Creative Ways to Make Money in Sour Economy

Odds jobs, car swapping, renting apartments and even bathrooms are just a few of the side incomes easily accessible in today's modern world

With unemployment rates at nearly 12 percent in California, people in our community are trying anything they can to make money.

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Many have tossed aside their resumes and focused on other skills. For graphic designer Timm Freeman, that meant posting an ad as a handyman. His post on Craigslist explains that he is "trying every possible way to feed my family and pay the rent."

"I've gone and procured items from Ikea or other furniture places. I've even built a gazebo in a guy's backyard and that was awesome," said Freeman, 42.

"It's a humbling, humbling experience. This economy is just knocking people down. No one cares who I am or who I was at all," Freeman said.

The single father of a 9-year-old son admits he became depressed and drank his way through the unemployment lows. Freeman recently celebrated three years of sobriety.

"I got to the point where I have to get into action," he said. "I have my son, I have my girlfriend and her two children who I love dearly, and I need to carry my own weight."

Former Yahoo employee turned business student, Kenny Liao, makes extra bucks with odd jobs. Recently, he picked up flats of water at a local store and delivered them to Creative Support on the UCLA campus.

"When I originally started, I had a full-time job and it was just some side income. Now as a student, I have zero income and running some tasks every now and then helps supplement," Liao said.

The job was worth more than the approximately $50 for two hours work, said Shannon Hahn, who posted the job online. Hahn works with young adults with developmental disabilities from Creative Support.

"The students were able to do it, so it was really nice for them to use something without having too much difficulty," Hahn said.

Liao, who is studying for his master's degree at UCLA Anderson School of Management, said he has made connections through his various jobs. Liao wants to work in the movie business.

"I've actually met a few folks who work in entertainment. So meet them, find out about their jobs, find out about what they do in entertainment," Liao said.

The group found Liao's profile on, which describes itself as the country's first service-networking platform. It builds on the idea of neighbor helping neighbor.

"So if you need dry cleaning pickup, groceries delivered, a seamstress in your neighborhood, you can connect with them right on Task Rabbit," said site founder, Leah Busque, 31.

"We have full-time Task Rabbits that are cashing out at $5,000 a month," Busque said.

The former IBM software engineer began Task Rabbit during the heart of the recession in 2008.

"I had people who wanted to become Task Rabbits who were lawyers, that were pharmacists, that were teachers, that were just laid off," Busque said.

Users can post a job on the website and Task Rabbits will bid on it, creating real-time alerts of their fees and availability to perform the service. Users then hire the person who works best for the project.

Task Rabbits go through various background checks and are rated and reviewed after each job. Another website,, follows the same idea but allows drivers to offer up their cars.

Dave Speaker of Hawthorne has been renting out his 2000 BMW Z3 convertible since July.

"I think I have made about 1,500 bucks," Speaker said.

Speaker adds the total is after Getaround took nearly half of his bottom line. The company, founded in 2009, provides insurance for cars, owners and renters, and worked on California's car sharing legislation signed into law just last year.

Getaround began as a graduate-school project. Its research found car sharing reduces greenhouse gases by 40 percent and most vehicles sit idle 92 percent of the time, used for only an hour a day, according to the company.

"It was just sitting in the garage gathering dust, the battery was dying. I had to replace the battery because it died," Speaker said of his vehicle.

Getaround and Task Rabbit are just a couple of websites providing alternative incomes in a tough economy.

People can rent out their apartments on AirBNB or iStopOver.

Park Circa can help make money off unused parking spaces and driveways.

Users can turn private bathrooms public with a future startup called Cloo.

These startups have become full-fledged businesses. Task Rabbit has raised nearly $7 million, allowing it to expand to four new cities, including Los Angeles, up from two in March. Getaround has raised $3.4 million.

"We've really been able to champion the idea of micro-entrepreneurship to give people the ability to be their own bosses, set their own schedules, name how much they want to earn to do their own jobs," Busque said.

Since he began to promote himself online, Freeman said he books one to two handyman jobs a week, making a couple hundred dollars.

His "do what I can" attitude is not lost on David Pisarra, a Santa Monica divorce attorney who has hired him for five jobs and counting.

"He has been a great help to me over the last two and half years," Pisarra said. "Americans are resilient from the get-go and this is just showing that we, by nature, will dig down and come up with what we have to do to survive."

"Almost all of my clientele is word of mouth. All I have is my reputation for getting things done," Freeman said.

He suggests leaving pride at the door and looking ahead toward future opportunities.

"Go outside of your comfort zone. Take a job that's beneath you. Having any job makes you more attractive to any employer," Freeman said.

Update: If you have any suggestions for great side incomes, we want to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

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