Steve Gillman - The Penny Hoarder

Can you sum up a product in a sentence? Think of something funny -- and not another joke about too many candles -- to put on a birthday card? Make a point in few concise words?

If so, you might be able to make money writing slogans.

Companies sometimes need new corporate taglines, advertising slogans and jingles. Bumper sticker and greeting card makers want cute, endearing or funny thoughts to put on their products. When these businesses need help, they sometimes collect submissions from freelance writers or run contests that anyone can enter -- including you!

Writing Corporate Slogans and Taglines

Product slogans can be very short, like Nike's “Just Do It.” They’re rarely much longer than Hallmark's "When you care enough to send the very best."

Although companies usually have their own teams of writers and marketers, they often run competitions that pay big prizes to outsiders who can come up with a catchy line. Watch for these opportunities on television and in print, but your best chance of finding them may be online. Try one or more of these platforms:

  • Slogan Slingers helps companies create slogan contests in which their registered writers compete. It's free to sign up as a writer, and the company claims you can “make up to $999 per contest (minus our small admin fee).”
  • Get a Slogan is a "crowd-sourcing platform that brings in custom, creative and catchy slogans from a variety of sloganeers." Companies come to them for help, and writers submit their ideas. It's free to sign up, but you initially have only "qualifying" status. Once you obtain "qualified" status, you’ll receive $50 for each of your winning slogans.
  • Freelancer.com has a section devoted to slogan-writing projects. The projects are  sometimes run as contests.

For ideas about how to craft a catchy tagline, look over lists of some of the best advertising slogans and think about what makes each one work.

If you Google "slogan contest" plus the current or upcoming year (to weed out expired contests from the results), you'll notice that government and nonprofit organizations may have even more slogan contests than companies. Many of these are open to children as well, so get your kids writing!

For example, Kentucky’s Secretary of State holds an annual slogan contest for students in grades 6 through 8. The kids have to write a slogan about voting or elections. The 2014 first-place winner earned $1,000 for "Don't stay home and think you might. Go vote now, the time is right!" Even the third-place winner received $400 for "There's nothing sweeter than to elect your leader!"

Writing Greeting Card and Novelty Slogans

Nadia Ali wrote the slogan, "Nicotine Challenged," for use on lighters -- and earned $100. That's $50 per word!

Ali wrote the slogan for Kalan, a gift and novelty seller that mostly does edgy stuff I can't repeat here. However, their unusual products might be good writing opportunities for you! The Kalan Idea Factory accepts submissions through their Facebook page. Most recently, they were looking for greeting card ideas for next Valentine's Day.

Oatmeal Studios is a card company that pays for outside submissions -- and you don't even have to be able to draw. Describe the visual elements of the card, and their artists will take it from there. Their submission guidelines include the following tips:

If you find yourself wondering whether a line is funny or not, read it to a few friends and see if they laugh. From a creative perspective, go wild! Keep in mind your target list of people you send cards to.

Here are the occasions you’ll want to consider:

  • Birthdays (especially 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th)
  • Belated birthday
  • Get well
  • Thank you
  • Miss you
  • Congratulations
  • Anniversary
  • Retirement

Unlike some card makers, Oatmeal Studios doesn’t want puns, poetry, gross ideas or mean ideas, so keep it clean for your best chance of a payday.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Financial guru Dave Ramsey says, "Responsible use of a credit card does not exist." He advises using cash instead.

While he may have good advice to offer in other areas, here Ramsey is just plain wrong. I never pay interest on my eight cards, I don't spend more just because I'm not paying cash, and I'm measurably better off financially thanks to credit cards.

Yes, some people can't handle credit and should use cash, but plenty of people use their cards responsibly, and there are many great reasons to use credit cards instead of cash.

10 Reasons Why You May Want to Use Credit Cards Instead of Cash

Here are 10 reasons you might want to ignore Ramsey’s advice and use credit cards.

1. Protection on No-Return Items

A few months ago I was overbilled for a computer repair. Only when I disputed the charge with my credit card company did the manager of the business finally adjust the charge. I like having a credit card company to help me out at times like this.

Some stores don't allow returns, or specify that clearance items are non-refundable. If you pay cash for these items and have a problem, you're usually out of luck.

But if you pay with a credit card, you can file a dispute. Just because the company says "no refunds" doesn't mean you should pay for something that doesn't work, so never pay cash for items that can't be returned -- use a card.

The Fair Credit Billing Act lets you withhold payment on things that are damaged or of poor quality -- it’s not enough that you change your mind or bought the wrong size.

It’s important to note, as BankRate.com points out, that there are a few catches. You have to first try to resolve the matter with the seller, the item has to cost $50 or more and the law says it has to be bought within 100 miles of your home.

Fortunately, credit card companies rarely enforce the last two stipulations so you can usually dispute charges for items that cost less than $50 and those bought far away or online.

2. Cash-Back Rewards

I just received a $25 check for points I redeemed on one of my cards. But it can be difficult to keep track of all the rules for cash-back rewards, so I use my PayPal Business Debit card for most purchases.

I never have to make a phone call or fill out a form online; the 1% cash back is deposited automatically in my PayPal account every month.

When it's that easy, why would I want to pay cash and give up the extra money?

If you can keep up on the rules and revolving categories that some rewards programs have, you can do much better.

Some cards pay up to 5% for certain types of purchases one month, and switch the reward to another category the next month.

You can also get creative with rewards cards to boost the balance and earn more.

3. Signup Bonuses

My wife and I made $800 from credit card signup bonuses this year. We had to spend a certain amount to qualify, but we use a card for all our normal purchases until we hit the mark and get the bonus; then we retire the card.

Here's a question for Ramsey: If we never pay interest (we pay our bill in full every month), and we never buy too much just because it's on a credit card, are we really better off financially by paying cash and giving up the $1,000 we'll make this year in bonuses and rewards?

If you do chase after bonuses, you might be tempted to cancel your cards after getting your cash. But closing accounts can hurt your credit score. I close them anyhow, because the score bounces back in time and we aren't planning to get a mortgage loan, so having a perfect score isn't important.

But if you do worry about those dings to your score, just keep the cards but stop using them instead of cancelling them. Or, if they have fees, cancel them just before the annual fees are due -- in my experience, when you give the reason for canceling, the credit card companies often drop the fee.

4. Extended Warranties

Some cards offer extended warranties on the items you buy. For example, my American Express card offers up to an additional year on many items.

When blogger Xin Lu’s PlayStation 3 died just after the manufacturer's warranty period had ended, American Express picked up the cost of repairs. “AMEX's extended warranty saved us several hundred dollars,” she wrote on WiseBread.

It's a good reason to use the right credit card to purchase electronics, appliances and anything that has a short warranty period (five years or less). Keep the original receipts in case you need to file a claim.

5. Safer Travel

Having been robbed in Mexico, and having once lost five $20 bills on an Ecuadorian dance floor, I now carry very little cash when traveling.

Cash makes you a target for criminals, and if it's lost or stolen you'll never see it again. If a credit card is lost or stolen you'll be liable for $50 at most, as long as you report the theft within two days. Some cards offer zero liability.

Also, who wants to run around the streets of some unfamiliar place looking for a place to trade in those dollars? Credit cards are safer and more convenient in many places.

