By Steve Gillman - August 16, 2014
Make money by being a friend? That's right, there are websites
where you can post your profile and get hired as a "friend"
for up to $50 per hour. Now, it might seem that there is something
wrong about this concept, but in reality you sell services. Calling
the business something like "Rent a Friend" doesn't
mean you and your clients will actually be friends, although
that can happen in any business.
Photo by Don LaVange)
The idea was first developed in Japan, and was later brought
here by Scott Rosenbaum. He created RentaFriend.com, perhaps the largest online
platform of this type. To explain how it works, I just went to
the website and entered "Tampa, Florida," because that's
the nearest large city to us (we're ninety minutes south of there).
I didn't screen for male or female, bi, gay or straight, so I
got all the results for Tampa.
The top result was "Brooklyn," a 30-year-old who
says she's a "quirky kind of female." She lists herself
as available for the following activities: phone friend, introduce
you to people, hot air balloon rides, wine tasting, shopping,
playing board games, and picnics. About twenty other activities
"Mike," also 30, is "intelligent, direct, honest,
and a goofball (in a good way)." You can hire him to go
to poetry readings or comedy clubs with you. Snowboarding, swimming,
religious events and going to the bar are other possibilities
Members pay for a subscription to the site, which enables
them to contact friends. At first contact is through the site,
and then, when both parties are comfortable, phone contact is
possible prior to meeting.
Founder Rosenbaum makes it clear that this is not an escort
service or even a dating site. If a "friend" reports
being solicited for anything unsavory, the member will not be
allowed to use the site again. No physical contact is permitted
(although the website cannot monitor this directly if both parties
are okay with whatever happens).
As you can see, this is mostly a service business, not the
selling of friendship. As a hired friend you might:
- Give a tour of the city to a new resident
- Be a wingman for a visit to the bar
- Meet someone for lunch
- Be a workout partner
- Help someone learn your language
- Share a movie or sporting event
- Visit someone in the hospital
How Much Money Can You Make as a Friend?
On the website RentaFriend.com claims that some friends
make up to thousands of dollars weekly, but that is almost certainly
not common. You set your own rates, either upfront or in negotiations
each time you are hired. But even the $50-per-hour rate charged
by some friends doesn't mean they make much money. After all,
you might not get any takers for weeks or even months.
Is it Risky?
Is meeting new people risky? Of course! That's true whether
it happens through a website or in any other way. It's a good
idea to talk a bit on the phone before meeting your clients,
and get information about their family and where they live. If
you can verify that the person you're talking to is who he says
he is, and find him online, it isn't likely that he has any criminal
Of course there is also the risk of some uncomfortable moments,
like when you have a great time and then have to ask for the
money from your new "friend."
Other Friends-for-Hire Platforms
Friends for Hire opened for business in 2014 for members
and friends in Australia. But they seem to be having some problems.
The website (http://www.friendsforhire.com.au/) was not working
the last time I tried it.
a Local Friend takes a slightly different approach. It is
a website primarily for travelers who need someone to show them
around a city or country. Your "friendship" here consists
of being a tour guide - not a bad way to spend a day if you're
making $30 or $40 per hour.
Finally, if you want to make good money being a friend, and
get paid more consistently, check out the latest trend in paid friends in New York.
Wealthy people are apparently finding it easier to hire "PFs"
than to make friends the usual ways.