Crowdworking is growing fast. Companies can now call on workers from all over the world to collaborate on huge tasks while simply sitting at their home computer. So how much money can you make at your keyboard?
I’m not averse to a bit of hard graft, so I decided to sign up to some sites to try micro-working through the internet.
I’ve decided on two rules. Any cash earned goes to charity. And I don’t want to be paid for anything I wouldn’t be happy doing on daytime television.
In order to preserve the BBC’s reputation, I warned my social media network that I was conducting an experiment and they should expect some strange status updates.
Day 1: Surveys and Videos
First up, InboxPounds, a site providing surveys and odd jobs to casual clickers.
I’ve been given a £1 bonus for signing up.
Answering a 15-minute survey about an advert gets me 25p.
I watched a video for 1p, and “liked” a certain brand of mobile phone on Facebook for 1p.
Yes, you heard right, I got paid for a “like” – I’m not proud.
Seems promising, but no cash in hand till I earn £20.
Total amount earned – £3.06.
Day 2: Games
Swagbucks is a site offering points, which eventually add up to money that is paid either through Paypal or as vouchers.
I watched a selection of videos, played casual games and earned – though the amount was negligible.
A day’s casual gaming and video-watching earns 102 swag bucks – roughly working out to 50p, depending on the offer used to convert them.
Payout is at £5.
Total amount earned – £0.50.
Day 3: Transcription
Next up, CastingWords.
I’ve joined an army of transcribers, listening to audio and typing out the words.
Sounds simple enough for a fast typist – so I unwisely jumped straight in with a transcription challenge.
It wasn’t easy – just one assignment took me nearly an hour – and my promised pay was docked heavily for not fitting house style.
I was demoted, and can now only review other people’s work for a few cents apiece until my score improves.
Payout is at $1.
Total amount earned: $0.58 (37p).
Day 4: Microworking
Microworking sites, such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, pay for so-called human intelligence tasks (Hits).
These can be for creative writing, coding, or more.
Sadly my registration did not come through in my assigned work week.
Amazon said: “Mechanical Turk works on an invitation-only registration process for workers.
“Workers are asked to start the registration process and then receive an email invitation in order to complete the registration process.
“This process is in effect for all workers, regardless of country.
“Invitations are extended to new workers based on a number of factors including the demand within each country.”
I was able to sign up to an alternative site, Clickworker.
First I passed an English test and a creative-writing test.
Thanks to my 100% score I have landed a plum assignment – creative writing for mail-order catalogue entries – for tennis clothing, based on translated German text.
It is a comparatively lucrative 1.25 euros (£1.05) for just over 100 words, although you’re at the mercy of whoever marks your assignment.
If they’re not impressed, they give you nothing.
This happened on my last three tasks – so much for my 100% score.
Total amount earned – 5.85 euros (£4.95).
Day 5: Creative microworking
Finally I turned to Fiverr, a site where the crowd advertises services as “gigs” for $5 (£3.20).
Some services are frankly mystifying, for example – $5 to find something in a watermelon, or $5 to draw and roast a picture of a chicken.
Encouraged by this, I used my existing musical and writing skills to offer paying customers poetry, music composing, and bad pun headline writing.
The inevitable witty Facebook friend asked me for something virtually impossible – 30 seconds of a Miles-Davis styled piano theme.
For $5 – in 4 days.
Oh well, his money is as good as anyone else’s.
I found the horror of the countdown on my seller’s page combined with the promise of $5 to be good motivation.
Although these assignments took the longest to complete, I found this approach by far the most fun and enterprising.
Job done – but Fiverr takes a healthy 20% cut. Leaving me with – $4 (£2.57).
And the payment process is positively glacial, it takes 14 days.
Total amount earned – $16 (£10.28).
So, working week over, how did I do?
Total amount earned – £19.16.
Total hours worked – 37 hours.
Clearly not as much as I was hoping.
Much of my working week was spent researching which websites paid the best- if at all.
Many sites I tried to earn money through turned out not to be worth the time or effort.
I learned to beware of scam websites thanks to searching the company name for worker reviews before signing up to a site.
Out of the many tasks available, I thought the low-paying ones seemed the least efficient.
Like the offline world, specific abilities like touch typing, fast creative writing, or something unique, such as composing, gave a better return on time spent.
Anyone thinking of quitting their offline job might like to bear the following in mind – with what I have learned this week, the potential over time to earn a reasonable wage requires a lot of effort.
Serious crowdworkers understand which tasks fit them, they work long hours for a number of weeks and are prepared to wait a while to get paid.
So, yes, there is some money in crowdworking – but for now it looks like I’ll be at my Click day job for a while longer.
By LJ RichReporter, BBC Click