ScoreCard Research Kristen Pope - The Penny Hoarder

We’ve all seen the articles about the elite few who cash in big as Uber driver-partners.

One man makes $252,000 a year, largely by selling jewelry to his passengers as he drives. Other drivers find driving with the company pays better than many entry-level jobs (although there’s no guarantee on your income, because you’re an independent contractor).

But what’s it really like to drive with Uber, and how can you make the most money possible?

Journalist Emily Guendelsberger delved deep into the life of a ride-share driver as she became an undercover driver with Uber in Philadelphia in 2015. She wrote about her experiences in Philadelphia’s (now defunct) City Paper.

In Guendelsberger’s month on the job, she picked up a few tips and tricks that can help you make more money as an Uber driver-partner.

What the Company Tells You About Being a Successful Uber Driver

Guendelsberger’s training for UberX consisted of a 13-minute video that went over how to offer good service and receive five-star ratings from passengers.

The tips included opening the rear door for people, providing cold bottled water and having extra phone chargers on hand for passengers to use. The video also emphasized the importance of looking professional and even showed the star of the video selecting expensive ties to wear while driving people around town.

However, Guendelsberger found even more ways to cash in on the app. Here are the strategies she recommends from her time on the job.

1. Keep Snacks and Water Handy

When you’re going to be on the road for hours, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable.

Guendelsberger advises making sure you have snacks and water in your car — but not for passengers. She suggests keeping yourself well fed and hydrated while you’re working, so you don’t have to waste time and money on takeout.

2. Know the Local Bathrooms

Scope out available restroom facilities in the areas where you usually drive. Guendelsberger emphasizes the need to find public bathrooms with free parking, which can be difficult to find in downtown areas. She found Whole Foods and suburban Starbucks to be some of her best bets around Philly, with free parking and unlocked restrooms.

Of course, every area will have different options, but make sure you know what’s around before you desperately need to use a restroom.

3. Don’t Follow the Herd

Guendelsberger found she made more money by ignoring the recommended times and locations where demand for rides was likely to be high.

These are areas like popular morning commute routes, busy Saturday night bars and the stadium when a Flyers game had just finished.

She found she actually made more money by ignoring these hot spots. When drivers flocked to a recommended area, Uber’s surge pricing — premium prices based on a lack of drivers in an area — would decrease, meaning those drivers would earn less for each ride.

4. Drive up the Surge Fares

To take full advantage of surge fares, Guendelsberger recommends gaming the system a bit.

She suggests logging out of the driver app before times you can anticipate surge fares, such as when the bars close. In Philly, she found 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. was a huge time for surge pricing as drinkers found their way home for the night.

She recommends logging out of the driver app around 1:50 a.m. or so, waiting 15 minutes and logging back in to take advantage of surge fares.

Logging out reduces the number of drivers in the area and drives up the fares. It also prevents you from getting a fare, at say, 1:55 a.m., and missing out on surge pricing.

5. Don’t Drive Around Endlessly

Driving around in circles in an attempt to get to an area where Uber will ping you to pick up a fare isn’t going to do much more than add wear and tear to your vehicle, Guendelsberger found.

She recommends sticking to a central area and avoiding the suburbs if possible.

If you’re driving miles and miles to reach someone, there’s a good chance you’ll drive much further to meet them than you’ll wind up taking them. You can’t tell where a rider wants to go until you pick them up. This usually means drivers end up losing money on a far-away fare.

She also says if you’re driving a long way to pick someone up, they may get bored and cancel the ride or find another way to get to their destination.

6. Don’t Chase Surge Fares (but If You Do, Try This Hack)

Guendelsberger found racing to a surge fare area never panned out for her. Other drivers would also head to that area, and the surge pricing period would be over by the time she reached it.

But she has a tip for those looking to capitalize on surge pricing: Log out of the driver app and log into the passenger app until you reach the surge area, then log out of the passenger app and back into the driver one.

Why does it work? Uber calculates surge fares based on the ratio of people with the passenger app open to the driver app in an area at any given time. This hack sways the system a bit, letting the app think you’re a passenger looking for a ride instead of a driver ready to offer one.

7. Use the Uber Passenger App

The passenger app helps you take advantage of some features not available on the driver app. For one, you can see where other drivers are, which helps you select areas without a lot of competition.

For example, Guendelsberger was once at a stadium after a game and had a hard time getting any ride requests from the app.

She logged into the passenger app and found herself surrounded by other drivers. So she simply drove to the other side of the stadium and quickly got a notification for a ride.

She also found the passenger app to have more up-to-date information on surge fares than the driver app, which seemed to have a delay of a few minutes.

Ready to get started with Uber? Here’s the link to sign up.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

TaskRabbit and other gig sites that match eager workers with people who need odd jobs performed are often criticized as a difficult way for people to earn a decent living. Many of the independent contractors who complete tasks through these sites end up racing between different low-paying gigs, with long, unpaid commutes in between.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re strategic, you can use these gig sites to make a full-time living. In fact, some people make up to $2,000 a week on TaskRabbit.

Want to know how they do it? Here’s how to make more money on TaskRabbit.

What is TaskRabbit?

First, a little background. TaskRabbit connects you with people who need help with jobs like cleaning houses, making deliveries or completing “around the house” tasks, such as installing a new faucet or putting together a bookshelf.

The site works as a middleman to let clients post the work they need help with. As a “Tasker,” you can use the site to find jobs, contact potential clients and collect payment for your work (minus TaskRabbit’s 20% service fee). Using the site, as opposed to working through an avenue like Craigslist, helps make sure you actually get paid for your work, and reassures clients that you are who you say you are and don’t have a criminal record.  

How Do $2,000-a-Week TaskRabbits Cash In?

While doing odd jobs has always been a popular way to earn extra cash, some Taskers turn them into full-time jobs and earn up to $2,000 per week. TaskRabbit's vice president of marketing, Jamie Viggiano, boasts that 10 to 15% of TaskRabbit contractors earn up to $7,000 per month, reports Time.

Brian Schrier is one such Tasker. He charges $150 an hour for the broad array of services he offers, ranging from performing shopping duties to construction jobs, he explained to Time. He earns up to $2,000 a week on the site, spending half his time in San Francisco working on tasks and the other half of his time living on his boat in Napa, California.

While not everyone earns such high wages from the site, ambitious entrepreneurs can learn from Schrier’s and other high-earning Taskers’ success.

How to Bring in the Big Bucks on TaskRabbit

To make more money as a Tasker, follow these strategies.

Be Flexible

Schrier charges $150 per hour for most jobs and, for that fee, he's willing to take on a wide variety of tasks, from shopping to construction. Flexibility is key to his winning strategy.

Once, he took a last-minute gig folding T-shirts for $70 per hour for a client who was in a serious time crunch. Being flexible, ready to pick up last-minute jobs and willing to take on just about any job is key to your success as a Tasker.

Be Versatile

Tasker David Cordova charges between $25 and $80 an hour for his services, depending on what's required. He told Time he was once hired to help people park their strollers outside a preschool for eight days. He happily parked strollers and directed traffic during this most unusual task -- he said he felt like a bouncer at a club!

Another time, Cordova found himself working as a “shadow administrative assistant.” This gig required sitting in an office to make it look busy when clients walked through. Other days, he helps people move or performs a wide variety of other odd jobs. This versatility helps him balance his workload and pick up more tasks.

Be Skilled

Top-dollar Taskers earn their cash by having top-notch skills. While Schrier is happy to take on an occasional T-shirt-folding gig, he earns a good portion of his $150-per-hour income performing carpentry, construction and handyman tasks -- skills he’s honed through years of being his family’s go-to handyman.

Having top-notch, in-demand skills help you rise to the top of the pack. Figure out your strengths -- you have a big truck for moving jobs, you’re a neat freak, you’re an expert IKEA furniture assembler or you run a handyman business -- and focus on gigs that showcase your skills.

Invest in Your Business

Cordova told Time he found so much success performing odd jobs and services that he decided to invest in his business by purchasing a van. He's based in New York City, where hardly anyone has a vehicle of their own, so his van helped him raise his rate to $80 per hour for moving-related tasks.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

With a bustling full-time job, it can be hard to find side gigs that pay well.

Sure, you could fold T-shirts at a local shop to earn a few bucks. But how can you find a part-time job that will really take a bite out of your bills?

Here are 19 flexible side gigs that pay over $20 per hour.

