First of all, dumb is a rather subjective term. These “businesses” may seem a bit odd, strange, or bizarre to most people, but they did end up making money for their owners and innovators. By that definition, are they still dumb? Yes, yes they are. Can we still point and laugh at them? Again, yes we can.
Making money - whether some, more, or enough - can be hard. But every so often, we read or hear about someone who hit upon something so ridiculously stupid that we roll our eyes and scoff...until we learn that it made them a small fortune (or even “just” a steady income). Then, we want to know more. We rack our brains trying to come up with the next million dollar idea. It seems so easy.
Remember the Pet Rock? The inventor, Gary Dahl, made somewhere in the vicinity of 15 million dollars for that brilliant idea. It was a rock. In a cardboard box. Fifteen. Million. Dollars. Or how about Doggles, a company that manufactures sunglasses for your dog. Yup. Or Holy Ink, a printer cartridge ink-refilling business owned and operated by monks in the monastery at the Cisterian Abbey in Missouri...they made over $2.5 million in 2005. There really does seem to be a market for almost anything.
Dumb ways to make money still make money. That’s the takeaway. And if you can ignore the chuckles and guffaws the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, then maybe you should consider one of these careers.
1. Professional Cuddler
Two words that no one ever considered putting together. Professional. Cuddler. But it is a thing, and believe it or not, it’s actually a growing industry. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. You pay someone to cuddle with you.
As a professional cuddler, you snuggle with a client, sometimes at your place, sometimes at their place. It’s entirely platonic and non-sexual. Clothes, or pjs, always stay on. Cuddlers are available in at least 16 different states, and rates can be as high as $80/hour, with discounts for booking multiple hour sessions (an all-nighter with Kimberly Kilbride, for example, “only” costs $400).
While it may not be sexual (that’s another “profession” entirely), it most definitely is intimate. And that’s what people are paying for - a connection, the physical touch of another human being. There’s no special training or licensing required. If you’re ready to climb into bed with a stranger and spoon for an hour, you’re qualified.
2. Selling or Auctioning Domain Names
A domain name is the URL (uniform resource locator) for a website. This one is careeraddict.com. There are .coms, .orgs, .cas, .govs, and dozens of others. You can register a domain name (essentially renting it for a set period of time) for as little as a few dollars per year, but only if it’s available.
And that’s where you can make some decent money. When a business or other entity wants to create a new website, they must first decide on a domain name. Using a registrar like domain.com or instantdomainsearch.com, they then check to see what versions of the chosen domain name are available. They enter the name, and the site shows them which ones they can get (.com, .org, .net, etc.).
If a version is already registered, they might have the option of making an offer on it. The owner may list it as “for sale”...but for an inflated price. It’s a speculation game. For example, a quick domain search for “discounttraintickets” showed me that the .com version is unavailable, but I could buy it for $14,000 from the owner.
Why would anyone pay that much for a name? Well, they might not. It depends on the domain name, of course, and the budget of the interested party, and the faith they have in their idea, and the domain name itself. But if the stars and planets align, you can make a killing.
It’s harder to do now, though, but in the early days of the internet and domain name registration, some enterprising individuals raced to register famous and well-known names. Let’s say, for example, that you were the first to register the domain name budweiser.com. Budweiser beer would likely be willing to pay a hefty price to get the rights to it when they eventually thought to join the internet fad. That’s the trick. Finding and registering a name that someone will want: companies, brand names, even events (like RioOlympics2016.com, for example).
It’s dumb, yes. You may register hundreds or thousands of names without making a dime, but hit on the right one (someone recently paid $3 million for the rights to vodka.com), and you can make a killing. But it is like winning the lottery: long odds.
3. Dumb Online "Businesses"
The internet allows you to set up “shop” for anything your little heart desires. Have a winning (albeit dumb) idea for making some money? Create a free or low-cost Wordpress site and get the word out. The sky’s the limit! No matter how dumb the idea is, there are people who will pay for it.
