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5 Lucrative Side Jobs to Take During the Economic Crisis

by Olivia Giovetti Mar 5, 2009
Five ways to make some extra cash while on the road, despite the economic downturn.

THE ECONOMY SUCKS. Fancy political talk aside, that’s the plain truth. And while we’re tight on cash we’re willing to bet that, unless you’re in the world’s oldest profession (which is apparently booming at the moment), you’re hurting as well.

You can’t call in broke to your creditors, and your landlord probably won’t take an IOU, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a side job that will
a) help you make ends meet, b) not leave you wanting to curl up in the fetal position and cry every night, c) involve a pyramid scheme, pay-to-play survey sites, or foot fetishists.

Here are our picks for five lucrative gigs that are perfect for the intrepid traveler:

1. Think like a tourist.

Remember Sven, the foreign exchange student who stayed with your family when you were 12 and took home his weight in Levis? He was onto something.

On your trips, scout out the local hot (and preferably transportable) commodities—amber in Eastern Europe, fashion in Paris, local art anywhere. Buy in bulk and sell at a high markup when you get back.

If you have real DIY prowess, buy little trinkets (think matchbooks, loose stones, figurines, stamps) and turn them into handiwork worthy of your local craft fair.

2. Think for a tourist.

Just because you know every corner of the Mission or Alexanderplatz doesn’t mean that everyone else does. Google the walking/bus tours offered in your city (“Walking Tours New York City” yields over a million hits, “Walking Tours Sydney” will give you almost 400,000) and start e-mailing and calling to suss out their hiring processes.

Having a unique angle gives you a much better advantage over knowing the subway lines like the back of your hand. For extra credit, learn everything you can about your city and see if there is a neglected tour that may fit into a pre-existing company’s schedule. Is Budapest due for a foodie revival? Can you lead the way to the best goulash?

3. Crash weddings with your Canon.

True story: One rainy day in Prague I came across a wedding party. Struck by the modern bride and groom against the old-school architecture, I snapped a few pictures. Apparently, the bride caught sight of my SLR and, after some awkward translation, I was replacing a photog who’d jilted the couple.

Not only did I get to gorge on dumplings at the reception, I walked off with a few thousand Korunas (which wound up covering my hostel and eating expenses for the time I was in the Czech Republic).

You need to have true talent and equipment to do weddings, but if you’ve got it, flaunt it. With everyone in the economic doldrums, brides are looking for something affordable and reliable to go with their olds, news, borroweds, and blues.

Websites like Craigslist and are great places to search for contacts and set up a portfolio. And if you’re looking to subsidize your travel while on the road, nothing will get you into a culture more than seeing how the locals get hitched.

Allergic to white tulle and cake toppers? You can also print your better travel shots to high quality paper and sell on

4. Rent out the home front.

In this economy, tourists are looking to cut costs while still getting out of the house, and many are turning to guesthouses and apartments to save on hotels, eating out, and that compulsion to spend every waking minute out of the house (there’s only so much time you can spend watching BBC News in a hotel room or common area).

Craigslist is a superstar in this arena with its Vacation Rental section. Post to your city’s page, set your own price (depending on location, size, and functionality, anywhere between $50 and $200 a night), and make sure to screen any potential guests thoroughly. If you’re wary of Craigslist and spend more time on the road than not, check out vacation rental websites like or

Just make sure your landlord is cool with your sublet or swap, or find a way to do it without their catching on.

5. Find B 11 and 13 in a flash.

While liking the performing arts isn’t a prerequisite, it’s certainly a plus if you become an usher. In major cities like New York and Toronto, you can work through IATSE (the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) as an usher for theaters across the city.

You can even work up to 30 shows before joining the union and paying the obligatory dues if you’re looking to make some short-term cash.

However, the quarterly fees and one-time initiation pale in comparison to the couple hundred bucks you could make each week and the free entertainment that comes with the job. If you’re able to politely remind audience members that cell phones are verboten and that the restrooms are to the left 300 times in a three-hour period, you’re in the right place.


Looking for more ways to earn money on the road? Check out our Best Seasonal Jobs for Traveling, parts One and Two.

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