How to Take Advantage of the New Digital Economy

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated October 6, 2021

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Personal Finance
December 19, 2016

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Many people are used to the idea of a nine-to-five job. For decades, such jobs have provided steady income, and often, benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. However, there is a new digital economy on the scene. You can use it to supplement your nine-to-five job or, as some folks have done, create a business in which you work for yourself full time. Here are some tips on how to take advantage of the new digital economy.

A Pew Research Center report released in May 2016 centered on findings from a survey of 4,787 American adults. It found that nearly 75 percent of respondents have used some sort of on-demand or shared online service; for example, half of adults have purchased secondhand items online, and 15 percent have used ride-hailing services such as Uber. It is important to know how big your potential customer base could be. The customer base is lower (2 percent) for clothing rentals, while it is slightly higher (4 percent) for shared office space; both are marked differences from the 50 percent of people who have bought used goods online.

Each digital service tends to draw people from certain demographics. For instance, college graduates, as well as people making more than $100,000 a year, are more likely than many other demographic groups to have used at least four shared or on-demand services. As of 2016, people 45 and older are less likely to use the services, and the more urban an area, the more in demand many services tend to be.

Examples of digital services include:

  • Stores for used or secondhand goods (eBay)
  • Ride-hailing apps (Uber, Lyft)
  • Same-day or quick delivery (UPS, FedEx, Amazon)
  • Online ticket resellers (StubHub,,
  • Stores for handmade products (Etsy, Storenvy, eBay, Fiverr)
  • Crowdfunding (Fundable, Indiegogo, Kickstarter)
  • Home sharing (AirBnB)
  • Grocery delivery (Amazon, FreshDirect, Safeway, Wal-Mart)
  • Unusual jobs/chores (Craigslist, Fiverr, Odd Job Nation)

Your personality and life situation may be more suited for certain services than others. If you live near Walt Disney World, for instance, you could rent out your home when you are on vacation and potentially make big money. On the other hand, if you have a great business idea and your plan is sound, you could try crowdfunding to raise capital for the business.

Can you answer the question of why exactly a venture in the new digital economy appeals to you? Here are a few common reasons that may apply:

  • Ability to set your own hours
  • Meeting new people
  • Being in charge of your own training and education
  • Convenience of accepting only the work you want
  • Showcasing unique talents
  • Trying out new things/exploring passions
  • Supplementing regular income
  • Replacing regular income

Assess about how much money you hope to make — and how much stress and independence you are comfortable with. With that in mind, you can match many services to your income expectations.

It’s time to look at a few companies and what you could make with them.

  • Uber: Drivers for companies such as Uber can make good money. Really good money. Some report earning as much as $38.25 an hour, and according to official Uber figures, its drivers earn $25 per hour on average for 1.3 rides per hour. That earning information, though, is before factors such as basic insurance, tolls and car maintenance are factored in. In any case, the bottom line is that driving for a service such as Uber for only a few hours a week can net you at least an extra $100 weekly. Say you drive eight hours a week earning an average of $22 hourly; you would make $176 a week.
  • AirBnB: AirBnB is another good example of how you can make money in the new digital economy. Suppose your family visits out-of-town relatives one weekend a month, and you decide to rent out your house for that weekend. You could pull in $60 or more per day and make nearly $200 during a weekend. That translates to perhaps an extra $2,000 in the year — and that’s for only one weekend a month. You can charge more for in-demand areas and for peak times of the year. Of course, you may encounter difficult guests and are responsible for areas such as housekeeping.
  • eBay: eBay is an oldie but a goodie. Depending on what you sell, you can make hundreds of dollars a week. Moreover, websites such as Etsy and Storenvy let you buy and sell homemade goods. You can specialize in niches such as jewelry, weddings and children’s fashion. Do investigate what portion of your earnings will go to these companies, and how.

In a nutshell, the new digital economy provides a great opportunity for everyday folks to supplement the income they make from their regular day jobs. You can even turn your hobby or passion into a money-making opportunity. If you love meeting people, you may flourish as an Uber driver. If you are great at drawing caricatures or at book cover design, you could build a steady consumer base on Fiverr. It is also possible to do such digital work on a full-time basis; some Uber drivers work more than 40 hours a week, and many makers of handmade products are in heavy demand. You can start out little by little, test the waters and see how the opportunities you have created for yourself progress.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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