Below you’ll find a curated list of weird and surprising ways people make money online.
- Offline skills being leveraged online
Even farmers, pianists, puppeteers and sports coaches can turn their offline expertise into successful online businesses.
- People getting paid to do normal things
Average people earn big money live-streaming themselves eating or studying. Others get paid $100’s for sharing their opinion, losing weight or binge-watching movies.
- Questionable money-making schemes
Helping Chinese people look rich on social media? Creating intentionally awful games for Android? Pretending to be interested in renting apartments?
- Stuff that’s just plain weird (and borderline genius)
Like the guy who makes $25k/month selling framed tweets. Or the pair that started a Netflix for pets. Or that dancing Jesus impersonator.
You’ll find details of all those and more below.
Some you can probably do yourself, while others may well inspire your own weird ideas 😉
- Making intentionally crap games for Android – About $10,000 per year.
- Selling old books on Kindle – $1,300 per month (approx).
- Farming Influencer – 5x farming income
- Teaching Piano – $1 million in less than 7 years
- Waking People Up – $5,500 per month.
- Jesus Impersonator – At least $22,500 per year.
- Paid To Eat – Up to $10,000 per month.
- Paid To Study – $253 per video.
- Paralyzed people controlling robot waiters – $9 per hour.
- Turbulence Forecaster – At least $1,000 per month.
- Binge watch superhero movies – $1000 in three days.
- The Million Dollar Homepage – $1,037,100 in 4.5 months.
- Virtual Bridesmaid – $300 per engagement.
- Wedding Speech Writer – $75 per speech.
- Online Research Studies – Up to $350 per study.
- Framing Tweets – $25,000 per month.
- Blogging about paleo diets for dogs – At least $6,000 per month.
- Mock Online Juror – $1 per minute.
- Teaching Ukulele – At least $3,000 per month.
- Gamer Girl – At least $20 per hour.
- Helping Chinese people fake riches – $1,500 to $3,000 per month.
- Domain Squatting – $70 million per year.
- Whispering and making other pleasurable sounds – Up to $130,000 per year.
- Paid To Lose Weight – Up to $10,000.
- Pretending to be interested in renting apartments – At least minimum wage.
- Paid To Name Stuff – $100 minimum for winning a contest.
- Ethical Hacking – Up to $500,000 per year.
- Search Engine Evaluator – Up to $15 per hour.
- Talking people to sleep – At least $25,000 per month.
- Selling blank books on Amazon – $6,000 to $11,000 per month.
- Ultimate Frisbee Coach – $13,000 per month (approx).
- Puppeteer – At least $1,500 per month.
- Asana Consultant – $15,000 to $20,000 per month.
- Petflix – At least $1,000,000
- Honorable Mentions
Making intentionally crap games for Android
- About $10,000 per year ($210 per day at its peak)
Here’s a fascinating (and funny) 45-minute talk by two game developers who, frustrated by the low ROI from building quality games, decided to try the opposite approach.
They paid $15 for a basic slot machine game, turned it into a template, and used that to quickly generate hundreds of games for the Android App Store.
“At this point, we have reduced the gap between conceiving of a game and having it live in the marketplace, to typing in one word and pressing enter.”
At their peak, through the 2013 holiday season, the games were earning $210/day in ad revenue. All were eventually removed by Google, but not before earning the developers about $50k over a five year period.
Names of some of the games they created:
- Tasteful Sideboob Slots
- 3D Diaper Slots
- 3D Inexperienced Great Horned Owl Slots
- Sexy Librarian Slots
Selling old books on Kindle
- $1,300 per month (approx)
In a December 2019 interview on the Side Hustle Nation podcast, Aaron Kerr revealed that he has earned $110,000 since 2013 via “public domain publishing.”
From the show notes at SHN:
This is the art and science of republishing classic literature – where the copyrights have expired – and earning passive royalties when your version sells.
Because these works are so old, they’re available online for free – but many Amazon shoppers and Kindle owners will pay to have them delivered straight to their device.
Aaron’s website is called Timeless Reads.
Some of his books available on Amazon:
- 5x farming income
In a November 2019 article, CNBC.com reported that 34-year-old farmer Zach Johnson “makes 5 times more money from his YouTube channel than his crops.”
