The Internet is a great place to launch entrepreneurial efforts. People have made money by creating useful products and functional websites, while others have found ways to make money in creative and interesting, yet strange, ways. Here is a sampling of some unusual online commerce.
Online Eating – Mukbang, a combination of Korean words that mean eating and broadcasting, is quite popular in South Korea. Viewers tune in to chat and watch people eat, and donate cash-redeemable "star balloons" to the eaters. According to a Business Insider video, the most-viewed eater on the streaming service Afreeca TV earned a whopping $250,000 in 2013. "Gastro voyeurs" have around 3,500 online eaters to choose from, some of whom are sponsored by restaurants. So instead of “What do you want to eat tonight?” the question is, “Whom do you want to watch eat tonight?”
Facial Advertising – Two lads from Great Britain hit upon the idea of paying off their student debt in a creative way — selling space on their face. Using only a makeup pencil, Ross Harper and Ed Moyse sold daily advertising space on their face for a full year. After initial sales at only a few dollars, the site caught on and the two ended up selling space for $600.
The catch was that the duo would film themselves doing stunts or other attention-getting actions (some requested and paid for by the client) and post the results on their website, Buymyface.com, which in turn directed traffic to the client's website. They managed to retire nearly $60,000 of their $80,000 debt before shutting the site down.
Selling Shares in Yourself – Mike Merrill (aka KMikeyM) decided in 2008 to divide himself into 100,000 shares and offer himself as an IPO of sorts for $1 per share. Shares can be purchased at his website that embraces "Community through Capitalism." Shareholders do not receive money or dividends in return, but they can log in to cast votes on aspects of Merrill's everyday life, such as whether or not he should invest in a Rwandan chicken farm (yes) or get a vasectomy (no).
As of this writing, the last vote was to "produce a live theatre production exploring the issues of identity and celebrity" with the title of Understanding Jason Bateman. Bateman is allegedly set to star in a movie being made about Merrill's life. Just another case of life imitating art imitating life.
Wearing T-Shirts – The advertising principle strikes again with Iwearyourshirt.com. The site is no longer around, but its owner, Jason Sadler, made serious money by wearing T-shirts with a different company logo each day. In his first year, Sadler made $70,000 — and ended up making as much as $500,000 a year, by some reports. At one point, Sadler had a team of five t-shirt wearers, or human billboards, spread throughout the country and a client base that included Nissan and Starbucks. To increase the advertising value, Sadler posted videos of himself on various social media sites discussing his client of the day.
Sadler has moved on to other ventures but continues to dabble in the world of unique methods of making money. He has legally changed his name twice for advertising money. Auctioning off his name in 2012 earned him $45,000 and the name Jason HeadsetsDotCom. In 2013, he became Jason Surfrapp.com for $50,000. He has most recently changed his last name to Zook, but that was for personal, not professional, reasons.
While these are certainly strange ways to make money online, rest assured that there is a much deeper level of moneymaking strangeness out there on the Internet. Search for even more-out-there things at your own risk, and do not be surprised by anything that pops up in your targeted advertisements. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! Now, how much would you be willing to pay to watch me eat an egg salad sandwich?