When money’s tight, there’s no option but to hustle. And in a world of student loans and skyrocketing rent prices, taking on an extra job or two is inevitable.
Since I was in high school, my family and I have often found ways to make a little extra cash online. I used my earnings to pay for things like books and clothes. Now that I’m an adult in debt, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make extra money in a way that respects my limited free time — and I’ve realized that the things that worked for me as a teenager are terrible options for me as an adult. Gigs I used to do in high school show up on many lists citing some of the best and quickest ways to make money online.
Here’s the thing: yes, all of these options work. Some of them you will see immediate results — most of which are in the form of $1-$5. But, these gigs eat at your time like an everlasting, unsatisfied monster. And from my perspective, all work should result in fair compensation. Jobs that other people don’t enjoy do not warrant a lower pay. It took me a while to learn, but now, I refuse to settle for pennies an hour. You should avoid the following online side hustles if you’re hoping to start working online in a way that is fruitful and sustainable.
1. Being a transcriptionist for content mill companies.
The summer I graduated from university, I was in full panic mood as I hunted for a full-time position. With dwindling savings, I took to old faithful (Google) to find someplace that’d hire me in an instant. I stumbled upon an online transcription service. They acted as the middleman for companies and individuals in need of quick transcripts.
I used my old HP laptop and a pair of earbuds. My back would ache from my poor set-up. A ten-minute clip of audio took me a good two to three hours to transcribe, which was par for the course for a beginner. The company offered $0.50 per minute. After two months of work, I managed to make $279.06. That doesn’t seem too terrible for something you can do in the comfort of your home…but that number was the result of me mimicking the 9-5 workweek.
Instead of using content mills to find clients, I wish I would have tried to build my own freelance business. Finding work independently would have been a perfect opportunity to establish my credibility. And I could have been more selective of the work I accepted. Content mills are notorious for posting poor-quality gigs.
2. Online surveys.
There’s a never-ending line of companies looking for cheap market research opportunities. In the beginning, surveys were a quick, easy way to make a couple of dollars. And if that’s what you’re looking for because you what to buy some new lipstick or paperback novels, then sure, go for it. But, for those who need a good extra chunk of money in their accounts, survey-taking is too tedious an option to be worth it.
I worked with two companies that would email me whenever a survey was ready. The time it took complete them ranged from 30 minutes to an hour. I earned $10 per survey. Not unbearable, but it was in no way going cover a household bill.
Click-working is by far the gig that requires the most time commitment. Click-workers do a ton of odd jobs that automated machines can’t complete. My only experience with this type of work is with Amazon Mechanical Turk. Turk is a job posting board for companies conducting research studies and beta tests.
As a newcomer, I struggled to navigate their user interface. I soon learned it would be impossible to find quality work without using a scraper extension. The extension weeded out the gigs that were lower-paying and had requesters with low ratings. The pay would be a low as pennies and go as high as $25. High-paying jobs on the site had limited spots. So, winning a spot came down to being online at the right time. But, every posting was random. Unless you had insider knowledge, you would be stuck checking the boards all day.
On a good day, I averaged $10 for around 5 hours of steady work. My mother — who still works on the site full-time — averages $25 a day for around 7-8 hours of work.
Learning to prioritize my time
Time will always be more precious than money. I try not to kick myself because of the hours I’ve invested in doing these micro-jobs. In the time I spent making dollars an hour, I could have learned to code, written a novel, or taught myself online marketing strategies. Every small bit of money counts, of course. Especially if you’re working towards diminishing your debt. But, keep in mind that small gains might not be as helpful as they appear on the surface.
Working on a good skill you can successfully monetize is a choice you’ll be thankful for in the long run. No one can take away the skills you’ve developed, nor can they take away your business clientele once you’ve cut out the middleman. You need to value your time and understand that not every opportunity to make money online is a good one. Trust me — you’re not missing out.
Kiana is a writer from the Sunshine State. She’s in love with dairy-free ice cream, romance novels, and Dragon Age. You can find her gushing about the romance genre and documenting her wellness journey on her blog and find her on Twitter here.
Image via Unsplash