How does one convert idleness into currency, sans boss?
January 6, 2009 6:37 PM   Subscribe

What are some interesting ways people have used to make money, without having a job, per se? (Legally, I mean.)

I'm a student in an urban area. I'm relatively broke right now and the thought of asking Mom and Dad for (more) money is really getting me down.

I could go bus tables or wash dishes, but I don't want to. I need some way of selling my time that will make me proud. Experience has taught me that being elbow-deep in suds and other people's food scraps is generally bad for my spirit.

I'm applying for jobs that are more to my liking, but it's looking like it might be a little while before I'm able to land one. Now I'm thinking, as a survival strategy for the next little while, it might be best to make up my own job, and just hire myself.

Has anybody ever successfully made money using nothing but their wits? What, specifically, did you do? How much did it make you?

I have the following assets:

-I can write PRETTY well, though I might not be a good enough copy editor to do the I-will-edit-your-essay-for-$$$ thing.

-I can perform repetitive work for a few hours at a stretch, quickly.

-I have a house located centrally in my city and a bike to get around on, though I am definitely not cut out for bike-messengerhood.

-I have 20 to 30 hours per week to devote.
posted by AAAA to Work & Money (17 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Amazon's Mechanical TURK thing is.... interesting, to say the least. I've tried it, ad made a few cents. The problem is, you start out doing very low-paying work, so this may not be the best option. Still, if you find a job where you're sitting at a computer with nothing to do, this can help you make a bit on the side.
posted by Night_owl at 6:46 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know someone that became an errand-runner type person for too-busy types. She put up little ads in health food stores and yoga places advertising her services. Mostly, she did things like pick up the dry-cleaning before it closed, go across town for some special kind of pet food, and occasionally some present shopping. It was all very personal but easy stuff to do. She charged about $15 - $20 an hour. (Usually one errand or so.) And she could work on her own time (or at least dictate it - 'available anytime Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday'.)
posted by typewriter at 6:49 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could look into dumpster diving- I've had some pretty good finds out back of pizza places after closing. It might not take care of money issues, but it will alleviate it.

You don't want to wash dishes? In my experience, dishwashing at better restaurants really isn't that bad, ESPECIALLY if there's a staff meal. Of course, this is all a function of how badly you really want the money.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:53 PM on January 6, 2009

A seller of plasma is always an option.
posted by Sailormom at 6:56 PM on January 6, 2009

Sign up with a temp agency as grunt labor and you can get random jobs like organizing someone's office, filing a bunch of stuff, shipping, receiving in a warehouse etc. gigs are usually only 1-3 days long so you get a new one before you get bored.
posted by fshgrl at 7:09 PM on January 6, 2009

House sitting? Dog sitting? I did that for a few months and made some okay cash.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:14 PM on January 6, 2009

Be a temp, or be a handyman(girl).
posted by davejay at 7:14 PM on January 6, 2009

i used to volunteer for MRI scans. not good if you're claustrophobic...but for me it was either getting paid to take a nap or play easy computer games or look at photos.
for me, an hour made up for half a day of dishwashing.

universities and research institutions usually have tons of ways you can participate in studies for money too. maybe start with checking the nearby universities psych pages or bullitin boards for the ones that pay. the bonus is that youre usually learning something interesting while you participate or when they explain the study.
posted by nzydarkxj at 7:14 PM on January 6, 2009

I knew someone who made like $12k a year dog walking (at an hour or so a day, that's just over a five hour work week). Took a while to build up the clientele though.
posted by salvia at 7:21 PM on January 6, 2009

Best answer: craigslist is your best friend. first i started by trying to sell off all my stuff that i wasn't using. clothes, furniture . . . then I started thinking about my skills and just posted some ads. i have an art degree, and did some face painting at a day camp i worked at a couple years ago. so i went out on a limb and posted an ad for facepainting at kid's b-day parties. and the response was . . . well, more than i expected! holy crap. I got some free business cards at and started handing them out at all the parties I facepainted at. and now people randomly call me for my services, having gotten my name from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend.

sometimes people will ask me if i dress like a clown. I don't (heck no), but the fact that they ask makes me think there's certainly a market for that too, if you can't paint. (although honestly, you dont have to be that good to facepaint!) you can also learn to twist balloon animals online. demeaning? yeah, kind of. lucrative? yes. and perfect for me, now a grad student, because I have no boss and can take or turn down any job i want. and they are always on weekend afternoons, so they dont really interrupt my social life. sometimes the parties are pretty fun, i ALWAYS leave with food and half the time the parents even offer me booze! what i'm getting at is, identify your unique talents and try putting an ad out there. maybe no one will buy it, but maybe someone will. or if you want more advice on how to get into the kids-party thing, send me a mesage.

it also never hurts to cruise the 'etc' or 'gig' jobs on CL. i've found some interesting jobs that way. obviously, be careful. but i've found that it never hurts to contact someone even if you arent exactly what they are looking for, because you may be the only one who responded. this is how i broke into body painting :-)

mechanical turk is . . interesting. it's certainly not a good way to try to make a living. but if you have insomnia at 3am and nothing better to do, you might as well sign on and make a few bucks instead of just reading MeFi and not making any money!!!
posted by lblair at 7:21 PM on January 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

I used to work at my university's computer lab at nights. My job was to remove printing jobs from the printer and put them in slots. Students would come to a window, and I would give them their documents. I spent 99.9% of my time reading, studying or surfing the web.

Great job!
posted by sswiller at 7:32 PM on January 6, 2009

While you would have a job/boss, political canvassing is often a good option for reasonably outgoing and well-spoken students in urban areas. I did it for 2 years in NYC and it was great. There should definitely be groups in your area hiring year-round as well.
posted by cheerwine at 8:18 PM on January 6, 2009

Go to the library and check out Earning Money Without a Job by Jay Conrad Levinson for a great list of practical ideas.
posted by velvet winter at 9:03 PM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you want to earn some money from your computer doing data entry or random administrative tasks you could try some of the freelancing websites around. Usually people who want to find someone to do some work post a job ad up, and people who want to do the job post a bid or application to get it, then the person offering the job selects one of the applicants to do it. There are plenty of such sites around, try googling for something like "freelance data entry" or "virtual assistant". I've personally used Getafreelancer and ODesk, but there are plenty of sites out there.

Some of the jobs listed will require specific IT skills (I'm a freelance web developer myself so I would mainly apply for those kind of jobs, but I also hire people for various tasks occasionally) but there is plenty of work that anyone could do with basic to intermediate computer knowledge. I used to get a few jobs through these sites when I was a student. Preferably make sure the site you're using has escrow or some other kind of payment system which protects you from getting screwed over by dodgy clients.
posted by Eastgate at 12:39 AM on January 7, 2009 [7 favorites]

For what it's worth, I just had a converation last week with a woman who was telling me about her friend's new money-making thing. Her friend works with older people looking to downsize their homes. She goes in, takes pics of their stuff, posts it on eBay, sells what she can, takes a cut and gives the rest of the money to the people. Says she has more work than she can handle.
posted by lpsguy at 7:02 AM on January 7, 2009

Here's your ticket to the big time...

Poop Scoopers Rake It In
(Chicago Trib)

Ron John Poo-B-Gone made $75K last year!
posted by ecorrocio at 7:50 AM on January 7, 2009

Response by poster: Two days after posting this question, somebody hired me for a job I think I'm going to love.

So I've got a boss now. But at least I don't have to scoop poop to live.
posted by AAAA at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2009

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