Outsourcing Your Errands: TaskRabbit Allows People to Rent Themselves Out for Odd Jobs

PHOTO: TaskRabbit is a website that allows people to rent themselves out for odd jobs.
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Justin Prim isn’t just a bike messenger. He’s part of a new wave of self-employed go-getters, some making six figures, who are capitalizing on something called “the sharing economy.”

“For two years, this has been my main source of income -- just riding my bikes around, seeing the sights, picking up random stuff,” Justin said.

Online marketplaces where you rent out things you own have become booming businesses. You can rent out your home with AirBnb, Roomorama, Wimdu and BedyCasa, or your car with Buzzcar, Getawround and RelayRides, or even random stuff lying around with SnapGoods, Rentoid and Parking Panda.

But how about making money off of renting out yourself, cashing in on your own spare time by doing odd jobs?

Leah Busque is the founder of TaskRabbit, a service that does just that. It’s an online portal that links thousands of people to clients who need an extra pair of hands for errands and chores, a little extra time to wait in line, or even a stranger’s gumption to help pull off the perfect prank.

“People are really figuring out ways to get more value out of their under-utilized assets,” Busque said from Task Rabbit’s San Francisco headquarters. “We literally have hundreds of different types of jobs posted on the site on a daily basis. But what we’re really good at is around-home services: house cleaning, handyman, moving help, organization, shopping and delivery. Those types of things are the most popular.”

It’s not about people being lazy, Busque said. It’s about hiring another person to help out. A lot of the task posters, according to Busque, are working mothers “just trying to get a balance between work life and family life and just trying to get it all done.”

“I’m a new mom myself. I have a 6-month-old at home and it’s survival mode on a daily basis,” she said. “I am using my own service now more than ever.”

Busque quit a cushy job at IBM to create TaskRabbit six years ago.

“I started the company in September of 2008 at a time when the stock market was crashing, people were getting laid off left and right,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what did I just do?’ But actually, it was a really great time to start a business like TaskRabbit because we really helped people find new ways to work.”

People like 49-year-old Chris Mok, who was working in retail advertising at Macy’s in the San Francisco Bay Area when he was laid off during the recession in 2009 and wasn’t really sure what to do. Mok said he turned to his handyman skills, something he knew would pay well, and started picking up jobs on TaskRabbit.

“I had trouble with the job search and just took the reins,” Mok said.

Eventually, his TaskRabbit experiment turned into a full-time gig.

“It’s really based on how motivated you are,” Mok said. “Initially, you could make $50,000 a year. Now, I’ve actually realized you can make six figures, if you want, in the handyman business.”

TaskRabbit is attracting more and more Americans. There are over 20,000 TaskRabbits in 20 cities, 10 percent of which use the website as a full-time job.

“That’s the most exciting thing for me to see,” Busque said. “I think, as an entrepreneur myself, the ability for us to create a platform that facilitates more entrepreneurship is just really exciting.”

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