freelancers

Top 6 side hustles that earn the most money for 2017

Est. 5 min read

Taking on a side hustle is one of the best ways to earn some extra cash to supplement your income going into 2017.

If you’ve got the extra time, and the extra motivation, those extra dollars can come in handy towards paying rent, bills, credit card or student loan debt, building your emergency fund, or simply for some disposable spending money. With side gigging, you can make your own hours and choose the right hustle without the bustle of working a job you dislike.

With that in mind, taking on any old side gig is like accepting any job offer that comes your way — you could be selling yourself short with pay too low to make the experience worth the effort. Some are almost entirely passive income-generating, requiring little work on your part.

Here are some of the best side hustles if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck with your “free” time:

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Write for tourists

We previously endorsed becoming a docent or tour guide for college students looking to earn some extra money. If you’re acquainted with your local history, city or landmarks, a few websites will actually compensate you with pay versus the volunteer-only needs of many historical societies. (ToursByLocals.com and Vayable.com are two to start.)

You can take this a step further by becoming a freelance city guide writer as an ongoing side gig. Many travel and hospitality organizations and real estate agents need someone to author guides on their local coverage and neighborhood area.

If you’re up to the task and your writing skills are up to snuff, this could mean making $50 to $100 a pop just for writing about area demographics, shopping and recreational info, plus other data that visitors may want to know, like entertainment options, public transportation, seasonal weather, etc.

Airbnb your pad

If you’re the hospitable type, consider listing your apartment on sites like Airbnb, or VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). The rate you charge will depend entirely on the size and location of your apartment, plus the time of year. (Case in point: the average Airbnb price for one night in a downtown Cincinnati apartment during the MLB All-Star Game last year was $508!)

You don’t need to be out of town while you’re renting out your place, but if you are, keep in mind that you’ll be incurring travel expenses of your own. By taking on a B&B host role, the rates you charge can offset your costs.

Uber your car

Depending on who you ask/poll, ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft can earn you enough money to make you consider quitting your day job. A recent survey indicates that Uber drivers earn $19 on average over $6 an hour more than conventional cab drivers.

Your hourly wage may get decimated by expenses like gas, tolls or other costs, but it’s still a worthy side gig if you’ve got the time and know your neighborhood well enough to fit in some driving.

Be part of a focus group

Filling out online surveys is an easy way to make some side income — the only problem is that, like many other side hustles, you’ve got to hustle way too much to make it worth the money. (Think $5 or $10 per tedious survey.)

If you want to say no thanks to the above but still feel your opinion has monetary value, consider joining a focus group. Companies developing new products or changing old ones will often assemble focus groups to solicit opinions from its members on what changes the product may need before hitting the market, its pros and cons, etc. You might get asked what you thought about the new and improved flavor of an existing soft drink, for example, and your feedback will be part of the process if changes to the product are necessary.

Participating in a focus group can pay anywhere from $50 to $200 on average, though $350 per session is not unheard of, according to other sources. What’s great is that some are conducted online or over the phone, so you won’t need to leave the comfort of your zone. There are many research groups looking for paid volunteers; we suggest visiting FG Global or Find Focus Groups to start.

Donate hair, sperm, eggs

Whereas clinical trials are about testing drugs and interventions on you, many clinics will pay handsomely to get blood, plasma, eggs, sperm and more from you.

One cryobank online compensates healthy male donors up to $1,000 per month to donate sperm two to three times a week up to a year. For a side gig, that’s a potential $12,000 in earnings. Women who meet strict health and lifestyle standards may also be eligible to become egg donors and earn $8,000 to $10,000 per donation, according to one egg donor organization.

And if your locks are long enough, many sites online, including HairSellon.com, or even Craigslist, solicit healthy human hair used for wigs that pay up to $1,500 per donation. While not every donation calls for that much money, growing your hair out to donate once or twice a year can make for a nice supplement to your income. Punching in some numbers into the HairSellon.com calculator, a person who donates 36 inches of brown, virgin hair, three inches thick, is valued at $547.

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Participate in clinical trials

Participating in clinical and research trials is much more than getting poked and prodded for a price. Becoming a test subject in the development of new drugs or medical procedures can net you hundreds or even thousands of dollars for participating in a single trial.

Most trials involve testing for the safety of various interventions, and the effectiveness of treatments or medicines. You’d be among the first to test them out before they’re approved for the general public, so there’s always some risk or adverse effects that could occur if you volunteer for experimentation; however, these are controlled environments where doses are regulated safely, and your health history is screened before signing up.

How much money are you likely to earn? It depends on the study. Ongoing studies that may last anywhere from a few days to a few months are most likely to pay into the thousands, depending on the clinic or study host. (The most unique? NASA will pay you $5,000 a month just to lie in bed per a special bed rest study.) To get started, check with some local hospitals or medical foundations to see if volunteers are needed for any clinical tests, or visit ClinicalTrials.gov for a more comprehensive search.

There are hundreds of creative side gigs out there to pursue, but these six are a good place to start if you’d like to rival your full-time income with some lucrative earnings on the side. By finding the right side hustles — even if you participate just once or twice — you can begin to diversify and add more according to your interests and needs, working at your own pace and finding the jobs that suit you best.

Published on December 30, 2016

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As a personal finance journalist, Paul specializes in financial literacy, loans, credit scoring and the art of negotiation. He's covered some of the nation's most inspiring financial success stories for national publications including CNN, and US News & World Report and has a passion for helping Americans overcome their debt.
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