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Artists and the Sharing Economy

Making a living as an artist is hard. But we live in the age of the Sharing Economy, so there are some ways to reduce costs and/or make some (mostly) passive income. The sharing economy is about access over ownership. I for one would not be nearly as financially stable as I am if it weren't for extra income from AirBnB and Getaround, as well as saving money when traveling through these same sites (and others).

Let's start with the income-generating opportunites. And before I do that, let me give the disclaimer that you should consult an accountant about taxes on any of this income, as I am not an expert and am not going to over that part here. Another disclaimer: I get referral benefits (usually credit for that site) if you sign up using my links. But so do you! So please use my links so we both can benefit.

AirBnB is pretty well-known at this point, but if you don't know what it is, basically you can rent out a room or a whole home on AirBnB to travellers or students or whomever. For a while, I had a spare room and I rented that out on AirBnB until I got longterm tenants. Generally, if you're in a city and near good public transit, you have a good shot at getting relatively frequent guests. At least in my experience in DC, if you're further away from public transit, you're more likely to get longer-term requests from people coming to the city for a month or three and trying to keep their costs low.

Getaround is a service (as of today only available in San Francisco, Portland, and DC but will expand to more cities) where you can rent out your car. I hardly ever use my car, but I need it for shoots often enough that it feels worth keeping. That being said, the rest of the time, it's available to rent. Getaround is great because they install something in your car that allows renters to open it from their phone. It also allows you to track your phone with GPS - this came in handy for a friend of mine in San Francisco who's car was stolen (not by a Getaround renter, just by random chance). This means you have to do very little except keep your car clean and gassed up. The only down side is how high their fees are. Not only do they charge you for the device that allows people to open your car with the app, but they take 40%(!!!!) of how much you make. That seems super steep to me and maybe as they have more competition they'll lower that. And if someone drives a lot of miles (the max is 200/day), you are actually probably losing money in the longterm because you'll have to buy a new car sooner. They don't even charge full mileage rates to the renters who go over the 200 per day. But luckily a lot of the trips are short - people running errands and such, and if you don't have much income, it is still helpful. The other down side is they only do PayPal (which will charge a fee) or a check, which is a bummer. No direct deposit.

Another car-sharing services are Turo - they only take I think 25% of the fees and they direct deposit into your bank account but you have to be there to physically give the person the key at the beginning of the reservation, which means I have only been able to rent my car out on Turo a few times. And then there's FlightCar, which I haven't used for my own car but if you are a frequent traveller, I would still recommend looking into loaning your car through them just for the free parking at the airport (it's only available at a few airports right now, though).

And of course you've heard of Uber, and hopefully you've heard of Lyft. Both of these are essentially taxi-on-demand services you can drive for, and you can make your own hours, which is nice. However, in my brief foret into driving for Lyft (driver referral), I was lucky if I averaged $15 an hour (as opposed to the "up to $35 per hour" they claim you can make) so I'm not sure I would recommend it. However, there are sometimes great signing bonuses (as of this posting it's $250 for DC) if you can do a certain amount of rides in your first month, so you can always join, drive for a month, and then decide if you want to keep going. In terms of riding with these services, I prefer Lyft because they are on surge pricing less frequently and because Uber's CEO seems like a genuinely terrible person who runs the company in such a way that I can't justify giving them my money.

A lot of these are good ways to save money too - I rented from FlightCar in San Francisco because it was significantly cheaper than commercial car companies. I will say I wasn't terribly impressed by the service or the cleanliness of the vehicle, but it got me where I needed to go. AirBnB is often cheaper than hotels and, while certainly I've heard some negative stories, I've had good experiences so far and even stayed in some pretty swanky homes for very reasonable prices. And if you are more open to the idea of sleeping on couches, is a place where people share their homes for free. Even if you don't want to stay in someone's home, it's a great way to meet locals and travellers alike while exploring new places. These sites are very safe, as there are extensive review systems. Of course, occasionally bad things still happen, just like occasionally bad things happen in real life.

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