Whether it is renting out an electric car charger, a designer dress, a camera or a carpet cleaner, growing numbers of people are tapping into the sharing economy to make some extra money.
As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, lots of consumers are scrabbling around looking for ways to supplement their normal income, and sometimes the answer is sitting there in the loft, under the stairs or in the garage.
Airbnb and Uber are the two best-known examples of sharing economy businesses but in recent years many more platforms have emerged, allowing people to share their assets and pull in some much-needed cash.
For some people it’s a few pounds extra, while for others this has effectively provided them with a second salary.
However, before renting out your items, do read the small print and consider how you would feel if your belongings were damaged, especially if they have sentimental value. Plus, don’t overlook how much of your time might be swallowed up by admin if you find that your goods or services are in high demand.
Rents out her electric car charger
It was after finding a leaflet for Co Charger – a company that enables electric vehicle users to rent out their home charger to other people – on the back of their electric car while at an event, that Emma Sherrington and her husband decided to give the service a go.
A year later and the couple – who, with two electric cars between them and solar panels on their roof, consider themselves keen environmentalists – now rent out their charger regularly to a local man unable to install a charger at his home.
“Once or twice a week he drops his daughter off at school and leaves the car on our driveway, and then collects it when he picks her up,” says Sherrington, 52, a community dietician for the NHS who lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
“It’s no inconvenience to us; we’ve got to know somebody and have little chats with him each time, so that’s quite nice, and we make a little money.”
Sherrington is unsure exactly how much they are making but estimates it is about £20 a week. “We like to think it’s paying for the investment we made into the solar panels last year.”
The couple also like the fact that it is helping to make the area more eco-friendly. “If there’s more chargers, it encourages more people to get electric cars,” she adds.
Rents out her wardrobe
After hiring an outfit through By Rotation, a website allowing people to rent out their clothes, Lydia Epangue was inspired to look inside her closet to see if she could earn some extra cash from her collection of clothes.
Epangue, 35, a digital project manager and lifestyle blogger living in Birmingham, uploaded products ranging from bags and dresses to footwear and shawls.
Clothes that would otherwise just be sitting in the closet end up making money for you
She now earns an average of £250 to £300 a month through the service, which suggests how much to hire out items for.
“It’s a decent amount of money,” says Epangue. “Clothes that would otherwise just be sitting in the closet end up making money for you.”
She uses the extra money to treat herself. “I like to invest in a nice bag or shoes, or something I would never have thought of buying, as I think: ‘Well, this money isn’t coming out of my earnings – I can treat myself and save some of it, too.’”
Epangue is a fan of the environmental benefits of rental fashion, a growing industry whose other leading players include sites such as Rent My Wardrobe and Hurr.
“There’s a really good sustainable message: instead of buying new clothes, you can reuse and wear lots of different garments.”
However, Epangue says she does place a limit on some delicate items and likes to reiterate the need for renters to be careful. “I have had an item come back damaged because some people don’t know how to look after expensive clothes with specific details like sequins or silk.”
Rents out professional equipment
With monthly average earnings of up to £4,000, Mustafa Özkök has done well out of the sharing economy. The founder of a digital agency, he rents out camera equipment and laptops through the Fat Llama marketplace, where users can list everything from bikes to tents. His cheapest daily price is £10 for a lens accessory, while the highest reaches £120 for a Sony FX6 cinema camera.
While his main income remains his digital agency, Özkök says the money has had a positive impact on his career.
“I can now be picky and use my creativity more,” says the 32-year-old, who lives in London. “Making a living as a creative is not the easiest – I’ve been doing it for 10 years, so I know how hard it is. Rather than doing cheap work, I can use my time and creativity for bigger things. I have the luxury to choose my clients so I don’t need to say yes to everyone.”
A fan of technology, it is no surprise to learn how Özkök spends some of the money he accumulates through Fat Llama. “I love small gadgets; they’re like little toys for me,” he enthuses. “I always love to buy new products whenever there is a new release.” Plus, he can rent them out, too.
Like others sharing their goods, Özkök is equally enthusiastic about the other benefits. “I get to meet other creatives and sometimes we even work together,” he says. “It’s opened doors for me.”
He says one setback is the admin associated with renting out items. “I decided to limit my hours,” he says. “Otherwise people want to meet at crazy times, and that was becoming impossible. I limited the times people could collect and drop off goods so I could focus on my work.”
Rents out household items
When Jenny Reynolds’s friend Victoria Davidson set up a business called pa-rent to reduce the environmental impact of consumerism, she started to think about the things in her own home she could add to the site, which encourages people to rent out their resources in return for money.
There was one item that was lying dormant for 99% of the time that she thought could bring in some extra cash: her carpet cleaner, which the Edinburgh-based teacher originally bought secondhand for £80.
We’re talking about putting the money in a savings account and putting it towards a night away without the children
She rents it out for £10 for a 24-hour period and makes £8 from it after the site takes a cut. On the day we speak, she has rented it out again, and tells me she has made a profit of £220 from the item so far. “It’s been brilliant,” the 34-year-old says. “It’s really popular.” She has also rented out a kids’ electric car and tent.
“I’ve been on maternity leave, so the money has been an amazing wee boost. When I go back to work, we’re talking about putting the money in a savings account and putting it towards a night away without the children.”
She has also used the site as a borrower, renting a tow bar for a bike for £7 for the week. “It was an amazing saving. Otherwise, it would have cost about £70 to buy.”
Rents out his car
Hesham Al-Surmi, 36, not only loves driving his Audi A4 around, he also likes it when other people take it for a spin. That is because Al-Surmi pockets a decent amount of money every time someone else goes behind the wheel when they make a booking through the carsharing platform Karshare, with the Manchester-based Al-Surmi charging about £85 a day. Karshare takes a 25% cut.
Al-Surmi has pocketed £10,000 since joining the site late last year. The delivery driver says demand ebbs and flows. “It was busy in December but quietened down at the start of the year. Now it’s absolutely crazy.”
The money has been a gamechanger for Al-Surmi: “It’s given me a second salary and has helped with everything from food to bills.”
It has also provided him with food for thought when it comes to further cementing his footing in the sharing economy. “I want to save hard to get a second car and rent it out on Karshare and have another slice of income coming through.”
Gets paid for looking after cats
Jane Foster adores cats but her sister, who she lives with, is allergic to them. So Foster gets her feline fix by looking after cats when their owners go away.
“As a professional writer and film-maker with an erratic lifestyle and a sister who likes her own space, as do I, it suits me perfectly,” says Foster, who believes she has looked after about 75 cats through the site Cat in a Flat over the past 10 years.
Unlike some services where pet-sitters receive free accommodation in exchange for sitting, Cat in a Flat sitters charge for their services. Foster’s rates start from £30 a night. “I am a nomad – I work from home, and as long as I have access to wifi and can travel there, I can also become a longer-term housesitter.”
Foster, who lives in London, believes she makes about £5,000 a year looking after cats.
“What it does is keep the day-to-day living expenses low,” she says. “Buying in London is astronomically difficult, especially if you are a single person in this day and age, but what it means is that I can save more from my screenwriting career.” She also likes exploring new neighbourhoods. “I’m a born nomad. I always love to travel.”
Still, expect the unexpected when staying under someone else’s roof. “One time I was sitting a little Siamese cat when water suddenly started flooding through the ceiling at 3am. That was a hardcore one.”