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Sharing Economy 101 — The Basics on Sharing

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: August 18, 2017

Have you ever bought or sold something on Craigslist? Booked a place to stay through Airbnb? Donated to a Kickstarter campaign? Then you are part of the sharing economy, a cultural phenomenon that is changing the way we go about our daily lives, both personally and professionally.

The sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption, is a socio-economic system in which people make money, save money, and promote sustainability by doing business with their peers.

Reasons the Sharing Economy is Becoming Popular

The concept of sharing with our peers is not a new one. But in recent years a trio of factors have converged to create the perfect climate for a sharing economy explosion:

  1. The Internet We can connect with anyone, anywhere, so we are no longer challenged to find other people who have what we want (or vice versa), and no longer limited to sharing with those in our local communities.
  2. The Recession The sharing economy has proven a lifesaver for those struggling to make ends meet post-recession, as the job market has been slow to recover.
  3. Anti-Consumerism As we grow more sensitive to the wastefulness of our consumer economy, sharing with one another what already exists is increasingly attractive.

What is "Shared" in the Sharing Economy?

The sky is the limit when it comes to what can be bought, sold, rented, borrowed, traded, or otherwise acquired in the sharing economy:

  1. Goods, both new and used, through sites like:
    • eBaby
    • Craigslist
    • Etsy
    • Yerdle
    • Quirky
    • Threadflip
    • Poshmark
    • Rent the Runway
    • CarDaddy
  2. Services, both personal and professional, through sites like:
    • TaskRabbit
    • Fiverr
    • Elance
  3. Space, for lodging, business, and storage, through sites like:
    • Airbnb
    • Couchsurfing
    • Peerspace
    • ShareDesk
    • Cubbyhole
  4. Transportation, both local and long-distance, through sites like:
    • Uber
    • Lyft
    • Sherpashare
    • Getaround
    • Scoot
  5. Food, through sites like:
    • KitchenSurfing
    • Shareyourmeal
    • LeftoverSwap
    • EatWith
    • Feastly
  6. Money, both loaned and fundraised, through sites like:
    • Kickstarter
    • Indiegogo
    • Kiva
    • Lending Club
    • Prosper

And that’s just a sampling. There are thousands of sharing economy websites that help match people who want something with those who have it to offer.

Can You Make a Living Off the Sharing Economy?

That depends on what kind of living you need to make relative to your quality of life.

While the money-making opportunities in the sharing economy are pretty much infinite, your resources are not. The more specialized your skill or valuable your product, the more money you can expect to earn in less time. But unless you work every waking hour, you could be hard-pressed living off earnings from TaskRabbit jobs, for example, or Craigslist sales.

That’s not to say it cannot be done, but it’s probably wise to treat sharing economy opportunities as supplemental income, at least in the beginning.

Where to Start Sharing

Visit any one of the reputable sharing economy websites listed in this article or browse the directories at and