Money Making Ideas in San Francisco
February 2014 - By Steve Gillman
I recently found my notes from a trip my wife and I took a
few years ago, and what we saw is worth reporting on. We went
to San Francisco to for several purposes, including a visit to
Google's headquarters. The latter was fascinating. Workers were
eating outdoors on the corporate "campus" with their
families, playing volleyball, using bicycles that were provided
by the company -- what a great place to work!
But enough about Google. As I always do when we travel, I
spent some time observing how people were making money and looking
for new business ideas. In the Fisherman's Wharf area
there was a man in a sparkling robot-like costume walking around
and talking to people using a voice-distorting device. I'm not
sure what he was supposed to be, but he certainly attracted a
lot of attention. We tipped him a dollar to take a photo with
him. A family with kids had just done so a moment before. I suspect
he had a pocket full of currency.
I first saw this kind of street performer in Banos Ecuador,
where a man had painted his entire body gold. He looked something
like a coin-operated robot. He stood on a box on a street corner,
perfectly motionless until somebody dropped a coin in the slot.
He would then start to move and twirl his staff. Once he stopped,
someone from the crowd -- and there was soon a large gathering
-- had to put more money in the "machine" to get him
to start moving again. Ana and I contributed to this performer
How much can a person make doing this on the streets of a
big city or tourist area? It's difficult to say, as it is with
all such cash businesses. Your costume could be expensive if
you didn't make it yourself, but that's just about the only major
expense. Of course tourist areas are the place to try this, and
the busier they are the better. Because your "performance"
is largely your appearance, this is perhaps one of the easiest
ways to become a street performer.
Along the wharf in San Francisco we saw dozens of coins (a
few dollars' worth) on top of the wooden posts sticking out of
the water. These were next to the line where we waited for our
boat tour to embark. Apparently people try to get a coin to land
on the top of the posts for fun. A person could climb down and
along the boards that connected the posts to collect the money,
but it occurred to me that a hundred times as much must be laying
at the bottom of the harbor. It isn't easy to throw a coin and
have it stay atop a nine-inch wide piece of wood after all. It
makes me wonder if anyone practices their scuba diving there.
Collecting coins from the many places where people throw them
is perhaps a way to survive if someone was living on the street,
but most of the time there isn't likely much to be made. This
might have been an exception. In any case I do try to include
any way to make money that I come across, without regard to how
lucrative it is.
Selling One's Own CDs on the Street
We were walking one night in the North Beach area of
San Francisco, and we asked for directions from a young man who
was singing. With a speaker in a bag hanging from his side, he
walked around making interesting sounds that were somewhat like
music. It was entertaining, and after he walked a block
with us to help us find the street we were looking for, we bought
one of his $4 CDs.
How much did he might make as a street performer selling CDs
on the street? Who knows, but perhaps it paid the bills or at
least bought him groceries. Seeing this did trigger some other
ideas. CDs can be made on a computer for less than a dollar,
for example, and a person might record a narration for a tour
of a city and sell it to tourists for $5. Customers could then
drive around listening and learning about the things they're
seeing. The recording could include information on the best restaurants
and other attractions.
Used Car Market
Although we stayed nearby, we never did make it to the huge
flea market in San Jose. The advertising for it included mention
of cars for sale, which reminded me of another money making idea
I read about a while back: a used car flea market.
Some people want to sell their cars and others want to buy
them. One problem, though, is that it's a lot of work both for
the seller to find prospective buyers and the buyer to travel
all over looking at cars. One solution is a market place where
sellers can sell their cars and buyers can therefore find many
of them to look at in one place; a kind of used car flea market.
When I first heard of the idea it was in an article about
a man who rented a lot on weekends where he charged owners $25
or so to display their cars. That's less than the cost of a classified
newspaper ad in most cities. The entrepreneur advertised in local
papers, bringing in hundreds of potential buyers. As I recall,
he made a couple thousand dollars each weekend, and I imagine
that sellers and buyers were happy to have this place.
With a business like this you could add various products and
services. For example, you might charge to clean up a car for
sale. For that you could find a mobile car "detailer"
and take a percentage of the work he gets on your car lot. You
could arrange with a mechanic to do inspections on the spot for
buyers, and you would get a portion of his fee for this service.
You could sell cold pop and snacks.
One final thought: One of the best ways to make money in San
Francisco and the surrounding area might be to have a hotel.
We thought our room was expensive during the week, when we arrived,
but when the weekend came the rate doubled .