Make Money

How to earn money from walking

Whether you strut your stuff or barely break snail's pace, if you’ve got the steps you can convert them into cash, a career or freebies. Here’s how!
Red shoes walking over a giant fiver pound note

Can you make money from walking? Surprisingly, you can – and we’re not talking anything dodgy! As well as revealing the freebies you can snag just by slapping on a pair of trainers, we’ve gone the extra mile to uncover the bona fide business ideas you can make your own.

As with anything, the more time or effort you put in, the better the rewards. Either way, if you’re looking for unusual earners, fun jobs or smart student start-ups, you’ve come to the right place. Walk this way…

  1. Step for points

    White high heels

    If you already walk a lot – or want to be motivated to move more – there are a couple of free apps to kit up with.

    Sweatcoin (iPhone 5s and up) gives you almost one ‘Sweatcoin’ for every 1,000 outdoor steps you take – that’s roughly half a mile. You can then use your coins to get discounts and sometimes free stuff from the app’s store: right now that includes things like 75% off a personalised fitness programme for 30 Sweatcoins. While that’s the equivalent of around 15 miles, you won’t need to cover it in one go! The key is to capitalise on steps you’d be taking anyway.

    Bitwalking (Android) uses your steps to ‘mine’ Walking Dollars (W$), a type of crypto-currency similar to Bitcoin. While the Bitwalking app looks like it’s still being refined, its makers say you’ll be able to spend your W$ in their store or trade them with other users, plus you may be able to withdraw them as real cash in future – so it’s one to watch.

    Bounts has a pretty similar set-up, with one crucial difference: you trade points earned from exercise (not just walking) for competitions and prize draws to win cash and goodies. If that sounds a bit like a raffle – it is, and it's left long-time users pretty miffed! A lot of the gripes are to do with the way the app's been redeveloped recently. Keep an eye here and we'll let you know if it steps up its game!

    What you need to know

    • Building rewards can take time as well as shoe leather, but if you’re reasonably active you could brew points for no extra effort. It might even motivate you to walk more, which is no bad thing (especially if it saves you a gym membership).

    • Unfortunately, few apps are geared up for less mobile users – get on to them and exert some pressure if you think they should be!

If you reckon one of the walking gigs on this page could be an earner for you, load up with a rewards app first and kill two birds with one stone!
  1. Be a human billboard

    Hand holding a sign

    We may be living in a digital age, but we reckon you’re only ever two streets away from a guy wearing an ‘all-u-can-eat buffet’ sign.

    Advertising in any form is a big-money bonanza, and all you need to get in on it is a high threshold for standing around dressed as a bowling pin or a horse’s head (both real student money spinners!).

    What you need to know

    • If you want to wear a sandwich board on the high street you may need a licence – check with your council, and definitely run it past your uni before heading to lectures dressed as a pizza. Alternatively, hit local shops and ask if they need folk to carry advertising or hand out leaflets (i.e., let them take care of the regs!).

    • There’s more on offer than buffet boards and fancy dress. Take a tip from online marketplace Fiverr and set-up a channel offering to wear promo clothes or branded gear while you're out and about. Or go the whole hog and just slap an ad on your face.

Skip third-party sites and use your own social media accounts or website to drum up clients. Don’t forget local bars, restaurants and clubs, as well as the brands who want to get their message in front of students!
  1. Be a tour guide

    Hand pointing ahead

    Knowing an area well and spouting off about it isn’t just for cabbies! If you live somewhere packed with landmarks, beauty spots or layers of history, you could get on the tour guide circuit.

    Tour guiding involves leading folk around a town, city or wilderness route and pointing out hidden gems or points of interest along the way. You’re not stuck with the great outdoors, either – you could arrange guided tours of public museums or art galleries.

    While it can be seasonal work, you can do it on your own time and schedule, and you can charge what you like!

    What you need to know

    • Tour guiding is one of the few gigs that doesn’t require certificates, insurance or experience (although they can help if you want get into it for a living).

    • It can be competitive, so you’ll need a compelling angle and lots of advertising. Do your research and look for hidden histories or a twist to give you an edge (i.e., the ‘serial killer’ circuit, the city at night, urbex or famous people dead or alive).

    • It helps to be a good speaker, confident and amusing or memorable. A good spiel = tips! Speaking a couple of languages can pay off, too.

    • Some museums and galleries may expect you to apply in advance (or pay) to lead a guided tour on their premises: check it before you commit to it!

