15 Ways to Make a Lot of Money Without Another Full-Time Job or Degree

detail of a woman's hands and money
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
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We’ve all dreamed of making a lot of money, right?

Buy a house, support your family, cushion your retirement savings, splurge here and there… But then you realize you probably need to get another full-time job — or two or three — or need to go back to school for another degree — or two or three.

Yeah, bleak.

Good news, though: There are other ways to make a lot of money. And a lot of people are taking advantage of these ways.

A 2022 McKinsey survey found that 36% of respondents did independent work, including side gigs, freelancing, contract work or temporary work. That extrapolates to 58 million Americans.

And more than two-thirds of those people did only the independent work — without permanent employment.

We’ll show you 15 top ways to make a lot of money, not only with side gigs but also with other creative methods.

Make a Lot of Money — Without Getting Another Job or Degree

At The Penny Hoarder, we’ve tested hundreds of ways to make extra money. We’ve also talked with hundreds of people who’ve found creative ways to cushion their bank accounts.

For this list, we’ve compiled our most lucrative opportunities that don’t require taking on a second full-time job or going back to school. Nor will you find online surveys or customer service opportunities. (Those can be great, but they’re not the best way to make a ton of money.)

Instead, here are our favorite flexible ways to make extra money:

1. List Your Spare Bedroom (or Backyard Tent) for Rent

Bedroom interior
DrazenVukelic/Getty Images

Have a spare room? Might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one. We talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles.

Here are some of his tips:

  • Break out the labelmaker. “I have the entire house loaded with labels,” Michael says. “They look nice; they’re modern. This helps people feel less helpless.”
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels. Here’s a little hack from Michael: “I order on Amazon and have it delivered when people are there.”
  • Be kind to your neighbors. “I say, ‘I’m not going to put anyone here who I think won’t be good for you,’” Michael explains. “And I turn a lot of big groups away, especially in Nashville. I don’t want anyone going to the cops or the city.”

How much can you make?

How much you make listing your space on Airbnb will vary, but if you want to see how much money you could potentially make each month, use Airbnb’s calculator.

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

2. Become a NASA Research Participant

Did you know NASA pays volunteers to participate in bed rest studies? Yup! You can get paid to chill in bed for 60 days — all in the name of science.

Sure, you’re tired right now, so it sounds amazing, but it could be tougher than you think. You’ll have to bathe, dress, exercise and eat all from bed. Plus, if you have a full-time job, kids, pets or other responsibilities, you’ll have to sort the logistics out there.

But the good news is the gig pays…

How much can you make?

One of the more recent calls for volunteers we found offered $19,000 for 60 days.

Want more information on sleep studies? Jillian Shea, who made $12,000 while sleeping, answers all the important questions.

3. Play Bingo on Your Phone for up to $425 per Win

Want to get paid to decompress from your long, overworked day?

An app called Blackout Bingo lets you do just that. This free app lets you play a game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win up to $425 per game. Plus, the games are quick — about two minutes each, and you can play them on the go.

Here’s how it works: Download the free app and create an account, then play some practice games to get the hang of it. Then, when you’re ready, play for money if you want.

How much can you make?

Up to $425 per win. You can get paid instantly via PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay. The more you play, the more big stakes you will unlock – you can even unlock events to win over $12,000.

The Blackout Bingo app has an App Store rating of 4.5 out of 5, and it takes just a few minutes to download the app and play your first game.

4. Play Solitaire on Your Phone for Extra Cash

A lot of us pull up a mobile game on our break, on the couch or on long drives. But we found a game that will actually pay you to do it.

A free iPhone app called Solitaire Smash will pay you up to $107 per win just for playing Solitaire online. Right now, when you add $10 to your account, Solitaire Smash will give you a $5 bonus to use in cash tournaments.

It works just like the card game you already know, but it adds a timer to mix, and you’ll play against other players at your same skill level. The top three players win a prize. You can play casually for gems or compete for real money prize pools.

How much can you make?

Up to $107 per win.  Just download Solitaire Smash to get start playing and see how much money you can win.

5. Build a Freelance Business

Have you thought about freelancing in your free time?

You can build a flexible side business as a freelance writer, editor, graphic designer, translator, transcriber, artist, tutor, photographer, social media manager, programmer, web designer — you name it.

Perks include setting your own schedule, hand-picking your clients and dictating your rates.

How much can you make?

How much you make will depend on how often you want to work and how much you charge for your services.

You can make this a very part-time gig — something you work on after work — or dive in full time, like writer Jamie Cattanach. She quit her 9-to-5 and started freelancing full time. She shared her tips on becoming a freelancer.

Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

6. Start a Bookkeeping Business and Make up to $69/Hour

Would you like the freedom to work at home while helping others succeed? Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a certified public accountant and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through his online course, Bookkeepers.com.