Johnson’s YouTube channel is called Millennial Farmer.
Here’s one of his most popular videos:
Johnson declined to reveal his exact earnings to CNBC.com, but the article provides some estimates:
Gagliese estimates Johnson probably makes between $2,500 to $5,000 a month from YouTube ads alone.
the sponsorship vertical of MN Millennial Farmer could bring in between $5,000 and $15,000 per branded post.
The brand’s online merch store sells branded tees, caps and hooded sweatshirts. […] Gagliese says that with Johnson’s audience, he wouldn’t be surprised if the MN Millennial Farmer brand sold between 1,000 to 2,000 units per month, earning an estimated $3,000 to $6,000 per month.
- $1 million in less than 7 years
Back in 2013, Jacques Hopkins created the first version of his Piano In 21 Days online course.
Six or so years later, he announced on a Reddit AMA that he’d surpassed $1 million in sales.
The linked photo:
Waking People Up
- $5,500 per month
Back in 2004, Neville Mehra co-founded a service called Snoozester, a web-based, wake-up call service.
Basically, you sign up for the service, and they call your phone at a specified time to wake you up.
Neville reported in a 2019 interview that the company had generated “well over $1,000,000 in revenue,” which worked out to about $5,500 per month since 2004.
- At least $22,500 per year
User SoCalChrist on Fiverr dresses up as Jesus Christ and makes short, customized videos for $10-45 a pop.
He racked up almost 9000 customer reviews in his first four years on the platform, which means he earned at least $22,500 per year.
Paid To Eat (Mukbang)
- Up to $10,000 per month
There are numerous people in South Korea who make a living by live-streaming themselves eating meals.
The top-ranked stars make as much as $10,000 a month, and that’s not counting sponsorships from food and drink brands.
On Facebook, Business Insider posted a video of one 14-year-old who earns up to $1,500 a night eating dinner in front of a webcam in South Korea.
Paid To Study (Gongbang)
- $253 per video
A South Korean YouTuber who goes by the name The Man Sitting Next to Me broadcasts himself studying for up to three hours per day.
Money is earned through YouTube ads, which one calculator estimates to be $253 per video:
Paralyzed people controlling robot waiters
- $9 per hour
This month a Dawn Ver Beta cafe was opened up Tokyo, Japan for two weeks. It used Orly Lab’s robots to serve customers and the most brilliant part about the cafe is that all of the robots were remotely controlled by severely disabled people, for the sole purpose of helping disabled people gain more independence in their lives.
There were 10 people working at the cafe. The employees suffered from diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other spinal cord injuries. They operated 4-foot robots called OriHime-D, from their home and were paid 1,000 yen ($9) per hour.
- At least $1,000 per month
My name is Peter, the founder of Turbulence Forecast. I’ve been forecasting turbulence for over 13 years, and I will personally give you a one on one briefing of what you might expect on your upcoming flight via email. I write each and every forecast personally, with over 8,500 written so far. No questions asked refund policy!
Peter charges $25-56 per order.
8,500 orders in 13 years works out to ~650 per year. At his lowest price point that’s well over $1000/month.
Binge-watch superhero movies
- $1000 in three days
From a March 2019 report on INSIDER:
CableTV.com is offering to pay one Marvel fan $1,000 to watch 20 Marvel movies back-to-back.
It would take you over 40 hours to do. CabletTV.com told INSIDER that the candidate would have three days in which to complete the task.
The chosen fan would also need to live-tweet their experience and would receive more Marvel gifts.
The Million Dollar Homepage
- $1,037,100 in 4.5 months
In August 2005 a college student in the UK set up a webpage consisting of a million pixels in a 1000 x 1000 grid, with the intention of selling each one for $1.
The idea went viral. This was the result:
On 1 January 2006, the final 1,000 pixels were put up for auction on eBay. The auction closed on 11 January with a winning bid of $38,100 that brought the final tally to $1,037,100 in gross.
- $300 per engagement
Jen Glantz is a self-styled “professional bridesmaid,” providing a range of services to budding brides.