1. Landscaping

If you don't mind getting your hands dirty and putting in some physical work, landscaping can pay quite well. If you can operate heavy machinery, you can earn even more.

In my area, landscaping jobs often start at $20 or more per hour. But many of these opportunities are offered through word-of-mouth, so be sure to ask around.

Check Craigslist and local online bulletin boards for one-off gigs or contact a local landscaping company to see if they need an extra hand on weekends during their busy season.

Be sure you have all the licenses and insurance you need, and always be careful connecting with unknown clients.

2. Graphic Design

An eye for design can earn you over $25 per hour on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You'll need good computer skills and a great eye for design to succeed at this gig.

Having a portfolio of your work or website and having recommendations from others are the best ways to get hired. You can brush up on your skills with this tutorial and learn about setting your rates here.

3. Massage Therapist

Earn your Certified Massage Therapist license, and earn money on the side doling out massages and working weary muscles.

You may be able to get part-time shifts at a local health club or work as an independent contractor through a local massage studio. You can earn nearly $60 per hour, according to Payscale.

4. Interpreter

If you're bilingual or multilingual, consider offering your language skills as a translator. You can be an on-call translator for legal and medical services or set up steady gigs ahead of time.

Interpreters and translators earn a mean hourly wage of $24.64, according to the BLS.

5. Sign Language Interpreter

Many events provide interpreters for their hard-of-hearing clientele. If you know sign language, look into opportunities translating on stage at events, in courtrooms and in classrooms.

If standing on stage isn't your thing, look into opportunities to translate at mediation hearings and other smaller meetings. You can earn up to $44.22 per hour with this job, according to PayScale.

6. Tutor

I've tutored on and off over the years, and I was able to make well over $20 an hour. If you know your math, science and other subjects well, consider sharing your skills with students.

The more advanced and specialized the subjects, the more money you're likely to earn. Advanced math and science courses (such as advanced-placement calculus, advanced-placement physics, etc.) typically earn the highest rates, which can be up to $85 per hour, according to Care.com.

7. Test Prep Instructor

Kaplan and other companies look for skilled test-takers to teach students how to succeed at important exams, including the SAT, ACT, MCAT, LSAT, GRE and GMAT, among others.

Generally, you'll need to take a sample test to prove your testing prowess and perhaps even do a sample lecture to prove you can communicate well.

Instructors can earn $21.33 per hour for an SAT course and around $31 an hour for the GMAT exam, according to GlassDoor.

8. Personal Shopper

Busy people often need help shopping for gifts and other items. Working as a personal shopper and helping people select the best items is a great way to earn some extra cash. Plus, you can earn up to $25 per hour or more as a personal shopper, according to Payscale.

If you’re looking to be a personal shopper who also works as a stylist, having a fashion background is key. You can often get your foot in the door working in a department store or boutique and then gain the skills to work on your own -- where you can set your own rates.

9. Etsy Seller

Cash in on your crafty creations on Etsy. One woman earns $70,000 per month with her creations (which she now outsources to a team).

While you might not make quite that much, more than 30% of Etsy’s sellers make a living from their creative work.

10. App Designer

If you know your way around an app, consider designing one and cashing in. This can even be a form of passive income. This man earns over $6,000 per month from the Bible app he created.

11. Personal Chef

Cook up a storm and fill your pockets with cash by working as a personal chef. Set up a weekly gig at someone’s house a few nights a week, cook a series of freezer meals for a client or work special events, crafting creations for individual tastes and needs.

Personal referrals are a great way to get these gigs, which pay an average of over $20 per hour (up to $40 per hour or more), according to Payscale.

12. Caterer

When people have weddings and other large events, they'll need a crew to help set up, serve and clean up after the meals. Be ready to work evenings and weekends for this gig, and be prepared to work overtime for extra cash.

In my area, these gigs often start at $20 per hour, but they're generally word-of-mouth. Ask around, check out Craigslist and ask local restaurants if they may need a hand with events.

13. Bartender

Pick up a few shifts a week as a bartender to round up some extra cash. Coveted weekend evening shifts are usually the most profitable and often go to employees with seniority, but you may be able to pick up a few.

Consider bartending at weddings and other events. You'll need to have some experience and know how to mix drinks, and many states require bartenders to have a certification.

One New York City hotel starts bartenders at $26 per hour, which doesn't include tips, overtime or other perks.

14. Personal Assistant

Drop off dry cleaning for your client, get their car's oil changed, take their dog for a walk and pick up a birthday gift for their friend -- these are just a few things you may do as a personal assistant.

But running these errands can pay off, with personal assistants earning up to $24.71 per hour, according to Payscale.

The best way to get the highest-paying gigs is generally through word-of-mouth. Posting an ad or answering ads on Craigslist and other job forums can also help connect you with people in need of assistance.

15. Server

Snag a gig in a high-end restaurant and you can have an evening or weekend job that will pay off in serious cash tips. Serving generally pays the best, but hostessing or other jobs can also pay well.

In the town where I live, many professionals will even pick up a night shift or two during tourist season; they can earn hundreds of dollars an evening at some of the high-end restaurants in town.

16. Yoga Instructor

Teach yoga to aspiring yoginis to earn an average of $24.77, which can go up to up to $50 per hour, according to Payscale.

To get started as a yoga instructor, you’ll need to take a teacher training class. The most basic is typically 200 hours and includes training, instruction and a final exam. You can then advance your skills with higher-level courses.

17. Fashion Consultant

An eye for fashion and cutting-edge styles will get you far as a fashion consultant. Many high-end clients want somebody to help them look sharp and trendy.

Personal referrals are a great way to get these gigs, which can pay $50 to $500 per hour according to one industry blog.

18. Dog Walker

Take pups out for their walks and earn money up to $20 per hour as a dog walker, according to PayScale.

You can work for yourself or for a dog-walking company. You should have plenty of experience handling all different types of dogs, and be physically fit and able to confidently control the dogs when you’re out walking.

If you work for yourself, you can make the most at this gig. If you can handle a few dogs at once, you'll be able to earn even more. But be sure to have all the insurance you may need.

A good way to start is to advertise your services at local pet-related businesses, such as groomers, boarding facilities, doggie daycares and pet supply stores.

19. Makeup Artist

Style bridal parties' makeup, prepare theatrical stars for their big performances and get people ready for special events as a part-time makeup artist.

You can make up to $48 per hour helping people get ready for their big event.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Once, I had a job where I had to show up for work at 4:45 a.m. It was nice to be off work in the early afternoon, but the 4 a.m. wake-up call wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

But for many people, getting up bright and early is the best way to get a jump-start on their workday. While some prefer for night owl occupations, if you’re naturally inclined to get up before the sun rises, some of these early morning jobs might be just right for you.

1. Baker

When bakeries open in the morning, staff needs to be ready to serve people with a smile and dish up their freshly baked goods. Since picking up a muffin or croissant is a morning ritual for many, someone needs to be there nice and early to make sure the tasty treats are ready.

You could start your own baked goods enterprise or work for someone else, but either way, working at a bakery is a good way to start your workday bright and early. To get this gig, you should have food service and baking experience, though some bakeries will train people eager to learn the ropes.

2. Barista

Every morning, hordes of uncaffeinated workers stop at their local cafes for a cuppa joe to help them start their day. Baristas and cafe workers have to be at work bright and early to get everything ready for people stopping in for their morning fix.

Job duties typically include preparing drinks, serving customers, cleaning and running a cash register. Restaurant and barista experience is helpful, but many coffee shops are willing to train the right person who can have a smile on his or her face at 4 a.m.

3. Pilot

When your flight takes off at 7 a.m., guess who has to be there far earlier? That’s right, the people flying the plane. If you love being up in the air, consider training to become a pilot. Plus, the travel perks of the job are huge. Spend this weekend in Barcelona, and then spend next weekend in New York City!

The qualifications are rigorous to become a commercial or private pilot, and you’ll have to pass extensive training and be able to pass a pilot physical. While many commercial pilots have extensive military backgrounds, not all private pilots do.

4. Flight Attendant

Want to spend your days in the air, but have no desire to become a pilot? Airlines need flight attendants to keep everyone safe on the plane in addition to serving drinks and meals, cleaning up and helping people use those tricky in-flight entertainment systems.

This is a great job for an early bird, since a 7 a.m. flight starts boarding far earlier, and flight attendants need to be there well in advance. While airlines have different requirements, generally you need to be at least 21 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.

