Three (Real) Ways to Make Money From Home in Your Spare Time
by Carol Kopp
Thursday, September 24, 2009
You are a world-class expert. Yes, you are, just like Stephen Hawking is a world-class expert on the Big Bang and Martha Stewart is a world-class expert on making festive party favors out of tissue paper.
Your personal interests, life and work experiences and education add up to real expertise in a number of subjects. Do you tinker with cars? Read Shakespeare for fun? Beat your buddies at chess? Lecture your friends about proper diet, or Web design, or Star Wars collectibles?
Then you’re an expert, and there’s a place online that can help you turn that avocation into hard cash.
There are at least three types of Web-based businesses that can help you earn cash in your spare time — and a fourth type you shouldn’t go near.
All three of the legit types supply the online base, the software and the marketing muscle you need to get started. You supply the expert “content,” to use the hideous neo-media word for what we call “facts” in plain English.
This is not the get-rich-quick scheme you may have been looking for. The people who make real money through any of these schemes are working hard for it, really know their subjects and are good at communicating.
The money they earn is based on hard numbers. Page views and user ratings are modern equivalents to piece-work counts in a factory.
But if you can’t find a full-time job, can’t work regular hours or outside your home, or want to moonlight to supplement the 9 to 5 grind, one of these might be for you. For more strategies on how to moonlight, see Ten Ways to Moonlight.
A look at some of these online businesses suggests they are being used by young and out-of-work professionals to build up their resumes and hone their skills until the economy recovers. And, of course, many managers are using the services to get the job done until they can afford to add headcount.
All the sites claim to conduct a vetting process for contributors, and quality control over contributions, but their criteria are positively loosey-goosey compared to the personnel departments of a major corporation.
After all, their system of paying based on actual usage and client ratings ensures that only really good contributors get paid, and bad ones sink into the unplumbed depths of the database
1. The Open Network
An open network offers a ready-built home for freelance writers to post articles on an infinite variety of useful or interesting subjects.
Associated Content, one of the largest and best known freelance networks, syndicates and custom-creates Editorial content, in text, video, image and audio forms.
It claims to be adding 5,000 articles a week to a database of more than 1 million articles on a vast range of subjects — from curious facts about Abraham Lincoln to tips on easing your dog’s separation anxiety.
That database was built by freelancers, who are paid a measly $3 to $15 per story but make an additional small sum based on user clicks, starting at $1.50 for every 1,000 page views. You can get a raise on that rate for page views as your output and audience grow.
The key to racking up page views is to write about something that interests everybody, like love or money. Or, write about a subject that interests many people intensely — like parenting or World War II.
2. Answers On Demand –
On-demand services connect people with an immediate need for information with experts who can supply that information. It’s a one-on-one service, conducted over chat or via email for a fee.
LivePerson.com boasts 30,000 experts who are “ready to chat” on subjects from personal growth to small business solutions.
Some experts are lurking online, ready to jump in to answer your question, and others can be scheduled ahead for a one-on-one. The fee is set by the expert, anywhere from 50 cents to $5 per minute, about 45 percent of which goes to LivePerson.
Advice about “personal relationships” is clearly a money-maker here, although you can find a Web designer, a homework coach or a cosmetologist when you want one.
The vetting process includes licenses for professions that require them, like doctors and lawyers. All experts’ resumes are available to prospective clients.
But once online, the experts live or die by client ratings which are, in the great tradition of the Internet, brutally honest. And in this world of pay-per-minute, the reviews cover typing speed as well as communication skills.
JustAnswer.com has an even simpler system. Got a problem? Just describe it, and indicate how much you’re willing to pay for an answer. One of the experts will get back to you fast.
Experts run the gamut from veterinarians and attorneys to mechanics and computer repair people.
A quick glance through current questions reveals that many people are baffled by their electronic equipment, their cars and their puppies. Also, many students want somebody to write their term papers for them.
A new site out of Nashville, called Moontoast, wants to carry the concept to the next step and arrange actual face-to-face video and audio confrontations between expert and client. (Scary!)
Expected to launch soon, the site is bankrolled by country music stars and inspired by a musician’s need to hear information, not just read it
3. Crowd-Sourcing – MechanicalTurk.com
This is the ultimate piece-work for the digital age.
“Crowd-sourcing” takes a big, ugly, often repetitive task and hacks it into small bits to be assigned to many people.
Say you are publishing a restaurant reservation directory, and every phone number has to be checked. How do you get it done? Try “crowd-sourcing” it.
MechanicalTurk.com, owned by Amazon, currently has almost 700 projects up for grabs, each divided into hundreds or thousands of “human intelligence tasks.” Each task pays literally pennies — from 1 cent to maybe 20 cents.
A lab needs information on 98 Web sites, for 10 cents a pop. Somebody is collecting data on 50 baseball players, for 9 cents each. Zappos wants people to edit product reviews for a nickel each. You might even see positions for big-time names like Google or Yahoo.
You grab a task, complete it and submit it for approval. As soon as it’s approved, your payment gets transferred from the requester’s Amazon Payments account to yours.
If you can stand it, you could sit at your computer all day banging these things out.
An experienced professional could get very bitter writing abstracts of technology news for a nickel each. But an under-employed college grad might greatly prefer it to flipping burgers, and it looks better on a resume.
More rarefied versions of crowd-sourcing are available at specialized freelance sites. DesignBay.com offers designers the chance to submit their work in online “contests” for posted projects. The odd jobs, most paying a couple of hundred dollars, come in from around the world, from small businesses and individuals who need logos or fliers, banner ads and posters.
Crowd-sourcing hits its low point in sites that pay people to “play around on the Internet.” Put bluntly, they’re falsifying usage data by goosing the number of unique hits on Web sites or banner ads