Most of us could use a little extra money, but we don’t all have the same idea on how to earn it. I like to have garage sales and sell my unwanted stuff to strangers; other people take on part-time jobs or walk their neighbor’s dog. Then there are the exceptions: people who do impractical, strange, or just downright ridiculous things for cash.
Here are five people who have taken a bizarre route to extra cash:
1. Selling your last name
Late last year ABC News caught up with a man who was auctioning off his last name at Buymylastname.com. Thirty-year-old Jason Sadler was partly in it for the money and partly for the marketing stunt he planned to pull off by generating media buzz about the name change. Sadler is an online business owner, and apparently willing to do just about anything for marketing buzz.
The auction came to a close with Headsets.com putting in the final bid of $45,000. This year Adler plans to legally change his name in the state of Florida, change his name on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and buy a domain with his new last name to keep a blog about his experiences.
Why it won’t work for you: $45,000 is no small chunk of change, but the headache involved with changing your name isn’t small either. For example, in California you have to file a petition to change your name and then appear in court. The California Courts say this can take up to three months. If the change is approved by the judge, you’ll have to file separate documents to change your Social Security card information, driver’s license, and passport. Then call up your credit card companies, bank, utility companies, and anyone else you do business with.
And you may not get $45,000 for your last name. The bids for Adler’s surname went so high because he already had a strong online identity and generated news about the auction. Trying to go at this alone and starting an auction at $0 may not be the best idea.
2. Becoming a test monkey
Pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals are willing to pay to test their new ideas or drugs on your body, but that doesn’t mean you should do it.
John McKinley-Campbell was saving up money to get his Ph.D. at Florida International University, but he already had student loan debt and no income. His solution? He sold his body to science. McKinley-Campbell told CNNMoney he made $3,000 during one study, which sounds kind of awesome until you realize what it entailed:
- Locked in a building for 14 days with seven strangers
- Daily pills still in their “testing period”
- Hourly blood samples
- Hourly urine samples
Why it won’t work for you: Call me paranoid, but a couple grand isn’t worth potentially facing a lifetime of medical problems (no matter how minor) if something goes wrong. Not to mention some studies, like the one McKinley-Campbell did, require staying inside a facility around the clock, essentially working 24 hours a day. Break it down and McKinley-Campbell and the other test subjects surrendered 336 hours. While he raked in $3,000, that breaks down to about $9.00 an hour, something you could easily make working a part-time job that doesn’t require hourly blood and urine samples.
3. Turning your house into a billboard
We’re bombarded by so many ads a day that most of us have learned to tune them out – billboards, radio commercials, posters at bus stops – it’s all background. So what’s an advertising company to do to get our attention? How about painting a suburban house lime green and tangerine orange, then plastering it with ads and social networking logos?
Enter the ad firm Brainiacs From Mars. You let them paint your house and they’ll pay your mortgage every month the ads stay up. They’ve already painted one house in Orange County, Calif. (You can see the house at NYDailyNews.com.) The company is currently seeking funding to paint more houses.
Why it won’t work for you: The ad firm’s case study says they increased Web traffic by 56,000 percent in 30 days. Their customer base went up by 2,900 percent in one month, so clearly it works for them, but there are two words that might not make it work for you: your neighbors. If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, you probably have bylaws prohibiting unapproved changes to the exterior of your home. Ignore them and you might face a court battle. Take Jeffrey DeMarco, for example, who got sued by his homeowners association for planting too many roses in his yard. He ended up losing his case and paying his homeowners association’s legal bills – to the tune of $70,000, according to Yahoo. Ouch.
4. Posing nude
When I was in college, one of my art professors hired a nude model to pose for the class. As students, we simply had to observe and paint a lifelike portrait. As a model, the poor girl had to stand up, with one knee tilted forward, leaning back and holding an apple over her head – for the entire 90-minute class.
College students and adults can sign up to pose in the buff in front of art students or private artists. Sarah Hahn, a college student in the U.K., poses nude for extra cash. She told the Kentucky Kernel that she makes $30 posing for three-hour courses on weekdays and $50 on weekends.
Why it won’t work for you: It may seem like making any amount of money for just standing there (even if you are in your birthday suit) is a great idea, but you won’t just be standing. Hahn told the Kentucky Kernel that she often has to pose in uncomfortable positions. Making $10 an hour might not be worth making your muscles sore. And then there’s finding work. In theory, you could work every night during the week and come out with $150, but Hahn says it isn’t like that. The art school she poses for cycles through several people and work is scarce.
5. Turning your forehead into a billboard
I never really thought of my forehead as ad space, but Karolyne Smith of Salt Lake City, Utah, did. Five years ago Smith held an eBay auction stating that she would tattoo the name of any company willing to pay $10,000 on her forehead, according to CNET.
The online casino GoldenPalace.com took the bait and won the eBay auction with a $10,000 bid. A few days later, Smith made good on the deal and permanently branded her forehead with the online casino’s logo.
Why it won’t work for you: At first glance, this doesn’t seem completely ridiculous. After all, tattoos can be removed. Modern laser treatments have made tattoo removal possible, but it isn’t cheap. Costhelper, a site that gathers and compares average costs on different products, says that removal prices range from $200 to $500 per session and it can take anywhere from five to 20 sessions to finish the job. If Smith’s tattoo took 20 sessions at $500 a pop, she’d pay $10,000 for removal – exactly what she got for the stunt in the first place.
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