Taskrabbit LogoSure, there’s no paycheck in the mail every two weeks, but look around your home. Do you have a car? A computer with Internet? A backpack and good pair of shoes? You could be paying the rent as a micro-entrepreneur, piggybacking on a new wave of platforms that connect people who need stuff done with people willing to do it.

While there are a few signs that an economic recovery is stirring, job creation has been behind the curve. It’s unclear whether the ways people will make a living in the coming decade will line up with the jobs that have been available in the past. The outsourcing of manufacturing to Asia or to assembly-line robots, the higher cost of gas, and concerns about the climate impact of global business have all prompted some to look for economic alternatives based on local economies.

Fortunately, in a state with Maine’s rural ambience and strong local culture, there are old and new ways to make a living that go outside the box–whether it’s renting out your home as a bed-and-breakfast, running errands for your neighbors, or whipping up a Web site for a local business.

Rachel Botsman and Shelby Clark show how Internet-enabled, neighbor-to-neighbor economies like TaskRabbit and Airbnb have become the “eBay for everything.”

Shelby Clark: The Redefinition of Work

By 2020, one in three people will work online as opposed to in an office, evidence that a growing number Americans are looking past traditional jobs to make ends meet, and potentially even improve their quality of life.

Perhaps the most interesting new opportunities lie in an increasing number of platforms that can instantly turn almost anyone into a “micro” entrepreneur, generating income from idle time, skills, or assets. There are many names for this trend, including Collaborative Consumption, or the Sharing Economy, but regardless of what you call it, the trend represents creating value from idleness or waste.

If you’ve got a car, you could earn $3,000-$10,000 per year by renting it out to your neighbors through the peer-to-peer carsharing marketplace, RelayRides. When the car isn’t being rented, you could earn an extra $9,000 per year by giving rides on a part-time basis through Lyft, an on-call ride-sharing startup. With a bit of spare time, TaskRabbit could earn you $24,000 per year completing a few tasks per day for your neighbors, (everything from grocery delivery to IKEA furniture assembly), or you could pull out your smartphone and get paid to do a small task for a large company, like taking a picture of inventory on a shelf, through GigWalk. Out of town for a weekend here and there? Renting out your apartment through Airbnb nets the average San Franciscan $6,900-$9,300 annually.

If you have specialized skills, new platforms provide even more income opportunities. oDesk is the world’s largest online workplace, with over 2.7M freelancers, where companies seek contractors specializing in everything from web development to sales and marketing. 800,000 virtual stores on Etsy, a marketplace for handmade goods, netted over $500M in 2011.

Rachel Botsman: The currency of the new economy is trust | Video on TED.com

There’s been an explosion of collaborative consumption — web-powered sharing of cars, apartments, skills. Rachel Botsman explores the currency that makes systems like Airbnb and Taskrabbit work: trust, influence, and what she calls “reputation capital.”

If you do offer your services to the locals–whether they are villagers in Africa or dairy farmers in Aroostook County–Italian entrepreneur Ernesto Sirolli has some advice: don’t tell them what they need.

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! | Video on TED.com

When most well-intentioned aid workers hear of a problem they think they can fix, they go to work. This, Ernesto Sirolli suggests, is naïve. In this funny and impassioned talk, he proposes that the first step is to listen to the people you’re trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit. His advice on what works will help any entrepreneur.

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