Anyone got a spare room tonight? I’ve rented out my flat on the Airbnb website and now I’ve got nowhere to go. Probably as you read this I’ll be begging my mate to sleep on his sofa, then clock-watching at the pub until we can go home.
Every Airbnb booking I get entails three phases. First, I congratulate myself for listing our flat on the site, where people hire out their homes. If we rent out our Soho pad a few nights a month for £200 a night, that’s half our rent solved. Second phase: panic, as I assess the ever-dire cleaning situation. Third phase: new panic, as I realise I’ve nowhere to go.
Is anyone not Airbnb-ing? My mate Max juggles nightly Airbnb bookings on his flat like a DJ spinning tunes on the decks. He runs a complex rota operation, booking people in for odd nights, long stays or weekends, while he alternates between friends’ spare rooms and his sister’s place. (In a few months he’ll have paid his mortgage for the year).
I get regular calls from friends asking to crash on our sofa as they make cash renting out their bedrooms, while other people I know rent their flats while they go away to subsidise holidays. But Airbnb is not our only cash-spinner: we’ve got streams of alternative revenues on the go.
How can you make money without working? Let me count the ways…
I sell dresses on eBay. And Christmas presents. My friend has made a part-time job out of reselling charity-shop clothes online. I know someone making £18,000 a year on a website called Fiverr selling bespoke videos of pop songs she writes and records in her living room. I know part-time artists flogging their work on the craft website Etsy, and people selling their hair (to be made into extensions). Once a year, my friend Ollie gets paid to undertake medical trials by a site called FluCamp.
On the Uber app, ordinary drivers can earn extra cash by “ridesharing” with passengers. You can rent out your car, or parking space (on JustPark). There’s a website where you can make money selling your leftover food. On Slicethepie anyone can earn by reviewing music.
I’ve made money on the side as a “mystery shopper” for Pizza Hut — posing as an ordinary customer and reviewing the food and service — and filling out focus-group surveys. When I’ve been really broke I’ve sold the books off my shelves. Last year I finally pawned my electric guitar, facing the possibility I might never become the next Chrissie Hynde.
We’ve Airbnb’ed our flat in Soho to hen nights (risky), DJs, families on holiday and TV producers working in town. When the booking arrives we leave out some croissants, hand over our keys and pray that our temporary tenants won’t set fire to the sofa, kill the plants or annoy the neighbours too much. Luckily, we’ve nothing worth stealing. Some Airbnb owners come home to find teenagers throwing wild house parties or prostitutes working in pop-up brothels.
We’ve been lucky, but I’m not sure why we bother sometimes. As I’m sweeping under my bed at midnight while shoving pants into a bag, I wonder whether my generation really is that broke — or just obsessed with cash flow. Perhaps we’ve turned to alternative incomes because we’ve lost faith in the banks, the promise of careers and can’t get another Wonga loan. Are we so blasé about debt we shun proper jobs, or so petrified of it we’re moonlighting? I don’t know. But I’ll have plenty of time to ponder as I’m trying to sleep on my mate’s sofa.
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