Starting from $300 (£230), you can have the “Virtual Bridesmaid” offering, which includes one-to-one sessions to help brides “create a to-do list, a day-of itinerary and a budget for your wedding adventure”.
While there is a set number of phone sessions, Jen is on hand at all times via text and email.
Wedding Speech Writer
- $75 per speech
For the low, low price of $75, a complete stranger on Fiverr will explain to your new wife exactly how much she means to you.
The article also mentions one writer getting paid nearly $700 for a single speech.
Online Research Studies
- Up to $350 per study
Many online survey sites will pay you $1-4 per hour for giving your opinion on a variety of different topics.
Respondent is different.
You are first required to fill out a survey to qualify for a study, and if selected you are paid as much as $350 for a 1-2 hour phone call.
We tested Respondent ourselves and found that the studies were difficult to qualify for. But we still earned an average of $20.56 per hour. Full review here.
- $25,000 per month
Zach Katz started Framed Tweets in 2017 “to give people a simple way to beautifully frame their favorite tweets as art, to remember and enjoy forever.”
As per Starter Story, most sales come via Instagram ads:
Sales are steadily increasing as we scale our Instagram ads. We’re grossing about $20k per month from Instagram ads, spending about $300/day. Our ROAS hovers around 2.
Katz reports however that the business has yet to be very profitable:
I truly expected Framed Tweets to be an overnight sensation, and to make millions of dollars immediately. That didn’t happen, and two years later, it’s basically just starting to be profitable.
Blogging about paleo diets for dogs
- At least $6,000 per month
Via Side Hustle Nation:
Kimberly Gauthier has been running KeepTheTailWagging.com since 2011, but things really started to take off when she niched down her focus to raw feeding for dogs.
Kimberly earns money from her blog in a variety of ways, such as affiliate marketing, brand partnerships, and $4,000-$5,000 per month from display ads.
Mock Online Juror
- $1 per minute
At OnlineVerdict you can apply to become an online juror in your county and/or federal district.
From their FAQ page:
Lawyers will post a case summary and verdict questions to the OnlineVerdict, with the option of having 25 or 50 jury-eligible people like you review the case facts and provide feedback on the case issues.
Each case review may take anywhere from 20-60 minutes to complete depending on the length of the case summary and the number of attorney-provided questions. Juror payment amounts ($20-$60) reflect the amount of time we estimate it takes to review a case.
- At least $3,000 per month (probably more like $6,000)
John Atkins makes videos that teach people how to use the Ukulele.
Like this one:
One of the primary ways John earns money is via his Patreon, where he has ~1,600 supporters sending him a little money each month.
Graphtreon estimates his earnings to be anywhere from $3,000 to $14,000 per month.
- At least $20 per hour
Most nights after her parents have gone to bed, Sam, a 16-year-old from Toronto, makes herself a cup of coffee, reclines in her gaming chair and prepares to play Fortnite until the wee morning hours. During that time, Sam, a pseudonym, isn’t playing with her friends, or even a team in a conventional battle campaign.
Instead, she plays a series of hour-long sessions with men she refers to as her “clients.” So while they battle other players, build forts and hunt for weapons, she listens to their problems — ranging from nervousness over asking out a girl to sadness about a traumatic childhood. At the end of each hour, she makes at least $20. Some nights, she earns well over $100.
Helping Chinese people fake riches
- $1,500 to $3,000 per month
Sixth Tone reports that China has an industry for flaunting fake wealth:
Looking to impress your friends? A few bucks can get you a customized video with a fat wad of cash, a luxury home, a celebrity gal pal, or the car of your dreams.
After choosing a video of two hands holding a stack of 100-yuan bills and submitting a recorded audio message — “Oh yeah, look at all my money” — the WeChat account sent back a finished video in under a minute.
Videos cost as little as 6 yuan ($0.90), making it easier than ever for Chinese people to get their Tai Lopez on.
One merchant cashing in on the demand reports earning 10,000 to 20,000 yuan each month ($1,500 to $3,000).
- $70 million per year
Starting in the late 90s, Kevin Ham built a portfolio of 300,000 domain names in less than a decade. The result was a $300 million empire, generating $70 million in estimated annual revenue.