You don’t have to have a CPA to start a bookkeeping business. In fact, all you really need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems.

Check out Bookkeepers.com and get your first three online courses for free. If you stick with it, you could be running your own business in just a few months.

How much can you make?

According to the 2019 Intuit Rate Survey, bookkeepers can make up to $69 an hour. But Robinson pointed out that as a freelancer or contractor, you could actually earn a higher hourly rate while working fewer hours.

7. Create and Sell Online Course

If you have a specialized skill, you could make money teaching others that skill. No need to start hosting demonstrations in front of a ton of people. Instead, create an online course.

Whether you code, play guitar, write books, flip homes, draw, knit — whatever it is — you can create an online course through an online learning platform like Udemy. There, you can create an online course, filled with guides and how-to tutorials. Then, share it.

How much can you make?

On a platform like Udemy, you set the price for your course.

Penny Hoarder contributor Nick Loper had heard stories about folks making millions of dollars selling online courses. He gave it a go and created a Kindle ebook course, which made him more than $4,000 in its first three months.

8. Collect Rent Checks — Even if You’re Not a Landlord

Owning a rental property is one of the best ways to make passive income — especially these days. But what if you can’t afford to own a home? Or maybe you’re just not crazy about being a landlord.

Luckily, a company called Arrived Homes lets you earn passive income from rental properties — even if you don’t own property.

Here’s how it works: Arrived Homes lets you invest in single-family homes around the country for as little as $100 — or as much as $20,000. The more you invest, the more you can potentially earn.

Just choose the property you’re interested in and make your investment. Arrived Homes handles the rest. No dealing with maintenance requests. No paperwork. No stress. Then, you’ll get paid your share of the rental checks every three months.

How much can you make?

Getting started is as simple as entering your name and email address. Sign up here to see how much passive income you could earn.

9. Become a Virtual Tutor

Are you interested in becoming a tutor? You don’t have to schlep into a classroom — or even have formal teaching experience — thanks to online tutoring programs.

You can teach English to kids from around the world, thanks to online learning platforms. You’ll create an account, get the training you need, then set your own schedule.

How much can you make?

To give you an idea of how much money you can make as a virtual tutor, we talked to Jennifer Ross, who works part time for tutoring platform VIPKID and brings home more than $520 a week (or about $22 an hour).

10. Sell Items Through Amazon (Without Stashing Inventory)

Have you heard of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)?

The selling program allows you to make money by peddling products through Amazon — without having to store inventory. You just get products to sell and ship them over to Amazon, where it’ll hold them. Then, once an item is purchased, Amazon handles everything, from shipping to returns.

How much can you make?

Of course, Amazon takes a cut of your income and charges you fees. To get an idea of how much you can make, we chatted with FBA seller Tyler Philbrook, who pushed $74,000 in sales in 2018 and pocketed about $15,000 of that. Still, this was an extra $15,000 from what he calls a “very part-time gig.”

11. Sell T-Shirt Designs

Two computer screens show Merch by Amazon
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Merch by Amazon allows you to design T-shirts — without actually getting them printed. Just upload your design and set your price. When folks buy your T-shirt, Amazon handles the printing and shipping.

How much can you make?

You’ll face some fees, but we chatted with former Penny Hoarder staff writer Jen Smith, who earned more than $11,400 through Merch last year.

12. Earn up to $25/Hour Delivering Food

Cities around the country are filled with two things: incredible restaurants and busy people.

You can help connect them by delivering food through Doordash.

As a “Dasher,” you’ll work as an independent contractor, setting your own hours and working as much or little as you want, meaning how much you can make is up to you.

All you need to get started is an insured vehicle or a bicycle and a smartphone. You should be at least 18 years old and have a minimum two years’ driving experience.
If you’re interested in becoming a Dasher, you can learn more here.

How much can you make?

You’ll earn a $6 fee for each delivery, plus keep 100% of your tips. Depending on the day, you could earn up to $25 an hour. If you drive full time, that’s $1,000 a week!

For a real-life case, Jose Neri, a former Dasher in California, reports earning $500 to $600 a week working just lunches and dinners. They could take about two-and-a-half deliveries an hour, and users would tip between 10% and 15%.

13. Complete Virtual Tasks for Others

You might have heard of Fiverr. It’s an online freelance platform that can help you get your side business off the ground.

Whatever your skills (writer, designer, programmer, recruiter, etc.), create a seller account on the site. Use your profile to highlight your degree, credentials and work experience. Then, you’ll create a gig to advertise your services and attract buyers.

How much can you make?

Each gig starts at $5 (hence the site’s name), but your earnings are limitless.

Take Charmaine Pocek, for example. She’d spent 15 years as a corporate recruiter and started advertising her resume-writing services through the platform. In about eight years, she made more than $2.4 million through Fiverr. Not bad for something that started as a simple side gig!