6. Better Exchange Rates

When my wife recently visited Spain, she exchanged some dollars for euros at the airport. Ouch!

Airport kiosks often offer poor exchange rates and charge high fees. Credit cards offer better rates of exchange, according to a recent study.

To avoid extra costs, choose a card with no foreign transaction fees. Here’s a list of some of the best travel cards.

7. Rental Car Insurance

When I traveled to Colorado last month, I rented a car for a week. The rental company's collision damage waiver would have cost me $140 for the week, but I declined. Instead, I put the rental charge on one of my credit cards that offers car rental insurance as a free benefit.

You’ll want to read the rules carefully if you use your credit card rental car insurance instead of buying that damage waiver. Not all types of rentals are covered, and you still could be liable for some damages even if you do have this insurance. But it works for me, and saves me a lot of money.

8. Other Travel Benefits

There are many other benefits to using a credit card when traveling, at least if you have the right one. Here are some of the travel-related benefits offered by various credit cards, according to WiseBread:

  • Extra baggage loss insurance
  • Emergency interpretation services
  • Medical emergency transportation assistance
  • Credit card loss protection
  • No baggage fees
  • Tracking assistance for lost luggage

Of course you can also get airline miles for booking flights with a card. You can even use credit cards to get free access to airport lounges. Check out the benefit guides that came with your cards to see what's available.

9. Expense Tracking

Credit cards give you a way to track expenses. Receipts can easily get lost, so it's nice to have online statements as a backup. Some card issuers keep those records around for a long time. Discover Card statements stay online for seven years.

Tracking business expenses for tax deductions is an obvious advantage of paying by credit card, but there are other expenditures you might want to track. For example, you’ll need to track any charitable contributions to deduct on your tax return, so use a credit card. You’ll also need to document expenses for a rental property, if you have one.

If you ever lose a box of old receipts during a move (or worse, a fire), get online and print out copies of those old credit card statements while they're still available.

10. Convenience

If you pay cash for everything, you have to make sure you always have enough currency on you. That means repeatedly stopping at the bank to replenish your funds when they get low. It also means keeping track of how much is in your wallet so you don't have an embarrassing moment at the cash register.

Plus, you have to make sure you get the correct change -- mistakes can happen. It’s simply easier to whip out a credit card and swipe it.

Cash or Credit: The Verdict Is In

To sum up the case for credit cards, here are the benefits of using cards instead of cash, based on my experience this year:

  • About $800 in credit card signup bonuses
  • About $200 in cash rewards from credit cards
  • Savings of $140 on a car rental
  • Successfully disputed a charge because I paid with a credit card
  • Safer overseas travel for my wife thanks to her credit cards
  • Better currency exchange rates because of her credit cards
  • Easier tracking of expenses
  • Extended warranties on several purchases
  • No interest paid on my credit cards
  • No fees for my credit cards (except one -- but that gets me a free night at a Hyatt)
  • No extra purchases versus what we would have bought for cash
  • Convenience

And yet Ramsey says, "There is no positive side to credit card use." He thinks credit cards are nothing but trouble, but I think the guru has failed to make his case. The verdict is in on credit cards: Not guilty.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

While most people associate treasure hunting with pirates, Penny Hoarders know better. There’s treasure all around us; we just need to know where to look.

In a previous post on treasure hunting at home, we looked at 11 hidden places in and around your house or apartment. Once you’ve exhausted those secret spots, it’s time to get outside and expand the search.

Here are seven more places around your home to check. Who knows where you’ll discover hidden or lost valuables and money?

1. Garage

Not quite in the house and not quite outside, the garage is a common hiding place for all sorts of things. Look in the rafters, in the attic if there is one, and in any and all cabinets and containers.

In 2012, officials in Carson City, Nevada, made some interesting discoveries while inspecting a house left behind by a recluse who died with no nearby relatives. They found $12,000 in cash in the house, but soon that amount looked paltry. In the garage, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil, was $7 million in gold coins.

Check out any old tool boxes you find in the garage. Some tools might be sold as useful items or, if they are old and interesting, as collector’s items.

There are other things sometimes left in tool boxes. Consider the man in England who one day looked through his deceased father's old tool box and found a handful of old coins he later auctioned for £30,000 (about $38,000 U.S.).

2. Backyard

When we were kids, my brothers and I filled a plastic container with little toys, coins, and other items, and buried it under a tree in the backyard. We planned to dig up our "time capsule" years later, but when we tried we never could figure out where it was.

It might be there still, and if it remains there another 40 years the coins and toys will probably have value as collectibles.

Valuable discoveries in yards are not uncommon. In early 2014, while hiking out of their backyard, a California couple found a buried treasure worth $10 million: six metal cans, each filled with rare gold coins.

A metal detector can help you find buried valuables. Hidden currency is often in a container made partially of metal, like a jar with a metal top.

Also, people typically level the ground after burying things. The loose soil on top compacts over time, creating a noticeable low spot, so watch for small depressions in the yard.

Burying things under the edge of a cement walkway or driveway is also common.

3. Garbage and Recycling Bins

Excited that the dealers from “Antiques Roadshow” were coming to his town, a man brought in a violin he had plucked from someone's trash. Maybe it was worth a little something, he thought.

As it turned out, once cleaned up, his junk-picked violin was worth around $50,000. Apparently it was a creation of Giuseppe Pedrazzini, a famous Italian violin maker.

If you see something interesting sticking out of a neighbor’s garbage bin, why not grab it? It's fair game once it's discarded.

If you live in a condo development, as my wife and I do at the moment, watch that dumpster for treasures. Here, the residents tend to generously put anything of value alongside the dumpster instead of in it. I've sold some of the things I've found there, and we eat every day at a beautiful wooden table that was discarded next to our recycling bin.

4. Garden

Over the years I've read quite a few stories about buried treasures in gardens. I'm not sure I would want to hide valuables where people are likely to dig, but perhaps homeowners figure they’ll be the only ones digging in their garden. Plus, the soil is already loosened, so a garden is an easy place to bury things.

Use a metal detector to avoid having to dig up your whole garden. If you can find old photos of your home, you might discover parts of the yard that used to be a garden -- search these spots.

Gardens can be wild places, and sometimes things get lost in the weeds. Coins and tools fall from the pockets of gardeners, and on occasion even statues get lost.

Wait... statues? That’s right -- a man in England found a statue worth £20,000 (about $25,000 U.S.) behind overgrown bushes in a garden.

Closer to home, a friend of mine found an entire wood-burning stove half-buried in the dirt in the garden behind his new house.

5. Barns and Sheds

Barns, sheds and other outbuildings around a home are natural places to hide things and good places to continue your treasure hunt. You might find valuable items left behind by previous owners.

When my wife and I bought a place in Colorado, the detached garage/storage building behind the house was bursting with random appliances and tools.

My neighbor sold the scrap metal for me, but I still wonder about a classic oil stove we found. It looked old enough to be a collectible antique. I probably should have had it appraised before we moved and left it to the next owner.

People also purposely hide things in outbuildings. At a house I owned in Michigan, I had a shed with a floor made of loose cement tiles.

If someone lifted the one that was three back and four over from the southwest corner, and dug into the dirt a couple inches, they would have discovered my old coin collection in a plastic peanut butter jar. A simple metal detector would have revealed the location of that little treasure.

