#adulting: Fuelling the side-hustle economy

This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on February 19, 2018 - February 25, 2018.
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Millennials just can’t seem to catch a break. They are called everything from spoil and entitled to lazy and self-absorbed. They are accused of disrupting trends such as playing golf, sending postcards and keeping salaries confidential as well as education and the institution of marriage.

But say what you will about millennials — those aged between 18 and 34, according to the Pew Research Centre — they are the ones propping up the sharing economy, which provides low-risk avenues to generate supplementary income.

The sharing economy in Malaysia was valued at RM3.4 billion in 2016. This is expected to increase fivefold to RM17 billion by 2020, according to the Economic Report 2017/2018 released by the Ministry of Finance last October. It also states that the sharing economy created 190,000 jobs in 2016 and should create 300,000 new jobs for youths by 2020.

The report, which quoted the MDEC-Monitor Deloitte Analysis, says the sharing economy was worth about US$270 billion globally in 2016 and is projected to reach US$3.1 trillion by 2025.

Beyond providing a financial cushion, side-hustles — as they are commonly known these days — are also a means to pursue long-held passions as well as a hedge against stagnation and feeling short-changed by life. Personal Wealth talked to millennials to find out some of the creative ways they have come up with to earn a few extra bucks. Here are four interesting examples.


Advertise as you drive

Advertising company Moola pairs drivers with brands to allow on-vehicle advertising. Drivers get to earn while they drive and brands get to advertise outdoors. All you have to do is sign up as a driver via its website or app, apply and qualify for a campaign, and get a vinyl film or sticker installed at one of its certified installation centres and drive. Stickers will be applied on either the car doors, boot or bonnet.

Depending on the campaign, if you drive about 35km per day during the day, you can earn between RM150 and RM350 a month. Payment is made on an impression basis with a maximum cap. Drivers who reach their goals are also entitled to a bonus payout at the end of campaign, which lasts about three months on average.

There are certain requirements and caveats, however. The car has to be less than 10 years old as paint quality is important for the sticker installation. Drivers are also encouraged to drive during peak periods to earn more — driving from 6am to 9pm, for example, will generate more points than driving around midnight.

Moola (Laputa Ventures Sdn Bhd) head of marketing John Ong says the number of drivers registered on the platform has reached 30,000, but only about 300 drivers are involved in campaigns at the moment. He says that, depending on the client’s needs, Moola typically takes a 30% to 40% cut from each driver’s successful campaign. The campaigns are mostly concentrated in the Klang Valley.

“We are sort of the middleman between drivers and brands. But beyond that, we merge the digital and the traditional. This is because we offer the benefits of digital data analytics and location-based advertising,” says Ong.

“In less than a year since 2017, we have paid out almost RM600,000 to drivers. Some of the significant brands that have been advertised with us are Tealive, Panasonic, Motorola, Chubb insurance, Uber, Lazada, Traveloka, Ice Watch and Tune Protect.”

Chief technology officer Ivan Lau says the platform has gained more traction since its inception in late 2016 and attributed the growth to organic marketing or word-of-mouth recommendations. “We also have a referral programme, through which drivers can pass on what Moola is all about and get RM30 cash after a person who received the recommendation completes a campaign,” he adds.

Are there problems? Naturally, says Lau. Perhaps the most persistent one is matching supply and demand. “We want to get more drivers and keep them happy. At the same time, we want to deliver to the brands as well,” he says.

There is a support group for Moola drivers, which Ong describes as a community similar to that of Grab and Uber drivers. “We have drivers who are very supportive of our company. They are always on the lookout for future campaigns and discuss Moola’s services.”

Another crowd advertising platform that rewards drivers is MyBump. Apart from endorsing a brand on your car, the platform allows “brand ambassadors” to endorse brands on Facebook and Instagram. The difference between MyBump and Moola is that it also rewards ambassadors with freebies and instead of vinyl stickers and film, MyBump provides a do-it-yourself sticker installation, which is to be placed on the car’s rear window.

