By Ian Trent, georgica.net

“I am barely keeping my head above water. I need, like, an extra 500 bucks each month. Then I would feel like I could breathe.”

These were the words of Jen, a friend of a friend who I’d never met before but somehow got into an extended, personal conversation with at a party. It may be because I’m a good listener, which I’ve heard women value, but based on my track record they don’t value it as much as a face that is more handsome than mine.

Anyway, it was getting late and this party was going nowhere, so I was happy to dig into some ideas on how my new bestie Jen could generate another $500 every month. She already has some sort of digital marketing associate something-or-other job that pays terrible, so we had to find things she could do outside of work hours.

Forget online?

I surprised my new friend by saying I didn’t think online-only opportunities were the way to go. Consistently making $500 per month online is very difficult. You’re not going to make $500 from online surveys. You’re not going to make it blogging in your off hours, at least not in the short term. It takes time to build enough of an audience to start getting paid real money.

So, we looked at real-world opportunities, without completely dismissing the online world.

Going Old School

The list we came up with skewed decidedly toward old-school ways of making extra money:

  • Pet sitting / Dog walking – Making $15-20 per hour for in-home visits to walk and feed a family’s dogs & cats is good money. It’s fairly easy work, and it’s a very needed service for many people. It might take a little time to build a clientele, but, once you do, this could put you well on your way toward $500 each month. Plus, no real startup costs, it’s just labor. (Maybe some gas costs if you have to drive out of your way to get to the pets.) You could advertise on Craigslist and other local online sources, but watch out for weirdos.
  • Lawn Mowing – No joke. Landscapers will charge an arm and a leg for a simple mow. You could easily undercut their prices with your push mower and still make good money. Think about how many older folks are unable to keep up with this task. If you could do 10 lawns a month at $30-$40 per lawn, you’re almost up to the $500 mark. Remember that during mowing season the lawns need to be cut weekly, so you wouldn’t need many customers. Again, you could advertise on Craigslist & local online boards. But also think of older people you know who might want this service — word of mouth can go a long way toward building up a few customers.
  • Babysitting – Many adults might think babysitting is somehow beneath them as a way of making extra money, but… hello? Babysitters are clearing $10-$15 per hour when they’re only 14 years old. Don’t you think many parents would prefer a more adult sitter and maybe even be willing to pay a bit more? Sites like Sittercity and of course Craigslist are ways to advertise your availability.

The good thing about these old-school ideas is that you get paid for your time and labor without having to spend much on materials and advertising costs. And the pay is decent, even if it’s not up the standard of a “professional” job that requires a degree.

What else?

We’ve already made a whole list of money-making opportunities elsewhere on this site, and you can pick and choose which make sense as you try to piece together an extra $500 each month. There are a few in particular, though, that would bring in legitimate money while also requiring some real effort (meaning not just sitting on your duff in front of a home computer):

  • Uber / Lyft – You’ve probably already thought of this if you have a car. You are essentially becoming a cab driver here, making OK money but having to deal with complete strangers hopping into your vehicle. Good for some people, but not for everyone. (And not for my new friend Jen, who said, “No way am I doing that!”)
  • Taskrabbit – I wish I’d come up with this concept. People need small jobs done around their house or yard and don’t know who to hire, so they post those little jobs on Taskrabbit. If you have the skills (and need to pay your bills), you offer yourself up as the solution to their problem. Assemble furniture, help someone move, hang some pictures, do light painting, do personal concierge services like grocery shopping or mundane tasks that require lots of standing in line. You never know what you might end up doing.
  • Night & Weekend Temp Jobs – Go to a few of your local temporary agencies and fill out the paperwork, making it clear you want night and weekend jobs only, and that you’re not available on a regular basis. You hopefully will be able to pick up shifts here and there doing warehouse work, or one-off event work like catering or local trade show events, you never know what will come up. I once spent a whole evening photocopying blueprints at a temp job. Boring but not back-breaking.

$500 Ain’t Easy

Making an extra $500 per month isn’t easy, but I think it’s not difficult, either. The problem is that many people want extra money and think someone is going to come down and pay them $25 per hour to watch reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s this type of magical thinking that gets people duped by scam opportunities that promise tons of money for very little effort. You know the saying: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How’s it going, Jen?

I want to follow up with my buddy Jen to see which of these opportunities netted her the crucial $500, but I’m afraid she’s not going to remember who I am.