5. Airport Ticket Agent

When people need to check in two hours early for their crack-of-dawn flight, airline ticket agents need to be there to greet them, help them check their bags and offer assistance in getting to their gate.

This is also a great job for travel lovers with other commitments like kids to pick up from school and other regular obligations. You can often work at one airport and keep a somewhat regular schedule, yet you can still have a lot of travel perks.

Shifts can begin at 4 a.m. or even earlier, so this is definitely a job for the early morning crowd. Of course, some shifts last late into the evening as well, so be sure to find out the specific schedule of any position before committing.

6. Morning Radio DJ

Do you have boundless early morning enthusiasm? Consider becoming a morning radio DJ and picking the right tunes, hosting the best contests for listeners and giving traffic updates to help everyone else get to work. Working as a morning DJ offers plenty of benefits, including free show tickets, local notoriety and getting to skip rush hour since you’re at work so early.

Morning radio DJs often start off with small community or college radio stations, sometimes as volunteers, before moving on to paid gigs at larger stations. You’ll need a great radio voice, an ability to be cool under pressure and some reels of previous broadcasting experience to prove your mettle in this competitive field.

7. Mail Carrier

Spend your workday making the rounds and delivering letters and packages to people along your route as a mail carrier. People who work for the post office have to show up bright and early to get the mail organized and ready for the day before they hit the road and start delivering. Many shifts end in the early afternoon.

To qualify for this gig, you must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have a good driving record and be able to pass a number of screenings (including criminal, drug and medical checks).

8. Newspaper Delivery Person

The days of tween newspaper delivery people are largely over. Now, instead of kids on bicycles lobbing rolled papers into neighborhood bushes, many newspaper delivery people are adults who drive their routes for these early morning jobs.

Since people want to read the paper first thing in the morning, this gig can start very early. Some routes involve delivering to businesses and pay boxes in bulk, while others involve door-to-door subscriber delivery. Generally, you’ll need to have a good driving record and reliable vehicle (though some bulk deliveries provide a truck for you to drive), and many of these positions pay mileage in addition to an hourly wage.

9. Morning News Producer

If you love working with breaking news, consider becoming a morning news producer. The producer typically runs the show and organizes the director, studio crew, reporters, field crew and photographers, getting everyone ready to put together a high-quality newscast each day. Duties include monitoring the wire for stories, finding leads, communicating with everyone, making sure the timing is right, and editing and organizing the show so the flow is perfect.

You’ll need relevant experience for these positions, and a college degree in broadcasting is very helpful, in addition to good communications skills and social media savvy.

10. Refuse and Recyclable Materials Collector

Refuse and recyclable materials collectors start their days long before you hear the trucks rumble through your neighborhood first thing in the morning. Trucks typically have drivers and helpers.

If you're driving, you will need a commercial driver's license. While experience is preferred, drivers and helpers typically learn the details of their jobs as they work, including how to operate dumpster trucks and side-loaders. Refuse collection experience is preferred, especially for drivers, though helpers can have diverse backgrounds, including construction and manual labor. Many of these jobs also require people to pass a background check and drug test.

11. Truck Driver

[caption id="attachment_71582" align="alignnone" width="1200"]A truck driver loads up his truck before starting his shift. shotbydave/Getty Images[/caption]

You don't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic if you're a truck driver. That's why many drivers start bright and early (think 4 a.m. or earlier) to beat the rush and get a start on their days on the road.

To qualify for a driving job, you need to obtain a commercial truck driving license, pass medical exams and demonstrate the attention to detail and aptitude needed to safely maneuver your huge vehicle through heavy traffic, bad weather and big cities.

12. Supermarket Stocker

If you venture into your local supermarket early in the morning, you'll likely see a stock team working hard at filling the shelves and getting groceries ready for people to pick up that day. To keep the aisles clear for shopping rushes, supermarkets typically have an overnight or early morning crew hard at work stocking the shelves. Be ready to do some heavy lifting during your shift as you organize and stock a variety of cans and boxes.

13. Farm Worker

Farmers are traditionally known as people who are up well before dawn, getting to work in the fields and barns as soon as the sun comes up, if not before. If you want to work hard first thing in the morning, consider getting a job on a farm. From milking cows to firing up the tractor and maneuvering it across the fields during planting or harvesting season, this job will provide you the early morning hours your crave.

Experience operating farming equipment and working on a farm is preferred, though many farmers are willing to train people with a good attitude and work ethic.

14. Freelancer

If working a set schedule isn't your thing, consider one of the many fields where you can be your own boss.

Freelance writers typically set their own hours and work whenever they have the time or find the inspiration. For this job, you need to be able to write well and adhere to deadlines. No formal training is required, but having a collection of published clips is a good way to get your foot in the door.

If you work for a design firm, you typically have to keep office hours, but if you work as a freelance graphic designer, you can largely keep your own hours, aside from specified times to meet with clients. This means you can wake up at 4 a.m. and work until noon if that's the schedule the best suits you. You need a good eye for design, and many find a college degree in graphic design or a related field to be very helpful.

Need more ideas? Here are a few other ways to make money as a freelancer.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

 

We’ve looked at how to make money on Instagram before, but focusing on a specific niche can help you make even more. One particularly lucrative option is fashion, where designers and brands spend over $1 billion a year sponsoring Instagram posts, according to Harper's Bazaar.

Fashion blogger Danielle Bernstein has more than one million followers on Instagram. She uses her popular blog, We Wore What, to woo sponsors, who pay up to $15,000 for a single Instagram post.

Yes, you read that correctly. $15,000 for one post.

Ready to build your own fashionable Instagram empire? Here’s a look at Bernstein’s business, and how you could follow her lead to earn a piece of that $1 billion.

Earning Six Figures for Instagram Posts

Though Bernstein declined to tell Harper’s her exact income, she did say that in 2014 she earned in the “mid-six figures” from her Instagram posts. She told the magazine, “Let's just say it's more than I could have ever imagined as a 22-year-old.”

And that payday doesn't even include the perks that come along with the fashion blogging lifestyle. In addition to the sponsorship fees, well-known fashion bloggers with lots of followers often receive tons of free clothing and accessories from brands that hope to be featured on their social media feeds.

How Bernstein Makes Money

Bernstein’s 10,000-odd Instagram posts include everything from her at a baseball game clad in jeans, a T-shirt and a backwards ball cap to a bearded man in an unbuttoned shirt sitting on a couch with a pillow casually resting on his chest. She posts regularly, and the fashions and styles she showcases get a lot of attention. What are the secrets to her success?

She Has Over One Million Followers

The biggest factor in your Instagram success is the number of followers you have, since brands pay for views and the number of eyes that will see your posts.

An Instagrammer with a few hundred or thousand followers can charge $500 to $5,000 per post, according to Harper’s, but when you get to the six-million-follower range, you can earn between $20,000 and $100,000 for a single post.

She Negotiates Exclusives

“Everything’s negotiable,” Bernstein told Harper’s. She has no problem negotiating exclusives with certain brands.

Sometimes they will request that no competitors be featured within the same shot; for example, you couldn’t wear a Nike tank top with a pair of lululemon shorts. Other times, brands may ask that a certain competitor or two not appear on her Instagram feed in a designated time frame, such as a week after their post.

These exclusive deals help advertisers get the word out about their apparel and accessories, but they also help Bernstein cash in. If they want her to exclude their competition from her site for any period of time, they’ll have to pay a premium.

She Works With Agents

When you're negotiating complex terms with many different clients, it's always helpful to have a professional in the mix. That's why Bernstein goes through Next Talent, a modeling agency, to help her with her business. The agency helps her find clients, lay out her prices and negotiate a variety of deals, such as long-term arrangements and sets of posts.

When you have a team behind you, it's easier to focus on the part of the business that you excel at: modeling the duds and capturing them on camera.

How to Make Money on Instagram

So you have your Instagram feed up and running, you're the style maven of your neighborhood and you can't wait to get some free samples and have the cash start rolling in. If you're a fashionista looking to cash in on your Instagram feed, what's the best way to get started?

Fill a Niche

Fashion Instagrammers are hot right now, and brands are willing to shell out for placement on top feeds. To stand out among the crowd, find a broadly appealing niche and fill it.

Be sure to do your research. If you're hoping to make a huge dent in a market that's already highly saturated, it may be your best bet to reconsider or instead focus on a sub-niche. For example, Instagram is packed with beauty bloggers, but you might want to consider specializing in a sub-niche such as nail art. This can be tricky because you want a niche appealing enough to attract a devoted audience, but not so broad that you disappear among the crowd. See what’s already out there before committing to anything.

