How Much is Your Friendship Worth? On This Site, Up to $2,000 a Week

Two people speak at a bar in Chicago, IL.
Lauren Little, a rented friend, speaks to Patrick Grieve at Map Room in Chicago, Il., on April 13, 2018. Grieve used RentAFriend to meet up with Little. Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Chances are, you think you’re a pretty cool person to hang out with. How would you feel about charging for that privilege? According to the people at RentAFriend, you could make up to $2,000 per week as a rental buddy.

Originally founded in Japan, RentAFriend was so popular that in 2009 it started targeting the North American market. Similar services, like Australia’s Friends for Hire or the international site Rent a Local Friend, have since popped up. Customers or “members” use the sites to find someone to show them around a new town, offer advice, help them learn a language, work out with them, or just go to a movie.

For example, I know a lot about edible wild plants, so I could take clients hiking and point out the wild edibles. Sometimes no particular skills are needed; someone who has just moved to a new city might feel safer having a same-gender friend come along on a visit to a bar or nightclub.

Curious about this trend? Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about making some cash off being friendly.

How Much Can You Make?

RentAFriend claims that some friends make over $2,000 a week working full time, though presumably they live in a large city in order to sell that much friendship. The company says others make $300 to $500 working only on weekends. A sample rate chart shows what you could earn by charging between $20 and $50 per hour, but it’s up to you to decide what to charge. In Australia, Friends for Hire recommends charging between $15 and $50 per hour. (Wonder what your friends would charge? Click to ask them!)

On both sites, members (those looking for friends to rent) pay a subscription fee. As a friend, you don’t have to pay anything. In other words, this is a business with zero overhead and no real expenses.

It’s for Friends, Not Benefits

RentAFriend is not a dating website or escort service — all meetings are meant to be strictly platonic. Founder Scott Rosenbaum told the Huffington Post, “There’s no 100 percent way to be sure, but we have zero tolerance if a friend says they were solicited. There’s no second chance.”

As a friend, you decide what kind of activities you’re willing to share with your client. The site’s rules say, “We have a very strong stance on physical contact. There is no physical contact at all during your time you spend with a member!”

What to Expect

When I entered my zip code on RentAFriend, I found 56 friends in my area ranging in age from 20 to 66 years old. Curious, I chose a profile at random and wound up reading about a 54-year-old songwriter. After his 300-word introduction, he shared the following under “Activities I’m available for”: “Phone Friend, Introduce you to people, Wingman, Coffee House, Amusement Parks, Golf, Friends with Seniors, Personal Advice, Business Events, Giving Tours, Movies, Going to Bar, Family Functions, Travel, Casino, Psychic, Religious, Shopping.” And that was only a third of his list!

While there is always some risk when two strangers get together like this, there’s also a lot of potential for things to get awkward. RentAFriend suggests making all of your rules very clear to clients before you meet them. Personally, I would also do a quick online search of their name, just to check for mug shots or other worrisome information.

RentAFriend has a testimonials page with glowing reports from paying members, but what about the experiences of those who have sold their friendship?

Newsweek recently spoke with several friends, including a woman who earned $60 (and free drinks) by attending a concert with a member, and man who so enjoyed attending a free basketball game with a member that he waived his payment. The same article mentions several friends feeling worried about non-platonic propositions from members, but I couldn’t find any other reports of negative experiences.

Your Turn: Would you feel comfortable selling your friendship? How much would you charge?