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Unconventional Online Jobs That Actually Earn Money

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.


There are a number of ways you could earn money online. However, there are a number of challenges in finding decent paying work online. Here are several unconventional online jobs that actually earn money, save money on your bills, or even a little of both.

The Online Garage Sale

This can start off as a way to earn extra money. Sell your stuff on sites like eBay, Etsy, Craigslist or Nextdoor. Dig through that pile of books you haven’t read and see if Amazon will give you Amazon gift cards in exchange for sending the books back. Note that you can often do the same thing with electronics and phones in good condition, selling them online through various sites or shipping them to the merchant in exchange for money.

This can become an online job, assuming you can find steady sources. You can find women hitting garage sales selling kid clothes, snapping up the brands that are coveted by customers. Maybe with a little mending or thorough cleaning, they can sell that $1 dress for $10 online. Or the clothes and purses they expertly pick out of the pile at the upscale neighborhood garage sale is where they sell the items for ten and twenty times as much through an ecommerce site. The beauty of this strategy is that you can start by selling items in your closet, sell items for friends on commission, and then scale up from there.

The best small businesses are those that you can scale as desired and don't cost a lot to run.

The best small businesses are those that you can scale as desired and don't cost a lot to run.

Survey Taker

It is possible to earn money as an online survey taker, though the sheer number of scams makes people afraid to even try it. Legitimate survey sites do not charge a sign-up fee. Legit survey sites don’t ask you to buy things on the mere promise they’ll reimburse you. Read third party reviews to verify that the site is both legitimate and pays out enough to be worth the effort.

You are paid in either money or points that can be redeemed for money or merchandise. You can maximize your earnings with sites by filling out a detailed personal profile, responding to survey invitations almost immediately, and providing as much information as possible. Note that you shouldn’t be asked for personally identifiable information like a copy of your driver’s license. Nor should you fall for scams that say we’ll offer you a modest payment if you sign up for subscription services or credit cards. After all, these subscription services are generally hard to cancel.

You also need to be careful of attention checks. Fail to properly summarize the survey in the validation section or rush through a screen that says pick D on this list to show you’re paying attention, and they may forfeit your rewards or even kick you off the site.

Understand the rules on the survey site. For example, your points may expire after a certain time, so don’t save them up only to lose them. Don’t give in to the temptation to buy merchandise with points when waiting another survey or two will let you redeem points for money. Don’t overpay for items, either. For example, you’re wasting money if you buy books or CDs for 10,000 points or roughly $10 if you could find it in the store for less than five.
You can maximize earnings with survey sites by positioning yourself for the maximum rewards. Be willing to have your face recorded via a camera as you watch a movie trailer instead of just giving your opinion of the trailer. Say you’re willing to attend focus groups or answer follow up surveys to be paid the highest rate. Or volunteer to review products that they send to you.

Being the Gopher

A gopher is the person in an office who runs various errands for modest pay. You can become a gopher of sorts by connecting with paying customers online. This can take a variety of forms. You could be paid through crowdsourcing platforms for sharing a link on social media, taking pictures of events you then upload on their platform, or completing data entry and data cleanup tasks. The latter is common on Amazon Mturk.

Another option is connecting with people who actually want to hire you to do something in the real world. Sites like Taskrabbit let you pick up someone’s dry cleaning, walk their dog or mow their lawn in exchange for payment. And the tasks can be more esoteric, such as writing someone’s name in the sand, creating videos on a topic, composing poems, or drawing drawings upon request. This is an excellent way to find a variety of clients who are willing to pay for personalized artwork, writing a quick essay, doing detailed research, recording audio, or crafting graphic designs. You could be paid for writing a blog post on your own blog or ghost writing an article for them, but you’re not locked into that the way you would if working on a site that only facilitates article writing. Nor are you writing blog posts in the hope that you’ll get ad revenue.

You could be paid for signing up friends with your electric company.

You could be paid for signing up friends with your electric company.

The Referral Business Model

This can be a good way to earn money if you’re good at selling but don’t want to buy items to sell to others. For example, you could find out if your utility company or cable service provider gives you an incentive for every customer you refer. Refer half a dozen friends to Ambit energy or another power company, and you could get half off your electric bill – or more. Refer that many to your cable company, and you may not have to worry about the cost of all those on demand videos you watched. If you’re really good, you could receive payments for your referrals, and that’s after you’ve reduced your monthly expenses. A side benefit on this approach is that if you get $300 off your electric bill, it is as valuable as earning $400, paying taxes on it, and paying your own bill. And the benefits will continue month after month.

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You could earn similar rewards for referring others to sign up with Amazon Prime or any subscription service you use. The point at which they stop discounting your bill and pay you directly depends on their program. But if you try it and aren’t good at it, you won’t have a closet full of inventory you can’t get rid of. Legitimate referral businesses won’t ask you to pay to sign up, and they will let you check dashboards to see how many paying referrals are credited to your account.

An alternative to this is selling items fulfilled by Amazon that you merely promote. You’ll need to market your ecommerce page, but you won’t have to handle the product purchases or fulfillment.


There are legitimate ways to earn money online that can scale up to a full job. Know what will work for you and what type of work you’re willing to do. And be aware of the warning signs so you can stay away from the scams.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Tamara Wilhite


Red River Rose on March 09, 2019:

Good article. I just bought the book.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 23, 2019:

Excellent article, Tamara. You are right. You can maximize your potential for financial rewards by doing a little research about online opportunities. I've tried several and right now, I'm pleased with HP, but I am always exploring.

As usual, you provided thorough information on the topic. You are a skilled and informative writer, Tamara, as well as a creative soul.

Thank you.

Much respect and admiration,


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