The internet has revolutionised many things, now it seems it could be changing the way we work.
Students are looking beyond the traditional means of employment, such as stacking shelves or waiting on tables, and increasingly finding opportunities to make money online. They able to earn while carrying out activities that are complimentary to their education, and all from the comfort of their dorm room.
The growth of so-called ‘Crowdworking’ is helping students to support their studies with income from tasks ranging from filling in surveys to graphic design. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the ways you can earn, some of the pitfalls, and our top tips.
What can I do?
The sheer diversity of tasks that are available to crowdworkers is what makes it so appealing. Popular crowdworking platform PeoplePerHour reports the most popular categories to be design, IT and writing/translation, but there are less traditional, more abstract services you can sell. In its ‘fun and bizarre‘ section, Fiverr.com lists a variety of ‘gigs’ including singing telegrams, love poems and Mickey Mouse impressions. Each of these yields the provider $4 (£2.43).
If you have a talent, there is bound to be someone out there who will pay you for it, and where better to find them than the internet?
As the BBC’s LJ Rich discovered, the main pitfall of crowdworking is its low pay. Rich collected just £19.16 for 37 hours work and expressed her frustration at the fact that “of the many tasks available, I thought the low-paying ones seemed the least efficient.”
The amount of overseas workers, who due to a lower cost of living, are able to pitch their services at a much lower rate than those in the UK is another major downside. Research into Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, which offers workers the opportunity to earn tiny amounts for menial tasks such as checking images, revealed that in many cases, workers were paid less than the minimum wage in India.
Choose your work carefully
Content supplier Copify, which has been criticised in some quarters for the relatively low rates of pay on offer for its online writing jobs (from £0.01/word) advises its crowdworkers to pick and choose their tasks carefully, and focus on subjects that they know well. Co-founder Martin Harrison explained:
“A big part of any crowdworking task will be the research element. Once you have researched a subject thoroughly, you can write about it authoritatively again and again. Let’s say, for example, you are interested in cars, providing you have a talent and a flair for writing, we’ll pay you up to £10 to write a 500 word piece that shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
Preparation for a career?
Many of the tasks that are carried out by crowdworkers are similar to those that graduates can expect to find when they enter the physical world of work. Due to the recession, many small to medium sized companies have turned to crowdworking to carry out tasks which historically would have been the job of a full-time employee.
Some, however, might argue that Crowdworking is not good preparation for the world of work as it does not offer the opportunity to experience the culture and conventions of an office environment and working with others.
Our top crowdworking tips
Find a specialism – The more niche and in-demand your skills, the more money you can command.
Keep a portfolio – Be sure to keep a record of every task you carry out, this will help you when you are applying for work in the future.
Be clear on payment terms – Check how and when you will be paid. If possible, request at least 50% of your fee up front, with the remainder on completion.
Join as many sites as possible – Hedge your bets by joining lots of different crowdworking platforms, then pick and choose the work you like the look of.
Do your research – Before you dive into a task, research the company thoroughly to establish whether they are a safe bet.
Persistence pays off – If at first you don’t succeed with your bid for work, don’t give up.
There is no such thing as a free lunch – Sound too good to be true? It almost definitely is!