Admittedly, we’re not there yet. But maybe we’re not as far away as we think.
A host of new apps for iPhone and Android have quietly begun changing the way work is done, and, like Google, they don’t care about your G.P.A., your transcripts, or your ability to answer brain teaser questions.
Most of us have heard of sites like Elance, Odesk, and places like Yahoo Contributor Network where freelancers can make money for their talents in writing, coding, graphic design. But a new wave of apps for iPhone and Android, including Gigwalk, Field Agent, and iPoll, are taking that premise a step beyond, parsing out work in the form of paid tasks, where your ability to complete the task is the only requirement.
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Perhaps this “work revolution” began long ago, when Amazon launched Mechanical Turk, branded as “Artificial Artificial Intelligence.” Kevin Wheeler wrote about this last year, but for the uninitiated, Mturk facilitates the crowdsourcing of work such as transcription, translation, and sorting or categorization that cannot yet be done well using machines. Global virtual workers can sign up for HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) for payments ranging from roughly $.01 – $60 per assignment. Higher-paying work includes audio/video transcription, but there are also thousands of lower paying quick HITs available.
By taking tests, showing attention to detail, and completing projects successfully, virtual workers can earn qualifications which open up higher=paying assignments and more regular work. (Wait a sec, isn’t that what we do in the work world already? Yes, but it’s all automated.)
Why does it matter? With our traditional system of employment, potentially vital segments of the workforce face constant challenges, discrimination, and rampant unemployment. Stay-at-home mothers and fathers, those with disabilities or unstable health conditions, and even college students or part-time workers often have schedules that allow for some type of productive work, but often on a non-traditional schedule. By allowing workers to select tasks, choose when to complete them (within a set period of time), and offering regular opportunities for earning, this work transformation is also contributing to a better economy and allowing a whole new segment of the workforce to earn income.
So what kind of work can be done with these apps, and how’s the pay? It’s doubtful than anyone will soon be quitting their day jobs to do these tasks. But it’s not entirely impossible to envision a way to beat out a typical minimum wage job with enough assignments. Gigwalk, started by three former Yahoo employees, uses your phone’s GPS to track mobile users completing tasks around town. Here in Phoenix, Microsoft’s Bing search engine has lots of gigs available, requiring workers to go to specific businesses, take panoramic pictures, and answer a few questions for amounts ranging from $4 – 10 each. Some gigs are location-independent. For example, a company called TigerWorld Technologies out of Beijing has been regularly posting voice-recording Gigs paying $18 each.
In Field Agent, workers can go on “Scavenger Hunts” at major retailers, searching for specific product items and answering questions. Field Agent offered $6.50 for the first person to find a Fiesta Cheese Blend with a specific UPC at any Walmart store. Other agent jobs include restocking shelves and arranging displays at major retailers, or attending or verifying product demonstrations. Recent jobs included tasks at places like Ulta, Walgreens, and Sam’s Club. Many of us already go to these places, and the apps can be enabled to notify users of nearby tasks to complete.
iPoll sets itself apart in paid surveys, where users answer questions about their buying habits and, based on these answers, they can earn additional tasks. For example, a questionnaire on grocery shopping might lead to a task for completion at a nearby grocery store. If iPoll takes this a step further and expands its reach, one could easily see it move into consumer marketing focus groups and product testing.
A quick Google search for “apps to make money” pulled up dozens of other opportunities for mobile users to pad their wallets or pay for their next Starbucks. One such app, GymPact, proposes a healthier lifestyle while giving users a financial incentive to hit the gym. Users set a workout schedule for the next seven days, pledging anywhere from $5-50 per missed workout. Those who skip, pay up, and these funds are divided amongst those who keep to their workout commitments. Getting paid to workout? Maybe not a work revolution yet, but it might just get me back on the treadmill. Resumes are sooo 2012.