Work/Life Balance

How I Made An Extra $14,000 Last Year Using Apps

By | Monday, May 08, 2017

April means it’s tax time here in the Financial Panther household. As I was gathering up all my tax documents, I thought it’d be helpful to share with you exactly what I made in 2016 via the sharing economy.

Without a doubt, 2016 was my biggest side hustle year. Altogether, I pulled in a total of $14,181.43 by taking advantage of sharing economy apps like Airbnb, DogVacay, and Postmates! That’s a pretty surprising number to me, especially considering the fact that I spent essentially no money in startup costs, and that I made this money by doing things that I was already doing, anyway.

The key thing about this type of income is that, for the most part, anyone can do it. A lot of people in the online space detail the type of money they made through side hustling. Most of the time, much of their side income comes from writing or writing-related endeavors. This makes sense, of course. Folks in the online space tend to be writers and content creators. It’s natural that much of their side income would come from doing something they’re already good at.

The thing is, making money from writing is often not all that helpful for someone who’s trying to make some side money right away. I do think writing and blogging are terrific avenues to make money, but there are no guarantees, and unless lightning strikes, it’s likely going to be a slow process before you can begin earning significantly from it. It’s also important to remember that not all of us are natural writers or have that skill in our wheelhouse. I think we can all be content creators for sure. But not all of us were born to write.

That’s why I think this post can be a really useful source of information for anyone out there who’s wondering how they can make some extra money immediately. Being able to utilize the sharing economy is the way I make most of my side hustle income. And the great thing is that these side hustles are a low-risk endeavor. It doesn’t cost anything to get started. The sharing economy is one of the few ways you can start up your own business without spending anything to do so.

These side hustles also don’t have to take up too much of your time. All you have to do is monetize the things you’re already doing. I have a full-time and pretty demanding job during the day, yet I was still able to incorporate these side hustles into my life without losing a ton of my time.

Below is a breakdown of what I earned in 2016 through each sharing economy platform:

  • Airbnb: $6,762
  • Delivery Apps: $3,736.13
  • Dogsitting: $2,312
  • Selling Trash Finds: $906
  • Picture Apps: $465.30

Total: $14,181.43

You can see that about half of my side hustle income in 2016 came from Airbnb, with the remaining half coming from a combination of doing deliveries, dog sitting, and selling trash. Let’s break it down a little bit more.

Airbnb: $6,762

The biggest source of my side hustle income in 2016 comes from Airbnb. For most of us, if we own a house, it’s the most expensive thing that we own. It’s sort of fitting that it should be able to generate the most income.

Bringing in almost $7,000 from a spare room in my house is a pretty decent chunk of change. If I were to rent out the room to a traditional roommate, I’d bring in about $500 to $600 per month. That would also come with the downside of actually having to live with a roommate for an entire year. Instead, by utilizing Airbnb, I’m basically able to monetize my home while maintaining the flexibility of having the house to myself when I want it.

As a side hustle, Airbnb works particularly well if you don’t need the money in order to live. Our household can afford our mortgage without any problem. Since we don’t “need” the money, I have a lot of flexibility to block off days when I don’t want guests and to be a bit more particular about the guests that I allow into my house. The Airbnb income is really just icing on the cake for us — a way to make better use of our unused space.

Postmates/Caviar/DoorDash/Uber Eats: $3,736.13

Getting into the delivery game is one of the more unique things I’ve done and honestly, it is the side hustle that I have the most fun doing. Maybe it’s the game like aspect of it. I really enjoy turning on the delivery apps and getting sent on a little bike mission. Plus, it’s not often that a lawyer works as a delivery person in their spare time. It helps to keep me humble.

The great thing about doing deliveries is the fact that I’m able to get paid to bike around town. As a side hustle, I think doing deliveries on a bike is preferable to driving for Uber or Lyft. Most of us with day jobs spend eight hours or more per day hunched over a computer. Instead of spending more time sitting, I think it makes sense to get out on a bike after work and get a little bit of exercise.

Here’s the breakdown of my earnings in 2016 on each delivery platform:

  • Postmates: $2,956.48
  • Caviar: $679.97
  • Doordash: $82.17
  • Uber Eats: $17.51

Total: $3,736.13

Being able to stack multiple platforms is key to keeping yourself busy doing deliveries.  The good thing is that it doesn’t take much work to get signed up on each platform. Postmates, for example, doesn’t even require you to attend an onboarding session anymore. Uber Eats only required me to go to the office just to activate my account. And once you’re set up on a platform, all you really need to do is make a delivery on that platform every once in a while to make sure that you don’t get deactivated.