How dumb? How about mailing snow to anywhere outside of the Northeast. That’s what Kyle Waring did. For a mere $89, he mailed you 6 pounds of lovely Bostonian snow. And he made over $10,000 doing it. Or how about Glitter Bomb Your Enemies, started by Mat Carpenter, and sold a month after its creation for $85,000. His premise? For $10, he would send an envelope of messy glitter to your enemies. That’s it. The site has since inspired dozens of copycats. The web is rife with other examples. Dumb little ideas that generate huge income. If you remember nothing else, remember what Carpenter himself says: “Don’t underestimate a stupid idea.”
You don’t even necessarily have to offer a service or product. College student Alex Tew created The Million Dollar Home Page in 2005. It was a blank page with one million pixels, and anyone could pay $1 per pixel to have their name, logo, or web address added to the page. If he sold out, he’d have a cool million dollars. And he did. The idea went viral, garnered tremendous media attention, and Tew made OVER a million dollars (the last few thousand pixels were actually auctioned off on eBay for well over the original $1/pixel asking price).
4. Rent Yourself Out as Advertising Space
Marketing is no longer like the glory days seen on Mad Men. It’s all about social media, likes, followers, and going viral. Marketers and companies are constantly looking for the next big deal, something to help them stand out in a crowded field.
To that end, people started renting out themselves as human billboards. Jason Sadler, for example, ran iwearyourshirt.com from 2009 until 2013, and he sold out each day for those years. His idea was to simply get businesses to pay him to wear their t-shirt. A walking ad, if you will. The idea took off, and he was soon employing additional wearers.
Others went a step further, offering to rent out their bodies for a logo or web address. And companies actually did it. Andrew Fischer rented out his forehead to Green Pharmaceuticals for one month at a cost of roughly $37,400. Not a bad month’s pay for doing literally nothing. Many others have taken the same idea to heart and got themselves a nice payday. Would you be willing to walk around with a temporary tattoo (or better yet, actual tattoo...it brings in more money) of the Burger King logo on your face for that kind of money? On your arm?
5. Pharmaceutical Test Subject
Pharmaceutical companies are in constant need of human test subjects for new drugs. And if you’re willing to take and do what they tell you, you can really cash in.
Some of the test runs are no big deal, and require little more than showing up to take a pill or placebo at a specific time. You can usually pick up a few hundred dollars for that. Others require that you stay in a testing facility day and night. They feed you, clothe you, and provide a place to sleep. They may have other requirements, too, like an exercise regiment. The longer you stay, and the more demands, the higher your stipend. You can easily make thousands of dollars this way.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? That is, until you remember you’re taking EXPERIMENTAL drugs. They need you to see what will happen when actual humans take the medicine...because they don’t really know.
Say it with me: dumb.
6. Dumb App Developer
This one may not be considered dumb by everyone, but it really depends on the end product. Between Apple and Android, there are hundreds of thousands of mobile apps out there, with new ones being added every day. Productivity, games, utilities, health...you name it, there’s an app for that.
And not all of them are stupid. But some definitely are. Come up with a simple, dumb little idea, create (or pay someone to create) a basic app, and list it for $0.99. If it resonates with people, you could be hauling in bags of money very soon.
Take Joel Comm, for example. He made close to $500,000 selling his iFart app on iTunes. Or consider Flappy Bird, a simple-but-addictive game that was developed over just a few days by Nguyen Ha Dong in 2013. It inexplicably became one of the most popular apps in early 2014, and despite being a free download, it generated nearly $50,000 per DAY in ad revenue. Sheesh.
Dumb apps come and go very quickly. Popular today, forgotten tomorrow. But, popularity and attention for even just a few days can generate a lot of cash.
There’s money to be made out there. You could try and come up with a smart, clever idea...or you could try your hand at one of these dumb ones. Different route, but the same destination and goal (financial freedom). Choose wisely (no pun intended). And good luck.
What other dumb ideas have you seen? Share your additions in the comment section below.