As a freelancer, I’m always interested in learning about new ways to make money. I recently became aware of something new, something that’s been developing only in the past few years, called micro-projects. These are projects that you do as they become available, and as you are available to complete them. None are big jobs paying big money. Instead, they are very small jobs that you can complete in as little as a few minutes and earn just a few dollars.
The title of this article captures the concept perfectly: Get a Tiny Job, Earn a Tiny Payment. Repeat. (CNBC, October 15, 2012). The idea is that you take on a series of jobs that when taken together can produce a decent paycheck at the end of the day.
The various kinds of micro-projects
These tasks would properly fall under the heading of “odd jobs”. They can involve everything from taking photographs of a local establishment or event, delivering documents, inspecting a car or building, or even just delivering lunch. The jobs are often assigned out by parties who are located in remote places but need access to something in your community.
For example, someone purchasing a building in your community may live 1000 miles away but needs to inspect the property before even making an offer. The buyer might contract someone like you to take a look at the property, to photograph it, and to verify that it has the features that were disclosed by the seller. This will save the buyer from having to come out and inspect the property in person at a much higher cost.
There are at least a dozen of these companies in existence right now. While most do basically the same type of jobs, some do specialize, but others do the oddest of odd jobs. Each have their own pay scale, geographic markets and specific nuances. If you’re interested in trying these you’ll have to make sure that the company you are working with will be a good fit for you. And, you may decide to work with two or three at a time.
Gigwalk. This company specifically requires that you own an iPhone. The program works on an app that you download onto your phone. This is how you receive the job orders, accept them and confirm that the job is complete. This will enable you to accept a job simply because you happen to be in the neighborhood where the task needs to be completed.
Taskrabbit. This one works much the same way as Gigwalk, except that you can connect to the site with either a mobile app or online with your personal computer. However, it is currently available only in Boston and Atlanta.
Mechanical Turk. This program is part of Amazon.com and you actually sign into it with your Amazon account. This is primarily a work-at-home arrangement, and it’s one that I’m giving serious consideration to trying out very soon myself. The Amazon name does lend credibility to the program.
Cloud Factory. This program mainly enters, collects, processes or categorizes data for companies. They operate in emerging markets around the world. Although they claim to have hundreds of thousands of workers around the world, according to their website they are currently hiring only in the country of Nepal.
FOAP & Fotilla. These are two separate programs, but both do essentially the same tasks. You enter and sell your photos to commercial interests through their site. Your photos can be sold on FOAP at $10 apiece, but you pay 50% to FOAP. Fotilla allows you to sell your photos for anywhere from $.75 to $75, and you can keep 50% or more of the proceeds.
PleaseBringMe. This program is different in that rather than performing tasks for businesses, you perform them for other consumers like yourself. It’s actually a travel/barter exchange. Let’s say that you are in New York City and someone in London wants an item that is specifically from New York City; they put out a request for someone to buy the item and ship it to them in London. Payment is arranged on a case-by-case basis and can involve cash or barter.
BidOnMyGig. According to the website this program is “not open yet”. But I’m including it on the list because the title looks interesting and it may be worth investigating in the near future.
Exec (iamexec.com). That’s “exec” as an executive assistant! You can probably figure out what tasks you’ll be doing just from that. You’ll be getting a busy executive lunch, cleaning their house, picking up their dry cleaning, or getting their morning latte. Big limitation here: they operate only in San Francisco. Which makes a strong case to investigate locally-based micro-project companies in the your local area.
Mobileworks. This one perhaps comes closest to our mental image of a virtual worker. The tasks are more technical in nature. The customer enters a task and the program decides who the best people are to get the job done. The tasks may involve online research, tagging images and creative writing. You need to speak English, have access to the Internet, and know how to surf the web. The company claims to operate globally.
PinDone. This application is only in California, and it looks like mostly Southern California at that. Tasks can include everything from doing mail outs, to driving someone to the airport. The payments offered look reasonable for the tasks. But you have to bid on the jobs and personal reputation within the system is important.
WeGoLook. This one is just what the name implies; you are something of a roving inspector. You will inspect a building, car or some other high value item, verify that it exists, that it works, take photos, and write any necessary reports. While that might sound a bit involved, the site assures us that no specific certifications are either required or implied. You have to have a PayPal account in order to be paid through the system.
PostMates. This is primarily a delivery service – coffee, lunch, groceries or anything else the customer requests. What’s interesting with this program is that they provide you with an iPhone and a debit card so that you can participate. I didn’t dig too deeply into this one, but I would assume that since they are providing you with significant tools that there will also be significant requirements on your part. The company is, after all, making some kind of investment in you and will want to know that there will be a reasonable return on that investment.
Micro projects, sometimes referred to as being a “tasksumer”, probably isn’t for everyone. But if you are retired, unemployed, self-employed, a freelancer or a part-time worker otherwise, this kind of work can fit neatly into your schedule. There are a few people claiming to be earning a living wage doing this work, but I don’t think that will be the case for most people. It can however be a much-needed income supplement, especially during times of otherwise slow income. Think of it as an addition to your income portfolio.
Have you ever tried your hand at micro-projects? Would you recommend it for others?