Need wedding shoes? Type in “weddingshoes.com” — a site that Ham happens to own — and you’ll land on what looks like a shoe-shopping portal, filled with links from dozens of retailers.
Click on any one of those links, and the advertiser that placed it pays Yahoo, which in turn pays a cut to Ham. That single site, Ham says, brings in $9,100 a year. Small change, maybe, but the name cost him $8, and his annual overhead for it is about $7. Multiply that model several thousand times over, and you get a quick idea of the kind of cash machine that Ham was creating from his living room.
Ham’s cleverest play may have been striking a deal with the Cameroon government to “typo-squat” all non-registered .cm domains.
From the same article:
he’s also the man behind the domain world’s latest scheme: profiting from traffic generated by the millions of people who mistakenly type “.cm” instead of “.com” at the end of a domain name.
Try it with almost any name you can think of — Beer.cm, Newyorktimes.cm, even Anyname.cm — and you’ll land on a page called Agoga.com, a site filled with ads served up by Yahoo.
Ham makes money every time someone clicks on an ad — as does his partner in this venture, the West African country of Cameroon. Why Cameroon? It has the unforeseen good fortune of owning .cm as its country code — just as Germany runs all names that end with .de.
By 2007, Ham’s days were numbered as companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo began to crack down on domain and typo-squatting.
In October 2017, Ham reportedly sold 100,000 of his domains to GoDaddy for some portion of $50 million.
Whispering and making other pleasurable sounds (ASMR)
- Up to $130,000 per year
Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, refers to the tingles in your brain and spine some people feel when they hear certain pleasurable sounds.
And it pays the bills for some YouTubers. It’s estimated that GentleWhispering, YouTube’s top ASMR channel, makes at least $130,000 a year.
Other full-time ASMR YouTubers don’t report the same cash influx. Three YouTubers told Business Insider that they make around $2,000 per month through YouTube, Patreon, and other revenue streams outside of their main channels.
Here is the most popular video on the GentleWhispering YouTube channel, with 21+ million views:
Paid To Lose Weight
- Up to $10,000 (“Average prize for goal achievers is $1,331.”) 1
HealthyWage is a website where you can place a bet that you’ll lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date.
Achieve your goal, and you get paid.
Fail, and you lose your stake.
At HealthyWage, success rates vary, with between 25 percent and 40 percent of participants actually winning their bets, [HealthyWage co-founder David] Roddenberry said. That doesn’t mean he’s betting on their failure. Revenue comes not only from participants but also from sponsors and other fees, he said, so his incentive is not to have people fail.
Pretending to be interested in renting apartments
- At least minimum wage
Yardi Matrix will hire you to pose as a person interested in apartment rentals. Your job is to call apartment complexes and ask them simple questions about their apartments, no selling involved.
Per the Yardi Matrix website:
Surveyors will be paid $6 per hour and a piece rate of $.50 for surveys marked Done, $.30 for surveys marked Wrong Number, $.20 for surveys marked Part-Done, and $.07 for surveys marked Answering Machine or No Answer. You will receive at least minimum wage in your jurisdiction for all hours worked; however, you can earn more depending on your speed and efficiency.
Paid To Name Stuff
- $100 minimum for winning a contest
On Squadhelp you can suggest names for products or businesses. If your suggestion gets picked, you get paid.
$100 is the minimum prize, though several folks on their leaderboard have apparently earned more than $20,000 with their mad naming skillz.
- Up to $500,000 per year
Freelance elite hackers can make more than $500,000 a year searching for security flaws and reporting those issues at big companies like Tesla and organizations like the Department of Defense, according to new data released by ethical hacking platform Bugcrowd.
IJet and Tesla pay hackers $1,000 to $15,000 for finding problems, depending on the severity of the issue. Mastercard pays up to $3,000.
Search Engine Evaluator
- Up to $15 per hour
A company called Appen will pay you to search the Internet all day.
From the Appen website:
Appen independent agents conduct in depth internet-based research and provide information evaluation for leading companies from around the globe. Ideal candidates are self-reliant, self-motivated, are very internet savvy, have a broad range of interests and enjoy online research and evaluation.
