How Can I Make Money with Email or Junk Mail?

Posted on August 28th, 2013 | By Gerd Meissner

How to make money from email? Many legitimate and less legitimate methods come to mind. Some of them would require you to move out of reach for U.S. or European law enforcement and acquire a new email persona whose name sounds vaguely familiar to anyone who watches the news - in 2013, posing as "the widow of Koffi Annann" seems a popular choice.

Then, you could spam the holy frankenzapp out of your former friends and neighbors, promise them millions of dollars in return for them giving you money first, and hope for that one-in-a-million sucker to meet you at an airport with a suitcase full of cash, so that you can buy a new mosquito net and move into a neighborhood where you don't hear the AK-47 gun shots at night.

Now, here's an easier, more ethical way to make a buck from email. It doesn't involve relocating to Nigeria, but you won't get rich, either. I came across it a couple of days ago in my own backyard, so to speak, in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Just don't expect this source to provide a second income stream, pay for your mortgage, or even for fueling up your car. Except, perhaps, if you drive a Tesla or Nissan Leaf. In that case, submitting one piece of spam mail could pay your way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and back.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Gunderson Direct Inc., a direct marketing agency based in Alameda, CA will could actually pay you up to $ 5 per item for submitting printed mail or email you received. More specifically, they ask all of us to send them - through a form on their website (Twitter: @notjunkmail) - "junk mail, mail you would consider responding to, and mail that looks interesting or catches your eye."

Now, before we get all excited here and start collecting junk mail from our neighbors or submit our current email address to all available local search engines in Singapore and West Africa, let's read the fine print on Gunderson Direct's website.

It will also give you a better idea why this blog post could have been titled, perhaps more appropriately:

How to crowd-source market research and content creation on a small budget

The website, according to its Twitter profile, is "dedicated to responsible direct marketing by helping to identify and assist in communications that are not junk mail." The California-based agency makes it clear that payment is not guaranteed, submissions are subject to approval, may not be posted to the site, and are limited to five items per week per submitter.

The approach seems to be working for the firm and its web visitors so far, judging by the wealth of material on the agency's website. There, Gunderson Direct's president Michael P. Gunderson (Twitter: @gundersondirect) himself reviews and analyzes selected snail mail and email pieces from a direct marketer's perspective, and provides tips for best practices in the field.

Coming to think of it, it's an interesting twist on a not-so-new idea that can work wonders for small business: let your website visitors and (potential) customers do your market research, have them even contribute to your content, and subsequently turn them into an extended sales force.

What I like about the idea, and why I decided to blog about it:

  • It attracts submissions from site visitors who are interested enough in email or direct mail to care, and who are likely to submit something interesting enough to earn them their reward
  • It's an interesting way to add contacts to the agency's mailing list
  • It certainly gets attention, which after all is the name of the game in direct marketing.

And all that on a "finder's fee" budget of $ 100 per month, max. Congrats! That's hard to beat.

Did you find this tip useful? Don't miss out on more posts like this in the future. Make your blog or business look and perform better on a budget - sign up to receive How-to Tips emails from this blog here! Promised: No spam.

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Gerd Meissner

Gerd's how-to tips and short reviews of ebooks, apps, tools, deals, freebies - free cloud space, data visualization and more.


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