My coins are no longer there, but I'm certainly not the only one who has hidden a collection -- and people who hide things often die without revealing all of their hiding places.

Old pump houses are another place to investigate. In years past, when people didn't trust banks as much, they hid gold coins in false water lines. Look for pipes that don't actually go anywhere or connect to others.

Who knows what might be out there in your shed or barn?

7. Foundations

Treasure hunters look at the foundations remaining at old homesteads to determine where the front steps and porch would have been. Why? That’s where people most often sat down to rest, so it’s also where coins most often fell out of pockets and got lost in the grass and dirt.

If your own home is old enough, there might be some valuable coins where people sat generations ago. Get out that metal detector and shovel.

If you expand your concept of treasure, you’ll likely find more of it. I recently helped a friend clean out a house he bought as an investment. Two guys in a pickup truck stopped by and offered to take many of the things that were in the yard, and we filled their truck.

They planned to sell the load to a scrap metal processor for a couple hundred dollars -- something the previous owner could have done before he lost the house to the bank. You can do the same with any metal objects you find around your home. Whatever you discover, there just might be a buyer!

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Maybe you’ve used Craigslist to buy or sell things, but have you ever checked out all of the things that are free?

That’s right, there is a section devoted to things which are simply given away.

People give things away because it is easier than trying to sell them or bringing them to a thrift store as a donation. But it isn’t always that difficult to sell these things, and if you know what you’re doing you can make thousands of dollars from Craigslist freebies. Let’s take a look at how it is done.

How to Make Money on Craigslist by Finding Free Stuff

Go to Craigslist.org, and if you’re not automatically forwarded to a local page, find your state on the list and click on the link for the location closest to you.

For me, the closest offering was “Fort Myers/Southwest Florida,” but when I arrived at that page, I could narrow down the results by clicking on “Collier County,” where I lived when I decided to check out Craigslist freebies. You might look at a couple different locations if they’re both close to you.

Once you have your local directory, look under the “For Sale” heading for the link that says “free” and click that. You’ll probably see advertisements for all sorts of free items if you live in or near a town of more than 15,000 people. One week in Collier County, Florida, the free things offered on Craigslist included:

  • A functioning full-size trampoline
  • An artificial Christmas tree
  • Firewood
  • A toilet seat
  • A bathroom countertop
  • A hot tub
  • A refrigerator
  • Sliding glass doors
  • Wooden doors
  • Windows
  • Leftovers from a rummage sale

I wouldn’t want a used toilet seat, but some of the other things looked good in the photos. The pictures of the rummage sale leftovers clearly showed some decent luggage, a folding chair, many books, clothing, vases and three pieces of wooden furniture.

If we had lived in a house instead of our small condo, I might have gathered up a bunch of these free things to sell at rummage sales — and that’s only one way to sell them, as you’ll see in a moment.

At the time, a post on About.com (no longer available) asked readers what their best free finds were. The answers included a running Suzuki ATV 250, a home gym set, a fish tank and a working motorcycle.

One reader said, “I have also picked up many big screen TVs and sold them for 200 a pop.” This guy says he’s had many $200 paydays from picking up a free TV now and then.

Of course there are better and worse places to do this. In some cities, you might have a lot of competition and new ads can pop up every few minutes, so check often. In small towns, there might not be enough ads for free things to bother looking. But chances are good that you can get some free things, and anything you sell them for is a profit.

How to Sell Craigslist Freebies

Let’s assume you have been running around picking up free things that were advertised on Craigslist. Now how do you sell what you collected? There are several ways to cash in your treasures, including these three:

1. Sell Them on Craigslist

The first way can be considered a sort of arbitrage, which means capitalizing on market inefficiencies by buying cheap and quickly selling for more in some other place. Free is as cheap as it gets, and the “other place” is just the ad categories where things are not free.

Ryan Finlay has some useful information about this on his website, recraigslist.com/. He makes a living on Craigslist, and most of what he sells he obtains there as well.

If you read about Finlay’s best day on Craigslist (as of April 2013), you’ll notice that he paid nothing for five of the six items he sold for a profit that day, and the dryer he sold for $200 was purchased for just $25. He figured he spent $15 on gas and ended the day with a $700 profit.

2. Hold Rummage Sales

The second way to sell the things you get is at rummage sales. The advantages include working from home, not having people call you all the time (as with the first strategy), and limiting your time dealing with customers to a weekend or two each month. Of course this doesn’t work well if you don’t live in a good location for a rummage sale.

3. Sell Items to Specialty Buyers

The third way, which will work only with certain types of items, is to sell to known buyers. For example, I got six boxes of free floor tiles, put them in our van and then sold them later for $10 to the first flooring company I passed.

Perhaps I sold too cheap, but hey, I got them for free. For luggage or electronics you could go straight to a pawn shop to get cash. We have a construction resale place that will buy things like used appliances, countertops and windows, which are all free items offered on Craigslist.

Selling to companies that are always buying is probably not how you get the best price, but it puts the cash in your hands fast. Another advantage is that you won’t end up with a house full of things that haven’t yet sold.

If you go this route, you should keep a list of the best places to sell your goods. You might even be able to get free things and sell them before you return home.

Your list should have scrap metal buyers (aluminum and copper items), pawn shops (electronics, jewelry, luggage and tools), used appliance buyers, used furniture buyers or consignment shops and, perhaps, a used bookstore if it pays cash for books.

It might be best to use several selling strategies to get the most out of your Craigslist freebies. For example, you could sell broken metal items to scrap dealers and large pieces of furniture on Craigslist to get them out of your home, and save the smaller stuff for your next rummage sale.

Once you know how to sell you can also buy things cheaply for resale, but the beauty of this hobby or business is that you can start with no expense other than the gas in your car.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money.” Of the more than 100 ways he has personally made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Imagine sipping your morning coffee on a beautiful balcony looking out over the ocean. Later, you water the plants and clean up a bit before taking a dip in the pool. Oh, and you're getting paid for taking care of this house!

It sounds too good to be true. Can you really find house-sitting jobs that pay?

Yes and no. Yes, caretaking gigs that pay a salary or stipend in addition to providing you a place to stay do exist. But no, there aren't many that fit the description above.

Most house-sitting opportunities fall into one of these two categories: standard house-sitting gigs, or more demanding caretaking jobs. If you’re curious about getting free accommodation in interesting places (and maybe earning a little cash as well), here’s how to get started.

Basic House-Sitting Jobs

Many websites list house-sitting gigs, and a quick glance at the listings tells you right away that not many people are offering to pay their house sitters much -- if anything. Normally, you get a nice place to stay, rent free. In fact, if you're caring for the home for months, you're usually expected to pay some or all of the utilities.

This might not sound like much of a money-making opportunity, but it depends on how you look at it. If your current lease is ending and you’ll get free rent somewhere for three months before moving into your next $1,000-per-month apartment, you're $3,000 better off, right?

Here are some of the online platforms where you can find the opportunities, along with their subscription rates:

Some people make a lifestyle of house-sitting. Canadian couple Dalene & Peter Heck sold everything in 2009 to travel the world, staying in other people's homes. Among other stays, they spent six months house-sitting in Honduras, and at the moment they're caring for a home in Paris, France. They say, "We’ve had 14 jobs in nine countries, and saved over $50,000 in the cost of accommodations as a result."