Get Followers

The first step to Instagram success is to get followers -- a lot of them. Every follower you gain is more money in your pocket.

How do you find followers? By treating your Instagram as the business it is. Create a post schedule and stick to it. Make sure you post regularly and make sure your posts are things people want to look at.

Taking a great photo is key, especially if you want to bring sponsors into the mix. If you take stellar shots and share them with the world, a brand is a lot more likely to want to recruit you to help them promote their brand than if you snap a dull and blurry image. Create visually appealing and interesting images, and be sure to interact with your audience.

Get an Agent

When you're in the upper echelon of Instagram-land, sometimes you need someone who can advocate for you, bring you clients and help you negotiate the legalese that comes along with the business. Especially in the world of fashion, having someone on your side can be crucial. Consider working with an agency that will represent your needs and help your business grow.

Get Media Attention

The more attention you have, the more followers you can gain and the more appealing you are to potential sponsors. If you can think of a way to get some positive press (say, sponsoring a charity event), go for it! If a journalist contacts you for an interview, be available.

Or, better yet, reach out to journalists and tell your story. Help a Reporter Out is a great resource to help you connect with journalists in need of sources.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Every time a box from Amazon shows up on the front porch, I get excited.

For many people, especially those of us who live in rural communities, Amazon offers an easy way to get what we need, from clothing to electronics to groceries.

And no matter where you live, it’s pretty cool to be able to simply order what you need and have it arrive on your doorstep a few days later.

But no matter how awesome it is to save money shopping on Amazon, getting stuff for free is even better.

How to Get Free Stuff From Amazon

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Here are 11 freebies you can get from the online retailer.

1. Free Albums

If you love music, check out the free album listings on Amazon. Simply sort the list by price, making sure to select the “low to high” ranking feature, and you’ll see all the free options first.

You’ll see music from all genres, so you can find something to enjoy no matter your taste, from Christmas collections to metal albums.

2. Free MP3 Singles

Enjoy a huge library of free, downloadable MP3 singles. When we checked, there was everything from Blondie to She & Him to the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you'll find even more songs you can download for free!

3. Free or Low-Cost Music From New Artists

If you're at the cutting edge of the music scene (or want to be), check out the deals offered under “Artists to Watch.”

Amazon editors select a number of albums they think are likely to be big this year. Current selections include Royal Blood, ODESZA, The 1975, KONGOS and more.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member (or enjoying a 30-day free trial), you can score these albums for free. Otherwise, you can get them at a special discount from their regular price.

4. Free Movies and TV Shows

Once you pay for your Amazon Prime membership (or snag a 30-day free trial), you can watch more than 40,000 free movies and TV shows via Amazon Instant Video.

5. Free Kindle Ebooks

Grab something new to read or take a chance on a new author.

Every day, new freebies pop up in the listings. Some are permanently free ebooks, which the author offers in hopes that you’ll buy the next book in the series, while others are limited-time deals.

Check out the top 100 free ebooks or sort ebooks in any category from “low” to “high” prices to see what's available. You’ll see tons of options, from books of vegetarian slow cooker recipes to romance novels to career planning books to mysteries.

6. Free Kindle Lending Library

Another perk of Amazon Prime membership (or again, the free trial) is that you can borrow one new book each month out of the 800,000 in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

And it's not just a collection of unpopular books that don't sell. The library includes more than 100 bestsellers; for example, it has the full collection of Harry Potter books.

7. Borrow a Book from a Friend

Just as you can borrow or lend a paperback book to a friend, you can also lend an ebook.

This little-known service allows you to share a Kindle ebook purchased from Amazon with a friend for 14 days. The borrower doesn't even need to have a Kindle; they just need to download a free Kindle reading app.

To loan your book, go to the product page from your Amazon purchase and select the “loan” option. Once it's loaned to a friend, just like a regular book, you'll be unable to read it until it’s returned. You can only loan each book once, so think about who you’d most like to share it with!

8. Free Shipping

When you order physical products, you generally want to receive them cheaply and quickly as possible.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, you’ll get free two-day shipping on every order. Even if you’re not a Prime member, just bundle your orders so they add up to more than $35, and Amazon will give you free regular shipping.

9. Free Stuff With Points

You can redeem credit card points from a number of different cards (including Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card, Citi ThankYou Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Cashback Bonus from Discover and Chase Ultimate Rewards) right on Amazon.

Simply select “points” as a payment method when you check out. You don't need enough points to pay for your full order; if you only want to use points to cover a portion, you can specify that option.

Keep in mind that points cannot be used for all products on Amazon. Kindle downloads, AmazonFresh, Subscribe and Save and pre-orders are all exempt. But if you do a lot of shopping on Amazon, you might prefer to earn credit card rewards you can redeem there!

10. Amazon Student Benefits

In college? Sign up for Amazon Student to enjoy great benefits only available to students. You can try the program for six months for free, and then it becomes a half-price Amazon Prime membership.

You’ll get free two-day shipping, photo storage, streaming TV, movies, music, and other benefits (though not all benefits apply during the six-month trial period -- music, movie and TV benefits are excluded).

Another cool benefit? You’ll get $10 for every other student who signs up using your link!

11. Free Photo Storage

Enjoy a three-month free trial of Amazon Cloud Drive's unlimited storage plans for your photos, videos and files. You can also share photos a number of different ways, including Facebook, email and other options.

If you’re a Prime member, you’ll get unlimited free photo storage as well as 5GB of storage for videos and other files.

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Years ago, I spent a summer working at a general store in rural Alaska. I didn’t just earn cash every day for my efforts — I also got a good workout.

Whether I was scooping rock-hard ice cream for a never-ending line of customers, scrubbing down showers or running around stocking shelves, I was always moving.

You don’t have to move to the middle of nowhere to get a workout during your work day, though. This roundup of ways to get paid to exercise offers everything from jobs involving heavy lifting to apps you can use to get paid for going to the gym.

To make the most of your efforts, combine strategies when possible. For example, wear your Fitbit while you’re leading walking tours or doing other exercise as a part of your job.

Ready to get paid to exercise? Here are 16 options:

1. Bet on Yourself With Pact

Pact‘s tagline says, “Commit to you. Earn cash for healthy living, paid by members who don’t.”

Use the app to keep track of your fitness goals — with rewards if you meet them and penalties if you don’t.

If you reach your goals, you’ll receive a small payout (generally, 30 cents to $5 per week, which you can retrieve via PayPal when you’ve accumulated $10 or more). If you don’t, you’re fined a similar charge, which goes toward paying other members.

Freelance copywriter Betsy Mikel tried using Pact for a year.

“What I liked most about the app is that it motivated me not to lose money,” she said. “I didn’t want to get charged $5 for skipping the gym.” Over the year she used the app, she made about $100 from her healthy habits.

You can download Pact on iPhone or Android. To ensure honesty, you’ll have to verify your workouts with methods like GPS and photos.

2. Lead Fitness Boot Camps

Believe it or not, some people pay good money to be screamed at before dawn. If you’re a fitness fanatic, consider going into business as a fitness boot camp instructor, and get paid to help people get in shape.

To make sure you break a sweat, do the workouts with your clients.

3. Work in a Warehouse

Lifting boxes, walking long aisles and moving heavy items are all part of a warehouse worker’s typical day. See if you can use a fitness app like Pact while you work to increase your payday.

4. Babysit

Running after toddlers all day, pushing kids on swings and playing pick-up soccer with all-star nine-year-olds is a great way to get a workout while getting paid.

Consider whether you’d prefer to chase after older kids or carry around younger ones when working as a babysitter or nanny.

5. Guide Walking Tours

Share your town with visitors, meet new people and get paid to exercise — what’s not to like? If that appeals to you, consider becoming a walking tour guide and sharing your town’s history, nature and heritage.

You can go into business yourself (after obtaining any necessary permits from your town, plus insurance), or sign up with one of several tour companies. In addition to the payments from your guests or tour company, you’ll likely also receive tips for your efforts.

Sign up with Pact to cash in even more for your exercise.

6. Teach Yoga

How’s your downward dog?

If you’re a yoga fanatic, consider becoming a yoga teacher.

Pros need to demonstrate every pose and offer guidance and variations to help students develop their practice. Many instructors can also attend other instructors’ classes for free, which is a great added bonus.

