How to Make a Living in the Share Economy
This is a guest post by Saul Of-Hearts: a writer, video editor and all-round freelancer. After 5 years of living in LA, he recently made the move to Portland, Oregon. His e-book, The Lateral Freelancer, goes even more in-depth into his experiences with the Share Economy.
Over the recent winter holidays, I spent most of my time relaxing in my backyard in LA, working on a few blog posts and earning about as much as I would have earned at a day job. All of the pieces that I’d set up had fallen into place.
A few days earlier, I’d lent out my car to a woman through a site called RelayRides. Her driving record had been verified and she was covered with a $1m insurance policy.
I was also hanging out with a friendly dog called Louie. His owners had dropped them off that week after finding me on a site called DogVacay. Likewise, the exchange was covered with a substantial insurance policy and 24/7 on-call support.
Gone were the days on hunting on Craigslist for jobs, negotiating with clients, tracking down late payments and squabbling over invoices.
A significant portion of my income over the past year came from the Share Economy. In this post I’m going to explain the concept and perhaps inspire you to join me in a rather unusual approach to Leaving Work Behind.
What Is the Share Economy?
The Share (or “Sharing”) Economy refers to any number of sites that have one major thing in common: they help people pool excess resources.
Do you have a car that you rarely use? An extra room? Even a parking space? As Carrie and Fred from Portlandia would say, “Rent it out!”
I first got involved with the Share Economy when my roommates and I had an extra room in our house in LA. It was too small for a long-term roommate, but just the right size for short-term guests. We bought an air mattress, put up an ad on Airbnb, and pretty soon we were renting it out to guests from all over the world at around $40 per night.
Not only did it help us cover rent and other expenses, but we met some really awesome people whom we still keep in touch with. For them, staying at our house was cheaper than saying in a hotel and they had locals to turn to for travel tips and advice.
That’s the great thing about the Share Economy: it allows you to earn some extra cash with minimal effort and also connects you to people in your community and across the world. Now, I’ll have hosts to stay with when I travel to their part of the globe.
More Sites to Choose From
Maybe you don’t have the extra space in your home or a car to rent out. What other options are there? Well, for any skill or resource you have, there’s probably a site for it.
If you love to cook, Feastly and EatWith will pair you with local food enthusiasts who will pay for a seat at your table.
Vayable lets you list tours and experiences for visitors to your neighborhood. Gigwalk sets you up photographing and mystery shopping at local businesses.
Many of my friends in LA have teamed up with Lyft, which is something of a rideshare-meets-taxi service. Or, you can offer up a bike on Spinlister.
The options are near-endless.
For several years, I ran the occasional gig via TaskRabbit. Rather than “temping” with a major agency, I got to work one-on-one with local entrepreneurs and businesses.
It kept my schedule open — I could pick and choose which days to work — and I got plenty of tips and take-home gifts from various projects.
How to Get Started
I recommend picking one or two sites to start with, putting together a profile, and getting a feel for how they work. Most of these sites have a similar template: you’ll connect to your Facebook or LinkedIn account, verify your identity in some way, and, once you complete a transaction, have the chance to review and vouch for anyone you’ve worked with.
Unlike Craigslist, where most of the time you don’t know who you’re dealing with, you’ll always have the option of looking at someone’s profile before agreeing to (or declining) a deal.
I can’t promise that you’ll have as much luck as I did. I was fortunate to be living in LA at the time, where nearly every one of these sites are active and popular.
But even sites that are based in the U.S. often have overseas counterparts. For example, there’s TaskRabbit in the U.S., TaskPanda in the U.K., and AirTasker in Australia.
There are also location-specific sites like ParkCirca (for parking spots in San Francisco) or CampInMyGarden (backyard camping in the U.K.).
Earning money via the Share Economy is not quite “passive income” — you’ll still have to do some work to arrange for bookings, run tasks, etc. — but it’s a great supplement to what you may already be doing on the side. (Remember to take into account any local regulations that may apply. Some cities have restrictions on room rental and car-sharing services, and any income that you earn through these sites may be taxable.)
My experiences allowed me to build up countless connections and dozens of clients and learn plenty of new skills along the way. It enabled me to devote myself to writing and editing while picking up side gigs that I enjoyed doing anyway.
I could never have left work behind without it.
Photo Credit: Jonathan McIntosh