How to grab your piece of the sharing economy
I recently went on a short vacation – just a four day long weekend. Plans came together quickly and a little suddenly, but I had everything covered except for one thing: my dog.
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve always been able to drop my dog off with a friend or family member eager for a four-legged house guest. This time, however, no one was available.
I don’t have anything against dog kennels, but I really liked the idea of my dog staying in someone’s house. I just didn’t think anyone’s house was available. Until I found out about Rover.com.
On Rover I could view the profiles and reviews of nearby animal lovers who would watch your pet in their home for a modest fee (way less than it would cost to board). I found a great spot for my pooch and he had a good time with a new friend while I went off on vacation.
The Peer-to-Peer Economy
Selling your time, your space, your possessions, or your unique skills directly to consumers isn’t a new idea by any stretch. Humans have been doing that…pretty much forever. The internet, however, has rapidly changed the nature and breadth of those transactions.
eBay opened up the concept of person to person direct sales across great distances. You used to take out an ad in the local newspaper and your potential audience was limited to the people who bought that newspaper (and looked in the personals). The internet allowed users to find their audience, no matter how far away.
Craigslist expanded the idea of what you could offer to your fellow consumers, but there was no buffer between parties. That kept transactions cheaper, but less safe. There was no third party guaranteeing that you would get what you were paying for – whether it was a used couch or someone to help you move that used couch into a new apartment.
Your living room as a hotel room
Arguably the most successful model in the new peer-to-peer economy was created by Airbnb.com, a site that allows anyone with a living space to monetize that space and become something of a temporary bed and breakfast. Suddenly the things that you possess – including your skills and knowledge – can go out into the world and make money for you. From the other end of the equation you can also save a lot of money by tapping into these networks of inexpensive labor and short-term peer-to-peer rentals.
So what might work for you?
Own a house/rent an apartment? Sites like Airbnb allow you to market and rent your home or spaces within your home. Going on vacation? Get a house sitter who’ll pay you to watch your house. The benefit of using a third party vendor (besides making it much, much easier to find your customers) is they’ll (usually) insure the transaction, which alleviates some of the fear inherent in letting strangers stay in your home.
Own a car? Cars are expensive, but there’s a ton of ways to make money with your car. RelayRides and GetAround are services that allow to you make short-term car rentals from people in your own neighborhood. Own a car you don’t use very often? Let it make you some money.
Meanwhile, sites like Lyft and SideCar basically serve as cheap taxi alternatives. If you’ve got a car, you know your way around, and you like meeting new people, you can sign up and start ferrying your neighbors around. All payments are considered “donations” to get around the sticky legal issues that come from playing taxi driver without the proper licenses.
None of those options really work for you? There’s also FlightCar, which may be an appealing option if you fly often. When you sign up for FlightCar you get to park your car for free, plus you get a free car wash while you’re out of town. The catch is that your car is then available to be rented out while you’re out of town. If it gets rented you get a check when you return. If it doesn’t get rented, you still get free parking and a nice clean car.
Like animals? Rover and DogVacay are examples of pet sitting sites that help you find a temporary home for your pets while you’re out of town. You can also hire in-home sitters or arrange to have a sitter come and visit however often your particular creature requires. If you love pets and have the space and the time, becoming a pet sitter might be a good way to earn some extra income.
Own cool/useful stuff? Do you really need to own a ladder? Probably not. Ideally you’d just borrow one from a neighbor, but maybe you don’t know your neighbors well enough to feel comfortable going door-to-door asking for a ladder. That’s where sites like NeighborGoods come in. They allow consumers to rent household goods for cheap. Ladders, power tools, lawn mowers, party supplies – anything you’d need rarely, and usually for much less than the local rental store.
Spinlister lets you rent out things like bicycles, skiing supplies, and camping supplies. Never gone camping before? Not sure if you’ll ever want to go again? You might be better off renting a tent for a few bucks rather than buying a new or used one outright.
Do you have spare time, unique skills, or a strong back? Finally, you don’t even need stuff to make extra income in the peer-to-peer economy. Sites like Zaarly and TaskRabbit allow you to market yourself – your special skills or even your non-special skills. Some people just need help with simple chores around the house. Again, by using a third party vendor, consumers can feel slightly more confident about inviting strangers into their homes knowing that the vendor is accountable for anything that goes wrong.
The peer-to-peer market is going to continue to evolve (Airbnb alone has had such an enormous impact on housing markets and the hotel industry that the state of New York is currently attempting to ban the site from operating within the state), but there’s a lot of money out there for those willing to work for it. If you've got time, talent, an able body, and valuable possessions you can now turn those things into extra income at the mere click of a button.