Sometimes you can get paid for basic house sitting. As House Sitters America explains;

The bottom line is it's all negotiable between you and the homeowners. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for the house and pets in exchange for free accommodation... However there may be times when a homeowner will offer some money for the house sitting job.

They offer examples of times a homeowner might pay you, including:

  • When the house is in an undesirable location
  • For short sits (such as a few days)
  • When there are many pets to care for

They add "Of course, there are also many professional house and pet sitters who actually do this for a living, and they will charge a fee for their services." How do these professionals get paid? Usually they offer a bit more than simply staying in the house and making sure no one breaks in.

Caretaking Jobs

In general, you'll get a stipend or salary if you're doing more than just watching a home. In these cases you're more of a caretaker than a house-sitter.

One of the best sources for these types of jobs is The Caretaker Gazette, which has been around for more than 30 years. They have the usual listings of free place to stay, but they also host advertisements from people who are willing to pay you. In their archives (which you can see for free) I found the following three examples in one issue:

  1. In a small town in Alaska, someone was hiring a caretaker to manage a small store and two apartments and do monthly home heating oil deliveries.

Pay: A small apartment with all bills covered, TV, Wi-Fi, salary (unspecified) and bonuses.

  1. Near Colorado Springs, Colorado, an add requested a couple or single person to care for a ranch with five horses.

Pay: Salary (unspecified) and a furnished apartment.

  1. An ad from Nassau, in the Bahamas, wanted a "house couple" to keep house, plan events, run errands and much more.

Pay: A place to stay and "$100,000 to $120,000 per year."

Clearly these are jobs, not just house-sitting, but they suggest the variety offerings found in the Caretaker Gazette. Of the 100 or so postings in that one issue of their newsletter, there were opportunities all over the U.S. as well as in a dozen other countries, including Peru, Australia and Iceland.

Are You Qualified to House-Sit?

A good house-sitter is responsible, reliable and adaptable. If you're looking to get more than just free accommodation, it helps to also have some mechanical skills. For example, more than one caretaking gig I found in my research required someone with basic plumbing skills, like being able to fix a leaking sink drain.

You’ll have competition, by the way, even for the basic house-sitting jobs. At the moment Mind My House shows 243 active house-sitting assignments, but more than 4,300 "sitter available" listings.

In other words, clients get to be choosy, so experience is a plus. To build some, you might start by house-sitting for family and friends. Be sure to get glowing testimonials from them to add to your resume.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

In recent polls, a third of Americans say they worry about money. You might include yourself in that group, but even if you’re doing fine, your financial situation probably isn’t perfect. So what can you do to improve it?

Apply Kaizen principles to your personal finances.

What is Kaizen? The Kaizen Institute says “Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement.” Originally a business philosophy, it’s been applied to many other areas, including health care, school reform, and life in general.

And although you can find various explanations of Kaizen, they all agree with this basic proposition: If you continually make incremental improvements, you get big positive results.

For example, I took the Kaizen approach to improving our homes by continually making small improvements while we lived in them. Small changes, big results: Each of the three times we’ve moved in the last three years, we sold our homes at a nice profit.

That brings us to the point of this article: You can apply Kaizen to your personal finances to easily take small steps toward big goals. Here’s how…

1. Commit to the Process

To have continuous improvement, you don’t have to think about money all the time, but you do need to take regular action. Commit to those actions by scheduling them.

Put an annual financial tune-up on your calendar. When the day comes, review everything you’ve spent to recognize and reduce expenses that are not in line with your values. You can also find ways to increase your income and add new sources, and work on retirement and other goals.

In addition to this annual analysis and brainstorming session, you should schedule more frequent times to review your finances and plan actions.

My wife and I sit down together at the end of every month to see where we’re at and to plan changes. A weekly review might be even more useful.

If overhauling your financial situation sounds a bit intimidating, don’t worry. It isn’t so difficult when you apply the next Kaizen principle…

2. Make Many Small Changes

The Kaizen Institute says “One of the most notable features of Kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time.”

This doesn’t mean you have to exclude big changes. However, there are advantages to small steps.

It definitely helps psychologically. For example, I could never create a “master plan” for the 20 ways I typically make money each year -- it would be too overwhelming.

But I also don’t develop 20 new income sources each year. Many of my streams of income, like book royalties, website revenue and interest on real estate loans, were developed years ago, and keep flowing.

Instead, I keep taking small steps to add to what’s already working. I make an investment, open a better bank account, get a new cash-back credit card, add a freelance writing client, and so on.

If you set out to redesign your financial life this week, the scale of the task might overwhelm and de-motivate you.

But you could easily open one higher-interest savings account, and then next week call around for cheaper car insurance, and the week after that make another small change. That’s the Kaizen way.

Small changes are also easier to correct.

For example, quitting a job is a big change that could be a difficult mistake to undo. Instead you might take a few steps to make your job worth keeping and find a few ways to make more money at work. Maybe that won’t be enough, but if any of your small changes don’t work out, it’s easier to modify them.

So how powerful can small changes be? If, one by one, you found a dozen ways to spend less and make more money, within a year or two you might be able to quit your job or change your lifestyle in some other major way.

For a more specific example of what’s possible, let’s assume you make the following small changes this year:

The money you’re saving and the extra income adds up to $2,460 per year, or $205 per month.

What happens if you put $205 into decent mutual funds every month? An investment calculator shows that, with a 7% return, you’ll have $35,264 after 10 years, and $509,351 if you keep this up for 40 years.

Six small changes could result in half a million dollars extra for your retirement! That’s the power of Kaizen.

OK, it’s technically seven changes; you also have to open that mutual fund account. And, of course, not every change will work out, which is why you have to apply the next Kaizen principle.

3. Analyze Your Results and Modify Your Efforts

“A Kaizen Warrior understands that change happens in cycles and that it’s impossible to improve without feedback,” explains the Kaizen Brotherhood. In other words, you need to pay attention to your results, and alter your course as necessary.

For example, suppose you try saving money with discounted gift cards, but the result is that you’re tempted into eating at restaurants more frequently, spending even more. You don’t have to give up on discounted gift cards, but you can modify your plan and buy only those valid at grocery stores and other non-restaurant retailers.

Kaizen emphasizes processes. Keep that in mind as you analyze your changes and modify your approach.

If you win a $100 on a lottery ticket or find a cheap pair of jeans, that’s great, but not necessarily repeatable. The regular processes by which you make, spend or invest money matter a lot more. Watch those.

For example, I make thousands annually collecting credit card bonuses and cash back (2016 profit: $2,278), plus bank bonuses (2016 profit: $2,219), but I started small. To get to this level I had to keep tweaking the process and watching to see what worked (mainly to discover which efforts were worth the time invested).

It may help to keep a written list of the changes you make, so you can regularly review them to see what kind of results you achieve.

4. Keep Improving

In what has been referred to as the “Kaizen improvement cycle,” the last step is to “Repeat the cycle by making another small, incremental improvement.” That’s how you get big results.

If those six small changes above can result in a half million dollars, just think what might happen if you keep making improvements.

Again, don’t get intimidated by those big goals. Remember, Kaizen is all about incremental changes. Make a small change today, another next week and so on.

