15 Legit Ways to Make Money From Your Phone
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For most people, a smartphone is nothing more than a time-wasting vortex fueled by a steady drip of dopamine hits. But for the right person, a smartphone can unlock a world of endless income opportunities.
Let’s be real. Most people are not going to get rich by just using their phone. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make money from your phone quickly by leveraging a few apps and getting in on some of the easier side hustles.
Of course, for the right person, a smartphone actually can lead to a substantial source of income. But usually, these opportunities require a significant amount of work, time, money, or a combination of all three before they pay off.
Here we will cover a variety of options across the entire spectrum.
How to Make Money From Your Phone
1. Flip cash
The internet is mired with hundreds of places promising all sorts of free money for a laundry list of different reasons. Sign up for this, buy that, go and do this, you name it.
But at the end of the day, very few actually give you any sort of free cash without you having to spend money yourself – or do a ton of work to earn it.
That said, there are still a few good ways to earn completely free pocket change in 5 minutes or less.
Cash App’s send $5, get $5 welcome bonus is one such way.
(For those unfamiliar, Cash App is the second most popular e-wallet in the world – next to PayPal – and you can use it to send money to instantly send friends and family money whenever you need to.)
I regularly use the app to reimburse friends if they have to cover me in a pinch or if I leave my wallet at the house.
To get your free $5, simply:
- Create a Cash App account and use referral code GK6CDJ1.
- Add a debit card or bank account and send a friend $5 cash.
- Have them send that same $5 right back to you and you’ll both instantly earn a free $5 bonus. It’s that simple.
Pro tip: You can earn an additional $15 for every user that you refer using your referral link in the app. The person you invite must send/make a payment of $5 or more within the first 14 days of registering to unlock your $15 referral bonus.
2. Get free stock
A unique way to reward those interested in trading stocks, Webull – a popular microinvesting app – offers new users 2 free fractional shares up to $300 in value each. Deposit any amount and receive between 4 and 10 additional free fractional shares valued at up to $3,000 each.
The stocks are assigned in a lottery-like fashion, so most users will receive stock in the $3 to $10 per share range; the odds of being assigned a fractional share worth between $11 and $300 each is 1 in 50.
The cool part is that you can deposit any amount to qualify for the free stock, so there’s no need to deposit hundreds or thousands of dollars unless you really want to get serious about investing. Just make a small deposit, earn the free stocks, and watch them grow or cash out after their sale has settled.
3. Play video games
You don’t have to be a Dota or Fortnite champion to earn money playing video games.
(Fun fact: the prize pool for The International 2022 – the Dota World Championships – was over $19,000,000).
It’s much more simple than that. For example, you can make money from your phone for free by playing the exact same games you do on a daily basis through an app called Mistplay (Android only).
A gamer loyalty app, users will earn time-accrued credits they can then redeem in the Mistplay store for free gift cards to Amazon, eBay, Starbucks, and the Apple App Store.
The list of games frequently changes (Mistplay helps game developers expose new games to the public) but at the time of writing this article Super Mario Run, Pokemon Go, Fruit Ninja, Chess, Solitaire, Candy Crush Saga, Wordscapes, and dozens of others were all available to play.
If you’re feeling bold, you can up the ante by entering into competitions for games of skill with real cash prizes. Skillz – an eSports platform – offers a number of casino-like games (available on Android, iOS, and Samsung) where users can play in single or multiplayer tournaments for, sometimes quite large, cash prize pools.*
Some of their most popular games include:
With thirty million active players, five million daily tournaments, and $100,000,000 in monthly prizes awarded, it’s safe to say there’s some serious cash exchanging hands across their platform.
*Cash tournaments are not available in the following states: AZ, AR, CT, DE, IN, LA, ME, MT, SC, SD, and TN
4. Sell old stuff
Most of us have stuff sitting around our house or apartment that we don’t want or need anymore. Instead of letting it stack up, sell it. After a quick walk-through of my own house, I found several semi-valuable things that I can easily get rid of through Facebook Marketplace or any number of other selling apps.
- An old surfboard I don’t use anymore ($100 or so)
- An extra coffee table from my last apartment ($50)
- A few old video games ($5 to $10 each)
This method of making money on your phone fast is a personal favorite of mine. I bought and sold over $100,000 worth of Pokemon cards on sites like eBay and Mercari during the pandemic and haven’t slowed down since.
I regularly purge the clutter I have laying around, and my house is cleaner (and wallet fatter) for doing it.
5. Complete microtasks
Microtasks are small projects that virtually anyone with an internet connection can perform. Think of tasks like tagging photos or videos for machine learning, transcribing audio, moderating content, data entry, etc. Companies that pay for microtask work tend to not pay very much since the work is fairly easy, but if you are looking for a way to pass time and earn a few extra bucks, it can be worth it.
