Beer-Money Jobs: Non-Transcription Edition
June 6, 2016 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I am in need of a way to make some small amount of money in the short term. Can you help me brainstorm some legitimate ways of making money while still being available to my "real" job? Or alternately, some legitimate ways of finding these jobs. (By legitimate I mean, "is not a Ponzi scheme, and will in fact pay actual money for goods or services.") Main restrictions: no transcription jobs, because my hearing is poor, and no driving-based jobs, as I have no car.

I work full-time as a freelancer, and have been super lucky and busy for almost 4 years now. But I've finally hit a hiccup--a big one. Four of my projects have had their start dates pushed back over the last month, leaving me mostly twiddling my thumbs. I have good reason to believe that all of them will eventually start (and probably all at once, natch). This could happen in as soon as 2 weeks, but could take 4 weeks or even 6 before it picks up full steam.

In the meantime, I am losing my mind from boredom. So I would like to find a thing to do that fills up my days and makes a few bucks, but which I could ideally drop with zero notice if/when things pick up.

There are a few limits:
-Transcription-type projects/companies such as Rev are out, because I'm a little too hard of hearing for that kind of work.
-Uber and Lyft etc are likewise out, since I have no car.
-I do not know how to code anything. But I am generally competent at using/learning tech and have done a small amount of beta testing/QA stuff in the past.
-I do not have any retail experience to speak of; however, I'm applying everywhere anyway.

Other than that, though, I am college-educated, skilled in editing and writing, physically healthy (not very strong or big though--moving companies are pretty much out), and utterly without any sort of criminal record. I'm in Chicago, if it matters.

So what jobs am I not thinking of? Where should I be looking? Is Mechanical Turk still a thing? Was Craigslist EVER a thing? Is Task Rabbit basically a rip-off or is it for real? And yes, I've checked the MeFi Jobs board.

All help, as always, appreciated.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Work & Money (25 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
How much money do you want/need to make? Where do you live? How much time do you have to invest? Do you have any skills or tools that could be parlayed into a profitable side gig? I feel like I can't even start to think of a good answer without knowing some of this stuff. I mean, we could be talking anything from building Adirondack-style furniture to writing for a content farm to starting a dog-walking business here. (All legitimate answers, but I have no idea of any of them are remotely appropriate for you.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:50 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and how much money are you willing to put in up front to get started, if any?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2016

Why not a temp agency? Kelly Services, Manpower, etc.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I needed some extra cash for a trip I had planned so I picked up a waiting tables gig for like 5 weekends then quit. Kind of a shitty thing to do to the restaurant, but whatever.
posted by greta simone at 3:05 PM on June 6, 2016

How much money are you trying to make? There are online survey taking sites that I use sometimes when I'm between jobs. It's usually $10-20 (either in cash or gift cards). Enough for a little bit of spending money or to knock a little bit off the price of something you really want.
posted by Kimmalah at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

How much money do you want/need to make? Honestly, whatever I can get? Like, $100-200 a week would be super-great-awesome. Not tryin' to fund my retirement, just hoping to pay for a few beers/not feel like a waste of space.

Where do you live? (As I said, Chicago)

How much time do you have to invest? This is a tricky one. Right now I've pretty much got all day, every day - but in 2, 4, 6 weeks? I could have zero hours available. Or 10. Or 20.

Do you have any skills or tools that could be parlayed into a profitable side gig? Not really my goal. When my job goes well I work 60-80 hour weeks; I don't want a long-term side gig that I have to develop and constantly be nurturing.

Oh, and how much money are you willing to put in up front to get started, if any?
Bus fare to get to and from a place? That's about it.

posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2016

Promo work from the Event Gigs listing on Craiglist? I've done that a few times and it's mostly weekend work, which sounds like it might work for you.
posted by jabes at 3:13 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Where do you live?

Apartment? House? Garden? Might be handy.
posted by howfar at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2016

Apartment? House? Garden? Might be handy.

Apartment, no garden.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:18 PM on June 6, 2016

I do not know what the most popular sites are anymore, but there should be places where you can bid on small copyediting (possibly even copywriting) and proofreading jobs.

