Remember when your mama taught you that it’s good to share? It can also be profitable.
In the past five years, an entire ecosystem has developed around people sharing things with total strangers — whether it’s a room in their house, their car, or their expertise — and collecting a few dollars in the process.
This ecosystem goes by a variety of names (collaborative commerce, peer-to-peer business, the sharing economy), but it’s all driven by the same thing: mobile apps and websites that connect owners with stuff to the people who need that stuff, if only temporarily.
This does two things: It puts money in owners’ pockets for things that were otherwise going unused, and it usually makes these things much cheaper than the going rate. (It also tends to really tick off hotels, rental agencies, and other traditional businesses that are being passed by.)
Here are some of the things the sharing economy lets you do more easily and cheaply than ever. Some are available nationally, others only in certain areas.
The idea behind space-sharing sites is alluringly simple. You make your house, apartment or spare room available to weary travelers for a fee. They get to stay in a place that’s nicer and cheaper than most hotel rooms; you get to make money for doing almost nothing. The site handles all the transaction details and takes a cut. It’s a win-win-win (except when some psycho renter trashes your home — as one poor San Francisco woman blogged about here).
On Airbnb you can rent everything from an Airstream in Australia to a modernist mansion in Monaco.
The poster child for space sharing is Airbnb, which lists more than 600,000 properties in nearly 200 countries. But it’s hardly the only one; similar services include HomeAway, FlipKey, Wimdu, and HouseTrip. The surest sign of Airbnb’s success? Local authorities in several major cities are cracking down on space sharing, seeking to regulate the companies and/or collect taxes.
Pimp your ride
Want to make some coin off your old clunker? Services like RelayRides, Getaround, and JustShareIt let you rent your car to total strangers for a day or more. Prices are competitive with Hertz and Avis, and there’s no waiting in endless lines at the airport.
You can tell it’s a Lyft car by the pink mustache on the grille. No, we don’t know why, either. (Lyft)
If you want a quick lift without having to flag down a cab, you can call on a DIY private car service like Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar. Using an app, you request a driver to come to your location and pick you up. The app lets you track the car’s location and automatically charges the fare to your account — no fumbling for cash in the back of a poorly lit cab. The driver uses her own car and gets rated by riders so, theoretically at least, the losers get winnowed out. But like space-sharing services, ride-sharing startups have come under intense scrutiny from local authorities. So download now, while the rides are still available.
Spin your wheels
For those times when you need two wheels, not four, sites like Spinlister can help. Plug in your location and the type of bike you need (mountain or road, fixed gear or single speed), and then choose from a list of available rides starting around $5 a day. Spinlister also rents skis and snowboards.
Easy riders. Spinlister lets you hit the road without having to own a bike.
Listing your own gear costs nada, and Spinlister offers up to $5,000 coverage for damage or theft to bikes, and $1,000 for skis and snowboards. Rentals are available in more than 50 countries, though not in every area in the United States.
Got work to do but nowhere to do it, or an office you’re paying good money for that’s sitting half empty? Desktime lets you rent someone’s spare office space and/or list your own by the day or month. It’s available in nearly two dozen cities worldwide.
Grind is one of thousands of shared office spaces listed on Desktime that offer WiFi, coffee and other amenities for as little as $35 a day.
ShareDesk lets you rent space by the hour, day, or month; it’s available in more than 400 cities across the globe. Other sites such as 42floors offer a mix of commercial rental properties and shared office space in 25 U.S. states.
Park your pooch
Heading out of town without your pets usually means leaving your four-legged friends in a kennel or a pricey pet hotel. DogVacay lets you find a temporary home for man (and woman)’s best friend in someone else’s house, or a dog-sitter who will come to you, for rates starting at $25 a night. It boasts nearly 12,000 dog-sitters in 21 major U.S. cities.
With DogVacay, you can leave your pooch with someone who’s even crazier about animals than you are.
A competing service, Rover, also lets you choose whether to drop the pooch off or have the sitter come to your home. It’s available in all 50 states. Got cats? You’re barking up the wrong tree. As far as we can determine, there are no equivalent services for cats, fish, or reptiles. Sorry.
These days it seems easier to borrow a kidney than to borrow money from a bank — which is where p2p services like LendingClub step in. You can get a personal loan of anywhere from $1,000 to $35,000 (or a business loan of up to $100K), at rates ranging from 6 to 30 percent, depending on your credit rating.
Forget what Shakespeare said. LendingClub lets you both a borrower and a lender be with a few clicks.
The funds come from the pockets of LendingClub investors, who bankroll a portfolio of loans and pocket most of the interest. Since 2007, LendingClub has facilitated more than $4 billion in loans, generating nearly $400 million in interest for investors. And if LC turns you down, you can always try one of its social lending peers, like Prosper or QuarterSpot.
Feed your head
The best home-cooked meals are always the ones cooked by someone else. That’s the idea behind Feastly, where for prices up to $200 a head you can dine in a stranger’s house. Cooks in your area post details of the meal they’ll make, when they’ll make it, and how much it will cost. Some of the cooks are local chefs, others just talented amateurs (you hope). You show up at the appointed time, make polite conversation with your fellow feasters, and then leave without having to do the dishes. Feastly is currently available in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., with more cities planned.
Mmm, dim sum. Is anyone else getting hungry?
If you’d rather have the party come to you (but without having to do the work), you can use Kitchit to bring a professional chef to your home — provided you live in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.
Find good help
We all have stuff we don’t want, or don’t have time, to do. The sharing economy makes it easy to find someone willing to trade elbow grease for cash or, conversely, for you to pick up some extra scratch in your spare time. For example, Instacart will find someone to do your grocery shopping for you in seven major U.S. cities. In most cases, it promises to deliver the goods in under two hours for a fee of $4 to $8, depending on the amount you spend.
Spin the dial in TaskRabbit’s iOS app to find someone willing to do almost anything for a price.
Zaarly lets you locate someone willing to scour your oven, plant a garden, fix a squeaky hinge, and other household chores (but only if you live in Kansas City or San Francisco). For just about everything else, there’s TaskRabbit. You post the job you want done, the deadline, and how much you’re willing to pay; task bunnies then compete to do your bidding. Jobs can be virtual (design my blog page, defrag my computer) or in person (assemble furniture, help me move). Rabbits are currently available in 18 U.S. cities and London, with more on the way.
Stuff like this is why God and Al Gore invented the Interwebs.
Note: This article was updated to correct pricing for Instacart.
Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.