Convert your routes into audio or printable guides to sell from your own website and you can be available 24/7. Why stop earning just because you're asleep or in lectures, hey?
  1. Go dog walking

    Dog wearing a false nose and glasses

    Dogs are like furry Prozac: they relieve stress, keep you fit and, if you believe YouTube, have an endless stock of hilarious antics to keep you amused.

    Few student digs let you house a goldfish, never mind a golden retriever – so if dogs are your type of people, doggy daycare can be a win-win. There are loads of potential clients, from pensioners to working folk or anyone else who can’t manage two or more walks a day.

    Typically, with sites like Tailster, you’ll pick up/drop off dogs and walk them for an agreed amount of time or distance one or more times a day. Always keep your pooches on a leash for more security and less stress!

    What you need to know

    • It helps to be confident with dogs, patient and able to scoop poop without panicking. You’ll also need to be reliable and stick to your schedule whatever the weather.

    • Dog walking takes minimal kit, but ask the owner to supply so you’re not out of pocket: think leash or harness, treats, poop bags/gloves and favourite toys. It’s also worth getting to know the dog's personality or medical history before agreeing anything.

    • If you’re doing more than an occasional favour for neighbours or pensioners, you’ll need Pet Business Insurance to start a dog walking business. Plus, while not essential, pet first aid (yes, it’s a thing) and a basic DBS check (whether you have unspent criminal convictions) can help you get more punters.

In it for the experience rather than the cash? Your local animal rescue shelter may need volunteer dog walkers. Plus it's top notch experience if you want to do it commercially later on.
  1. Start a fitness trail

    Sleeping man

    If you’re motivated, lively and can maintain a cracking pace, leading a fitness walk could be up your street (or hill, if you’re feeling hardcore). You don’t have to stick to walking, either: running and parkour – where the city streets becomes your gym – are pretty much always on trend.

    Getting a successful group going can mean regular income and a chance to meet new people, plus you’ll have zero excuses for skipping your own workout!

    What you need to know

    • You'll need to be good at getting people to stick to a schedule and helping them reach their goals. An angle is also handy: beginners, new mums, older people or an unusual location.

    • Advertise your start time, location and cost well in advance. A website or flyers around uni are handy for adding info about the route or fitness requirements, and give you space to pitch yourself.

    • Make sure your walk is tailored to your crowd and check everyone’s managing OK or motivated to keep up: don’t just take off and expect to see everyone at the finish line!

    • Dealing with people who could stub a toe, trip up or otherwise do themselves an injury means public liability insurance is a good idea. Cover starts from around £50/yr and up, so get some cash bookings in place before you cough up.

    • A first-aid certificate is a brilliant investment anyway – check if your uni runs any free or subsidised courses. Or, if you think a career in fitness could be for you, look into a group exercise or personal training certificate, or another coaching qualification.

    • If you’ve got bigger boots in mind, you could consider making a full day of it – think sponsored walks, entertainment en route or an Iron Man-style event.

  2. Be the designated non-driver

    Hens

    There’s no rule (…that we know of) that says the designated driver has to have a car. You just need to be willing to stay sober and able to walk your mates back in one piece after a night out – for a fee for your time, obviously. Or go at it from the other angle and organise a walking tour and pub crawl in one: you can't beat a bit of multi-tasking!

    Mates won’t pay? Try stag or hen parties, tourists or anyone new to town, or consider advertising your services through local boozers or restaurants.

    What you need to know

    • You’ll need to be reliable (a basic DBS check, testimonials and safety plan all help) and able to handle tipsy, unsteady or nervous people without panicking or ditching them.

    • If you’re going after the late crowd, you’ll need to be a night owl. If you’re dealing with drinkers, get payment sorted before the end of the night!

    • Some licensed venues dole out free non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers, so you don’t have to stay parched. On the other hand, you don’t have to stick with the group for the whole night – either agree a time, or (for premium cost), be available at the end of a phone when they're done.

Party crowd not for you? Consider starting a walking bus service for women out alone or kids going to school.
  1. Be a model

    Zoolander walk-off meme - Ben Stiller poutingWhat’s modelling if it isn’t walking (up and down a runway)? You say ‘sashay’, we say ‘walk’ – and you don’t always need to be ridiculously good looking to land a job, either!

    You do need to be OK with being coiffed and papped on demand, though, as well as with wearing, eating or pointing at stuff on camera that you wouldn’t normally poke with a barge pole.

