Spare room, desk or under-used car? Here’s how to make money from the sharing economy

Renting out your spare room, parking space or even your handbag can make you money. Suzanne Bearne speaks to three people who are making extra cash from the sharing economy

With a son at university, Susan Mellonie found herself with a spare bedroom at the family home in Kendal, Cumbria. So she decided to make some extra income by renting it out on room-letting website Airbnb.

The decision has proved fruitful; Susan, a single parent of two, has raked in about £3,000 since she put the room on Airbnb a year ago, pricing the room at £45 per person per night. In April, she earned £600 alone.

“In an area with very little employment apart from the tourism industry, renting out the room has been a lifeline for me to pay bills,” says the 59-year-old who gave up her job as a teacher to look after her elderly parents. On top of the monetary value, Susan says she enjoys hosting people she wouldn’t necessarily meet in her to day-to-day life.

“I’ve had a lot people from around world stay with me. I’ve had people from South Korea, Singapore, India, Germany – it’s almost as if the world is coming to me. I get to see the world, learn about other cultures, and I’ve made new friends and they’ve invited me to stay with them.”

Susan says she’s never had a problem with any guests, although she is careful about who she allows to stay. “I don’t invite single men, unless they’ve had an exceptionally good review, and I check everyone out before I accept them to stay.”

Susan is just one of the many fiftysomethings choosing to rent out their own pool of resources and property to earn extra money. And this level of renting is increasing, with the number of over 50s letting spare rooms rising by 49 per cent in just three years, according to SpareRoom.co.uk.

For those with spare rooms or taking a holiday for a couple of weeks, it can make sense to make cash while your room or house sits vacant. As well as Airbnb, there’s also Onefinestay and HomeAway to let your spare room or whole property through.

Renting out your parking space

Anna Hamill rents out her and her mother’s unused carparking space outside their homes at Twickenham, near to the famous stadium, to drivers through a company called JustPark. In the first year alone she’s made about £700 in renting out the three spaces, which she charges £15 a day for, with JustPark taking a £3 cut.

“It started off as a little bit of fun, but now it’s become a bit of a project,” says Anna. “It doesn’t take much time – JustPark do all the admin, the advertising and they collect the money. I put the money in a fund, and use it for when we go away. It goes towards petrol money and a place to stay.”

Like Susan, she says she also enjoys the social aspect of it too.

“Several people have now parked with us more than once and they’ve become acquaintances so we’ll have a chat. Some people use the loo or we’ll give them directions. It’s a more secure way of parking for a lot of people.”

Making money from spare desks

Hubble is a website matching start-ups and freelancers to spare desk space. David Crawford-Emery, 54, uses Hubble to rent out some of the rooms in the several office buildings he owns in Shoreditch, London.

“It’s economical and it’s effective targeting as they target the kind of people who want to use that space. I was using the likes of Gumtree and Rightmove but I couldn’t find suitable people.” It’s a natural move for David, who has previously rented out rooms in his own house.

Whether it’s renting out your spare handbag through The Handbag Rental or putting your car up for rent through EasyCar Club, with the sharing economy in the UK set be worth around $15bn (or £9bn) in 2025, according to PWC, it’s worth seeing what kind of extra income your own spare resources could bring you.