And if finding new changes to implement becomes too much of a challenge, just do more of what has already worked, and do it better.

For example, I didn’t stop when we found a better bank account. Making 1.4% interest at Everbank was nice compared to Chase account’s 0.01% rate, but I kept looking, and found checking accounts that pay up to 5%.

You can apply Kaizen in this way to any area of your finances. If you successfully used a strategy to get a raise, try for another raise (if it’s been a while). If you found a few ways to reduce your utility bills, add a few more.

Make a small change, monitor the results and change course as necessary. Then repeat this simple process again and again. That’s the Kaizen way to improve your financial life.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Years ago, I worked as a live-in babysitter for a couple of months.

I didn't have to dress up like Mrs. Doubtfire, and the kids were OK, but the experience still might be part of why I chose to never have children.

However, if you like being around kids more than me, you could make decent money as a babysitter.

Many sitters now earn $12 to $18 per hour looking after kids. It’s not just a business for teenagers anymore. As an adult, you may be more likely to find work.

Thinking of adding a babysitting side hustle to your income?

Here’s what you need to know...

How Much Can You Make Babysitting?

Since the early 1980s babysitters' wages have risen much faster than inflation, and the average is now around $12 per hour.

The highest rates are in San Francisco, where babysitters charge $18 per hour to watch three kids.

The lowest rates (for watching two kids) suggested by Sitter City’s babysitting pay calculator are $10.33 and $10.67 per hour in economically depressed Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.

In other cities, parents are advised to offer $14 and more per hour. Additionally, Sitter City tells parents to consider the following factors when deciding how much to pay their sitter:

  • Number of kids ($1 or $2 more per-hour, per-kid)
  • Age of sitter (more for adults)
  • Location (higher pay in cities with a higher cost of living)
  • Time (more for late nights)
  • Additional qualifications (more if they know CPR, for example)
  • Additional responsibilities (more for picking kids up from school or helping with homework)

Babysitters should also be paid more for special occasions like New Year's Eve, and get a raise once they have proven themselves to be reliable, recommends Sitter City.

So why are babysitting rates rising in recent years? Some sources suggest that parents want more experienced sitters, and are willing to pay.

Also, it's getting hard for kids to work as cheap babysitters, which may drive up the average wage. In fact, one mother was arrested for letting a 13-year-old babysit her children!

Babysitter, Nanny or Daycare?

The line between being a babysitter and a nanny can be a tough one to determine, but the more important question is whether you’re an independent contractor or a household employee.

If you're the latter, your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities (like paying payroll taxes) -- something most parents probably don't want to deal with just to have a babysitter.

The IRS says, "A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee."

So babysitting in your own home makes it clearer that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes. Otherwise, if you don't get paid more than $1,900 by any one client in a year, you'll normally be considered an independent contractor.

Consult a tax specialist if you're in doubt about your status.

If you do decide to babysit kids in your home, you might be classified as a daycare operator, in which case you may need a license and have other legal complications. Each state has its own laws covering daycare, and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right side of them.

For example, child care law in Illinois specifies that you need a license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if you care for more than three children (your own are included if they're under 12 years-old). So if you live in Illinois and want to avoid the need for a daycare license, simply limit your service to watching three or fewer kids.

How to Find Babysitting Jobs

According to Stephanie St. Martin at Care.com, the best babysitters have these qualifications and personality traits:

  • Love kids
  • Patient
  • Responsible
  • Experienced
  • Full of energy
  • Good teachers
  • Flexible
  • Playful
  • Sensitive
  • Trustworthy
  • Skilled

The last item refers not just to knowing how to change diapers (if you're watching infants or young children), but also having first aid and CPR certifications.

St. Martin said most families expect this of their babysitters now. So if you have most (or all) of the traits and qualifications above, you're probably ready to find babysitting jobs, but how?

Fortunately there are several online platforms specifically set up for connecting parents and babysitters. Here are two examples:

  • Sitter City: They claim to have a new job posting every two minutes. They also have a free membership and paid services.
  • Care.com: With a free membership you can post a profile and apply for jobs. For additional fees, they provide other services, like a background check and better placement in search results.

Anne-Marie Lindsey, an experienced nanny, compared Care.com and Sitter City, and found that Sitter City was easier to use. She also said that not getting a $60 "enhanced background check" on Sitter City "doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job."

Where else can you look for babysitting jobs? Depending on your location, you may find opportunities posted on Monster.com and Indeed.com. You can advertise your services for free on Craigslist.

Finally, word-of-mouth is perhaps one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and to find new customers. Provide great service, then ask your favorite clients to tell their friends about you.

Your Turn: Have you ever worked as a babysitter, and how much did you charge?

Advertiser Disclosure: We are paid for some of our opinions in the post and some links may redirect to an affiliate partner. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

Do you work hard just to squeeze in a week of vacation once or twice each year? That's better than nothing, although some might argue these rushed trips make you more of a tourist versus a traveler. And either way, if you truly love to travel, a week or two each year might not be enough, right?

So if you find yourself always daydreaming about your next travel destination, you might want to consider getting a different job -- one that lets you travel. There are two types to consider:

  1. Jobs that require travel as a normal part of the job description.
  2. Seasonal jobs that allow you to live in different places for a few weeks or months at a time.

If you want a solid, predictable income, you'll probably want the first kind. If you want more variety, you budget well and you like occasional long stretches between jobs, the second kind might be more appealing. We’ll look at a few options from both categories in this list of jobs for travelers.

1. Flight Attendant

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As a flight attendant, you get to travel the world or the country, depending on the airline. But how much time you'll actually have to explore those exotic destinations can vary. Talk to attendants at your target airlines to see where they typically go and how long they get to stay between flights.

If you have customer service experience, you might be hired with just a high school diploma or GED, but airlines prefer applicants with some college. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median annual wage of flight attendants is $48,500.

Now for the bad news: Projections show slower-than-average job growth in the future.

2. Commercial Airline Pilot

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If you like the idea of having two- or three-day stays in cities around the country or the world, but want a better paycheck than a flight attendant gets, learn to fly! Apply to airlines that have routes servicing the places you want to see.

This is the highest-paid position on our list: The median wage for airline pilots is $105,720. Future job growth for commercial pilots is expected to remain about average for years to come.

3. Geologist

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As a geologist for an oil company, you usually travel extensively, going anywhere in the world where there might be oil. The same is true when you work for mining companies. You might be looking for gold in Brazil one month and copper in China the next month.

This job has the second-highest pay of those on our list. The BLS includes it in the category of "geoscientist" and says the median annual wage is $89,780. It also notes that employment growth for these positions is expected to be faster than average. Typically you'll need at least a bachelor's degree to be hired.

4. TEFL Teacher

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Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) provides a way to travel to many destinations, but usually for long stays. LanguageCorps.com says their teachers get four weeks of training overseas and often have six-month contracts, although some assignments are shorter. Use a job site like Indeed.com to search for offerings in specific countries. Enter "TESL" and or "TESOL" (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and under "where" enter the name of the country. You may get referred to a country-specific job search site.

You might find jobs just because you are a native English speaker, but GoAbroad.com says "the vast majority of employers who are offering a reasonable salary and good working conditions now expect their teachers to possess some form of qualification." The standard qualification is a TEFL certificate, which you can get through online training. Some programs start for under $200. Whether or not you'll also need a college degree varies by employer.