Suggested sites for finding microtask-related gigs:
- Amazon Mechanical Turk (“human intelligence tasks”)
- Clickworker (app testing, copy editing, and more)
- InboxDollars (market research)
6. Take paid surveys
We spend a lot of our downtime looking at our phones. Instead of mindless scrolling, consider adding a better “mindless” task: taking paid surveys. Nobody is going to get rich taking surveys, but there is certainly an opportunity to make $5 to $20 a month or more by answering questions about products relevant to your interest.
And in case you are wondering how this actually works, the money that is paid out from these surveys usually comes from a company that is doing market research to better understand consumers. A toothpaste company asking about brushing habits, a streaming service asking about what kind of shows you like, etc.
Our managing editor, Megan, made $7.41 with the popular survey site – Branded Surveys – in her first few hours of using the platform. The earnings certainly won’t come close to that of a full-time job, but they’re meaningful enough to cover her electric bill each month.
7. Sell your data
The reason that social media companies are able to make so much money is that they own an incredible amount of data on you, and that data is mega valuable to companies that want to advertise to you (and people like you).
Most of us are at least vaguely aware of this, although there isn’t much we can really do about it. That’s just how the ecosystem works. We spend time on social media, social media companies compile detailed profiles on us, they sell ad space based on that information, and round and round we go.
But now there are a handful of apps that are attempting to flip the script on that model and teach you how to make money from mobile data.
For instance, Tapestri is an app that pays users for their location information (up to $25 each month). Tapestri sells your anonymized data to advertisers, which is less privacy-invasive than what social media companies do.
They then share the proceeds with you, the user.
For example, I made $0.42 just today by sharing my location data with the app.
I work from home and am about as boring as they come in terms of the places that I visit (and I live in a super rural area), but perhaps your location data is worth more than my own. Even my earnings extrapolate to almost $15 over the course of the month, which is not too shabby considering I did virtually nothing to earn it.
Our top passive income apps:
8. Land freelance gigs
If you have a normal 9 to 5 job, you might be surprised at how high the demand is for freelancers. Companies love to hire freelancers for one-off projects and even ongoing work because it’s often more efficient and flexible than hiring a full-time employee with benefits. The best part is, you don’t have to be a world-class talent in order to land freelance work. If you are decently skilled at something and have a portfolio of work to back it up, drumming up freelance business from your phone is fairly easy.
One DollarSprout reader – Betsy Skinner – makes over $3,000 per month as a freelance virtual assistant. She helps needy bloggers and small businesses with everyday tasks such as email management and filtering, proofreading of articles and blog posts, and light bookkeeping.
Outside of any business connections you might have, the best way to find freelance work is to create a profile and apply for jobs on freelance marketplace apps like Upwork or Fiverr, or industry-specific marketplaces like Toptal (developers) or Law Clerk (legal).
For more manual-labor-focused work, check out sites like TaskRabbit or driving apps like Uber, Lyft, etc. You can also read about more gig economy jobs here.
9. Sell your photos
Even though everyone has a camera in their pocket, that does not mean that everyone is a good photographer. If you’ve got decent photo-taking and editing chops, you can try your hand at selling photos on stock photography websites like Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock, etc. Many online publishers are always on the lookout for the right photo for a particular piece of content, and if your photo fits the bill, you can easily make money from your phone without investment in high-end photography equipment.
When someone downloads your photo, you will receive a small royalty fee, usually somewhere around a few cents. The more downloads, the more money you will earn.
If you are active on social media and want to get involved in selling your own exclusive photos to monthly subscribers, you can also check out OnlyFans. It’s certainly a different experience than selling generic stock photos online, but there are dozens of creators (health care workers, athletes, influencers, life coaches, etc.) who have turned this into a full-time source of income.
10. Earn rewards
When most people think of rewards, they think of cash back credit cards. But there is another way to earn rewards that doesn’t involve the risk of piling on high-interest debt: cash back and rewards apps. These sorts of apps allow users to earn rewards on purchases from virtually every large retailer.
The best part about these apps is that any rewards you earn are piled on top of any credit card rewards you may be getting. So if you are earning 1% cash back with your credit card and 1% with an app, you will earn a total of 2% in rewards for that transaction. At first, the income may seem small, but it adds up over time!
Some of the best shopping rewards apps we recommend are:
11. Up your content creation game
Most of the items on this list are great for quick hits of small income, but if you are looking for a way to make potentially life-changing money from your phone, you’ll need to put some serious work into creating an audience. There are lots of platforms that offer this opportunity, so choosing where to start depends on your skills and interests.
With an audience – even a small one – creators can earn an income with ads, brand deals, or even selling their own products. The options (and income potential) are limitless.
Some ideas to spark your creativity:
- TikTok: Erika Kullberg (@erikakullberg) is a financial lawyer who started making TikToks with quick money tips and has grown her account to over 9M followers in just over a year.
