It’s been almost a year since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, threatening our health, wellbeing and bank balances in the process.
Unsurprisingly, the UK economy is under the biggest strain in 300 years as it grapples with the crisis. By October 2020, 5.7 million people were on Universal Credit in the UK – a 90 percent increase since the beginning of lockdown last March.
Before the pandemic hit, my biggest business feat was selling a commemorative £1 coin for £16 to a collector on Facebook Marketplace. After six months of being furloughed and unable to afford rent, I began desperately ransacking my shelves for new wares to sell.
I spoke to five thrifty Brits who were in a similar situation, about the most creative ways they made extra cash during one of our worst ever financial years. Notepads at the ready.
‘WE STARTED A COUPLES ONLYFANS, WHICH TOOK ITS TOLL ON OUR RELATIONSHIP’
“My girlfriend and I both work in the creative industry and were completely stung by the pandemic. We didn’t qualify for government help and started living off our credit card, which just wasn’t feasible by the time we got past lockdown one. We’re both models with a decent following, so we decided to join the OnlyFans hustle. After all, sex sells.
“We started with underwear and boobs, but within a couple of weeks we were doing oral videos and then sex tapes. It got us making enough to cover our rent and bills, so I guess it did save us through lockdown, but it definitely took its toll on our sex lives and relationship. I could tell my girlfriend was doing stuff I know she wouldn’t usually, and it was addictive trying to reach that big payment.
“You can get a lot of weird requests for videos and that put our relationship in a strange place. I’m a very open-minded and sexual person, but it ended up feeling a bit empty. We’d only end up having sex if it was planned and taking your clothes off with a lighting set up in the corner is just not the same.
“I wasn’t in a great headspace as this became my only form of income. If we’d chosen to do this in a normal working year, I would have felt empowered, I think, but I lost myself in the ‘you gotta do what you gotta do’ scenario. I’d get home from a walk and there would be lube or a sex toy laying around, and it became obvious content was being made without me there.
“I would do it again, but setting boundaries is number one.” — Liam*, 29, Manchester
‘I DON’T HAVE THE BODY FOR ONLYFANS… SO I INVESTED £750 IN GME’
“I invested £750 in GME. I’d set the money aside for tax, but I was fairly confident after reading the WallStreetBets subreddit and analysis from people I trust. My acting and writing money dried up and my flatmate moved out, so I was paying rent on two rooms. I was nervous about putting the money in and fully expected to lose it, but I did feel fairly confident and obviously, the risk paid off.
“I got out at about £4,500 and I kinda felt like I was sticking it to the hedge fund. Even if I lost the cash, it would have been worth it for the journey it took me on, which ended up being pretty entertaining. I’ve played around with stock in the past using day trading apps – I had £200 in BrewDog – but this was a massive risk. Everyone advised me that putting money on the stock was a risk… but we have to think creatively from a financial perspective too.” — Harvey, 33, London
‘I GOT PIMPED OUT FOR 50 QUID’
“A girl I know from uni broke up with her boyfriend during the pandemic. One day, she got a bit pissed and offered me 50 quid to create photos of me pretending to be a new guy on the scene to make her ex jealous. She just wanted them on her Instagram story and blocked everyone from seeing them apart from her ex.
“I just had to stand, like, laughing with a drink and cuddling her for a couple of nights in a row. We tried to set it up so it was as candid as possible (when it was anything but), which is just classic Instagram, really. We only took a few snaps, but it was enough for him to message her asking who her new fella was!
“I thought it was hilarious and we were all a bit pissed. It was easy money and luckily I didn’t get any backlash, like the ex stalking me or anything, which my sober brain would have regretted. I actually ended up spending the money taking the girl’s best mate out for real drinks instead – we met that same night. All a bit of a laugh, really! So basically, yeah… I got pimped out for 50 quid.” Alec, 21, Surbiton.
‘I SOLD A RARE DVD THAT WAS COLLECTING DUST ON MY SHELF FOR £65’
“I volunteered at a film festival over a year ago and was paid my wages in DVDs. You sign up to these things as a creative for the ‘networking opportunities’, but time and time again they’ve disappointed. I walked home with my mate who shared my pain, both of us swinging around a goodie bag brimming full of tatty posters and low-budget horror movies. ‘Fuck doing that again,’ we said.
“A year later, I realised I’d been given a limited edition Blu-Ray of Dawn of the Dead and put it on Facebook Marketplace. Within a week, I had countless offers and DMs from avid collectors. I was accepted into specialist DVD collecting groups and people were tagging their mates and commenting “bump it to the top” under the photo.
“I was chuffed with how interested people were, especially as it’s been sat on my shelf for so long gathering dust. I ended up agreeing on £56 including postage. I’d barely given my DVD collection a second thought, but now I definitely won’t be turning my nose up at a goodie bag full of them!” — Dougie, 24, London
‘I SUNG “WAP” AS DOLLY PARTON AND NOW TIKTOK PAYS MY RENT’
“During lockdown last year, I put up a video on Twitter of me singing Cardi B’s lockdown hit ‘WAP’ in a multitude of voices, such as Celine Dion, Julie Andrews and — my personal favourite — Dolly Parton. It went viral to the point I even ended up being invited on the Ellen DeGeneres show. I’m an actor and writer but I had sort of put performing away in a box for a while – I wasn’t big on putting myself out there on social media pre-pandemic. But the more things blew up, the more bizarre they got. I had a globally renowned rapper ask me to cover their song – a hilarious request that I ultimately declined, but it was a fun few weeks.
“Getting so much attention unexpectedly was initially super overwhelming. I started sharing various sketches, impersonations and skits and soon amassed a quarter of a million followers on TikTok. From there, I was asked to join their creator fund. I leapt at the opportunity. Now, I make money from my interactions and views. It’s only just started paying my rent but who knows what will happen. It’s given me a real boost as a performer. This experience has shown me anything is possible.” — Rachel, 26, London