The sticker will only be delivered to registered ambassadors after a campaign has been chosen. Then, they have to take a selfie with the brand stickers visible and upload the images on their social media profiles. Brand ambassadors are required to ensure that their selfies can be viewed by the public.

The country’s first deaf blogger Selina Ooi — also a MyBump brand ambassador — has taken part in two campaigns since last year and received up to RM150 per campaign. As people with disabilities (PWDs) often earn less than their able-bodied counterparts, she recommends that they take advantage of platforms such as MyBump to earn some extra income and become more independent.

The 33-year-old is a full-time designer in the education industry. With her sister Jocelyn’s help, she keeps her blog (www.selinawing.com) running. She also freelances.

“Due to the lack of education avenues (for PWDs), we have limited opportunities to further our studies. We then have to rely on our family’s support. Having a side-hustle is important for me personally because I want to save money for my retirement and help my family,” says Ooi.


Create personalised travel experiences in your own backyard

Vietnam-based travel company Triip lets locals become amateur tour guides by allowing anyone to create trips, experiences and tour packages. Through PayPal, “Triip creators” get to earn money after travellers book their tours, the value of which will be emailed to them along with other information. When a booking is completed, Triip holds the amount charged and releases it 24 hours after the end of the tour.

Nothing is charged for listing personally crafted tours, but earnings are subjected to Triip’s 10% processing fee and PayPal’s transaction fee. Triip also provides guidelines on how to set the price for your tours as well as how to market them in the Triip Book. Triip creators’ monthly earnings vary as they can charge by the hour, by the tour, or both.

Regional director Stacey Lee says the price of each tour ranges from US$40 to more than US$70. “Part-timers usually get about 8 to 12 tour requests per month while full-time tour operators can rake in up to US$10,000 a month.

“We offer a seamless booking experience for hotel rooms in 227 countries and unique local experiences in more than 100 countries. All the tours are uniquely crafted by local people who know their cities best and these tours can showcase their knowledge of the country’s best attractions, including places to see, eat and shop at.”

Founded in 2014, Triip aims to create an impact in two ways — the local impact, in which it provides job opportunities for locals and change old practices in the tourism industry that place tour guides in a vulnerable position due to their meagre income, and the sustainable travel impact, in which it fights to reduce the use of plastic bottles by travellers.

“I first knew about Triip in 2016 when I decided to buy a motorbike tour with a local in Ho Chi Minh City. The guide — a travel blogger — curated a genuinely local experience, and I knew this because I hardly saw any other tourists on my tour and I paid less than what I would have been charged for a conventional tour by a tour agency. It was an eye-opening experience,” says Lee, explaining her decision to bring Triip to Malaysia.

The platform, she adds, leverages Triip creators’ interests as they are encouraged to use their favourite pastimes, passion projects and inject their personality into the tours they create. “For example, we have a creator who loves to play football on weekends. So, he created tours and let travellers play with him while he takes them around the city. A photographer in Tokyo does something similar as he shares his photography skills with travellers.”

It is not all smooth sailing for Triip as the trust between trip creators and customers can be fragile. “Some of our challenges include handling cancellations from trip creators. To address this, we suggest alternatives such as similar tours from different creators, and if the customers do not approve of our recommendations, they are entitled to a refund,” says Lee.

“Another problem is that creators risk not getting any customers when they start out. This is normal because customers usually choose tours that have more reviews. So, we advise new creators to offer free tours and practise their skills so they know what is best for the customers as well as themselves during the tours.”

Not to mention, getting some of those much-needed reviews.


Look after some furry friends

Online platform Petsodia connects pet owners with pet sitters. Those interested to be pet sitters can apply for free. Upon approval, they can start listing their availability and earn between RM20 and RM60 per day per pet. These pets include cats, dogs, birds and hamsters.

A boarding fee is paid to Petsodia via bank transfer. The pet sitter earns 80% of the listed price while the other 20% is for administration and marketing.