There's also cater-waiting, though I understand these days you pretty much have to know someone (but you might actually know someone who has an in) and have experience, but it's worth looking into.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:26 PM on June 6, 2016

I think if I were in your position then, of wanting basically unlimited flexibility in terms of time, not wanting to put any money in up front, and not wanting to run an ongoing side business, but being willing to accept a pretty small amount of profit, I'd start hitting up Craigslist's gigs section and looking for jobs that seem OK to me. For me that would be physical labor stuff, for you it might be something else, but there are lots of options. If you have some people who would be willing to provide references for instance, you might be able to find short term house- and pet-sitting gigs that wouldn't take time away from your work at your real job (assuming that all you need is a laptop and WiFi to work).

You could also sell stuff on eBay, starting with your own possessions and then branching out from there. Find a few saleable items that you don't need anymore, and put them up on eBay to give yourself a little bankroll. Then start hitting up thrift shops and yard sales, looking for undervalued items that you can re-sell. I'd recommend doing some research first and focusing on one or a few types of item, since you need to be knowledgable enough to know what you're realistically likely to get for that old lamp or whatever. You can make a buck this way (or even a living, depending how far you take it) but you need to be finding and hitting those yard sales first thing (Craigslist is your friend here) so that you can have a shot at the good stuff, because you're not the first person to have this idea by any means.

EBay isn't your only venue, either. Some people specialize in books; there are apps you can get that will scan a barcode and tell you what a given book is going for used on Amazon. Other people sell vintage clothing and jewelry on Etsy, though that takes a little more time because people expect more of a curated experience there with nice product photos and such. Again, there are lots of people already doing this and some of them have connections that give them access to the cream of the crop, but if you only need to make a little bit of side dough then this may be an option for you.

Those are the first ideas that come to mind, anyway! Good luck finding something that works for you!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:28 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Based on your update I'll reiterate my suggestion of temp agencies -- your situation is really exactly their basic purpose. Short term jobs (a day, a week) at minimum wage, with little-to-none training. When I've done it (close to a decade ago, in Illinois) I did:

-- warehouse sorting (1 day)
-- administration of a computer-based survey to casino employees (3 days)
-- low-skilled factory work (sonic welding) (2 weeks)

I'd recommend applying with Kelly and Manpower and seeing if they have anything for you.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:32 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

You could pick up some work on Mechanical Turk, Fiverr, or Taskrabbit (which could be writing/editing stuff, running errands, or something weirder depending on your inclinations) -- none of those pay very much but none of them will bat an eye if you suddenly drop off the grid because your real work picks up again.
posted by babelfish at 3:39 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's been a long time, and for all I know they're terrible to work with now, but I had good luck with this temp agency in Chicago. It helps if you can type pretty fast and know how to use Microsoft Office.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:40 PM on June 6, 2016

From an anonymous Mefite:
I earned a couple hundred bucks just sitting and talking about my history of anxiety and depression with a PhD psychology student at Stanford. No injections and no blood testing were required. I did have to sign a lengthy contract about how I wouldn't sue them. You might want to check out your local universities.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:41 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

My mother in law paid for a family vacation picking up gigs on If you can show a decent portfolio, you might be able to pick up some work there.
posted by anastasiav at 4:06 PM on June 6, 2016

If Paypal cash, Visa reward cards, or miscellaneous gift cards (including Amazon) would work for you, Swagbucks could earn you a bit of money without too much time outlay and zero skill. I wouldn't consider it something to keep a person occupied, though. Might be a good supplement?
posted by moira at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2016

Barista, barback, busperson, dishwasher, host or hostess, cocktail server. If you live in a place with restaurants, are reliable, and learn any of those skillsets quickly, you can probably get a few shifts a night. Learn to expo the hot line and/or be a floating manager and you might have to say no to more work. Your hearing issue might be a problem for any of that, and beware, it can be a nuthouse in food and bev, but it might be worth exploring.
posted by vrakatar at 5:35 PM on June 6, 2016

Check out and other usability testing sites.

Sign up for consumer or medicals tests at your local universities.

Sell your blood plasma. has many from home writing and editing jobs. Unlike most work at home sites the ones listed there are usually legit.

