I first began exploring crowdsourcing jobs several years ago to supplement the income from my full-time job. At that time, I really didn’t understand how to search for the better-paying work, and so I ended up working for pennies an hour – which was no fun and felt like a waste of precious time at the end of an already long day or week.
Since then, I have re-visited the idea and found that with the right combination of timing, persistence, and patience (and sometimes luck), crowdsourcing can actually can be a viable option for supplementing income during a career transition.
Learn about Crowdsourcing
The Oxford Dictionary defines Crowdsourcing as, “the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet.” Crowdsourcing work typically utilizes a time-based workflow queue, in which tasks are stored in a cloud and available to qualified workers on demand. These are sometimes referred to as “short-tasks” or “micro-jobs” or “on-demand jobs” or “gigs.”
Workers are contract workers (not “employees”) and are paid by the task rather than by the amount of time worked. Qualification for the jobs can range from simple demographics to a wide range of skill, knowledge, and aptitude. As might be expected, the higher-paying jobs are a bit more difficult to find and may have limited availability.
There are many different types of work available. A few examples are a transcription, market research surveys, academic research studies, audio and video recordings, search engine evaluation, website testing, mystery shopping, and running errands. Tasks might be completed online or in-person through an app. The options are limited only by what you are willing to do and how much time you have.
The income from any one source is unreliable from month-to-month, so the money earned from these jobs is usually considered “extra” money (commonly referred to in the forums as “beer money”), but sometimes people piece together enough of these contracts to make a full-time income.
One of the primary advantages of this type of work, however, is the flexibility of TIME. Anyone who is searching for a full-time job needs the flexibility to be available for interviews. Anyone who is caring for one or more family members needs the flexibility to be available on an as-needed basis. Anyone dealing with a chronic health issue needs the flexibility to work when energy levels are high and rest when they are low. Many people in midlife find themselves needing this type of flexibility, and short-task work can be an ideal solution for paying the bills during this phase of life.
So how do you get started?
As in any profitable industry, there are also a lot of scams. This makes legitimate jobs even harder to find. I’ve provided a few tips below to avoid wasting time on work that is never really going to pay off.
First, decide if you want to work exclusively from home or if you’d rather be out-and-about. If you are interested in gig working on-the-go, I recommend starting with the Steady App. It’s an excellent resource of well-vetted gigs and money-saving offers to help you get started. Other reputable apps for on-demand work include TaskRabbit, Lyft, Uber, and DoorDash.
If you’d rather work from home or exclusively from anywhere with your laptop, I recommend following bloggers who research work-from-home jobs, including Rat Race Rebellion, FlexJobs, The Balance Careers, and Dream Home Based Work.
Note that the first blog posts you find on work-from-home blogs will be for survey sites with a bunch of affiliate links. It’s fine to check these and use the affiliate link if you’re going to use the survey site (it’s how the blogger gets paid), but don’t get too bogged down in answering surveys all day. Many of the survey sites have such a high minimum payout threshold that you’ll burn out long before you actually receive a payment.
Network with other Crowdsourcers
Once you’ve found a site that looks interesting, do a quick Google search for reviews for that company. Keep in mind that people are more motivated to leave a review when they’re angry, and workers who are happy with the company may be cautious about posting online due to confidentiality agreements, so very few companies will have five-star ratings. But if the company does not have at least a three-star rating, you might want to give that company a pass, or at least find out what upset so many people and whether or not they’ve fixed the problem.
Once you’re feeling pretty confident that the company isn’t a scam (because it was recommended by a reputable blogger and because it’s getting good reviews online), it’s time to find out whether it’s going to be a good fit for YOU. The only way to find this out is to apply and get started. Many of the jobs will have qualification exams, and it’s pretty likely you will not pass all of them, so prepare yourself up-front not to take it personally. In many cases, your application is either approved or declined by a bot, and even if a human is involved you most likely will not be able to contact that human, so I repeat DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY. Just do the best you can, and move on.
Once you’ve been approved by a company and begin to accept tasks, your next goal is to find out how to improve your earnings and status. This is usually done by joining an on-site discussion forum or finding a hub on Slack or a subreddit where workers meet to exchange information. If the work is peer-reviewed, these forums are a good place to find out how to do better on your quality checks so you can qualify for the better-paying tasks.
Occasionally you will learn information in these forums that help you realize that you might want to keep this particular company on the back-burner and focus your efforts elsewhere. For example, I recently did some work for a very reputable company that was going through some changes, so the amount of work available had been reduced. In the forums I learned that there were a handful of long-time workers who also did the quality checks for the newer workers and one perk of their veteran status was that they had first-choice of the best-paying tasks. This meant they were cherry-picking the easiest tasks, and then they had been financially incentivized to be extra critical of the newer workers to keep them from qualifying for the better jobs. Not wanting to play that particular game, I archived that resource for now so I can focus on other contracts. I’ll come back to it later after that problem (hopefully) resolves itself.
Set up a Workflow
As I’ve said in previous posts, I like to think of what I’m doing as “one job” with “multiple clients.” Although I’m doing work for several different companies, thinking of it as having a dozen “jobs” would drive me insane.
Regardless of what you call it, working for than one company requires organization, and what that looks like will be different for everyone. If you’re primarily working through apps, you might want a separate home screen on your phone for jobs. If you’re working on your laptop, you might find using browser bookmarks to be useful. I have several levels of folders in mine.
You’ll also want a way to keep up with how much you’re making from each job so you can see at a glance if you’re spending your time wisely. I suggest a spreadsheet stored in a cloud-based app that you can access from anywhere for quick reference.
When you’re available to work, make sure you have your browser tabs open, or that you’re signed in to your apps, and refresh regularly. Find ways to get better and better at multi-tasking so that you can maximize your earnings during each hour that you spend working. Always leave time to keep researching for better opportunities. Remember that available work with any company is likely to wax and wane so you always want to have another resource on-hand to replace that income.
Don’t be scared if it seems a bit overwhelming at first. Most of this task work is repetitive by nature, so you’ll be able to learn it quickly and focus on improving your workflow and efficiency.