3 Odd Ways Regular People Make Money Advertising (And 2 for You to Try)

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The world’s businesses are expected to shell out $537 billion for advertising this year, according to marketing ROI firm ZenithOptimedia.

The money is spent online, on television and on radio, among other places. But did you know you could get some of that ad money, too?

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You could auction off your child’s name on eBay, but that’s a bit extreme. Here are three slightly less crazy ways to make money advertising. These aren’t for everyone, but keep reading to the end for two options that may work for you.

1. Sell space on your face

Some of the most valuable real estate you own may be sitting on top of your shoulders. At least, that must have been what Cambridge graduates Ed Moyse and Ross Harper were thinking when they concocted their Buy My Face idea.

Faced with student debt and limited job prospects, the two decided the best way to wipe out their loans would be to rent that prime space. For a full year, they painted their faces with logos, tag lines and Web addresses, and in the end, they say they earned enough to bid sayonara to their debt.

The duo have moved on to other things, but if you need some inspiration, their website is still up and running or you can swing by their Buy My Face Facebook page. However, this is truly a “your mileage may vary” type endeavor, and I wouldn’t bet the farm on having the same success.

2. Sell space on your car

A slightly more realistic, yet still unusual, way to earn some advertising revenue is by agreeing to turn your car into a driving billboard. A decade ago, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about businesses that would pay hundreds each month to wrap your car in an ad. However, much of the talk has cooled in recent years.

Today, you’re more likely to find a car wrap scam than you are to find a legitimate moneymaking opportunity. These scams are a variation of the Nigerian letters that arrive daily in your inbox. You get an email offering this great chance to make money simply by having an ad affixed to your car. After you accept, you’ll be sent a check in advance, asked to cash it and forward a portion to a graphic artist or some other person. Only a few days later, your bank will tell you the check was fake, and you’ll be responsible for paying back the full amount. Meanwhile, the scammers will ride off laughing into the sunset.

In my research, I’ve found there do seem to be some legitimate companies offering to match drivers with car wrap sponsors. Free Car Media and DrivenMedia are the names mentioned most often. (It’s unclear whether DrivenMedia is still active. You can’t navigate away from its home page, and its Facebook page hasn’t been updated in more than a year.) WrapMatch has a professional-looking site, but the company sports an F rating with the Better Business Bureau while Free Car Media has an A- rating. You can also find a slew of other “paid to drive” websites that have a decidedly spammy feel.

If you decide to give it a shot, there may be a small fee to cover a background check and your addition to the database. Signing up for the service is no guarantee you’ll be matched for a wrap, and I certainly wouldn’t advise holding your breath while waiting.

3. Sell space on your property

This final idea isn’t so much far out as it is impractical for most people. It’s placing billboards on your property.

Of course, not everyone can put up a billboard. You might not have enough land, or you may not be in a high traffic area. Local zoning or state laws could put the kibosh on your plans, too. However, those who can may get annual rents ranging from a couple thousand dollars in rural areas to tens of thousands in urban centers.

According to this article from the National Real Estate Investor, billboard rents are based upon a formula that often gives 15 to 20 percent of the billboard’s revenue to the landowner. Lang Media says that very few properties are suitable for new billboards, but if you have one, there is no cost to you.

Two ways you can actually make money

Those are some fairly far-out ideas when it comes to making money from advertisements. However, there are at least two accessible ways to earn some extra cash through ad revenue. The only thing required is a little time and a blog.

AdSense. The easiest way to make advertising money online is through AdSense. Offered by Google, AdSense places ads automatically on participating websites and shares a portion of the ad revenue with the site owner.

To sign up for AdSense, you need to have a Google account but, more importantly, you need to have a website with content that people will want to read. It doesn’t have to be anything complex. It can be as simple as a basic blog about your favorite breed of dog or chronicling your home renovation on Blogger or WordPress. Obviously, the more time and energy you put into your blog, the more visitors you’ll gain and the more money you’ll make from the advertising.

Books could be (and have been) written about how to maximize AdSense profits, and we don’t have space to cover everything here. However, you can get started on the Google AdSense page.

Affiliate programs. AdSense isn’t the only way to make money from your blog. Affiliate programs are another way to bring in advertising revenue. Rather than paying you for ad clicks, these programs offer commissions if someone you referred makes a purchase.

Here are some popular options:

Most of the above sites serve as middlemen matching websites to merchants, and Amazon Associates may be the easiest for beginners to use. Other businesses, such as iTunes and the Dummies line of books, offer their own affiliate programs.

As with AdSense, there isn’t enough room here to delve into affiliating programs in depth, but Marketing Land has some tips for newbies.

What do you think? Do you want in on the $537 billion advertising pie? And would you paint your face for it? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Y2KJillian

    After 61 years of marginal money-making, I know that I do better by spending less than by trying to make more.
    Works for me, know it’s not for everyone.