- YouTube: Ethan Yau (@RampagePoker) started a poker vlog 4 years ago on YouTube where he would film himself playing cards in various casinos. Like anyone else, he started with just an iPhone and zero followers, but people were quickly drawn to watching his journey up the ranks to bigger and bigger games. Now he has almost 200k subscribers and is a “celebrity” in this small niche.
- Instagram: Paige Proctor (@paige_t1d_fitness) is a Physician’s Assistant with Type 1 diabetes who also earns a full-time income from Instagram as a health and fitness coach for others with diabetes.
12. Get paid to text
Although the opportunities and earning potential are somewhat limited, you can get paid to send and receive text messages through a handful of different services.
- McMoney: This is a service that tests cell phone networks to make sure SMS messages are delivered properly. If you sign up with them and offer your number as a test number, you can earn a few dollars each year.
- Premium.Chat: If you already have a base of fans or clients, you can use a site like this one to offer private, direct messaging or video calls to paying customers.
- 1Q: This app will send you questions and pay you $0.25 cents per answer.
- FlirtBucks: Like it sounds, this site provides a platform for users to make $100 a day on your phone by carrying on flirty conversations with other users.
If the idea of texting sounds fun but the ergonomics of being on your phone are exhausting, move to your computer with these online typing jobs.
13. Try mystery shopping
One challenge that retail businesses and chain restaurants face is keeping the customer experience the same across several different locations. In order to monitor different locations, companies will hire “mystery shoppers” to secretly shop at a store and then provide feedback on their experience. And of course, these mystery shoppers are paid for their time.
Secret shoppers will report on a variety of consumer experiences including but not limited to:
- How friendly is the staff?
- How easy it is to find an item?
- How visible was pricing and was it easy to understand?
- How effective is a store display of an item(s)? Is it neat, clean, and organized, etc.?
After completing a “shop”, the consumer then answers questions provided by the mystery shopping company, and they’re paid via a variety of different methods – direct deposit, PayPal, or paper checks by mail, to name a few. This is a great method of making money on your phone if you need to get paid daily as many companies will release payment upon receiving their feedback.
14. Sit through ads
Whenever you watch a video on YouTube and have to sit through an ad, wouldn’t it be nice if you got a slice of that revenue? Lucky for you, there are several platforms now that actually pay users to watch ads.
- AdWallet: One of the most important metrics advertisers follow is how easy is it to recall a brand after watching or viewing an ad. With AdWallet, you can make money on your phone quickly by watching ads relevant to your interests and answering specific questions about the ad. The company then compiles the information you’ve provided and helps big brands tweak their advertising campaigns to make them more effective. User reviews report earning upwards of $20 for reporting on as few as 4 to 5 video ads.
- Swagbucks: This is a free online rewards site that offers many different ways to earn money, one of which is paying users to watch short advertisements. For each video that you watch, you can earn a few SBs which can then be redeemed for gift cards.
- Ibotta: A free cash back rewards app that specializes in grocery shopping. In order to redeem some of the rebates and rewards, Ibotta may require users to watch a quick ad.
15. Ditch your textbooks
Another easy way to make money from your phone is to scan your old textbook’s ISBN barcode and see if its worth money. If you are a college student and have a pile of textbooks that you never plan on opening again, don’t burn them. Sell them!
Your on-campus bookstore is not always the best place to sell your textbooks. Instead of getting lowballed by them, you can sometimes sell your books for a higher premium online. Here are some of the top sites for selling your textbooks:
- BookScouter: 30+ vendors on BookScouter will “compete” for your textbooks, making sure that you get the best offer possible.
- BookFinder: Similar to BookScouter, you can enter your textbook’s ISBN number on BookFinder and compare offers for your textbooks from several different buyers.
Things to Watch Out For
Make sure you are spending your time wisely. It doesn’t do you any good to spend 3 hours on your phone, only to make $1. In the world of microtasks and mindless work on your phone, it can be very easy to lose track of time and not have much to show for it. In most cases, you will be better off putting your time into developing a skill or building some sort of asset rather than just simply trading your time for a few cents.
Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. There is no shortage of scams to watch out for, but in general, anytime someone is asking you to send money, cash a check, or purchase a gift card, they probably do not have your best interest in mind. Always keep your eyes peeled for these types of schemes.
Be wary of downloading things (viruses). Make sure to check the reviews of anything before you decide to download it onto your phone, especially if you are not getting it directly from the App Store or Google Play Store.
The Best Way to Make Money on Your Phone
A balanced, rational approach to earning will help you realize maximum earnings. Start by employing options that equate to low-hanging fruit.
If you shop frequently, install one of the free cashback apps that are popular amongst consumers. If you don’t care about who knows where you shop – or what you bought – install an app that pays you for your data. These two avenues alone can reclaim substantial earned income that you’d have otherwise lost.
Then, look at the other more active ways to make money. From selling gently used clothing and no-longer-used tech to leveraging money-making apps and starting a new freelance gig, there are ways to boost your earnings from a few dozen to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month.