7 Extra Ways to Earn Money at Work

November 10, 2011

Most of us earn our money from the paycheck we get every few weeks but there are other ways you can get your employer to pay you.  I recently missed a chance to cash in on one of these extra ways to earn money at work; I’m going over them here so you don’t miss out like I did.

1) Employ Referral Bonuses
As I mentioned above, I missed out on a ton of money by ignoring this bonus opportunity. I have a friend who interviewed with the same company I work for and ended up getting the job.  I had talked with her only a week before about her current job and her career plans going forward, foolishly I didn’t think to refer her to my company (I’ve even written about how to refer a friend for a job).

The reason employee referral programs exist is that the cost of finding good people is pretty high.  It’s worth it to many companies to pay a fee to tap into their employees professional network.

Here’s how the employee referral bonus works at my company.  They pay you a $2500 bonus for any full-time employee you refer that stays with the company longer than six months.  However, you want to make sure you research the appropriate process for referring someone so that you can get credit for the referral. 

In my case, if a candidate applies on their own, even if they mention your name, you don’t get credit.  In order to earn the referral bonus I have to submit their resume through a special page, which then gets forwarded on to Human Resources. 

So if you have people in your network that are skilled and talented and might fit the needs of your company, you should check to see if they offer a referral program. 

2) Performance Bonuses
Performance bonuses can be tricky to earn depending on how your company handles them.  In some cases there are well defined milestones that will earn you a bonus.  In other jobs bonuses can more arbitrary, something you get when your boss decides you’ve been putting in a lot of work or really contributed to a project.

If the criteria for a performance bonus aren’t well defined, I’d be reluctant to work your fingers to the bone in hopes of getting a bonus.  However, if you can be pretty certain that putting in extra work will translate to a bonus above and beyond your salary then it can be a good way to make extra money.

3) Idea Bonuses
Some companies have employee idea programs that are designed to give you an incentive to share your best ideas.  If you’re in the middle of a project and have a revelation that could help the company (save money, be more efficient, help enter new markets, break organizational boundaries, etc) be sure to document it and send it in.

Companies with these idea bonus programs typically have a process where you can submit your ideas.  If yours are approved and implemented then you’re paid a bonus.

4) Achievement Bonuses
All the businesses I’ve worked for have a way of honoring high levels of achievement (that include a monetary reward).  Usually held once or twice a year, they open up for submissions of projects from around the company.  The top projects are be nominated for the award and the winner of the award gets a cash prize.

If you have a project you feel is worthy, don’t be afraid to submit it yourself.  If this feels too bold you might be able to submit it anonymously or talk a co-worker into submitting it in their name.

5) Training & Conferences
Every year when it’s time to make the budget my boss comes around and asks if there are any conferences or training I’d like to attend. It’s true that these benefits are different than money in your pocket bonuses but these events could someday translate into more cash. 

The skills that you learn in training can help you get a promotion at your current job or get hired for a new job.  The connections you make at conferences could someday lead to partnerships or job referrals.  Plus they give you a day or more of paid time away from the office, which is always nice.

6) Travel Rewards
Whether you’re flying to a training conference or a client meeting, employer funded travel is an opportunity for you to earn travel rewards. 

Ideally you pay for the plane tickets and hotel rooms on your own and get reimbursed after your trip.  This lets you earn miles on your airline credit cards, free nights on your hotel card, or even just a percentage back on your cash back card.

There are some companies that book your trip for you or require use of a corporate card when you pay.  Although you miss out on the points, miles, or cash back from the purchase – you can still earn some rewards simply by taking the flight or staying the night.

7) Tuition Reimbursement
I list tuition reimbursement separately from training and conferences because in some companies the funding (and approval) comes from different sources.

The requirements for having tuition approved and reimbursed can also be different for college courses.  For example, many companies require you to earn a minimum grade in a course before they’ll agree to pay for it.  In contrast, once funding has been approved for a conference or training, sometimes all you have to do is show up since it’s already been paid for.

Be sure you pay attention to the requirements surrounding tuition reimbursement at your company.  A former co-worker of mine didn’t read the details before registering for a course and ended up having to pay the full tuition himself.  Taking one or two courses may not make that much of a difference but if you can have a whole degree paid for by your employer that will certainly boost the value of your resume.

So, what did I miss.  Is there anything else you do in your job that helps you earn money other than your base salary?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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6 Responses to 7 Extra Ways to Earn Money at Work

  • Aiden Moor

    This blog is really very useful and resourceful for those who want to plan have a better insights for their financial planning and intend to solve money related issues.

  • dojo

    Here in Romania we don’t have all these available, but some would surely work for us too. All are excellent tips and just knowing how to apply them would make a difference in the wages 😉

  • Shaun @ Smart Family Finance

    My company has a 401k match and product allowances. Many companies also offer stock option or stock purchase plans.

    • Ben

      Hey Shaun, don’t know how I missed the 401k match, thanks for pointing that out.

      Stock purchase plans are another good one b/c usually you buy at a discounted price so even if you sold them as soon as you got the shares you’d make a little money. Of course some people hold onto them for years hoping to ride the appreciation. And if it’s a privately held company they might not let you sell your shares until you leave the company.

      What’s a product allowance, I’ve never been at a company with one of those before.

  • Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity

    That referral bonus can be a killer to miss out on. Just make sure it’s someone you know will stick around long enough to collect and who won’t embarrass you by screwing up or goofing off. Also, many companies have client referral bonuses whereby if you refer or actually bring a new client to the company they either pay you a fee or a percentage of the bill.

    One thing to be careful of with the tuition reimbursement programs is that the employee should not be claiming any credits or deductions for education expenses on their taxes for the amounts that get reimbursed. Technically they are not the ones paying for the education (unless they don’t meet the grade requirement) so they don’t qualify as the one paying for it.

    • Ben

      Thanks for pointing out the client referral bonus. We don’t have that in place in our group but it makes perfect sense that some companies would.