14. Sell Your Plasma

If you’re not afraid of needles, you could consider selling your plasma. It’s a way to get paid, and it also helps others in need.

The process takes about two hours, but it’s relatively simple. You’re free to read or watch TV while a machine draws your blood and separates the plasma.

Interested? Search “plasma center + [your city]” for options, and ask your friends for referrals — many centers offer referral sign-up bonuses.

How much can you make?

It’s common for plasma donation centers to pay between $20 and $30 per visit, up to twice a week. That means you could make $240 a month — just for hanging out and helping others!

15. Flip Garage Sale Finds and Craigslist Freebies

Are you that person who’s always spotting the coolest pieces of furniture at garage sales? Or thrifting for the best deals? Or perusing Caigslists’ freebies listings?

You could turn your hobby into a side gig. It’s simple: Find items for cheap, and resell them for more money. This includes furniture, books, clothes — you name it.

How much can you make?

How much you make will depend on what you kind of treasures you’re able to find and how much you can resell them for.

Looking for some inspiration? Meet the Flea Market Flipper, Rob Stephenson. He’s made up to $30,000 a year finding flea market gems and reselling them on eBay. He once found a prosthetic leg for $30 and resold it for $1,000.

Read his tips on finding sellable products.

How to Avoid Get-Rich-Quick Scams

Now that you’re feeling inspired, we’ll leave you with some final advice: When looking for ways to make money, be wary of scams.

Here are some of our favorite strategies — the same strategies we use here at The Penny Hoarder to vet opportunities — to keep yourself safe:

  • Avoid anything that requires you to invest money upfront (unless you are investing, of course); you shouldn’t have to pay to simply start working. Additionally, never hand over your credit card or banking information to a source you don’t trust.
  • Do your homework. If you’re looking to work through a specific company or platform, search online reviews, read recent news articles about the company, look up Better Business Bureau ratings and even call the company to ask a real person some hard-hitting questions.

As a rule of thumb, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Add to your skill set without going back to school. We have great deals on courses you can complete from home.

FAQ on How to Make a Lot of Money

Q1: How Much Initial Investment Do I Need for These Money-Making Methods?

A: Most methods listed, like freelancing, virtual tutoring, or selling designs, require minimal to no initial investment. Some opportunities, like starting a bookkeeping business or investing in rental properties through platforms like Arrived Homes, may require a small upfront cost. Always assess your financial situation and risk tolerance before starting.

Q2: Is It Realistic to Make a Significant Income Through These Methods?

A: Absolutely, for some of them. The income potential varies based on the method, your skills, and the time you can dedicate. For example, freelancing can turn into a full-time income if you build a strong client base, while selling plasma or participating in NASA studies offer more limited earnings.

Q3: How Much Time Do I Need to Dedicate to These Side Hustles?

A: This varies widely. Some, like renting out a spare room or selling T-shirts on Merch by Amazon, require relatively little ongoing time after the initial setup. Others, like freelancing or virtual tutoring, will need a consistent time commitment each week.

Q4: Do I Need Special Skills or Qualifications for These Opportunities?

A: Some opportunities, like freelancing in a specific field, require relevant skills or experience. Others, such as listing a room on Airbnb or selling items on Amazon FBA, are more about leveraging existing resources and learning the platform’s basics.

Q5: Are These Money-Making Methods Safe and Legal?

A: Yes, all the methods listed are legal, but it’s crucial to follow specific regulations (like Airbnb hosting laws) and best practices for safety and compliance. Always research and adhere to local laws and guidelines.

Q6: How Do I Avoid Scams When Looking for Ways to Make Money?

A: Be cautious of opportunities that require large upfront investments or promise unrealistic returns. Always research a company’s reputation, read reviews, and trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Q7: Can I Combine Several of These Methods for Greater Income?

A: Definitely. Many of these methods can complement each other. For example, you could combine freelance writing with virtual tutoring or sell online courses while also earning through rental property investments.

Q8: How Soon Can I Start Earning Money?

A: It varies. Some methods, like selling items on Amazon FBA or freelance work, can yield earnings relatively quickly. Others, like building a successful bookkeeping business, might take longer to establish and start earning.

Q9: How Do I Manage Taxes for These Side Incomes?

A: Income from these methods is generally taxable. It’s advisable to consult with a tax professional to understand your tax obligations and possible deductions related to your side hustle.

Q10: Can These Methods Turn Into Full-Time Careers?

A: Yes, many of these side hustles have the potential to become full-time careers, especially those like freelancing, bookkeeping, or creating online courses. Success depends on your commitment, the demand for your skills, and your entrepreneurial approach. Several former team members of The Penny Hoarder have turned freelancing into full-time businesses.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.