7. Fight Forest Fires

If you don’t mind long days, hard work and a bit of danger, consider going into the field of forest firefighting. These pros can make up to $40,000 during a six-month season while they’re busy keeping the rest of us safe.

Be prepared for hard, physical labor and very little sleep (usually just crashing on the forest floor for a few hours here and there) when you’re working.

8. Teach Ski Lessons

Do you dream of hitting the slopes full time, at least during the winter?

Becoming a ski instructor is a great way to save on skiing or snowboarding. You’ll spend your days on snow and snag a free pass to spend your free time on the slopes, as well — making this a great way to earn and save money.

9. Work as a Ranch Hand

Ever dreamed of working on a ranch? Becoming a ranch hand or wrangler is a summer job to remember.

This job comes with plenty of exercise. Whether mucking stalls, stringing fences or helping guests hop on and off their horses, working on a ranch involves plenty of good old-fashioned exercise.

10. Offer Landscaping Services

Spend your springs and summers outside gardening, your autumns outdoors raking leaves and cleaning up, and your winters shoveling snow to get paid to exercise — as a landscaper.

From tossing mulch to planting trees, this job will keep you moving, twisting, bending and working out. Consider working for a company or branching out on your own (with proper permits and insurance).

11. Become a Bike Messenger

Pedal your way to fitness and a paycheck by riding around delivering packages and important letters as a bike messenger. While some businesses prefer to use messengers in cars, many use bike messengers, especially in big cities where parking is a challenge.

12. Work as a Farm Hand

Whether you’re corralling livestock, plowing and seeding the fields or throwing hay, working on a farm is definitely a way to get a workout.

While many farming chores are now mechanized, every farm still needs lots of labor to keep it running. You could also volunteer a few hours a week in exchange for fresh produce, which will cut down on your grocery bills.

13. Coach or Referee Sports

Become a coach and spend your workday practicing layups with players, running warm ups, doing calisthenics and offering encouraging words. Coaches can work out right alongside their players, then jump into strategy mode and help the team craft the best path to success.

Or, if you’d prefer to officiate, grab your whistle and become a referee. Whether you choose soccer, baseball, basketball or another sport, there are plenty of youth and adult leagues looking for coaches and refs.

14. Become a Personal Trainer

Work one-on-one with clients to help them carve the chiseled physique they’re after.

Working as a personal trainer involves being able to demonstrate exercises, and sometimes you can do them alongside your client. Another perk of personal training is many of these gigs come with gym memberships, which helps you save money.

15. Lead Hiking or Climbing Expeditions

Climbing guides get even more exercise than their clients, sometimes covering extra ground by going ahead to set up camp or ropes, and often carrying extra gear.

If summiting peaks is your thing, consider becoming a certified guide and helping people accomplish their bucket-list mountain-climbing goals as you accomplish your fitness goals.

16. Guide Rafting Trips

Navigate rafts and keep your clients safe in raging whitewater as a rafting guide. This job is a great workout, as it takes some strength and finesse to navigate the wily ways of rivers and manage risks out on the water.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Don't let a good garage sale price lead you astray. You should never buy some items at a garage sale, no matter how cheap they are.

Not every thrifty find is a good deal, and some could even put you and your family in jeopardy.

Here’s What You Should Never Buy at a Garage Sale

Skip these items when you see them at garage sales, thrift stores and other places where you purchased used goods.

1. Cribs and Playpens

Many families only need their cribs, playpens and other baby gear for a short time. It seems to make sense to pass along their used items at garage sales, but steer clear of used baby gear.

Older models can lack important safety features, and some old cribs have dangerous design flaws, like slats that can trap a baby's head. Materials can also degrade over time, breaking more easily when a child pulls on them.

2. Car Seats

Most experts recommend avoiding used car seats, unless you’re getting them from a trusted friend or family member.

If you buy one at a garage sale, you won’t know its history and, with such an important piece of safety gear, you don't want to take any chances. If the car seat was in a car accident, it could be compromised and may not fully protect your child.

In addition, older car seats may lack the safety features of current models, so be sure to get one that's up-to-date and properly installed. Many firehouses will be happy to check your car seat to make sure it's installed correctly.

This item is crucial, but doesn’t have to break your budget. Here’s how to save money on car seats instead.

3. Helmets

Whether you're looking for a helmet for skiing, biking, skateboarding or riding a motorcycle, be sure to purchase your noggin protector new. Any impact can compromise the helmet's integrity and its ability to protect your head, and buying a used one means not knowing if it’s ever been in an accident.

Some communities, such as Seattle, even offer opportunities for kids to get free helmets. Check around to see if your family can take advantage of a similar money-saving program in your area.

4. Mattresses and Upholstered Furniture

Sure, it's kind of gross to sleep on a mattress of uncertain origin. But you know what's even more disgusting? Bed bugs.

Don’t let these little blood suckers in your home on a used mattress or piece of upholstered furniture. Once your home is infested, a single pest treatment can cost $1,500 or more, and these notoriously tough-to-remove critters typically require repeat treatments.

Used mattresses and upholstered furniture can also contain mold, stains and odors that are almost impossible to get rid of. That's why it makes sense to skip these garage sale finds, no matter how tempting the price, says USA Today.

5. Shoes

Those cute, strappy shoes you found at the garage sale might look great, but they can do some serious damage to your feet. Used shoes are already molded to the original wearer’s foot, so wearing them can cause you foot pain and even injuries.

Used athletic shoes are often worn out and lack crucial support, so be especially sure to purchase these new, recommends USA Today. The exception? A gently worn pair might be worth the cost.

6. Kitchen Appliances

Dave Ramsey cautions garage sale shoppers to think twice before snagging a cut-rate used blender, toaster or coffee maker.

Older models of these kitchen appliances may be fire hazards. Blenders could also have dull blades, and any of these items could wear out quickly.

7. Tires

With your safety resting on your tires, it makes sense to buy the most reliable ones you can find. Used tires may lack tread, be subject to a safety recall or could even be rotting.

It's impossible to know what a tire's been through. It could have been outside for years in sub-zero weather, left to rot in the sun, or even in an accident causing instability. It's safer to buy these new.

8. Hats

Hats are hard to clean, and the ones you'll find at a garage sale are rarely completely hygienic. A garage-sale hat could have skin, sweat and hair products in it.

Unless you can properly sanitize the hat before wearing it -- like a cotton beanie you can toss in the laundry -- it's best to skip these.

9. Baby Bottles

Many older bottles were made with BPA, which was later found to be unsafe for babies and the FDA banned the material in baby bottles and sippy cups.

Some bottles may have cracks, and it's hard to know the history of a bottle. It's best to purchase safe, new bottles, or at least get them from a trusted friend or family member.

10. Worn Cookware

While you can find some great cookware deals at some garage sales, steer clear of worn cookware. Rusty items or those with flakes of non-stick coatings will add less-than-appetizing bits to your food, and some people even think they could be hazardous to your health.

11. Clothes That Don’t Fit

Always try on your garage-sale finds. If an item doesn't fit right, be sure to factor in the cost of tailoring, unless you're skilled with a sewing machine.

A bargain dress can quickly turn expensive if you'll need to hire a pro to make it fit right.

12. Makeup and Fragrances

Even if you can find brand new and in-the-box makeups and fragrances, steer clear of these at garage sales. These items expire and lessen in quality over time. Open products also contain a host of health risks, and can be laden with bacteria.

However, this one’s a toss-up, though -- some people even pull makeup out of dumpsters!

13. Stuffed Animals

While it might be tempting to snag a stuffed animal or two to make your kid smile, carefully consider whether or not to bring home plush toys. While some people, such as The Penny Hoarder’s Steve Gillman, find garage-sale plush toys a treasure trove, others have concerns.

Stuffed toys can harbor critters, according to Reader’s Digest. The editors note it's usually hard to wash these fragile creations in water hot enough to kill the potential germs or pests. Be sure to carefully inspect anything you plan to buy.

Check For Recalls

Stores regularly receive notifications from manufacturers about recalls on items deemed unsafe or hazardous. But people selling a few spare items from their garages never receive these notifications.

Before you purchase items at a garage sale, make sure they’re not recalled for safety or other reasons.

The U.S. government has a website to help you find out if an item has been recalled, so spend a few minutes on your smartphone before you buy.

However, not every item will necessarily be listed on that website. Be sure to check with the item’s original manufacturer to see about any relevant recalls before making a purchase.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

When you think about high-paying jobs, do you think of becoming a doctor or lawyer, or hitting it big in the tech industry?