Glassdoor reports that the average salary for an Appen search engine evaluator is $15 per hour.
Talking people to sleep
- At least $25,000 per month
Twice per week, Drew Ackerman publishes the Sleep With Me Podcast, which receives more than 2 million monthly downloads.
Sleep With Me Podcast is meant to distract listeners, keeping their minds occupied when they experience insomnia, while gently lulling them to sleep.
The podcast is monetized in a variety of ways, but the biggest income source is likely Patreon, with more than 5,000 patrons on there pledging a minimum of $5 per month.
Selling blank books on Amazon
- $6,000 to $11,000 per month
In an interview on Side Hustle Nation, Rachel Harrison-Sund revealed that she earns a substantial income selling “blank” books on Amazon.
Think journals, diaries, planners, notebooks and sketchbooks.
From the PDF highlight reel that accompanies the interview:
Rachel said her process is very similar. She starts off browsing Amazon and other marketplaces online, as well as browsing physical bookstores for what’s selling. A tip that’s worked well for her is to add some “millennial speak” style catchphrases in the title. An example being a daily planner she published last year called, “Get Shit Done.” This book bought in between $6k-$11k a month for the first few months.
Ultimate Frisbee Coach
- $13,000 per month (approx)
Melissa Witmer once taught chemistry at a community college and new “absolutely nothing” about working online.
Now she earns a living helping ultimate (frisbee) players and coaches achieve better results in the sport via her website, Ulty Results.
Ulty Results mostly generates income via paid training programs.
- At least $1,500 per month
Mark W. Gray makes videos like this for paying clients on Fiverr:
On average, Gray apparently fulfills more than 1000 orders per year. He started in 2011, and was earning a decent income within a few months.
In 2012, LA Weekly wrote:
According to Gray, he now makes about $1,500 a month working only a few hours every few days. About half of that is through basic $5 gigs, of which Fiverr takes a $1 cut each, and half are $10-$25. It takes him only two to four minutes to make a $5 video.
Gray’s income from Fiverr is likely to have increased since 2012, as his lowest-priced gig is now $10, while his highest is $150.
- $15,000 to $20,000 per month
Paul Minors helps businesses and individuals get to grips with software. He offers training and consulting packages for:
As per Paul’s website, he earned more than $1,400 in his first month as a “virtual consultant,” and later scaled the business to $15-20k per month.
For Asana in particular, Paul’s offerings range from a $97 video + ebook training program, to a $7,500 custom consulting package.
- At least $1,000,000
Music for Pets provides “relaxing music designed for pets,” and is often referred to as Petflix.
The story of how a Manchester entrepreneur took his last £1,000 and transformed it into a thriving seven figure business is a mixture of passion and serendipity, and a pivot that made all the difference.
In 2011, Amman Ahmed decided to invest what was left of his student loan in a company called Roundwaves, to make soothing audio to help busy people unwind. He found composer Ricardo Henriquez online, and they started working together on a series of relaxing audio tracks. However, both quickly noticed that not only were humans pleasantly zoning out to the backing tracks, but pets were responding as well.
The following are some noteworthy suggestions we rejected from the above list for one reason or another, but still thought you’d find interesting.
Back in 2005 someone created a website called SaveToby.com.
Wikipedia tells the story:
The website claimed that the owner found Toby wounded outside his home, and nursed the rabbit back to health, not believing it would survive. However, it did, and he was unable to afford to care for him. The website then claimed that, unless he received $50,000 in US dollars to pay for its care, he would eat the rabbit. The money could be either donated directly, or through purchasing “Save Toby” merchandise.
It’s unclear if any money was ever collected via the website, and it’s widely believed that the entire thing was a hoax.
Trading a paperclip for a house
One red paperclip is a website created by Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald, who bartered his way from a single red paperclip to a house in a series of fourteen online trades over the course of a year.
However, Kyle did not accomplish his feat online.
He traveled to several states in the US and Canada in order to complete his trades.
Do you know some weird ways to make money online?
Let us know in the comments below.
(Special thanks to Hazel Lau for her help putting this article together. Give her a shout if you want to generate leads for your local business.)