5. Cruise Ship Jobs

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Want to travel the oceans of the world, from Alaska to the Mediterranean Sea? Get a job on a cruise ship. Here are just a few of the many different positions you might find onboard, according to CruiseShipJob.com:

  • Clergy
  • Bartender
  • Casino dealer
  • Entertainment director
  • Retail clerk
  • Dance host
  • Hairdresser
  • Lecturer
  • Cook

There are more cruise locations than you might imagine. My brother worked briefly on a day-cruise boat in Japan, and my neighbor used to work on a ship that traveled through Antarctic waters seasonally.

The qualifications and pay vary by position, of course. As a former blackjack dealer, I know a few casino workers who did well on cruises that left out of Florida. You can find these positions posted on CruiseShipJob.com as well as general job websites.

6. Bartending

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The opportunities for working in new locales are almost endless if you're a bartender. It's one of those positions that offers relatively high-pay (in the right place), and yet has high turnover. The latter means you can find a job almost anywhere if you have experience and keep applying. To travel, try to tend bar on a cruise ship or just pick your favorite places on the map and go find a job for a few months.

How much you make depends on where you work, which shifts you get and how good you are at getting tips. Bartender Mike Kopczynski, who tells me he's tended bar in five different states, made more than $760 in one epic shift at a Margaritaville restaurant in Glendale, Arizona.

7. Truck Driver

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The hours are long and sometimes lonely, but as a long-haul trucker, you definitely get to see the country. NationalTruckDrivingJobs.com lists job openings by state and for different categories, including tanker jobs, flatbed jobs and several more. They even have a special section for drivers who have graduated a trucking school but have no experience.

The median wage for tractor-trailer truck drivers is $41,340 per year, but you can expect that figure to grow as the current driver shortage gets worse. Right now, the industry needs tens of thousands of truck drivers, and the shortage may increase to more than 240,000 drivers in the years to come, reports Reuters.com.

8. Peace Corps Volunteer

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If you want to travel to foreign lands and help people while you're there, joining the Peace Corps may be ideal. You normally sign up for a two-year stint, and you may spend much of that time in one location, so this is not a way to "see the sights" as much as a way to get to know another part of the world.

This is a volunteer position, but you do get pay and benefits, and a great entry on your resume. In addition to a living expense stipend you receive while in the Peace Corps, you get health care, student loan help and a readjustment allowance of more than $8,000 when you finish your 27-month assignment.

9. Travel Nurse

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If you're working in healthcare, you have a number of opportunities for travel. For example, my friend works as a physical therapist for a company that assigns her to different locations around the county for a few months at a time. But nurses are perhaps the most in-demand for traveling positions.

TravelNursing.org lists positions for registered nurses all over the country, and says "most travel nursing jobs last between 8-26 weeks, with the majority of the positions being offered for 13 week terms." They say you can make up to about $10,000 per month, and you choose the location. Good benefits are the norm and can include free housing during your assignment.

10. Railroad Jobs

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"America’s freight railroads expect to hire more than 15,000 people in 2015," says the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Their website lists rail companies that hire for positions "ranging from engineering and dispatching, to law enforcement, information technology, industrial development, and more." They're based in cities from Alaska to Florida, but if you get the right position, you'll be traveling all over.

The AAR says, "Freight rail employee compensation, including benefits, averages $109,700 per year." That average includes a lot of different positions, so the ones that are on the trains or require frequent travel may not pay anywhere near that much.

More Travel Jobs

Here are a few more online resources to help you find jobs that involve traveling:

Finally, in addition to jobs, freelance opportunities allow you to work from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. The Penny Hoarder has covered many of these over the years, including freelance blogging, slogan writing, travel photography and more.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

A friend told me he charged homeowners $20 to paint house numbers on their curbs, and paid college students $10 per hour to do the painting. Some of his employees did 15 jobs each day. My first question, as he explained his business, was why they stuck around for $10 per hour.

Doing a dozen jobs on their own, they -- or you -- could make $220 per day painting house numbers on curbs (and yes, that's after expenses).

This wouldn’t be a difficult business to start. You can buy stencils, tape and spray paint and be in business an hour from now for under $30. Or buy a starter curb painting kit for about $19 from an online supply company.

How to Paint Curbs

Different curb painters use different techniques, but the basic routine is simple:

1. Use a wire brush to clean the curb.

2. Apply masking tape to create a rectangular background area.

3. Spray paint the background area white.

4. Use stencils taped together to spray paint black house numbers.

You can watch examples in curb-painting videos on YouTube. In addition to tape, a piece of cardboard with a rectangle cut out makes painting the background easy. Some painters use brass number stencils that slide together, but they work best on flat surfaces; on a curved curb you'll probably want the more flexible stencils. Some curb painters paint each digit by hand.

What kind of paint should you use? At least one curb painter recommends Rustoleum Flat Protective Enamel spray paint, but many different types work. My friend recommended using a more expensive reflective paint.

Some painters might take fifteen minutes to complete a job, while others may do the whole job in a few minutes. Speed matters if you want to make a couple hundred dollars in a day. Aim for fifteen minutes or less, including the time talking to the homeowner.

How to Find Customers

Everyone with a curb should have a house number on it so firefighters and ambulance drivers can find the right home easily. And any pizza delivery driver will tell you that people regularly get their pizza late because the driver can’t see their address.

That's your sales pitch. Practice it, along with your painting skills, on friends and family, perhaps for a discounted rate. Then you're ready to go door-to-door.

In time, you'll get better at choosing where and when to look for customers. If you hear "no" two dozen times in a row, you likely need to try a new neighborhood (or work on your pitch).

Look for areas where most homes already have addresses painted on the curbs. These are people who are already sold on the concept and, since even good paints only last about five years, many will have faded numbers that need repainting.

People may hesitate to hire you because they've heard of curb painting scams. These involve shady operators who do fast, sloppy work or even paint without permission and then intimidate homeowners into paying. Show photos of your work to prospective customers, and make it clear that they can approve the finished work before paying you.

A Few More Suggestions

If your city requires a permit, get one -- they're usually inexpensive. Liability insurance might be a good idea (and is required in some cities) if you have a lot of assets to protect, just in case you cause an accident while working on the curb. A general liability policy for a sole proprietor can be bought for as little as $500 annually, according to Trusted Choice Insurance.

You can work for cash, but these days you might run into people who don't have $20 on them. One solution is to get a Square card reader for your smartphone. Square will take 2.75% of each charge, or 55 cents of every $20 sale.

Before you start your day, make sure you have more than enough tape, paint and extra stencils. A long break to run across town for supplies can really knock down your revenue for the day.

 

If you enjoy painting, why not consider moving up from the curb into painting houses or murals?

How Much Can You Make?

You can keep your startup costs low in this business. Even a permit and insurance, if you need them, will cost you only a few hundred dollars. That works out to an ongoing expense of less than $10 or $12 per week.

With low operating expenses as well, most of your income will be profit. Apart from a dollar's worth of tape and paint for each job, your biggest expense will probably be gas for your car. If you do 10 jobs for $20 each, you might have expenses of only $20 for the day, leaving a profit of $180.

