The dynamic side hustle market produces plenty of start-ups, a plethora of failures — and a handful of zombie side hustles.

Zombie side hustles

What are zombie side hustles? They’re online platforms that maintain a web presence, but are largely — and sometimes, completely — dormant. They waste worker time, create frustration and can foster economic loss by automatically supporting transactions that go into a black hole.

Moreover, while freelancers waste time with the Zombies, they could be making money with vibrant, living competitors. Here are where a few of the zombies roam and better sites to consider.

Zombie rentals

Consider Spinlister, a rental platform for sporting goods such as bikes and surfboards. The site launched in 2011 and had operations around the world. It died in 2018; revived in 2019 and appears to be dormant again in 2023. However, if you go to the Spinlister website, you’ll not only find plenty of sporting equipment to rent, the site will encourage you to list your ride.

If you sign up using email and a new password, it will take you all the way through the listing process — including posting photos and getting a verification code sent to your phone. But, if you try to sign up through Facebook, you’ll get a notification that the app is not active.

Two recent reviewers on TrustPilot said they either didn’t get paid when they recently rented out bikes; or the site “suspended my account because they couldn’t afford to pay me.”

Spinlister may be maintaining its website because the owners are hoping to pull off yet another Lazarus move. But even if it does, we’d still suggest that you stay away.

Limited market

Why? The site specializes in peer-to-peer bike rentals. Bikes a personalized product that need to be the right size and style for each renter, so you need to find a potential renter your size, who wants to rent near you. That can happen, but the possibility is fairly remote. Besides, bike rental shops are readily available in pretty much any community where people regularly rent them. There also are dozens of bike rental kiosks in major cities. In other words, the combination of customization and competition makes this side hustle more trouble than it’s worth. 

Survivor in sports rentals: FriendWithA

If you have sporting goods to rent, the better option is FriendWithA. Although it’s only available in a handful of states, FriendWithA specializes in sporting equipment that’s less ubiquitous and is one-size fits all (or easily adjustable), such as OneWheels and snowboards. You can rent out other personal items here too, such as cameras, tools and all-terrain vehicles.

Zombie tutoring

VIPKid and MagicEars were two dominant players in online English tutoring. Both enlisted thousands of freelancers to teach English to Chinese kids online. And both paid somewhere between $15 and $26 per hour to U.S. teachers, who would often get up in the middle of the night to tutor kids on Beijing time.

However, the Chinese government cracked down on private tutoring of school-aged children in 2021, making much of what these sites did illegal. VIPKid attempted to morph into adult-tutoring but students are scarce. Tutors say it’s no longer worth getting up in the middle of the night to sign on because there are rarely students to teach. MagicEars, meanwhile, hasn’t updated its website in years. And recent teacher reviews mostly refer to both sites in the past tense.

And yet, both sites continue to advertise for tutors, leading freelancers through an extensive application process, where you’re encouraged to submit a resume and create a sample video of your teaching style.

Surviving tutoring sites

The best advice is to not waste your time with walking dead. Instead, focus your time on vibrant tutoring platforms that allow you to determine your rates, schedule and what you teach.

If you want to tutor students from other countries in English, check out AmazingTalker and iTalki.

And you can tutor almost any topic with Wyzant.