    On the other hand, you don’t need experience or training to get into it and you (sometimes) get paid to travel – plus few things beat the ego boost!

    What you need to know

    • You don’t have to be a Naomi lookalike to get booked (although if you dream of travelling the world and being banned from British Airways, it may help)

    • The candidly named UGLY Models Agency say they’re looking for men and women of all shapes and sizes because they’re about character, not airbrushing. Sign us up!

    • Reckon you could be Tyson's body double, or could give Lily a run for her money? There’s no shortage of casting agencies out there: get your Google on (or get an Instagram account and pout a lot).

    • Don’t expect overnight success, hi-jinks or the cover of Vogue. Modelling can be hard work, cut-throat and not always well paid or regular work, and there can be a lot of schlepping around to auditions and waiting for call backs.

Check what you’re getting for your money if you’re asked to cough up for photos or a portfolio (and get some background on whoever wants to sign you up!).
  1. Write a book for walkers

    Bundle of pencils

    Walking guides are always in demand: think Wainwright guides or Time Out walks – even the AA are in on it and they’re drivers.

    Once you’ve got a decent collection of routes, you’ll need to type them up and either publish yourself (in eBook or print) or pitch it to an agent. It’s not a fast route to big money, but it is the kind of project you can do at low cost and then leave to generate passive income for years to come.

    What you need to know

    • You’ll need to spend some time sourcing your own routes – ideally with a saleable theme or angle, i.e., countryside walks, a city guide, art and culture sites, or something else popular or quirky. Check the best-sellers in your local bookshop and see if you can beat ‘em!

    • It takes discipline to get words on paper – but if you can manage 2,000 words on Quantum Entanglement, you’re already up to the job. Yeah … it’ll still take discipline, though.

    • Ideally, you’ll also want to get someone else to proofread and test out your routes before you launch them into world.

    • An eBook is the fastest and cheapest way to get your words to market. You’ll have to convert your content to an appropriate format, but outfits like Smashwords and Amazon’s KDP can covert a simple Word document for free, then submit your book for you to show up in stores.

Read the publishing tips in our guide to making money in your sleep before you press print!

What else is going?

Cat yawning

Be a leaflet distributor

Stuffing junk leaflets through letter boxes isn't going to win you any friends, but it can keep you fit and in the green. There's no shortage of companies that will pay for your services: try Gumtree for local leads.

Expect to be handed a bundle of leaflets and a route – and try to plan ahead for the weather! Leaflet dropping is typically flexible work, but check for any bum notes (limits on how long you take or how far you go). Alternatively, use our tips for scoring your own clients and ditch the middle man.

Do deliveries

You’re never going to outrun a DPD van at top speed – but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a cash-in! Go for easy wins: late night deliveries for those in need of chocolate, cigs or loo roll, or stay at home to sign for parcels for folk when they’re out.

Alternatively, don’t assume you’re excluded from delivering groceries, clothes or something else just because you don’t have wheels. If it’s in walking distance and you’ve got a decent bag, trolley or wheely suitcase, you can make it work!

Walk so others don’t have to

Know someone who’s a few points shy of a fitness app reward, or one Pokémon short of a picnic? While helping others snag prizes is a bit of a moral grey area, you can bet folk are already cashing on it. Unfortunately, if it comes down to just stuffing someone else’s phone or fitness tracker in your pocket, it’s an easy lure.

Just make sure you check the small print as you could jeopardise your own points or account if you get caught…

Top tips

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  • It doesn’t matter how skint you think you are: if you earn more than the personal allowance (currently £11,500/year not including your Student Loan), HRMC gets a cut! Find out how tax works in 5 mins flat.
  • If you register as self employed (it’s easy – do it here), you can use legitimate business costs, including a DBS check, insurance, advertising or web hosting, to reduce the amount of tax you owe. Keep detailed records, receipts and paperwork!
  • That said, don’t pile cash into your business unless it's essential and you're sure it's a goer. Make use of free advertising online (social media) or barter for swaps before cracking open your wallet.
  • Only employers and licensing bodies can apply for a full DBS check – individuals can apply for a Basic DBS check instead from disclosurescotland.co.uk (it doesn’t matter if you’re not from Scotland). You’ll need to supply ID documents and pay £25 to apply.

Want more ways to get earning? There are businesses you can run from a dorm room or quick cash fixes to get you through a tight spot. Take your pick!

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