying services?
Reach out to tired parents in your neighborhood, ask your family members who have little ones or list your services on Care.com.
Rates on the platform will vary by city, but the average rate for babysitters in 2017 was $16.20 an hour, according to Care.com’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey.
Success story: David Cahill and his wife, Meg, made more than $75,000 from side hustles in 2018, thanks, in part, to babysitting gigs. Meg made $15 to $25 an hour in their southwest Michigan community.
21. Test Drive Cars
Yes, you can get paid to test drive cars.
Try looking into a mystery-shopping company like BestMark, which will pay you to go out and test drive cars, among other tasks. Basically, companies pay BestMark to gain intel on their employees, products and performance. It’s like “Undercover Boss,” but without the obnoxious wigs.
Success story: The Penny Hoarder’s founder, Kyle Taylor, used to do automotive mystery shopping and reported earning $60 for each dealership he visited. Sure, he had to listen to the sales pitch, but, really, that’s not too bad for less than an hour of work.
22. Get Paid to Draw
Are you an aspiring artist? Do you want to get paid for your art? It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Success story: We talked to one artist who earns around $2,000 per month selling his art online. He markets his business through Instagram. His advice? Start small. Create marketable products. Push yourself.
23. Write Greeting Cards
Even in this digital age, greeting cards are still a thing, and you can contribute. Yup — some greeting card companies will pay you for your words, art or photos. We put together a list of seven card companies that’ll pay you up to $300 for accepted submissions.
Success story: Freelance writer Tyler Omoth has gotten paid up to $50 a piece to write greeting cards.
24. Become a Voiceover Artist
No, you might not be on Kristen Bell’s level, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. Voiceover work is a flexible way to make some extra money on the side — and from home.
Not sure where to start? Look into Voices.com, an international online voice-over acting marketplace that helps vocal talent — both professional and amateur — find clients who need them.
Success story: Janna Polzin, a stay-at-home mom in Toronto, earns money as a voiceover artist. She finds gigs through Voices.com. “I often walk away from my computer thinking, I can’t believe I just made money from that!” she says.
25. Play Trivia Host
Grab a sharp pencil and a mug of cheap beer, because it’s trivia night!
Trivia nights are great fun — but have you ever considered playing host? It can be a fun side gig, perfect for those with big personalities and endless trivia knowledge.
Success story: Greg Tipton is a trivia host in Seminole, Florida, once a week and earns an extra $125 a week.
26. Start a Calligraphy Side Gig
Cursive handwriting lessons might be fading from the classroom, but the world of calligraphy is booming.
Many calligraphers are in high-demand and find themselves working on a variety of celebrations and other projects. Think: Save-the-dates, baby shower invites, bachelorette party and wedding invitations and even envelopes.
Success story: With rates for envelope addressing alone ranging from $2 to $5 each, calligraphy could be a lucrative side hustle.
We interviewed four successful calligraphers who shared their tips on maximizing your chances of success. One piece of advice? Invest in a starter kit, and practice!
27. Start a Blog — and Monetize It
So you want to start a blog… Cool! It’s going to take some real dedication, but it could pay off.
We recommend you start by building up high-quality content. Then you can look into advertising platforms like Google AdSense, a tool that automatically serves your readers display ads. You’ll get paid when a reader interacts with the ad. See how that goes, then you can consider jumping into affiliate marketing.
If you want all the details, check out our guide to starting a blog, gaining page views and monetizing it.
Success story: Helene Sula is a professional travel blogger who visited more than 85 cities last year and earned $200,000, in part through her blog, “Helene in Between.”
28. Be Someone’s Friend
Hmmm… Sounds a bit odd, right? Well, it’s possible! People are paying to rent friends, and you can be that friend!
The RentAFriend business has been around since 2009, and it offers platonic friendships. Create a profile as a “Friend,” and earn up to $50 an hour by attending concerts, sporting events or dining out.
You keep 100% of your earnings.
Success story: Lauren Little is a friend… who can be rented. Penny Hoarder contributor Patrick Grieve rented her out for two hours and paid $100 for her friendship.
29. Create an E-Course
Are you an expert in anything? You might not think so, but consider what you studied in school, your hobbies and passions — even those thousands of YouTube tutorials you’ve watched on random subjects.
Now, take that knowledge, and share it in an online course. We put together some tips on creating online courses. You’ll probably want to work on a platform like Udemy or Skillshare. Once you create the course, you’ll be good to go. Passive income, baby!
Success story: Former math teacher Rob Percival created four courses covering various programming topics and made more than $1 million in nine months.
30. Become a Wedding Officiant
Do you love love? Are you good at speaking in front of large crowds? Why not try your hand at officiating a wedding? After all, you can get ordained online — for free.
Success story: We talked to Yvonne Doerre, who got ordained online for free. It took about five minutes. At the time, she’d officiated about 20 weddings in the Washington D.C. area and charged between $300 and $500 per wedding.
31. Become a Movie Mystery Shopper
Theaters and movie studios want to collect data about the audience that attends their movie premieres. They want to know how many people buy tickets on opening day, which screening time is most popular and which previews are being shown. And they want independent data from third-party evaluators… That’s where you come in.
As an evaluator, you’ll perform “in-theater checks.” That basically means you go to a movie and observe your surroundings. You can usually expect to make between $10 to $20 per hour.
To apply as a movie mystery shopper, you’ll need to fill out an application with one of the largest mystery shopping companies, Certified Field Associates. The application is just a few questions long, and nearly everyone in the United States and Canada is eligible.
Success story: When he was just getting started, The Penny Hoarder CEO Kyle Taylor used to get paid to attend movie premieres. He got paid $30 to see a “Harry Potter” premiere!
32. Sell Flea Market Gems for Profit
If you frequent flea markets or the “freebies” section of Craigslist, keep your eyes peeled for items you can resell for a higher rate.
Before you buy, get an idea of how much the item can sell for so you’re sure not to waste money.
Success story: Rob Stephenson calls himself the Flea Market Flipper and has made up to $30,000 a year finding and selling flea market gems. Once, the Orlando, Florida, man found a $30 prosthetic leg and turned around and sold it for $1,000 on eBay, his go-to selling site.
33. Self-Publish a Book
Always dreamed of writing a book?
These days, it doesn’t require waiting around for a publisher in New York City to pick up your novel. Instead, you can publish a Kindle book for free. It also takes less than five minutes (not including writing time, of course), and your book will be available to millions of readers within 48 hours.
You’ll earn up to 70% royalty through Kindle Direct Publishing. You’ll also keep the rights to your book, set your own list prices and can make changes within the book after publishing.
Success story: Self-published author Steve Gillman wrote about ultralight backpacking, a subject he was very familiar with. After publishing his ebook, he started making as much as $350 a month without any promotion. He said the sales eventually slowed, but they can continue for as long as the book exists.
*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
**You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.