There are 450 registered pet sitters on the platform and about 95% of them are millennials, according to Petsodia founder Patrick Chang. He says pet sitters are able to earn RM800 a month on average.

“Part-time pet sitting is a good side-hustle for pet lovers. Plus, their pets can have new friends. Having said that, we also see some housewives using our platform to do it full-time,”says Chang.

As a side-hustler himself, he recommends part-time jobs that can be done in the comfort of one’s home. “I suggest doing what you love at home. For instance, if you love animals, then look after them and make money from it without having to go out of your house. It is indeed a wonderful thing to be done with your daily office work and come home to happy animals wagging their tails,” he enthuses.

Farah Shazlina Ali, 33, who has been using Petsodia for eight months, says she has made about RM4,000 so far. Despite having a full-time job as a manager, she feels that having a side-hustle is important to pursue her passion.

“In my case, we already have the room and facilities for cat boarding for my own cats. With this, I am slowly making the cattery into a self-sustaining business and use the additional income to fund my passion for helping stray cats,” says the lover of feline.

She says those who are looking for ways to generate side income should never disregard their skill sets and always be alert for opportunities. “Sometimes, even a hobby can turn into an additional income generator. Plan, focus and be passionate.”

Farah says Petsodia should boost its marketing efforts, especially to neighbourhood residents.


Cross-border shop for others

Global shopping platform Jetspree, which was launched about half a year ago, allows jetsetters to earn money whenever they are abroad by fulfilling shopping requests. Travellers can sign up for a free account on its website and start posting their overseas trips. Once their flights are registered, Jetspree shows the requests that match their trips.

Travellers can only claim requests five days before their arrival date, to let Jetspree know when they should message travellers on matching requests as well as to estimate when the item will be dropped off and shipped. Once a request has been claimed, the item must be purchased within three days.

Drop-off information is then emailed to the traveller, who has to deliver the item to Jetspree’s drop-off point at the airports within two days of arrival.  Payment is made via bank transfer within three to five working days after the item’s successful delivery.

Head of marketing Trisha Ang says Jetspree provides a safe and convenient platform by moderating transactions between shoppers and travellers. “By using its unique matching technology to match a shopper’s request to a traveller, the entire user process is automated and hassle-free.”

Frequent travellers can easily make between RM500 and RM1,000 a month through Jetspree. However, young travellers are also encouraged to sign up to help subsidise their future trips. “For example, when a traveller is making a trip to the US, it will easily cost him RM3,000 to RM5,000 for round-trip tickets. He can claim shopping requests for items there, with total rewards between RM1,000 and RM2,000. This will help the traveller save up to 20% of the trip’s cost,” says Ang.

She says Jetspree has thousands of travellers posting new trips each month, more than half of whom are millennials. And they frequently interact with registered travellers who are active on the platform. “We have been growing at more than 200% month on month. Requests keep growing and travellers keep signing up, so we feel we are definitely on the right track.”

In the past few months, items that have been high in demand are electronics such as the iPhone X, Google Home and Amazon Echo, says Ang. The platform has received numerous requests for Japanese and Korean snacks as well as cosmetics and luxury products.

“We see a high demand for electronic products such as computer processors that cater for high-end computers too. Getting these items from the US is a lot cheaper than buying them locally,” she says.

“We also see high interest in smart homes as there have been a lot of requests for smart light bulbs such as Philips Hue 2.0 White and Colour Ambiance Starter Kit and Philips Hue White Smart Bulb Starter Kit as well as the Google Home Mini.”

The challenge for Jetspree currently is unlocking consumer choices. Ang says it is striving to improve processes to ensure that it can work with travellers to obtain items more easily while making sure that its website has more relevant items and is easy to browse.

“We recently introduced some new features to help make the experience better such as better sorting, better listings and easier ways to find products. We have some big features in the pipeline such as the ability to gain credits and a better referral programme,” she adds.