Floridians: Here Are 10 Surprising (and Legal) Ways to Make Money

Amela Sijaric relaxes on Madeira beach, Tampa Fla, on November 5th, 2017.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder
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At this point, we’re all familiar with Florida Man and the imaginative headlines he’s able to make in newspapers across the state — and country.

Sure, Floridians are a different breed. (As a native, I say this in the most loving way possible.)

“Live here and you’ll never be bored,” writes Craig Pittman in “Oh, Florida!: How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.”

I can attest: Florida isn’t boring. But it’s not just the headlines we take to another level; it’s the way we make money.

10 Florida Ways to Make Money in the Sunshine State

Now, The Penny Hoarder strives to be practical (and responsible), so we won’t tell you about the Florida man who called 911 to check on his tax return. Or the Florida man who attacked an ATM with a hatchet. (We’re really into hatchets down here, apparently.)

These are real — legal — ways Floridians make money.

Sit back in your lawn chair, unwrap your chicken tender Pub Sub and start perusing our list.

1. Invest in Real Estate — Without Leaving Your Couch

Real estate is hotter than a beach right now.

One Penny Hoarder contributor tells us how he’s invested in real estate over the years, including purchasing a $89,000 condo in Florida with cash.

Although he makes it sound easy, jumping into real estate is still daunting.

To ease into it, consider something simpler. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).

(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

Interested? Get started with Fundrise here.

2. Channel Your Childhood and Become a Mermaid

Jenna Augsburger of Orlando, Fla., practices her technique with her personal mermaid tail in the 72.4-degree natural spring after trying out to become a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on Saturday, January 13, 2018.
Jenna Augsburger of Orlando, Fla., practices her technique with her personal mermaid tail in the 72.4-degree natural spring after trying out to become a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on Saturday, January 13, 2018. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Y’all. Dreams do come true.

You can get paid to live unda da sea as a mermaid.

We spent a day with professional mermaids at Weeki Wachee State Park in Florida. We even visited a mermaid-hiring event.

The only catch? You’ve got to be a strong swimmer. You’ve also got to be willing to make at most $12 an hour as a Florida state worker.

But, hey, for some, living out a lifelong dream is worth it.

3. Find a Work-From-Home Job

Colleen and her daughter, Marlow, play in her bedroom in St. Petersburgh, Fla.
Colleen and her daughter, Marlow, play in her bedroom in St. Petersburg, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Now, you can take notes from Colleen McGrath Lilley, a St. Petersburg, Florida supermom who started her own business from home. But if you’re not ready to go all-in, don’t worry.

You can find a remote opportunity in almost any industry — from customer service to graphic design to health care. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend searching work-from-home jobs at ZipRecruiter.

ZipRecruiter automatically geo-targets your search, meaning it pulls up opportunities available in your area. (Yes, even work-from-home jobs have state restrictions.)

Spend some time perusing the listings. If you want even more options, scroll through our list of work-from-home job-search sites.

4. Get Paid to Lose Weight

woman working out in front of mural in st petersburg fla
Marcie Hagner is using HealthyWage as a way to potentially make money while losing weight. She’s lost 14-pounds in six months. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Listen. Losing weight and getting fit are easier said than done. (I’ve been saying this for years now, and it hasn’t gotten done…)

But will a little bit of money motivate you?

It’s motivating Florida resident Marcie Hagner, who has placed a bet on her weight loss goals through HealthyWage. If she can lose the 50 pounds she bet she could, she’ll pocket $862.

Read more about how she’s finding motivation to lose weight through HealthyWage.

5. Earn Hundreds Back on Groceries

Patrick Mooney shops around his local grocery store in Cleveland Ohio.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

When Colleen Rice, The Penny Hoarder’s email marketing specialist, moved to Florida, she used Ibotta, a cash-back app, to help her with groceries.

“It kept us from living on Ramen,” she admitted.

Since 2013, Rice has banked more than $300 through Ibotta. She’s made it through the tough time, but she still uses the app to earn cash-back on a little bit of everything — from groceries to hotel stays.

At the time we wrote this story, we checked out a few noteworthy deals, including:

  • 15% cash back from Overstock.
  • 4% back from Hotels.com.
  • $2.50 cash back on Dunkin’ Donuts cold brew packs.
  • $3 back on Blue Moon.
  • $1 cash back on Windex.
  • 25 cents back on any receipt item.