If you have good credit and are well organized consider credit card churning.
posted by aerotive at 5:38 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

you could be a dog walker with Wag, my friend is doing it for actual rent/life money in nyc right now and has not yet starved to death so i guess the money is ok.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:50 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

(and they work in chicago as well, i should have mentioned)
posted by poffin boffin at 5:51 PM on June 6, 2016

You can potentially earn some money being a mystery shopper. Generally you have to apply to the mystery shopping company, and then do some tedious and detailed task which you then write up and answer incredibly detailed questions about, and then get paid 60-90 days later.

If that sounds appealing, the job board I help work on is here. You'll see lots of links to lots of different companies; their payment and application processes vary.
posted by contrarian at 7:23 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you need the money? Because taking a "beer money" job while you have some downtime just because you're "bored" could inflict a real opportunity cost on your business.

Two opportunities I can think of (that you may be passing up on by taking on a Joe job):

1) Take some time off, read a book, start a new hobby

If you have a number of projects starting up, you're going to be busy. Why not use this time to get organized with your self-care (establishing good sleep hygiene, exercise, menu planning), or self-actualization (building up momentum with a new or existing hobby).

In short, use the down time to invest in your mental and physical health.

2) Invest in yourself

The problem with freelancing is that if you're not working you're not earning, so there is a tendency to "make hay while the sun shines". The problem with this is that it doesn't leave you any time to build up your skillset so you can take on better jobs that pay you a higher hourly rate.

So why not use this time to invest in a webinar or two that build up your skills? Or, you could use this time to polish your online presence. You could also use this downtime to research new clients.

Basically I am a fan of "working smarter", not "working harder." Not all work is created equally, and some work will actually send you further from your goals in the long run.
posted by My Dad at 7:36 PM on June 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

There's a company called BoostMedia where you write Google ads (those little ads in blue ink that show up on the side when you search for something). The work pays ok. I don't think I'm at liberty to say exactly what the pay rate is, but more than mechanical turk, etc where you're working for pennies or a few dollars an hour. If you're fast, you can probably make $20/hr. The work is pretty simple and you get to be creative. It was actually fun while I did it. They are reliable/pay for your work. They pay through Paypal one a week.

The down side: the interface is glitchy (maybe they've fixed it by now). There were times when I finished an ad and the interface had issues and I never got to turn it in - super frustrating.

The work isn't steady. Well, maybe it's more steady now. I'd recommend Boost more as a way to make a few bucks in your spare minutes than as a steady stream of work.

Textbroker is good for writing short articles. Your pay rate depends on your quality of writing. You have to submit a writing sample and they rate you before and if they accept you. Most of the work available (again, maybe it's different now) is writing articles advertising some product for a company, but there are also to a lesser extent requests for articles about various subjects. If you like writing and are an expert in a subject or are good at quick but effective research, this might be a good option for you.

You could try Odesk (though I think they changed their name recently) and similar sites for office type work. Maybe you can find jobs in the field you already work in.
posted by atinna at 8:00 PM on June 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

Seconding Textbroker; I made up to $75 a day writing at the local library a few years back when I was living in the woods behind it, at least on days when I lucked out and there were available assignments I already knew enough about not to have to research and the computers weren't too in demand. They paid on Fridays like clockwork, though you had to have earned a minimum of $10 and request your payout a couple days in advance. About the time I stopped, they had introduced an editing job market in addition to the writing market, so if you're not a fast typist but are conversant with AP style, you could try that.

Mostly it was ad copy, so pretty boring, but occasionally I got to write about more fun stuff like the pink Harley for charity or the preferred fabrics for ladies' undies. And sometimes the ones I had to research were fun, too, because I was essentially getting paid to learn about something new.

I also did some Mechanical Turkage around the same time, but it was tough to find tasks that paid enough to be worth the time. I think I spent more time looking for them than doing them, but when I did find good ones, they were fun (identifying things in photos, for instance) and it also paid reliably, which is apparently a problem with lots of beer-money type sites.

Good luck!
posted by MoTLD at 7:06 PM on June 10, 2016

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