30 November 2011

TaskRabbit and other microjob sites

As explained in a Wall Street Journal article, a variety of online sites now allow people needing chores done to connect with people willing to freelance on a (very)short-term basis:
Rachel Christenson posted a few weeks ago at online marketplace TaskRabbit Inc. Neither she nor her husband wanted the "gross" job of dealing with an overflowing compost bin, so she clicked her mouse in search of someone who would do her dirty work. After about 11 hours and a few crazy questions like, "Are your worms nice?" Ms. Christenson, 27 years old, found a taker. Douglas Ivey, a 45-year-old research scientist, drained the "worm juice" from the bin, put back the compost, mixed in newspaper and hosed it all down. The price? $31...

Thousands of unemployed or underemployed workers have parlayed one-off job requests into part- or full-time work. The gigs are especially popular with stay-at-home moms, retirees and students. Workers choose their jobs and negotiate their own rates...

After submitting an online application, completing a video interview and going through a Social Security number trace and a federal criminal background check, Ms. Greenham joined the San Francisco-based company's crew of about 2,000 "TaskRabbits." She does odd jobs via the service every day, aiming to clear at least $25 an hour. So far, she's completed about 250 jobs and has racked up around $1,500 a month... 

Amazon Mechanical Turk, a service of Amazon.com Inc., lets people work from home, like virtual temps. Companies such as Microsoft Corp. and LinkedIn Corp. place jobs on the service, often to help them manage or categorize content, says Sharon Chiarella, vice president of Amazon Mechanical Turk. About a year ago, Chris Berry, a special-education teacher in Granite Bay, Calif., began actively using the service, launched in 2005, in hopes of making extra money to support his wife and four children. Mr. Berry, 39, earned more than $10,000 from tasks that paid as little as 10 cents a pop. He says he sometimes completed more than 1,000 jobs a day, ranging from writing golfing tips to doling out parenting advice. 
More at the Wall Street JournalAmazon Mechanical Turk sounds interesting; anyone with experience re the site?

addendum:  I just checked the Amazon Mechanical Turk site for "writing" tasks from home and found this request:
Rewrite a given sentence so that it is similar in meaning to the original sentence, yet substantially differently worded. 
That's not proofreading; it sounds more like a request to help someone steal intellectual content, disguise plagiarism, duplicate term papers etc.  Lots of other dodgy requests on the list.  But from some of the comments received on this post, there apparently are plenty of other better options to choose from.

Addendum:  See the response by Lady Heather in the Comments below.  She read this post, signed up, and is now generating about $20/day by working at home.


  1. I've done a few jobs with Mechanical Turk and got paid about 50 cents for each. The jobs required adding keywords to photos that were listed on an online auction site. I think I got paid one cent for each listing. Many of the postings seems shady to me and I wonder if some of them are scams.

    I also signed up with Task Rabbit and went through the whole interview/selection process but have never done any work for them. I get emails every day based on my job interests and skills, but I haven't yet bid on a job because I still need to read the manual to figure out how to place a bid. The job listings seem really good, I just need to take the plunge and place the first bid!

    I signed up for both services because I was just getting started freelancing and I thought that I would have plenty of downtime, but luckily, I have had pretty steady work.

  2. I checked out Amazons Mechanical Turk and actually set up my 12-yr old daughter to be able to make some spare spending money. The problem is most jobs pay so low, it would be hard to make a living in the U.S. from it.

    I think for someone in a country with low incomes, it could provide a big boost to many people.

    (Ultimately, I think we are seeing this as more and more jobs go global... people in the U.S. and other countries will lose income as those in developing countries will be able to see large increases in income. This will reduce the income disparity, at the cost of standard of living in the industrialized nations)

  3. Amazon Mechanical Turk is useful for workers in developing countries, and even there it's tough to make a living.

    A lot of the jobs are for purposes that would seem nefarious but aren't necessarily so. For example, the "rewrite this sentence" jobs are often for spinning an article (that the job poster may have written) into many copies, that they can post around the web linking back to their own site for SEO. Not criminal, albeit perhaps not something to boast about to your relatives over Christmas dinner.

    Some AMT jobs are less ethical - for example writing reviews of products you may never have bought. Again, not criminal I believe.

    A lot of the jobs are fine though, like someone will upload their 10,000 product images and ask you to state what colour they are (you'd think an algorithm could do it, but perhaps they don't have the skills, or are double-checking the algorithm).

    I have used AMT as a hirer, but in the end the interface was too weird.

  4. I do tasks at mechanical turk every so often. It's often used by researchers doing surveys which I enjoy doing. It definitely does not pay much unless you take some of the thousands of article writing or re-writing jobs that I would rather not be part of. I make approx $2/hour for an hr or less each week.

  5. Nice post. There are several good companies that tap the power of people and internet to get the work done. Here is a comparison list.

    1) WeGoLook.com - WeGoLook.com has over 7,000 nationwide lookers (background check verified) who will go anywhere in USA for an onsite inspection. They provide visual confirmation and a personalized report, completed by a real person, to verify a product, person, property or thing.

    2) Zaarly: Zaarly is a proximity based, real-time buyer powered market. Buyers make an offer for an immediate need and sellers cash in on an infinite marketplace for items and services they never knew were for sale.

    3) Agent Anything: People can post any service they need accomplished as well as the price they are willing to pay, and college students can perform these services to get paid.

  6. I have used Mechanical Turk for several years. Over time you can gain better jobs as your rating increases. I have even met several people I regularly work for now. It is a good opportunity to make extra money. Sure some of the jobs are dodgy, but common sense will help you choose which are most profitable. I prefer the transcription tasks. They seem to pay the best for the least amount of work.

  7. I saw the post about Mechanical Turk and, being an unemployed housewife where we could use a few extra bucks a week to help out with special stuff or short weeks, due to living paycheck to paycheck with hubby's income, I figured I'd give it a whirl. Glad I did. I signed up December 1st. In that time, I've goofed around and made $82.54 for part-time work from home (I've done just over 1600 HITs, and most were no more than 5-6c each). Yes, it's mind-numbingly boring, but I put something on off my Hulu queue and listen to that while I work. Keeps it from getting too boring.

    Hints: The first 10 days, you're limited to 100 HITs per day tops, to show you can and will work. Also, your earnings are pending until you have completed and had at least one HIT per day approved for 10 days. After that, they pay into an Amazon Payments account where you can use the money to either drop to a bank account like PayPal, or for an Amazon gift certificate, as long as your balance is at least $10.

    I'm only working a few hours a day, but knowing that I don't have to have a second vehicle with all it's costs, special clothes, lunches, etc., the fact that I'm making about $5-6 an hour rounds out to about what I'd make off a minimum-wage job anyhow. I've got providers dropping me lines to let me know they'll be putting work up so I can get as much of the pie as possible, because I do a good job.

    It's still boring as all get out, but when I'm working 3-4 hours a day tops and dropping around $20 a day now into my bank account, instead of sitting at home being bored in front of the boob tube, I'll take it.

  8. Thank you, Lady Heather, for the followup. I've added a note about your success in the post above. Kudos.

  9. Hi there. May I mention a fairly new site for buying and selling gigs?

    www.jobsfor12.com offers gigs at a variety of prices. The website owner keeps 20% commission and the balance is paid into the sellers account within 7 days.
    So, if you have a skill that you would like to earn money with, this is a no cost, no outlay way of earning money,


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