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Earning Cash While Unemployed

By Julie Fishman
Quick Tips

  1. One-off gigs – Finding a great post-grad gig can take some time, but there are a many ways to stay afloat financially while you search. You just have to remember that there’s no job too small or too weird—every little bit counts.
  2. Bow down to Craigslist – Bookmark Craigslist, make it a favorite, and create a shrine, because this is the holy grail of odd jobs.
  3. Freelance for life – Don’t forget about freelancing opportunities, such as writing blog posts, programming, or utilizing any other skill you may have. The best part is that this source of cash doesn’t have to stop once you decide to get a full-time gig. In fact, you can become a full-time freelancer and still make a pretty penny.
  4. Prowl Universities – Since college kids are often looking to earn some extra beer money, bulletin boards and college papers are excellent sources for odd job leads. Universities are also humming with sleep studies, psych studies, and other ways to tax your mind and body for a few bucks.
  5. Sharing is caring – Sure, there are some ethical and moral issues related to the most popular ways to make some quick cash (i.e., bodily donations), but just think of the lives saved, the babies made, and the loot paid.

You just studied your butt off for four years (maybe not but work with me here), so don't you deserve a little time off? I know the feeling – it's not easy to find that perfect post-grad gig, and besides, Steve Jobs told me not to settle. There's no shame in taking some time to figure it all out

, but realistically, watching ten eps of Law and Order a day becomes difficult when it comes time to pay the rent…and the utilities…and the cell phone bill…and the cable bill. Fortunately, you don’t have to go Pretty Woman just yet; see our tips below for some ways to pad that pocket when out of work. In all cases, exercise common sense and don't put yourself in any shady or compromising situations.

Traditional Options

  • Donate Plasma (Not the TV) – Thanks to people abusing the system, you can no longer get paid for giving blood. However, there is a loophole – plasma. Donors must be healthy, over 17 and weigh more than Halle Berry (110 lbs). Plasma can be taken twice a week with at least 48 hours between donations. Centers typically pay $20-30 per visit. Click here to learn more about the donation process and here to find a center near you, or call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVELIFE.
  • One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Who would want a circa 1990 Hypercolor t-shirt? Or a Menudo poster? Or an Archie comic sent by mom to sleepaway camp? Answer: Someone. And they will pay for them. Go through the garage, basement and childhood bedroom to find dust-acquiring items to sell on eBay. It’s like a garage sale minus 90% of the effort.
  • Don’t Hesitate to Ejaculate – Getting paid for getting off? What could be better? Compensation for a vial of semen (about .7ml) in the U.S. ranges between $200-3,000. Here’s a directory of sperm banks in major U.S. cities, or learn more about the process.
  • Time to Tutor –Even without a BA/MA in education or a teaching certification, seasoned tutors can make anywhere from $10-200/hour. Look for job postings on Craigslist under “education.” To make more money, try to go through an established tutoring service such as Kaplan.

Non-traditional Options

  • Guinea Pig It – Don’t buy one, become one. Labs, universities, and hospitals nationwide are looking for volunteers for scientific studies. Try a new flu vaccine, get a psych evaluation, or even get paid to sleep (though beware that long-term sleep studies can drive you mental). The best approach is to contact a college or university in the area to inquire about research and testing volunteers – psych departments and med schools are good places to start. Also scan the local newspaper and check the volunteer and ETC sections on Craigslist.
  • Lights, Camera, Action – Sit in a café, run away from an alien attack, cheer for 75-year-old Sly in Rocky 8: Cane Fights in Boca Raton, FL…as long as it’s filmed, there’s money to be made. Most large movie studios pay the SAG union rate of $115/day plus snacks and a meal every 6 hours. Along with the local paper and Craigslist, search postings on Mandy.com, EntertainmentCareers.net, and Backstage.com.
  • Become a Pro Blogger – First start a blog (try worpress.com or blogger.com) then sell some ad space – try Google’s free AdSense service. The better the blog, the more people that visit. The more people that visit, the more that click on the ad. The more that click on the ad, the more money we get. Another option is to sell products on the blog through CafePress. Click here for even more blog money-making tactics. Ultimately, it's not as easy as Perez Hilton would make it seem, but if you're writing stuff you enjoy anyway, a little trickle of cash is a nice auxiliary benefit to a fun hobby.
  • A New Sensation: Egg Donation – Less conventional and more risky than sperm donation, payment for egg donation ranges from the mid hundreds to thousands. Before running off to sell those ovum, know that the procedure involves extensive medical testing, injections of fertility drugs, and a minor surgical procedure. Agencies, clinics and individual families recruit through paper and print publications or search for listings through the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.
  • The Freelance Dance – Specifically for those talented in the arts, freelancing can be a great way to earn cash. Writing, editing, web design, programming, and copywriting are all popular freelance fields. Work can be full-time, part-time, or on a project basis. Duration can be anywhere from one hour to one year. Check out Indeed.com, SoloGig.com, Mandy.com, or Craigslist for listings.
  • Get Paid to Shop – If that sounds like a dream come true, you might want to look into a job as a “mystery shopper” (A/K/A spotters, secret shoppers, anonymous audits, experience evaluators, virtual customers, etc.). Companies pay mystery shoppers to go to stores and provide feedback on the service that they receive—sometimes they even provide a script to follow. Generally, shoppers are rewarded with some combination of money, store credit, or merchandise. However, beware of online scams. If it seems shady, check in with the Better Business Bureau before proceeding.

We Won’t Judge, but Your Friends Might

  • ETC is the Way to Be – Got a husky voice? Become a phone sex operator. Sexy feet? Foot fetish model. No talent at all? Hand out flyers. Every imaginable and unimaginable job can be found on Craigslist in the ETC section. An open mind can lead others to open their wallets…and hand over big bucks.
  • Create a Cash Car – Driving around with a “Fran’s Famous Footlongs” decal on the back of the car may not be cool, but the extra cash in the bank will be. Depending on location and the amount of driving, it’s possible to make $50-150/month by “renting out” the back window of a car. Up the ante and make up to $500/month by allowing the car to be fully wrapped Nascar-style with a company’s images and message. For more information, visit Free Car Media.
  • Rent Out Your Uterus – Surrogate mother’s make $10-30k. They also experience nausea, weight gain, and something the size of a pumpkin coming out an opening the size of a strawberry. If this still sounds appealing, find a fertility institute in your area by searching The Yellow Pages.



The best tip here is Craigslist. The opportunities here to earn some quick cash from various tasks are just amazing. Events, contract job and freelance work can all be found there. Don't be afraid to try something new and different if it means a paycheck.

I've heard of a few folks buying books at garage sales and then reselling them either to used bookstores or sites such as half.com. Pretty industrious.

Another place where lots of stuff is free are colleges once school lets out. This comment may come a bit too late, but I know schools in the midwest have yet to end for the year. Selling couches, beds, whatever is always money.

Also, facebook has a jobs section now on the marketplace that has some interesting listings.

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