The main reason for the big differences in earnings has to do with how long I’ve been on the platform.  I signed up for Postmates back in October of 2015 and did Postmates deliveries throughout 2016 — hence why it accounted for a disproportionately large share of my delivery earnings. It also helped that back in October, I referred my fiance to Postmates and had her do 30 deliveries in order to snag a $500 referral bonus.

Caviar is another platform that I really liked, and it was actually my first foray into the bike messenger world. It opened up in the Twin Cities back in June of 2015, but unfortunately, it closed in this market back in June of 2016. As a result, the $600 I earned on Caviar represents my earnings up until it shut down.

Doordash and Uber Eats are both platforms that I only recently signed up for. At the moment, Doordash has a ton of potential, and my plan for 2017 is to work in more Doordash orders. Out of all the delivery platforms, Doordash is definitely the one where I think significant money can be made. The main reason for this has to do with the way tips are completed in the app. Customers are asked to tip before their order is received. As a result, most customers tip, since they’re afraid that they’ll get bad service if they don’t tip. In contrast, with other delivery services, it’s much easier to stiff someone on a tip after you’ve already received your food.

If you’re the type of person who likes biking, then doing deliveries is an easy way to pull in a little bit of income while also exercising your biking muscles. You won’t get rich doing deliveries, but when you consider the fact that you’re getting paid to essentially exercise, it makes doing deliveries on your bike much more valuable.

Making $50 a week doing a few hours of biking is easily doable. If you do that all year, that’s an extra $2,500 a year or so. That’s significant money. And, as a bonus, you’ll be getting a ton of good exercise.

DogVacay/Rover: $2,312

Anyone who owns a dog knows that, no matter what, your dog takes work. Every morning, I have to wake up and feed my pup and take her out on a walk. And in the evenings, I have to make sure I’m back home in time to feed her and let her out again.

By utilizing the sharing economy, you can essentially monetize your dog ownership tasks. If you already have a dog, it doesn’t add much work to take care of a second dog every once a while. That’s why dog sitting has worked out really well for our household. Our dog gets a puppy friend to play with, and we get to make additional money doing the dog care tasks we’re already doing, anyway.

Here’s the breakdown of my dog sitting earnings for 2016:

  • DogVacay: $1,530
  • Rover: $782

Total: $2,312

As you can see, DogVacay was the much bigger performer this year. For whatever reason, my listing continues to drop in Rover, and I can’t figure out how to drum up business on that platform. I suspect that 2016 will continue to see more DogVacay requests.

This is one of the reasons platform stacking is so important when using these sharing economy platforms. You never know what might happen on any particular platform, so it’s a good idea to get as many eyes on your listing as possible by getting your listing put up everywhere.

I find dog sitting fun, and it’s something that anyone who already owns a dog can probably do. This is especially true if you have a dog that already gets along well with others. In a situation like that, you’re not really adding on any additional work. Taking care of two dogs is often no different than taking care of one.

Trash Finds: $906

I’m thoroughly convinced that I could sell around $1,000 worth of trash finds every year.  Even after I moved away from that magic dumpster, I was still able to find a ton of trash to sell, mainly because of all the trash the college kids threw out during the moving season last August.

If you don’t think there’s a lot of trash out there, my advice is to keep an eye out. I guarantee there’s perfectly good furniture getting thrown out in your city every month. People are just wasteful. It really shocks me to see how much perfectly good stuff people throw out every day.

(In hindsight, I feel a little bad about my own trash history. Back when I graduated from college, I definitely ended up throwing away a bunch of perfectly good furniture instead of trying to sell it or give it away. A lot of it has to do with laziness. Most of us don’t plan ahead very well. Much of it also has to do with not understanding the value of our stuff. When we see something as trash, we assume no one else would possibly want it. You’d be wrong to think that. My experience selling stuff I find in the trash shows that there are a ton of people out there willing to buy our stuff.)

Being able to make nearly $1,000 from stuff I literally found in the trash is pretty amazing. Just take a look at some of the awesome stuff I found in 2016:

In terms of logistics, I sell all of my trash finds on platforms like Craigslist or OfferUp. If I find something small, I’ll list it up on eBay as well. The key with selling trash finds is to try to meet at a public place near your house. Most people on Craigslist or OfferUp will flake out, so you don’t want to waste your time meeting someone in a spot that forces you to travel. I always tell people to meet me at a gas station down the street from my house, and then to text me when they get there. That way, it’s on them to show up, and I don’t risk wasting my time on a no-show.

