This is What the “Sharing Economy” Is — and How to Make Money In It

four dogs on a leash being walked outdoors
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Oh, the number of times my mom recited “sharing is caring!” to my little brother and me when we were kids…

I wasn’t a particularly selfish child, but I didn’t see any reason to share my Nickelodeon Gak or Floam, especially when it was so vulnerable to picking up dirt or drying out. And especially when I’d saved money in my little kitty coin purse to purchase it.

Now, if my little brother had been willing to pay to play with it? Well, that would have been a different story.

This is, on a smaller (less serious) scale, what today’s sharing economy is. The practice has been around for thousands of years — the term itself has only recently emerged.

What is the Sharing Economy?

Investopedia defines the sharing economy as “an economic model in which individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else.”

It says the sharing economy is especially useful when the price of “an asset” (a product or service) is high — and is perhaps not used on a daily basis.

You might also hear the terms peer-to-peer rental market or collaboration economy.

But what about the gig economy? Many times, these terms are used interchangeably. However, the focus of the gig economy is less on the borrowing and renting of assets and more on the individual — the freelancer or the independent contractor.

But there’s a lot of overlap because the freelancer or independent contractor could be sharing their services in the gig economy. Think about the freelance writer. She might find a “gig” on Craigslist, but she’s still technically sharing her ability with someone else.

Let me give you another example of the sharing economy (one a little more realistic than that ’90s throwback):

You live in a big city and utilize public transportation. This is fine — great, actually — because you don’t have car payments, insurance, all that fun stuff. However, you’re planning a day trip soon, and you can’t exactly hail a taxi to drive you three hours away… So, you need a car.

Rather than racking up crazy fees at a traditional rental dealer, you could opt for a sharing economy platform that lists local available cars. Then you can rent it.

This benefits both you and the car’s owner, because they can make a little bit of cash.

How to Make Money in the Sharing Economy

On the notion of making cash….

The sharing economy is not only helpful when you need that one random thing — a car, pressure washer, house in a faraway destination — but it’s also helpful when you need some extra money. You can just rent out your assets.

There are tons of platforms out there these days that make this process easy.

These are a few of our favorites:

1. Airbnb

Perhaps this is one of the most obvious sharing economy platforms.

Someone’s visiting your town and needs a room, so you list your extra one.

We’ve chatted with folks who have made hundreds — even thousands — of dollars a month by listing their house or extra room through Airbnb. There was even a guy who made nearly $1,400 a month with a backyard tent.

Here are a few tips to make the most money:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and local sporting events.
  • Be a good host, and make sure your place is stocked 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.

If you’re interested to know how much your room could be worth, check out the platform’s calculator.

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

2. Lyft

Got a car? Well, someone out there needs a ride.

That’s where ride-sharing services like Lyft come into play.

You can make some solid money doing this. Take, for example, this power couple who drive for Lyft. While raising five children, the duo swaps off driving shifts. They’ve brought in as much as $1,500 a week.

You can calculate how much you could bring in each week with this calculator — then apply.

3. Fiverr

This might be a less obvious sharing economy platform.

Fiverr allows freelancers to offer their services — anything from yard work to design projects to writing. For each task completed, you get $5.

It sounds kind of low at first, but we chatted with three women who have made more than $100,000 on Fiverr, just by sharing their services.

Here’s a beginner’s guide to get started.

4. DogVacay

This is like Airbnb — but for good dogs (and cats).

The sharing economy platform helps pet owners find sitters, trainers, walkers and even overnight boarders.

The apps Wag! and Rover offer similar gigs, too.

Make Money off Almost Anything in the Sharing Economy

There are tons of other sharing platforms out there for everything from cars and parking spots to lawn tools and bicycles.

My mom, like always, was right: Sharing is caring — especially for your wallet!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.