Once you earn $20 back, you can cash out. Plus, when you complete your first cash-back offer, you’ll earn a $10 bonus.

Read our full Ibotta review — then get signed up.

6. Rent Your Extra Space — or Couch

airbnb listing in orlando, florida
Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Have a spare room? Might as well use Airbnb to make some money listing it for rent.

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

And there’s no reason you can’t be creative. In Florida, we found “The Ritz,” a tiny home in Orlando. At the time we wrote this, it was listed for $106 a night.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

Here are some tips:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events.
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  • Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.

Here’s the link to sign up as an Airbnb host.

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

7. Get Paid to Drink Beer

Neil Callaghan, an advanced level cicerone, currently working at Cigar City Brewing.  St. Petersburg, Fla., on Febuary 7th, 2018.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Ever heard of mystery shopping? You’ll get paid to go to a grocery store, gas station, restaurant or, in this case, a brewery, and provide anonymous feedback.

Check out Secret Hopper. (Clever, right?)  The company is looking for detail-oriented beer-drinkers to hop around to different breweries and objectively rate and review their experiences.

One Penny Hoarder gave the gig a try. He paid $16 on his visit to a local brewery. Secret Hopper paid him $20 via PayPal within a few days.

So, no, you’re not going to get rich, but you will get free beer, and that makes us hoppy. All you have to do is sign up, then it’ll contact you when you’re needed.

Bonus: Want to get paid more than that? Consider becoming a local pedal pub pilot and lead visitors around town on, well, a giant bike as they become more and more inebriated.

8. Find Unclaimed Money

photo editor Alexa Vincent picks up money found on the street in St. Petersburg
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

State treasuries throughout the U.S. have more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds, according to The New York Times. Just sitting around! Waiting for you to come play lost-and-found.

In 2017, one South Carolina man hit the jackpot. He got a phone call from his state treasurer letting him know he was entitled to $763,000 in unclaimed money. That’s, like, 63 years of rent.

We advise you to be careful of calls like this; they could be scams. But you can take matters into your own hands and see if you have any unclaimed money floating around.

Check with the the Florida Treasure Hunt website to see what you might be missing.

Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice and performed a quick search. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any unclaimed money — but her husband did.

“As I was scrolling through, I saw his name and his middle initial,” she says. She asked him to confirm his old Florida address; he grew up in Tampa. Sure enough, Mark Howell was entitled to $56 from a “matured insurance policy.”

Kelli immediately searched her other family members’ names. Her husband was the only who had any money to claim. And, sure, it’s $56, but that’s not bad for an unexpected check, right? We’ll take it!

9. Capitalize on Florida’s (Ahem, Weird) Reputation

Carson Kohler floats as she looks at the bull sharks swimming below her.
Carson Kohler floats as she looks at the bull sharks swimming below her. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Yeah, Florida’s got a reputation. White sand beaches, drug-induced zombies, drunk opossums, hurricanes, old people, shark sightings, famous serial killers, palm trees…

We know; we’ve heard it all. But you can capitalize on our state’s uniqueness. Take notes from these Floridians:

  • At 25, while sitting on his parents’ couch in Connecticut, Bryce Rohrer, then 25, had a now-or-never revelation. He wanted to start a shark-diving business. So he established Florida Shark Diving in Jupiter, Florida.

Last year, we followed him along on an outing to chat business — and to free dive with sharks.

  • Florida’s hot. Stephen DiMare capitalized on the heat by opening a gourmet popsicle store called The Hyppo. Upon starting up, he admits to sleeping on the wood floors of his flagship store in St. Augustine, Florida. But the venture has paid off. The Hyppo now has 12 locations across the state.
  • Also in St. Augustine, you’ll find Doug Stenroos, who leads ghost tours through the historic city. The 71-year-old retired history buff pockets about $400 for a two-hour walking tour.

10. Open a Chick-fil-A Franchise

Chick-fil-A is a fast-food staple here in Florida, so why not consider opening a franchise?

It only costs about $10,000 — plus you’ll get a lifetime supply of Chick-n-Minis. Now, we say only because it costs about $2 million to open a Taco Bell. Or consider the cost of your college degree. Even in-state, that’s probably not anywhere near $10,000.

Read more about starting up a Chick-fil-A franchise.

Ready to Make Money in Florida?

Memes aside, Florida is a pretty wonderful state — and so are its money-making opportunities.

And hey, if none of the above ideas inspired you, try going python hunting.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a proud Florida native.