12 Novel Ways to Make Money In Tough Times

By allowing people to telecommute and work from home, technology and telecommunications have allowed consumers to become producers. Writers, musicians, photographers are creating, participating, and contributing. That’s what YouTube, Flickr, and millions of blogs are all about.

Now the economic recession is adding a personal urgency to for cash-strapped ordinary consumers. People are finding novel ways to make money on the side. And if saving is the new spending, then making money–by selling personal assets, properties and creations–beats saving hands down.

money

You can sell your insights to corporations, hawk your creative output to others, or even rent unused assets. This is all made possible by the online revolution and the democratization of supply and demand. And the whole thing is further fueled by the recession that leaves consumers strapped for cash.

You can use your experience, your ability to cut through the BS, and use what you know about business, marketing and advertising to stay in control of your destiny, be in charge. This new consumer-as-producer trend unlocks the need for control, the desire for status in a new way; it lets you be your own boss.

What’s more, as big business demonstrate again and again that they’re behind the times, you can create a niche startup and steal their show. Focus on what’s different, hard-to-find, special, vintage, quirky, and/or personalized. Without the massive overhead of big companies you can compete on price too; producing in quantity isn’t the only way to keep costs down.

Novel ways to make money? Here are some though starters. Do they all have issues that need to be figured out? Duh. If they didn’t everyone would be doing it, right? Anyway, we’re not saying these are great ideas themselves, we just want to start you thinking.

  1. Connect people who have parking spots to rent out with those who need them. If someone has a parking spot but is going to be away, or even room in their driveway at home, you can arrange to rent it. Let car owners book a spot for a single day for a sports event or shopping in the city, or week- or month-long periods. You make money by being in the middle.
  2. Round up empty storage space in warehouses, garages, even commercial storage facilities and re-rent it for the owner and you take a cut.
  3. Live in a tourist area? Connect people with suitable camping land with people looking for a place to park a trailer or pitch a tent. Charge for listing the spot and renting the space. Or start an online marketplace that allows locals to earn money by renting out extra space for hotel-weary travelers–not a B&B just a room for the night.
  4. Invest in solar power and sell excess electricity to the power company. California already has legislation that will allow it, and Michigan, Minnesota and Rhode Island are considering it. Ireland, the UK, Australia encourage it.
  5. Start an exchange for unwanted gift cards, CDs or DVDs. Figure out the value of each item and let members exchange or buy them. For a fee, of course.
  6. Start a rental business for odd or hard to find items–anything from silverware and dishes to boats.
  7. You’ve seen those cars that have been turned into driving billboards with wraparound plastic skins? What else can you do that with the idea? Boats? Mobile homes? Bikes? Houses? Clothing? Airplanes?
  8. Buy and sell unwanted jewelry. Allow sellers to become reps and earn commission on sales. Try a Tupperware-style approach and help your reps help their guests sell baubles they no longer want. You take a cut, of course. Don’t turn it into a multi-level marketing thing. They suck.
  9. Start a garden co-op and create a marketplace where people can buy, sell or trade homegrown produce or other products they make.
  10. Bring together people with something to send and drivers who are already planning a trip to a similar destination. No, shipping alcohol, cigarettes, wacky-weed and other drugs is illegal. Don’t go there.
  11. Start a pay-per-view blogging service. Let anyone set up a blog on your site and as soon as they produce, say,   5,000 page views per month send them a credit card with a credit balance. You make money from click through ads on the site and take a cut from the credit card company.
  12. Offer expert advice, anything from holistic life coaching or debt management to computer how-tos through a pay per minute call service.

You think these are silly ideas? Etsy has 200,000 consumers selling stuff, and over 3 million products. In 2008 they sold $87.5 million worth of stuff, and after the first two months of 2009 they’ve already produced sales of $20.2 million. Sure you could sell stuff there, but don’t you wish you’d started the company?

Ponoko allows people to make and sell everything from jewelry to furniture, and they invites shoppers to post requests for professional and amateur designers then bid on and create.

Let your mind run wild, then add a serious dose of reality. Stir and bake.

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