Ultimately, for me, selling trash finds is motivated by a mix of profit motive and trying to do my part to prevent waste. I feel pretty good knowing that I’m saving a perfectly good piece of furniture from ending up in a landfill. If I can make a little income from it too, all the better.

Picture Apps: $465.30

If you’ve been following along with my side hustle reports, you might notice that I’ve never talked about these “picture apps” before. To be honest, I’ve basically been forgetting about these apps because of the small payouts I receive each time. Surprisingly, though, once I added up my earnings, it actually ended up being a significant sum of money that I can’t ignore. So I figure I’d better share it with you.

I use three picture apps that help me to make a bit of extra money. The three apps are:

They all work in pretty much the same way. Companies often want to audit stores to make sure that their products are being properly displayed. Each of these apps typically lists a bunch of gigs that are available on a map. At each store that has a gig, you basically take pictures as instructed and then upload them in their respective apps.

In this case, my guess is that these wine companies were looking to make sure that their wines were being properly displayed in the store.

The one thing about these apps is that you have to take the pictures in secret.  Most stores prohibit customers from taking pictures.  If they catch you, they’ll often kick you out of the store.  I’ve personally only been kicked out of one store in my life.  Most of the time, I’m able to take my pictures pretty secretly.

As a side hustle, it’s not possible to survive off these. And I don’t think it’s worthwhile to travel to do any of these gigs. I basically use these apps to make a quick buck if I happen to be near a store with a gig opportunity. For example, there’s a liquor store near my house that often has these type of gigs available. If I happen to see it, I’ll usually just swing by the store on my way home from work. Or if I’m out doing deliveries, I’ll sometimes go into a store if I happen to be near one. Each gig pays a really small amount — usually somewhere around $3 to $7 per gig.

These are small amounts that don’t look like much. But surprisingly, they add up over the course of a year. Check out what I made on each of these apps in 2016:

  • GigWalk: $61.50
  • EasyShift: $153.80
  • Field Agent: $95

You need to be careful about which gigs you pick, though. EasyShift tends to have the most gigs, but they often have gigs that take way too long and are basically impossible to complete without being caught by a store employee. At this point, I know which ones to avoid, but I’ve had frustrating experiences going into a store and realizing that the gig was basically impossible to complete. Field Agent and GigWalk both tend to have easy to complete gigs that take a few minutes to complete. I always think those are worth doing if you happen to see one nearby.


I’ve also been doing the occasional gig using an app called WeGoLook. The concept for WeGoLook is pretty interesting. Basically, when someone gets into an accident, an insurance company will need someone to go and take pictures of the damage or accident scene. Instead of dispatching a claims adjuster to go to the scene, WeGoLook instead finds random people like me to go do it. Generally, it takes me about 15 minutes to take the pictures. Payouts for each gig range from $20 to $25.

Again, these aren’t huge amounts of money, and I don’t think it’d be worth traveling to take these pictures. However, if the place is nearby, I’ll often just grab the gig and take the pictures. Last year, for example, I accepted a WeGoLook gig to take pictures of a fence at a store near my house. Someone had apparently driven into it, and the insurance company needed a claims adjuster to head out there and take photos of the damage. Biking over there only took me 10 minutes, and it only took me five minutes to take pictures of the damage. With a payout of $25, I figured it was worth the time.

Another time, I accepted a gig to take photos of a random intersection out in the burbs. Since my fiancee and I wanted to get in a long bike ride, we figured, why not bike to this intersection? Remember that screaming Kevin doll I found at a yard sale last year? I found that because I happened to be on this long bike ride. If I hadn’t been doing a WeGoLook gig, I’d never have stumbled onto that random yard sale.

My total earnings in WeGoLook for 2016 ended up being $155. Not bad for a random picture app.


I’m still a little bit shocked at how much I was able to make in 2016 on top of my regular day job income. For a lot of people, an extra $14,000 could be game changing. Just imagine what you could do with that type of extra money. You just need to get started!

Financial Panther is a lawyer who paid off $87,000 worth of student loans in just 2.5 years by choosing not to live like a big shot lawyer. If you’re interested in following his journey, you can visit his blog, Financial Panther, where he writes about personal finance, crushing debt, financial independence, and side hustling using the sharing economy. Follow him on Twitter here.

Image via Unsplash

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