One more idea: ask a local homeowner’s association to allow you to offer a discount to every homeowner in the neighborhood by way of a flyer on doors or a mention in the community newsletter. If you can line up 50 jobs, you could knock them out in a two days at $15 each, for a profit of about $700.

Your Turn: Have you painted your house number on your own curb? Would you turn it into a business?

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Okay, so you didn't finish college -- or maybe you discovered that your degree in Mongolian literature just isn't that marketable. What can you do?

It is possible to make a decent living without a college degree. Here are seven options that don’t require a single college class.

Collect Tips

Some waiters in top restaurants in New York make over $100,000 annually, suggests an article in the Wall Street Journal. The key is to get experience where you can, then find work in busy, expensive restaurants. With an average tip of 19% of the bill in the U.S., you can do well serving a couple dozen $100 meals every shift.

Bartending is another job with big tip potential. Bartender Mike Kopczynski says he's made as much as $700 in tips in one day working at a Margaritaville restaurant in Glendale, Arizona. Here are some other tipped positions you might consider:

  • Waiter

  • Taxi driver

  • Pizza delivery

  • Room service waiter

  • Golf caddy

  • Beautician

  • Casino dealer

  • Masseuse/Masseur

  • Ski instructor

Make Commissions

Brooks O'Hara, an executive for a company that operates 142 car dealerships, says they have a salesman who makes $300,000 per year selling cars (hint: sell expensive models).

Working only on commission (common in car sales) is tough, but if you think you have what it takes, here are a few more commission-based jobs that allow you to get paid for performance:

  • Insurance sales agent

  • Airplane sales agent

  • Real estate agent
  • Advertising sales agent

  • Direct-sales representative

Do Dirty Jobs

Some jobs are so dirty or dangerous that employers have to pay more to attract employees. That's why you can make $15,000 per month crab fishing in Alaska.

With dirty jobs, it also helps to have a union. That's how Seattle trash collectors made over $100,000 per year in 2010. Here are some other dirty and dangerous jobs that can pay decently and do not require a college degree:

  • Welder

  • Oil field worker

  • Bricklayer

  • Chemical plant operator

  • Firefighter

  • Plumber

Work in Boom Towns

Boom towns come and go, but while the gold or oil (or whatever causes the growth) lasts, the jobs usually pay well. The Bakken oil formation is responsible for boom towns in North Dakota, where, in 2014, Walmart paid $17.50 per hour to starting employees. In 2011, you could make $25 per hour as a waiter in the area, and $80,000 annually for driving a truck, according to CNN.

Keen to move to North Dakota? Check out the booming towns of Williston, Watford City, Dickinson and Belfield.

Boom towns are best for single young people who are willing to live in "alternative housing." While a 2014 report put the average wage in the Williston area at over $77,000, rent for new housing may have been the highest in the country at that time. Many new residents slept in their cars.

Work Online

Online jobs don't always pay a lot, but when working at home you have no commuting time or expenses. For example, you can make up to $12 per hour as a search engine evaluator without even getting out of your pajamas.

Here are three more online positions you might consider:

Try High-Mobility Jobs

More than 50% of front-line fast food workers get some sort of government assistance, according to some reports. These are not great jobs -- unless you use them for the purpose of getting better positions. For example, when I was young, I worked in fast food for six weeks before my first promotion. Within three months I was offered a management position. I didn't even have a high school diploma at the time.

In an interview, McDonald's CEO Don Thompson pointed out that 40% of the company’s executives started out as hourly employees, and over 50% of franchise owners started as hourly help. Here are some other jobs that do not require a degree and might offer upward mobility:

  • Cashiers in large retail chain stores

  • Sales positions

  • Military careers

Start a Business

Perhaps the best way to get past the problem of not having formal credentials is to forget about getting a job and start a business. Being smart helps, but a college degree is not required.

You don't even need a high school diploma. Consider these successful high school dropouts that have been profiled on Forbes and Business Insider:

  • Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin group of companies; net worth: $4.6 billion

  • David Karp, founder of Tumblr; net worth: $200 million

  • Kirk Kerkorian, casino owner; net worth: $3.3 billion

  • Vidal Sassoon, hair product entrepreneur; net worth: $130 million

  • David Murdock, Dole foods; net worth $2.5 billion

Add successful college dropouts, and the list gets much longer (and includes Bill Gates).

Earning five bucks at a time may not sound like much, but those little sales can add up to thousands of dollars.

That’s the idea behind Fiverr, an online platform where users sell their products and services for $5 each. Fiverr says users create 4,000 new listings, or gigs, every day.

What Can You Sell on Fiverr?

Gigs range from the standard data entry and research tasks to the truly out-there. For example, as I write this, sellers in the "Fun & Lifestyle" section are offering:

  • A unique gift idea

  • To paint your message on their body and doing funny dances

  • To create a video of Donald Trump signing your business’ logo

  • To send you a telepathic message

  • To write your message on their chest while playing a kazoo

  • To prank call anyone

  • Balloon popping

If you don't want to write advertising slogans on your belly or scare someone's friend, offer one of the thousands of more ordinary products and services, like:

  • Draw the customer as a cartoon character

  • Make a photo into an avatar

  • Promote a business on Facebook

  • Write a short blog post

  • Translate English into Chinese (300 word maximum)

  • Create a video testimonial about a product

  • Teach people how to play blues guitar

How Much Can You Really Make on $5 Gigs?

The stories told in the Fiverr forum and elsewhere suggest a wide variety of experiences ranging from members who haven't sold a thing after months of trying, to others who claim to have made $1 million from Fiverr.

An article about Fiverr on the U.S. News website features Mark Mason, a semi-retired man from Chicago who offers business services like writing marketing materials and makes $150 to $300 per day for a few hours of work on his gigs. The same article explains how college student Morissa Schwartz has made $7,500 in the last year by offering copyediting services.

If you think some gigs are too much work for the money, you're right. In fact, you don't even make the full $5 for a sale. After Fiverr takes its 20% and you pay 2% to have your money transferred to PayPal, you're really only making $3.92 per $5 sale.

To be successful, you need to find a product or service that costs almost nothing to provide and takes only a few minutes of your time to create and deliver. We'll look at some examples in a moment, but first let's look at another way to make gigs worth your time.

Take It to the Next Level

After you've made some sales, work to become a Level One, Pro League and  Rockstar seller. At each new level you get extra selling tools, like the ability to offer additional options and add-on services. For example, if your $5 gig is a video about the town where you live, aimed at people moving there, for an extra $40, you could spend two hours driving around and videotaping anything the customer wants to know more about.

At the moment, the maximum additional charge for an extra is $100, but depending on your gig, you might also be able to get customers to buy from you again. For example, I've bought covers for my ebooks on Fiverr for $15 and returned several times to the same graphic artist.

To climb the Levels, you’ll need to get positive reviews, deliver on time, respond quickly and politely to customer questions, and follow the rules. Some members have achieved Level One status after only one month and 10 sales.

How to Make Money on Fiverr Money Without Climbing Levels

While selling gig extras is one of the best ways to increase your earnings on Fiverr, some products and services make sense even for $3.92 -- what you net from a $5 gig.

For example, in two months Martin Buckley made $900 selling an ebook on Fiverr. It makes sense to sell something that has zero production cost and only takes a minute to deliver, but in addition to making $900 from that one book, Buckley had another technique: He promoted other books he was selling on Fiverr within this ebook! It pays to use every trick you can to maximize your per-customer income.

