Six easy ways to make money...and a few to avoid

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando
With the economy forcing many into self-employment or part-time work, people are resorting to less traditional means of boosting their income. Using your looks, your home or just your eyes can earn you money in ways you never thought possible...

Go 'mystery shopping'

Have you ever noticed people in restaurants asking what country the lemons come from? These curious customers may have been mystery shoppers, working for companies such as RetailEyes or IMS . Mystery shoppers are paid to visit retail outlets posing as regular customers, and report back on the standard of their customer service. Jobs are awarded on a first-come-first served basis, and payment can be a flat fee of £50 an hour, or vary by assignment. A mystery shopping assignment can include anything from drinking in a pub to sampling a hotel or theme park ride. “The best thing about it is it's totally flexible,” says one mystery shopper. “You're not tied to a contract, so you only take the jobs you want to, or can do. I only do jobs I can easily travel to, and I don't go anywhere that's a real dive.”

Try your hand at modelling

Forget thinking you need to be 6”2 with the figure of a 10-year-old boy - models aren't all of the high-fashion variety. People of all ages and sizes are in demand for advertising campaigns. “Any beauty can be airbrushed but we want our look to have true character,” runs the philosophy of Ugly, the tongue-in-cheek-named agency specialising in unusual-looking models. Or, if you can pose, sit still for an hour and aren't put off by people giggling at the sight of you naked, try life modelling for art classes.

Make your home a film set

You could earn between £300 and £1,000 a day if your home is used as a film or TV location, particularly if you've a penchant for period decoration and you live near a film-making city. Georgina Ashcroft, whose home has been used in a number of BBC dramas, says: “A lot of people are daunted by the idea of a 30-40-strong film crew taking over their home, but you meet many interesting people and make money by doing nothing at all. What could be better?”

Rent your room to tourists and commuters

Remember those Facebook ads asking you to rent out your room to tourists in the run-up to the Royal Wedding? If you live close to this summer's hot sporting or music ticket (or next summer's Olympics) you could make money renting rooms out to visitors, thanks to services such as London Rent My House. If you'd prefer a more regular income, or no exciting activity takes place in your area, you can also profit from renting out a room to workers during the week.

Be a poll clerk during elections

Poll clerks do the responsible job of making sure local and general elections run smoothly, handing out voting cards at polling stations, and making sure voters understand the rules. Earnings are around £200 for a day's work, from 6 am to 10 pm. Many poll clerks work in local government, but any UK citizen of voting age can apply. All you need is the patience to explain twenty times in one day that someone can't vote if they haven't registered, and the ability to keep a straight face when a confused man tries to vote for Harold Macmillan. To register your interest, simply write to your local authority, or check the job sections of local papers around election time.

Become an exam invigilator

While you desperately tried to remember trigonometry rules, someone was getting paid to walk around and check you hadn't sneaked them into your pencil case. Exam season is currently upon us, and although many invigilators are teachers, some schools recruit invigilators especially so that other staff can get on with their jobs. To work in a school, you need a criminal record check (CRB), which the school will normally arrange. Check the jobs section of your local authority's website for vacancies.

And a couple of things to avoid...

Surveys and pay-per-click schemes

Some schemes promise cash or loyalty points for filling in online consumer surveys. Several major online retailers run pay-per-click referral schemes which pay you when time someone clicks a banner on your website. Unfortunately, they only pay above a minimum (usually high) number of clicks or surveys, so unless you spend twelve hours a day doing them, you're unlikely to earn much.

Money for nothing

Easy money is one thing, money for nothing is another. Any work-from-home scheme that promises you money for no effort (cashing cheques, forwarding an email), or for recruiting others to the scheme (pyramid schemes) is a scam. Pyramid schemes are also illegal in the UK.