You don't have to go to medical or law school, or move to Silicon Valley, to earn a high salary.

Choosing a Career? Consider These 13 High-Salary Jobs

If you're a student or you’re considering a career change, consider one of these professions.

1. Air Traffic Controller: $122,410

If you're detail-oriented and love all things aviation, consider going into air traffic control. This high-responsibility career pays off with a mean annual wage of $122,410.

You'll be responsible for guiding some of the 87,000 flights in the U.S. skies each day and following policies and procedures to ensure flight safety.

To head into this field, you must be a U.S. citizen, start the FAA Academy by your 31st birthday, and be able to pass background checks and medical exams.

You’ll also need three years of higher education as well as some work experience -- but you don’t need a college degree.

2. Accountant or Auditor: $76,730

Analytical skills are key to a successful career as an accountant or auditor. In this field, you'll prepare financial statements, interpret records, give advice and help individuals and businesses with their costs and budgets. You'll also examine financial records and make sure people and companies pay their taxes correctly and on time.

To pursue this career, which comes with a mean annual wage of $76,730, you'll need a bachelor's degree.

Many accountants also pursue certification as a Certified Public Accountant. Earning a CPA has a number of career advantages, including typically earning a 10% higher salary than people without the license.

Each state has different fees associated with the exam and licensing procedure, and many people opt to take a preparation course or purchase self-study materials. In Minnesota, it can cost more than $3,000 to become licensed.

3. Healthcare Administrator: $109,370

Ensure hospitals provide quality care by going into healthcare administration. This field pays around $109,370 per year and you'll need a bachelor's degree, typically in healthcare administration or management.

Many administrators also go on to earn a master's degree in a related field to boost their qualifications and become even better candidates for high-ranking positions.

4. Dental Hygienist: $73,440

If you're detail-oriented and don't mind peering into patients' mouths every day, you might do well as a dental hygienist.

This career, which pays an average salary of $73,440 per year, involves cleaning and examining teeth as well as educating patients about how to take care of their pearly whites.

You'll need an associate's degree and a state license. Each state has different licensing rules, so be sure to check with your state for up-to-date requirements.

5. Packaging Engineer: $85,110

This specialty within the engineering field is a blend of industrial engineering, industrial design, material science, marketing and logistics. Expect to work from broad design conceptualization right on through product placement.

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but you can expect to earn $85,110 a year if you pursue a degree in this field.

6. Data Scientist: $124,150

Working with data to mine information, spot a variety of different trends and work to help businesses succeed is what data scientists do each day. For this, they earn a median wage of $124,150.

However, in supervising roles, they can earn quite a bit more. Data scientists leading a team of up to three earn $140,000 a year, while those leading 10 or more earn $232,500 per year, according to a Burtch Works 2014 salary study.

7. IT Manager: $135,800

Spend your days planning, coordinating and managing computer activities for a median salary of $135,800 per year as an IT manager.

You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in computer or information science and work experience, and many IT managers also have graduate degrees.

8. Business Operations Manager: $116,090

This lucrative field helps companies manage day-to-day and long-term business performance. Expect to spend your time switching between managing policies, materials and personnel.

You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in business or logistics, and you can earn an average yearly salary of $116,090.

9. Physician Assistant: $101,480

Work with doctors to diagnose patients, write prescriptions and help patients recover from illnesses and injuries. You'll need a master’s degree from a physician assistant program, but you'll earn a mean annual wage of $101,480.

10. Information Security Analyst: $92,600

Work with companies to maintain computer security, respond to security breaches and viruses, and help preserve digital privacy.

These pros earn a mean annual wage of $92,600 for their efforts keeping companies digitally safe. You'll generally need a bachelor's degree in a related field to get this gig.

11. Construction Manager: $99,510

Spend your days managing construction projects, coordinating and supervising personnel, sticking to a budget, and making sure you’re on track to complete projects on time.

You'll earn a mean annual salary of $99,510 in this field. Many people earn this job by working their way up the ranks from entry-level construction positions.

12. Actuary: $114,120

If you love working with data and statistics, consider a career as an actuary. You'll spend your days analyzing data on accidents, mortality, disability and retirement statistics, and use that information to forecast risks and liabilities.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and to pass a series of qualifying exams. Actuaries earn a mean annual salary of $114,120.

13. Political Scientists: $112,250

Spend your days analyzing political systems, including their origins, development and operations. You may even use your expertise to conduct public opinion surveys and analyze election results. Expect a mean annual wage of $112,250 in this field.

Many political scientists work for the federal government, research agencies, or colleges and universities. Others are consultants or work for local government offices.

Your Turn: Are you a student or career changer interested in any of these fields? Let us know in the comments!
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Why toss things in the trash when you could repurpose or recycle them?

April 22 is Earth Day, and one great way to celebrate is by recycling items you might usually throw away.

In addition to diverting items out of the waste stream and keeping them out of landfills, you could also make extra money or help out worthy causes.

From scrap metal to ink cartridges, bullets to construction materials, you can recycle a huge variety of items in exchange for cash or goodwill.

Ready to see how recycling can pay off for you?

Find a Collection Point

Though some recycling centers are closing, you can still find places to recycle a wide variety of items for cash.

To find a recycling center near you, head over to Earth911.com and plug in the item you’re looking to recycle as well as your location. The site lists collection locations for everything from antifreeze to ammunition.

Of course, you won’t get paid to recycle everything, but it’s important to properly dispose of potentially hazardous items.

Prepare Items for Recycling

Check with your local collection point to see whether you have to prepare your recyclables for the collection center in any specific way.

Some centers require you to remove bottle caps, rinse and bag bottles in certain increments, or sort and tie together cardboard. Check the rules before you go to save time later on.

Be sure to properly bag items that may make a bit of a mess. Even if you thoroughly rinse all your bottles and cans, there might be a bit of water and other residue on them; transport them in bins or bags to protect the interior of your car.

If you’re donating a cell phone or other electronic item, be sure to clear your personal information from it, including contact lists, voice mails, text messages, photos, passwords, downloads and anything else you wouldn’t want random strangers to access.

Back up your information on your new phone, your computer or a cloud-based service, then restore your phone to factory settings before recycling it.

What to Recycle for Cash

Depending where you live, you can get paid to recycle certain items.

Here are some common options and how to recycle them.

1. Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is one of the more profitable materials to recycle. For this reason, scrap metal theft is not uncommon and even community recycling dumpsters have been raided in search of the metal.

Many local recycling programs fund their programs through scrap metal collection, so be sure to check your local rules or laws about collection.

Copper, steel and aluminum are just a few of the scrap metals you can recycle for money. Google your local area and “scrap yard” to find a local scrap yard that may take whatever metals you have.

Once you’ve rounded up your metal, find out if it’s ferrous or non-ferrous by seeing if a magnet sticks to it.

If it does, the metal is ferrous and likely a common metal like steel or iron. These items typically aren’t worth that much, but it’s still important to recycle them.

If the magnet does not stick, you likely have copper, aluminum, brass, bronze or stainless steel on your hands. These metals are more valuable.

You can make money recycling a variety of these metals. Be sure to contact your local scrap yard to see what it accepts and learn its procedures for drop off.

2. Bottles and Cans

One Penny Hoarder writer made $1,500 cashing in soda cans he collected at work. You, too, can make money by rounding up bottles and cans, whether from work, friends and family, at events or just your own home.

California offers 5 cents for most plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans smaller than 24 ounces, with 10 cents for 24-ounce or larger containers. It’s technically a bottle deposit, but many people don’t bother to collect their refunds, so it’s easy money for bottle and can collectors.

Michigan has a 10-cents-per-bottle recycling rate, which has prompted people to illegally smuggle in empty bottles purchased out of state to cash in — this was even the plot of one “Seinfeld” episode.

Many states have a deposit or pay for recycling cans and bottles, so be sure to check your local area for rates.

3. Car Batteries

Advance Auto Parts offers a $10 store gift card to customers who bring in their unwanted used car batteries (light-duty truck batteries are also accepted).

If the company doesn’t have an outlet near you, call your local auto parts stores to see whether it offers a similar deal.

Some scrap metal yards test and sell used batteries they collect, though this price can vary widely.

4. Ink Cartridges

A number of office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot, accept used ink cartridges for recycling. Staples offers $2 back per cartridge, with a maximum of 20 returns per month, though you do have to spend $30 on ink there over the previous 180 days.

