Nicole Guddo recently enjoyed a Wavves concert, a barbecue at the Shore, and the movie Moana. And she got paid to attend all of them.
Registered with RentAFriend.com, Guddo's job is to be the plus-one when a stranger calls. What many would assume is an awkward situation gives her extra spending money, introduces her to new people, and takes her on adventures - all while accommodating her Camden County College class schedule.
"When you have incentive to be social, it comes naturally," Guddo, of Sicklerville, said. "And it's good for quick cash."
Guddo earned $105 for the three-hour barbecue gig. For Moana, "the only reason he asked me to come with him was because it was a Disney movie and he didn't want to look like a creep seeing it by himself," she said.
Maybe it's not a friend you need but a person to wait in line to buy the newest iPhone, or to reorganize your garage, or to build your IKEA furniture. Whether advertising on specialized sites like TaskRabbit.com or RentAFriend.com, people are outsourcing tasks once reserved for favor-owing friends or family, and many are willing to take them on.
"Social media is moving into the world of tasks," said Dustin Kidd, associate professor of sociology at Temple University. "A lot of times, it's about the convenience created by managing the app."
No need to announce to your Facebook feed that you're incapable of assembling IKEA furniture. "An app like TaskRabbit takes out some of those social interactions and finds someone for you by just plugging in what you need," Kidd said.
In a culture of Craigslist and coworking spaces, culling a collection of odd jobs is a natural next step, filling a gap in an economy where full-time gigs are hard to find and expenses can mount.
Though they can be risky for both taskmaster and task doer, apps provide accountability through customer reviews. Also, you don't have to exchange money through apps.
When a client contacts Guddo through the RentAFriend.com site, the two meet via FaceTime or Skype to make a plan and set a fee. "I usually take a picture of their license and send it to one of my friends so they know who I'm with," Guddo said.
Daksha Shah, 71, had accumulated 30 years' worth of "junk in the garage and basement" and needed help clearing it out. Her son, Ameesh, found Wes DeBardelaben, a retired home remodeler with a knack for decluttering and reorganization.
"The floors, ceiling, and walls all needed work, patching and painting," said Shah, of Yardley, who also had DeBardelaben build shelves to hold the things his mother kept. "He made it look like a nice place to be."
DeBardelaben, 59, started advertising on Craigslist about eight years ago and works with four to 10 clients each month, charging $60 an hour, plus materials.
"This supplements my retirement, and I like to take an unfinished product or a problem that needs to be resolved and fix it. I'm a results-oriented person."
After being laid off from her job in the restaurant business in 2008, Beth Smith took her talents online, offering to run errands, go food shopping, organize closets, hire servers for parties.
"Somebody just called me from Colorado who needed something picked up in a store in Cherry Hill," said Smith, 61, of Delran. "Then I went to UPS and shipped it to them."
For that job, she earned a flat rate of $50, though she averages $25 per hour. For another client, who moved from South Jersey to New York, Smith regularly bought and mailed the woman her favorite gluten-free oatmeal cookies, available only here.
Temple University student Christian Holzer, 22, works about three gigs a month - being a plus-one, taking on housework, moving furniture - as a way to make extra money.
"Most often, I've gone to concerts where people have an extra ticket and can't find anyone to go with them but they don't want to go by themselves," he said.
Holzer usually charges $15 to $20 per hour, depending on the task. On one job, he was the wedding companion for a client who introduced him as her friend. "I just kept her company and enjoyed the food and drinks."
When Ronnie Paige's new cherry wood bunk bed didn't come with assembly instructions, he went on Craigslist and found John Faust, 63, who came out the next day. He charged $95 for two hours, said Paige, 47, of Willingboro.
Paige has hired people from Craigslist for a handful of jobs, vetting them with a phone call first, and checking reviews from other users. He has never had a problem.
Faust, a specialist in "knockdown" furniture, is the go-to guy when the 400 parts in the IKEA box are too overwhelming. He started out assembling lawn mowers and 10 years in, gets clients through word-of-mouth and Craigslist.
"It's seasonal. I'll get really busy when the college kids are back in school, and, at Christmastime, I do quite a bit of trampolines," said Faust, of Drexel Hill. "This time of year, when kitchen cabinets are on sale, I do a lot of that."
He earns roughly $30 to $40 per hour for three to five clients each week.