How many '£££s!' can you earn in your spare time?

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Felicity Hannah

You see them everywhere; weather-beaten posters flapping sadly in the wind, proclaiming: “EARN £££S in your SPARE TIME!!”

I’ve spotted them pinned to fences, stuck to roundabouts and taped to chip-shop walls, and wondered exactly what kind of work is on offer.

After all, if it’s genuinely possible to earn hundreds of pounds in your spare time, wouldn’t we all be doing it?

With 2.65 million people unemployed, you’d think that the would-be workforce would be snapping the hand off anyone offering '£££s' for a few flexible hours each week.

Yet oddly enough they are forced to keep advertising through classified sites and dog-eared posters. So I decided to find out exactly what’s on offer…

Test products for money

The first poster I responded to promised that I could earn money and free stuff by testing products for companies.

It had me at ‘money’, but free stuff is always nice too, so I visited the website and began the sign-up process.

After 30 minutes of inputting personal information about my likes and dislikes, I still hadn’t been offered any cash or any freebies, while the website had received lots of my information.

I was also offered cashback on a variety of purchases, and received six promotional text messages to my phone in the space of an hour. A discount on your product is not the same as getting paid and I’m unconvinced anyone is making money through these sites. Without a personal recommendation from someone actually making real cash, I wouldn’t bother again.

“Want to live your dreams?!”

This advert on Gumtree seemed to be promising me far more than some extra money. It suggested I could partner with a “global 2.8 billion dollar company” that would allow me to enjoy the finer things in life.

Apparently I could earn £200 to £500 a month by ‘recommending’ products to friends, or up to £100,000 a year and a company car by helping “drive the company forward in a leadership role”. How could I resist? I picked up the phone. “Hi, I’m calling about the part-time job opportunity?” “Really? Oh, wow, I wasn’t expecting anyone…” I can’t say that was the most confidence-inspiring opening, but I let her explain that her sellers are self-employed and flog skincare products to their friends and family. They buy the products from the parent corporation, she takes a cut too and the seller keeps the rest. Of course, there are plenty of reputable companies that work like this and allow people to earn a useful extra income; Avon, Ann Summers and Slimming World to name just three. But that’s not where the real money is. It turns out the real money is in building up your own network of sellers. “You start off making £250 to £500 a month, but within a few years you could have your own team, and be earning £50,000 to £100,000 a year. That’s entirely achievable.” I’m unconvinced. It sounded like she was doing the washing up while speaking to me – and, in my experience, people earning six figures tend to concentrate on their business calls. It’s not a scam but I can’t see the average seller earning much. I also shudder at the thought of endlessly trying to flog skin cream to my friends and family. The real money seems to be in assembling your own team of sellers and that’s going to require a lot of work.

Take surveys for cash

I know a number of people who get their pub money by taking paid-for surveys. If you’re opinionated and broke then this sounds like a good way to earn some cash. Once again, there are a number of fraudsters to get past. I phoned one number and the advertiser insisted I give him my bank details straight away, so he could put me through his books. When I declined, he got fairly nasty, so be very careful to only approach reputable, well-known businesses. But this is a genuine way to make some extra money from the comfort of your own couch. Just make sure you set up a separate email account, because you’re about to drown in spam. Asking around people who routinely take surveys, most seem to earn £20-£30 extra a month, while one makes about £50 a month by taking a survey most days. Another friend always enters the unpaid surveys that offer prizes. To date she has won a pamper day and a collectable toy car.

Earn £££s through XXX

One of the adverts I saw promised that I could make £££s simply by chatting to men… Although that ad turned out to be a little coy, as it was a sex line. You ‘chat’ to your mum, not heavy breathers. But assuming you could get past the teeth-gritting embarrassment, how much can you actually make manning (ahem) one of these lines? It turns out, not as much as you might think. There are many different companies operating these phone lines and they all pay slightly different rates per minute, usually with higher amounts for repeat callers. While you can work flexibly, most ask that you’re available at least one full night each week – and there are very few callers during the day. Asking around on forums, I’ve found that most women earn around £6-£8 an hour being sexy on the phone. But, as one sex-line worker put it: “If you get a headset then you can get on with the ironing.” Now that’s steamy…

Jump at the opportunity

While many of these ‘opportunities’ require personal investment, are badly paid or just straight up scams, it is worth remembering that there are some genuine casual opportunities out there. As a student, I replied to an advert promising me £££s in my spare time, and became a ‘jumper outer’ on one of Edinburgh’s ghost walks. Once an hour I screamed at some tourists for the princely sum of £5, and the rest of the time I sat in the stairwell and studied. So if you can find an opportunity that works around your circumstances, don’t be shy about seizing it. Just make sure you understand exactly what’s on offer first and how much you’ll be paid. Will you be paid regardless of any commercial success? Do you need to buy products or otherwise invest your own money? Can you speak to existing workers? Remember, if it sounds too good to be true then question why they are advertising on the wall of your local fish and chip shop.