Office Depot offers 200 points for up to 10 cartridges a month, but you must also make a $10 qualifying purchase during that month. Most in-store and online purchases count, but certain exclusions (such as gift cards and postage) apply.

There is no limit on the number of cartridges you recycle, but you will only receive points on the first 10 per month. You can use your points toward a number of different perks and discounts.

5. Electronics

Eco-Cell is one of many companies offering cash for old cell phones and other electronics. The company accepts working or broken phones, tablets, rechargeable batteries, circuit boards and a variety of other electronics.

Even if an item is broken or was submerged in water and is now unusable, Eco-Cell will accept it. The company wants to divert these electronics from landfills and properly dispose of the toxic components and metals in each item.

While it doesn’t list its prices, Eco-Cell does offer a revenue share on the items, and its FAQ recommends calling in for a quote.

Many cell phone providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have trade-in programs where you can receive a voucher, gift card or other reward for turning in your old phone. Amazon Trade-in could also help you earn gift cards.

A number of charities also accept cell phones, whether to re-purpose the phones or use the funds from their recycling to benefit others. HopeLine has donated 180,000 phones to domestic violence victims and survivors. Cell Phones for Soldiers will refurbish and sell your old phone to active-duty military members and veterans.

If a phone is too old or broken, Cell Phones for Soldiers sells it to recyclers who strip it for parts and dispose of its metals responsibly. The proceeds from the sales go to purchase international calling cards for troops and “provide emergency financial assistance to veterans.”

And of course, you could always sell your old phone yourself.

6. Quirky Recyclables

When you think of recycling, you probably think of bottles and cans. But you can recycle weird items ranging from wine corks to food packaging, too.

Look around and see what you may be able to cash in on!

Disclosure: You wouldn’t believe how much coffee The Penny Hoarder team goes through. This post contains affiliate links so we can keep the grinds stocked!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up a bottle of conventional bathroom cleaner and take a look at the label. You'll likely see unpronounceable ingredients and warnings galore. While you’d prefer to use something a little more eco-friendly, the natural cleaners on the next shelf are much pricier. How can you use better cleaning supplies without destroying your budget?

Thankfully, you can ditch toxic and expensive store-bought cleaners for some of these eco-friendly, family-friendly DIY cleaning products and techniques.

A few basic ingredients, including baking soda, borax, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, and more can help transform a dirty house into a sparkling one. Whether you want to clean your carpet, bathroom or kitchen, these cleaners are easy and inexpensive to make from simple ingredients that are far less toxic than store-bought formulas.

Of course, some of these ingredients and cleaners are still not anything you would want to inhale or consume, so be sure to take precautions. Wear gloves (and eye protection when necessary), work in well-ventilated areas, avoid inhaling fumes, rinse thoroughly and keep the products away from kids and pets. Just in case, be sure to keep the U.S. Poison Control Center's number handy: 1-800-222-1222.

1. Glass Cleaner

Keep those windows and mirrors spotless with this homemade formula from Good Housekeeping.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups water

  • ½ cup white or cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol (70% concentration)

  • 1-2 drops of orange essential oil (optional)

  • Spray bottle

Add all the ingredients to the spray bottle. When it's time to clean windows and mirrors, simply spray the mixture on a soft cloth or paper towel and wipe down the glass.

2. Grease Cleaner

This heavy-duty formula will help get the gunk out of oven hoods, grills and more.

You'll need:

  • ½ cup sudsy ammonia (available commercially or make your own)

  • One-gallon container

  • Water

Put the sudsy ammonia into the one-gallon container. Add enough water to fill it. It’s that easy -- this solution is ready to use. Just dip in a mop or sponge, soak up some solution and use it to wipe down greasy oven hoods or other greasy items. Then, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Be sure to fully rinse and dry items before using them. You may want to use gloves when preparing and using this solution. Also, be sure not to inhale any fumes.

3. All-Purpose Cleaner and Deodorizer

Scrub down kitchen counters, appliances and even the refrigerator with this simple solution made from basic kitchen ingredients.

You'll need:

  • 4 tablespoons baking soda

  • 1 quart warm water

  • Container to mix them in

Mix the baking soda and water together in a container. Then, simply moisten a sponge or cloth with the mixture and use it to clean.

Toilet Cleaners

Toilets can be tough to clean. DIY Natural suggests a few different methods to clean your toilet, including everyday cleanings, heavy-duty scrubs and a quick-clean strategy.

4. Everyday Toilet Cleaning

This solution uses the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil to disinfect your toilet.

You'll need:

  • ½ cup baking soda

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar

  • ½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil

First, get a spray bottle and add the vinegar and tea tree oil. Spray this mixture all over the toilet, including the seat, lid, handle and bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, sprinkle the baking soda in the toilet bowl and scrub with a toilet brush. Use a cloth to wipe the vinegar and tea tree mixture off of the seat, lid and handle.

5. Deep Cleaning

If your toilet is stained and needs a deeper clean, use this mixture.

You'll need:

  • ¾ cup borax

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Mix all ingredients together. Flush the toilet to get the inside wet and then pour the mixture into the toilet bowl. Let it sit for several hours or, better yet, overnight. Do not use the toilet during this time. After the mixture has been in the bowl for several hours, scrub down the toilet bowl and flush again to rinse.

6. Quick Clean

If you don’t need a full clean, or time is of the essence -- it’s only been a couple of days since a deep clean, or your in-laws just texted that they’ll be over in ten minutes -- use this lightning-fast method.

You'll need:

  • Baking soda

  • Vinegar

  • Spray bottle

Keep some vinegar on hand in a spray bottle and a box of baking soda nearby for this quick clean method. First, spray vinegar on the outer surfaces (seat, lid, handle) and inside the toilet bowl. Let it sit for several minutes. Then, sprinkle baking soda in the toilet bowl, scrub with the toilet brush and flush. Next, wipe the seat, lid and handle clean with a cloth.

More Homemade Cleaners

For even more ways to keep your home sparkling while saving a few bucks, check out Good Housekeeping's list of 25 DIY home-cleaning techniques, from how to deep clean bathroom grout, to sprucing up the kitchenware, to making your own wood polish or even cleaning a wool rug with snow.

Your Turn: Do you use DIY cleaners in your home?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Winter storm Stella is taking aim at parts of the Northeast U.S. this week and could dump as much as 18 inches of snow in some states.
It’s tempting to huddle under a blanket, order a pizza and wait for the worst to pass.

But there are also plenty of ways to cash in on such an epic storm, from shoveling driveways to offering transportation.

Be sure to check the legalities in your area -- and have proper insurance and signed liability waivers when necessary -- but prepare to make some money when the snow falls.

Most people won't be out and about during a big blizzard, so think about how to reach potential customers at home with your advertising.

Use Facebook to run a hyper-local ad campaign targeting your neighbors. Post your services on Craigslist, local online community boards or neighborhood Facebook groups.

Or take the old-school route (which is still effective!) of going door-to-door, passing out flyers and explaining your services.

1. Clear Snow

When this much snow falls, you can count on days of shoveling following the storm.

While shoveling sidewalks and driveways (and digging out cars) is physically taxing, it can also be lucrative. The going rate for snow shoveling is $25-75 per hour. Many people have no desire to spend a few hours shoveling their home out after a storm, and others are physically unable to do so.

Consider offering a special deal (or free shoveling services) to low-income senior citizens or others who may be unable to clear their own snow. It's a great way to get some buzz while doing a good deed, much as the owners of Portland Oregon's Plaza Cleaners discovered when they received a massive amount of positive publicity for offering free dry cleaning to unemployed people with upcoming job interviews.

YouTube offers tips and techniques on the best ways to shovel snow. Be careful to use proper techniques so you don’t get injured! Snow blowers are also worth their weight in gold.

To go the extra mile -- and maybe earn a tip or two -- sprinkle ice melt on sidewalks and driveways.

Also, leave a card or small flyer with your customers. You can print them out cheaply at home or order affordable business cards from Vistaprint at 100 cards for $16.

Next time there's a storm, your clients will have your information handy, and they’ll also have it at the ready to pass along to friends and neighbors, telling them about your great shoveling job and attention to detail.

2. Plow Driveways and Parking Lots

While most anyone can shovel, operating a plow requires specialized training and equipment. If you have a truck equipped with a plow, plenty of people and businesses will hire you to clear snow.

