I Tried the Sharing Economy and Made $0

Nobody wanted my books or my clothes.

Photo credit: Brittany Stevens, CC BY 2.0.

Who else has clicked on posts promoting articles like “200+ Ways to Make Extra Money in the Sharing Economy”? I admit it — they had me at “extra.” I didn’t stop to question the obvious — when exactly is money extra? Like anyone else struggling to make ends meet, I wanted to believe the hype. Here’s my experience with three of these so-called sharing sites, and how much money I actually earned.

1. Sell your used books on BookScouter

So I have a shit-ton of books. BookScouter promises to turn my collection into cold hard cash. It’s Sunday morning, I’ve had a rough week, and the prospect of being productive sounds vaguely rewarding.

I grab books in stacks from my overstuffed bookshelves (floor piles, whatever) and carry them to my desk where I type each ISBN in BookScouter’s search field. Then I hit enter and watch the zeros come up. To be fair, I’m not entering the good stuff — like anything from my erotica collection (worth thousands!) or anything from my boyfriend’s comic book collection (because I don’t want to die).

Four hours later, my shopping cart reads $2.76. So what if 98 percent of my book collection is valued at $0? I focus on the positive ($2.76!). It’s enough to buy a chocolate bar or a tiny bottle of cheap tequila from the corner liquor store. Unfortunately, the lowest buyback minimum on BookScouter is $10. No tequila for me (sad face). I spend Sunday evening admiring my bookshelves and assuring my books our relationship is solid.

2. Sell your used clothes on Poshmark

Poshmark’s site says I can make money from clothes that are just sitting in my closet. Full disclosure: I recently became a full-time freelancer, so I don’t need clothes anymore. I have a sweet collection of pajamas and an AMAZING collection of bar T-shirts that I wear around the clock. (These are NOT for sale.) But the corporate stuff is just taking up space.

I photograph one jacket, one jumpsuit that makes me look like a 1980s mob wife (a look I’m no longer into), and four handbags. I follow Poshmark’s suggestions and obsess over proper light conditions to ensure optimal image results. Then I complete a profile for each item that features a product description, product category, brand, size, color, and price.

Five hours later, I have six items listed in my virtual closet. Go me! Sadly, Poshmark is not impressed. They recommend I list a minimum of ten items, engage with other Poshmarkers, and share my items at least once per day in order to achieve success. I google “successful Poshmarkers” and discover that most success stories revolve around full-time sellers who do not have the inconvenience of, say, a full-time job. Despite what you’re thinking or the fact that I don’t change out of my pajamas — freelancing IS a full-time job.

3. Download Bitwalking and get paid simply for walking

NOW THIS IS COOL! I enjoy walking anyway, so getting paid to walk is an obvious win-win. I download the app and walk for a week. I check my results after every walk and watch my earnings steadily climb on my regular walks to the liquor store: $0.15, $0.35, $0.70, $0.97 — OMG I’VE ALMOST EARNED A FULL DOLLAR! Tequila, here I come.

My full week of walking roughly translates into $0.28 cents per mile. Clearly walking full-time is not an option if I want the large tequila, but who cares? This is free money, right? I’ll take what I can get. I click the menu to request my Bitwalking earnings and learn that this feature is “not yet available.” Hmmm. I click the Sell and Shop sections, and then every feature on the Bitwalking app, and WTF?!! Not yet available. I immediately uninstall Bitwalking and relinquish all future claims to the $0.97 I rightfully earned.

The so-called sharing economy is often pitched as flexible income, but how flexible are these earnings? Many of these platforms play up the ability to set your own hours and control what you earn, but even working around the clock is not enough to survive, let alone buy a bottle of tequila. Setting minimum earning thresholds means the platforms can get value out of you without having to pay you anything.

The sharing economy, with its focus on inclusion and building social connections, sounds like a movement toward greater economic opportunity. But don’t let the implications of sharing fool you. This isn’t a Family Data Plan or some kind of bartering system straight out of Portlandia. Our current economy is a reflection of our turbulent times — markets are volatile, investors remain cautious, and everyone is looking for an easy way out.

But theres nothing easy about sharing. Those who make it work do so by committing and putting in the hours—and by using Poshmark’s wholesale portal to buy clothes from major clothing brands before reselling them on your Poshmark closet, or by going to used bookstores armed with apps designed to show you which books might have the most resale value on sites like BookScouter. Ultimately, making that extra money comes down to the same thing it’s always come down to — hard work and hustle. Not by trying to share the same old books that everyone else owns.

Letisia Cruz is a writer and artist currently living in Miami, Florida. Find more of her work at www.lesinfin.com

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