Here are some other online side jobs to consider:

  • Logo design (using software that does most of the work)

  • Video lessons (for anything you know how to do)

  • Crafts (if you can make them fast and cheap and use one stamp to send them)

  • Photo-into-painting service (using software to convert the photo to look like a painting)

  • Facebook promotion of customers’ products (if you have many friends)

  • Writing (minimal for $5 -- charge more for longer work)

  • Business card design (with software doing the heavy work)

  • Conversational language instruction (just a few minutes for $5, extra for longer sessions)

  • Online research for writers (have a template and a system for speed)

  • Ebooks (your own or ones you buy the rights to)

Use your imagination to come up with something of real value. For example, one offer says, "I will answer 10 questions about Italy." Most of us know enough about the place we live to offer a service like that -- though I would give the customer an audio file rather than a typed response to make answering quicker.

If you have an unusual career, you could target those who might want to learn more about it by offering a video or PDF file that explains your work and how to get a similar job. Gigs where you sell the same thing over and over -- and continue earning with little additional work -- are some of the best.

A Few More Tips

Once you have a plan in mind, promote your service or product wherever you can, including telling your friends, family and contacts, to make enough sales to become a Level One seller -- that's when you can sell gigs in multiples or sell gig extras.

How you market yourself has a huge impact on your potential earnings. Fiverr seller Mary Ingrassia told Business Insider her business really took off when she used her cell phone to make promotional videos with Pickle, her pet bird, and put them on YouTube. She sells graphic designs and says, "Over the past year, it's grown to five to fifteen orders per day, with people spending different amounts (between $10 and $20). To date, I've made $10,000 and the money just keeps growing."

When you find something that works, try other markets. There are now many websites copying the Fiverr format, with some slight differences. Here are two:

Open a PayPal account to access your earnings. While the debit card Fiverr offers can be cheaper, you’d need to watch out for several fees, including an activation fee, a charge every time you transfer money to it and a $1-$3 fee for each withdrawal.

Just listing your service for sale isn’t enough to make it successful. You need to put it in the right category, post photos and maybe a video, and do some marketing. In the Fiverr forums, members share what has worked or not worked for them. Use this valuable information to help you make the most of your time on Fiverr.

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Despite a better economy, it's still tough to get a good job. The unemployment rate for young college graduates is over 8%, reports the Economic Policy Institute. But the underemployment rate is closer to 17% percent. Flipping burgers part-time to pay off your debt from that bachelor's degree is no fun.

It's time to get the position you really want -- but how? If the usual means have failed you, you might want to try something new, and maybe even some tactics that are "a little bit out there." Consider the following crazy ways to get hired that have actually worked.

1. Advertise on Google

Alec Brownstein ended up on CBS News for his job hunting technique. It started when he was Googling the executives he wanted to work for and noticed there were no paid ads in the results. Figuring that, like everyone else, executives probably Google themselves from time to time, he opened an AdWords account and bought the top spot for several names.

When Ian Reichenthal, the creative director at Young and Rubicam, Googled himself, he saw Brownstein’s ad. He called, set up an interview -- and hired him. The ad cost just 15 cents, and although Reichenthal said it was Brownstein's "great portfolio" that got him hired, it was the ad that got him the interview.

2. Advertise on a Billboard

Adam Pacitti was working at a game arcade after graduating with a degree in media production. After losing that job, he sent out 250 applications with no success.

So he spent months of work on a "multi-platform viral advertising campaign with full social media integration," and rented a billboard. He says, "People liked the billboard, mostly." It read:

I Spent My Last £500 on This Billboard.

Please Give Me a Job.

EmployAdam.com

Soon, his job hunt made the news on radio, TV and in newspapers all over the world. The hashtag "#EmployAdam" made the rounds on Twitter as well. After fielding 60 job offers, he's now a viral producer (naturally) for projects at Seachange.

3. Put That Resume on a Beer Bottle

Kelly Taylor wanted to be a brewmaster in a pub, so he put together a resume and applied for the next best thing -- an assistant brewer position. But his wasn't an ordinary resume.

"For my interview, I brought a bottle of a home brew I made in my apartment and put my resume on the bottle as a label," he said. He got the job that day and was promoted to brewmaster within a year.

Taking the beer-bottle-resume to the next level, Brennan Gleason of British Columbia spent seven weeks brewing a new beer called "Résum-Ale," according to a Huffington Post article. Gleason was just months away from graduating from the University of the Fraser Valley, and had been assigned to do a self-promotion project.

With his degree in graphic design on the way, and his beer ready, he put a bit of his portfolio on each bottle and sent six-packs of his home-brew to several Vancouver design firms. He landed a job as the creative director for Techtone, a digital marketing agency.

4. Use Cupcakes With QR Codes

Katie Oldham had an elaborate plan for getting noticed by prospective employers. She set up her website and had cupcakes made with an "edible icing QR code on top." Then she found contact information for key people at the magazines where she would like to work. Next, she prepared cards explaining the QR code, her goal, and how to contact her.

When someone scanned a cupcake with a smartphone, they’d be directed to her website. The rest of her plan was supposed to go like this:

Whilst enjoying the amazing cupcakes, they can have a read through the website, which has what I am looking for (summer internship) and sections for my CV, Personal Statement, links to Scarphelia here, and examples of work that I have done online and in journalism... They are so wowed with my creative and cheeky way of applying for work experience that they call me straight away and invite me for an interview. Or at least... that's the plan!

She went to London to hand-deliver the cupcakes -- and landed an internship at Cosmopolitan, according to a later report on WiseBread.

5. Make a Video Game Resume

Alexander J. Velicky went to incredible effort to get a job with Bethesda Game Studios, reports Forbes. He spent 2,000 hours creating a mod called "Falskaar" for "Skyrim," one of Bethesda's most popular games. Among other features, it added 25 hours of play time.

Velicky explained that, "The best way to show Bethesda Game Studios that I want a job there and should be hired is to create content that meets the standards of their incredible development team."

His scheme didn't work as planned, and no job offer came from Bethesda. But according to Game Spot, the popularity of his mod did lead to a position at Bungie, the developer of Destiny, Halo, Myth, and other games.

Other Unique Ways to Get a Job

Not all crazy stunts will get you hired, and it can be difficult to know just how far to go. To help you get a better feel for what to try and what to avoid, let's look some of the creative and crazy things people have done in an effort to get hired, according to Forbes.com.

What Worked

  • Putting a resume on a chocolate bar
  • Climbing on a roof an employer was fixing to ask for job
  • Repairing a company's equipment during an interview
  • Sending a message in a bottle
  • Asking to be interviewed in Spanish to demonstrate fluency

What Didn't Work

  • Back-flipping into the interview room
  • Sending a fruit basket to the interviewer's home
  • Dressing as a clown
  • Sending a lottery ticket to the interviewer
  • Giving the interviewer a tarot reading

Finally, at DoktorSnake.com, you can pay about $265 for a "Good Job Spell" that "Helps you secure the perfect position." It comes with a "lucky voodoo mascot." No word on how effective the service has been for users, so you might want to pass on that one.

Your Turn: What's the craziest thing you've done to try to get a job? Did it work as you’d planned?

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).