Look to local businesses with large parking lots and residents with long driveways as your primary customers. Operators typically charge $30-65 per driveway -- more for especially long and curvy driveways.

Where I live in the Rockies, we typically receive more than 500 inches of snow per year. Plow operators here in Jackson, Wyoming, generally contract with clients at the beginning of the season and agree to terms, including when to plow, which is typically when there are four or more inches of snowfall.

Each time we have significant snowfall, the operators automatically plow, with no need to even call the property owners since the terms were set up in advance.

A big storm is also a great time to start your snow plowing business. Have cards or flyers ready to hand out, and be sure to keep track of your clients' information so it's handy for next fall (when you can contract them for the next winter season). If you come through for them when they really need it, that's a great way to begin a longer-term contract.

3. Run Errands for the Homebound

Just because most transportation has ground to a halt doesn't mean people don't still need to run errands. From medicine deliveries to stocking up on extra groceries, people still need a few essentials during the storm.

If the roads are in decent shape, and you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and good winter driving skills, consider running errands for neighbors and other customers.

Even if the roads are closed and impassable, if you have a good set of cross-country skis (and possibly a sled for larger hauls), you can still get around (and get a great workout) while running errands for people.

You might even consider teaming up with a store that is open (or a pharmacy) to offer your delivery service. You could either market yourself on your own or take advantage of a service like Task Rabbit that will match you up with people who need help running errands.

While there might be strict rules about transporting some types of medications, if someone just needs some more Nyquil, that's an easy request for you to deliver. Also, consider teaming up with restaurants to offer special snow delivery (via skis when necessary).

4. Sell Shovels, Snow Brushes and Ice Scrapers

If you live in a climate that doesn't normally have a lot of snow, you might not have great tools for clearing it. Heavy-duty snow shovels, snow brushes, and ice scrapers are a few things that are hard to come by if you live in a normally fairly temperate climate.

Next time you're on vacation in an extreme climate, stock up on some of these heavy-duty items (or order them online), and have them ready to sell (or rent) next time a big snowstorm comes around.

Apps like letgo make it super easy to sell stuff online.

Shoveling with a sturdy, reinforced, heavy-duty shovel makes a world of difference over attempting to use a dinky $2 shovel one that cracks and snaps halfway through.

5. Rent Out Snowblowers, Sleds and Other Winter Gear

While people might easily shell out some cash for a sturdy snow shovel, they may only want to rent a snowblower for a short length of time.

Consider renting out snowblowers, and other winter gear, even heavy winter clothing. Also, consider renting out “snow toys,” including skis, snowshoes and sleds.

6. Sell Snacks and Drinks

Cook up a pot of chili, bake some homemade cookies, brew up some coffee and hot cocoa, grab some bottles of Gatorade, and go around selling refreshments to people hard at work shoveling snow.

Put together a few pre-made s'mores kits, including graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows and skewers, and market these to families with stir-crazy kids who would love to find a family-friendly and memorable way to enjoy the storm.

S’mores kits are selling for around $30 online (plus shipping), so providing door-to-door service should be worth a premium.

7. Sell Firewood

In addition to providing cozy ambiance, firewood can provide a valuable heat source if the power goes out. With high winds and ice, there's a good chance a blizzard will lead to an outage, so be prepared.

By offering firewood, you can help your neighbors stay warm and make money. Have several delivery options in mind. If the roads close, using cross-country skis and a sturdy sled with a tarp bungeed down over the wood, you can offer a premium (and profitable) delivery service.

Urban dwellers are especially likely to purchase pre-chopped firewood. In many parts of Washington, D.C., for example, people go door-to-door selling firewood, and residents snap up the wood for their fireplaces at a rate of $50 for two stacked piles.

Make it easy for people, and they're likely to buy. Be sure to include some kindling and your card in case they want a re-supply.

8. Help Stranded Travelers

Every time there’s a huge snowstorm, countless travelers are stranded. Some storms can cancel flights for days, leading to chaos for travelers. But there are ways to make the experience of being stranded a positive one for travelers.

If you're comfortable with the idea of renting out a room, consider putting people up in your home for an affordable rate.

Try a service like Airbnb, and you could earn a few hundred dollars. This works best with someone you can verify, but some people are comfortable hosting strangers in their home, too.

Another option is to provide snow-related activities for stranded travelers. Offer sled rentals or snowmobile rides. Getting out and enjoying the snow is far more pleasurable than being holed up in a hotel room, watching daytime television all day.

9. Sell Your Storm Photos

Take photos and videos from the storm and sell them to news agencies.

If you have truly exceptional storm photos, call up your local news stations and publications (even national ones) and offer to send a watermarked version for their consideration. If travel is snarled, news crews can't be everywhere, and they may be willing to pay for your epic storm photos.

Also, look into stock photography options, where you can earn $1 or so per photo.

10. Babysit for Desperate Parents

Just because there's a giant storm doesn't mean all parents can stay home from work.

Offer your babysitting services to neighbors and friends, watching their kids if they're called off to work, and earn around $15 an hour.

You can even promote the fun, snow-related activities that you'll do with the kids, including sledding, making snow angels, building a snowman and making s'mores.

11. Provide Pet Care and Pet Sitting

Some pet owners have to head to work during a big storm, and others are physically unable to walk their dog through large snow drifts. When their dog is at home bouncing off the walls, pet owners may want to hire someone to take their pup for a walk.

A pair of snowshoes or skis can certainly come in handy for storm dog walking.

“I love animals and helping people out, so this is a perfect way to make money during a big storm,” said Melanie Reed. “I am always out skiing and snowshoeing, so getting paid to walk a dog while I'm on skis or snowshoes is even better.”

And, if the winds are blowing, some pets will be scared if they're home alone all day. Offer to care for pets in their home or yours. You can even watch several pets at once, increasing your earnings.

12. Offer Transportation

Just because the city has shut down doesn't mean no one has to get anywhere. Offering transportation via four-wheel-drive or snowmobile can be a lucrative service during a big storm.

One friend had a colleague who desperately needed to get somewhere during a big storm, and a neighbor provided a snowmobile ride down their two-mile-long driveway to get to the main (plowed) road.

Another option is to throw some chains on your tires, shift into four-wheel drive and drive with Uber to get people where they need to go.

Your earnings will be calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled after your pickup, and Uber charges a service fee (20-35%, depending on your city)..

If you want to give it a try there are a few things to keep in mind. You must be at least 21 years old, have three years of driving experience, have an in-state driver’s license, a clean driving record and be able to pass a criminal background check.

Finally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

Here’s a link to apply with Uber.

13. Make Money Online

Take advantage of a day home from work to make money online instead of watching a Netflix marathon.

Use the time off to create and sell a short course, sign up for special offers, or even cash in on playing video games.

14. Earn Cash at Home

You don't have to go online to make money at home. Take advantage of a snow day to clean out your closets and garage, seeing what you might be able to sell.

Search for old comic books to sell (and maybe even make $8,000), find clothes to sell on consignment, and search for '80s and '90s toys to cash in on.

15. Make Money Crafting

Use the snow day to knit, crochet, quilt, create clothing or bags, or whatever strikes your fancy. Market these items online or sell your creations in local shops.

You might even take advantage of a snow day or two to pick up a new hobby that can turn profitable. For example, learn how to knit, or even practice repairing your own clothing.

16. Create Storm Souvenirs

Create a design or two about “Surviving the Snowpocalypse” and take to Cafe Press or another on-demand printing site to produce storm souvenirs. Create beanies, T-shirts, mugs, or other items that might appeal to a few locals, and could be a hit with big-city tourists.

You may want to keep your design broad enough to apply to people throughout the storm-hit region. Put up a few ads on Facebook and other services, and sell your products in shops online and at local retailers. Voila -- you’ve created a clever online business!

17. Monetize YouTube Videos

Demonstrate your favorite snow-shoveling technique or show off your epic snow castle on YouTube.

Create a viral snow-related video or learn from Grumpy Cat's owners about how to make millions via YouTube.

18. Help With Clean Up

Blizzards pack a punch and, with high winds, they can leave a trail of wreckage and damage. Help your neighbors out and make a profit by offering your services to clean up the mess and repair the damage.

From chopping and hauling away downed trees (which you may be able to keep for firewood), to repairing downed fences, and picking up wayward shingles that have blown off roofs, there is plenty of work to do after a storm.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to earn a few extra bucks during a snowstorm?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.