Turn your extra time into cash
Many people indulge in too many sweets during the holidays, which is bad for the waistline. And some people put too many gifts on their credit cards, which is bad for the bottom line.
I can't help you resist the sweets, but I can help you make extra money. Thanks to the Internet and smartphones, there are some interesting new ways to earn extra spending money for holiday gifts.
Tens of thousands of people pick up pocket money every day by performing quick field work tasks for companies.
Many businesses — big and small — post micro-projects through a free iPhone app called Gigwalk (an Android version is in the works).
A national retailer or restaurant chain, for example, might need someone in your town to mystery shop or dine at a local outlet and evaluate the experience. An automaker may need to know what a new parking garage in your town charges so the data can be added to in-car navigation systems.
It's important for companies to get these micro-jobs done, but it makes no financial sense to assign them to full- or part-time employees.
Many Gigwalk jobs involve photographing businesses or product displays in stores. It's how Microsoft is gathering the thousands of panoramic photos it needs for its Bing search engine.
You don't necessarily need to invest in expensive camera gear — the iPhone's camera is good enough for most vendors. A few jobs might require DSLR-quality photos.
Once registered with Gigwalk, you're notified of tasks that come up in your city. You compete with other Gigwalkers and “apply” for gigs with a 140-character message.
As a newbie, you'll make $10 or less for many tasks. But as your reputation and positive feedback snowballs, you're shown increasingly lucrative jobs of $50 or more. The money can really add up if you tackle several tasks a day.
Some companies invite experienced and reliable Gigwalkers to private teams, which is sort of like becoming a regular freelancer.
TaskRabbit is another popular micro-job platform. Currently serving a dozen major cities in the United States, TaskRabbit started out as a safe way for homeowners to get help with odd jobs like house cleaning, pet sitting and assembling Ikea furniture.
TaskRabbits must pass a screening process that includes a video interview and a thorough background check. Many TaskRabbits are college students, retirees and moms.
A lot of businesses owners have discovered that TaskRabbit is a great way to find on-demand virtual assistants, event staff and delivery drivers. Bakery shops and other boutique retailers often need extra help to handle holiday orders. But they don't have the time or resources to find qualified temporary workers.
Are you the kind of person whose friends always ask you about fashion and shopping advice?
Turn your sense of style into spending money by using social media to drive traffic to online retailers.
For years, bloggers have been receiving rewards from marketers for favorably mentioning new products to readers. The model is being extended to posters on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
Shopping site Beso recently threw open the doors of its Affiliate Program to all account holders. As an Affiliate, you make money every time friends and followers click on products you share.
Pay ranges from 5 to 90 cents per click, with 14 cents being the average in categories such as clothing and shoes.
Other popular social shopping sites, such as the Fancy and Pose, have introduced similar programs.
To stay on the ethical side — and follow FTC and social network guidelines — users should disclose that they're getting paid for a referral-based link. That can be as simple as adding #ad, #paid or #spon to a post.
Finally, it's important to be wary of fake online classified ads and work-at-home job scams, especially this time of year.
Remember that legitimate operations won't ask you for money up front or promise extravagant paychecks.
E-mail Kim Komando at email@example.com.