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Copyright 2011 by
Peter G. Raeth
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Shopping areas, restaurants, colleges, libraries, and even governments strive to make internet connectivity available to the public. Along with connectivity, these entities also tend to provide space for people and their access devices. Some libraries even operate complete internet cafes. Once connectivity and working space are established, the possibilities for their use are unlimited to someone with suitable (yet inexpensive) equipment, imagination, and energy.
This posting summarizes my 6500-word article on one use of internet connectivity, micro-tasking. It is a way of bringing extra cash to the unemployed, students, and retirees. It is also a way of learning meaningful work habits and entrepreneurial engagement while training for secure life-supporting jobs, a stepping stone on the way to a good career. This electronic-format article is available for $0.99. (You can download free readers for your computer, laptop, or other device.) A well-researched link-filled piece, it shows ways to make money from home or hotspots via the internet by completing paid tasks. These opportunities are freely available with no registration nor membership fees.
In the full article, several micro-tasking websites are presented. Their application to high-unemployment domains such as rural areas and developing nations is also discussed, as is earning potential and a review of internet access devices. Numerous links are provided for further reading.
Micro-tasks are components of a larger project. They are short-duration activities, conducted by numerous people, that add up to a larger result. Such tasks expand on ideas such as day-labor, cargo load boards, and contracted professional effort. Taken in the broad sense, micro-tasks do not necessarily require internet access. However, the article focuses on those that do. Income from such tasks can be sufficient to afford an access device. These tasks can then provide extra income within a personal earning endeavor. While such tasks do bring in extra cash, they are typically insufficient for providing secure life-supporting employment in the expensive economies of developed nations. However, there is that potential in developing nations.
An advantage of micro-tasks to the worker is the ability to work whenever and wherever the worker likes. Companies gain a way to manage the expense of their contingent workforce (a 30% reduction in some cases, http://www.crowdsourcing.org/site/lionbridge/en-uslionbridgecomglobal-crowdsourcingdefaulthtm/6987). Such an approach to work also yields a means of creating, allocating, and paying for tasks as they arise. There is also the advantage of an immense global workforce. Micro-tasking websites make money by charging a fee to the task creator. Beware of sites that charge an up-front fee of any kind to the worker. NEVER pay to have a job. However, in this context, it is legitimate to require the worker to supply their own tools. In micro-tasking, you have to supply, at your sole expense, all equipment, tools, materials, services, work space, and supplies that you may need to perform the services required. You also need appropriate skills. Do not fall for claims that income can be easily earned by anyone without skills or performance ethic (steady cycle of study-learn-work-produce). Even in micro-tasking, there are no 90-day wonders and no effortless paths.
My personal experience with these tasks is that, yes, money can be made, especially if you are diligent and get through the learning curve. However, the tasks can be mindlessly tedious. Being so small and short, the tasks easily take on the character of meaningless work, even if one is being paid. How much can one earn? A mature and experienced adult of my acquaintance reports he does micro-tasking two hours per day, five days per week. He earns about $100 per week. Over nine months he makes about $4,000. From articles I have read on the topic, this is typical.
Micro-tasking has already been accomplished in developing nations. At issue is just what access device is really needed. Some believe that a simple mobile phone would do. While this is technically feasible for some types of tasks, it is not productive for serious earning in the general case. Yet, an expensive device is not necessary. A reliable tablet with a good keyboard and mouse would do. There is a good chance that this could be accomplished for $100-$150. Purchasing a low-end device commonly found in stores would cost about $250. If the access and space are available, the income to provide the device can be earned. If one accepts the $100/per-week figure and puts 50% aside per week to pay for a device, then it would take five weeks to accumulate sufficient funds. For a beginner, six weeks is likely more realistic.
Many micro-tasking and work-at-home sites are scams. But, there are a few that are legitimate. Such tasks do require a minimum level of skill but usually not a college degree. Some require pre-training. Sometimes that training is offered as another task. Other times, it is part of a no-cost registration process.
A Source of Extra Cash and an Early Start on Career Development
It is possible to employ micro-tasking for larger purposes. Traditional career centers can be expanded to include micro-tasking facilities. Traditionally, a career center helps people discover their particular talents and to bring those into focus for life-long endeavor. Such a center also helps people find training and education opportunities. For those seeking employment, a career center helps balance skills-push and jobs-pull. ("I have skills to offer your company that your company could put to good use." vs. "My company needs specific skills." This is similar to “technology push” vs. “requirements pull”.)
Micro-tasking in the context of a career center could be a way to help someone earn extra cash, although not a secure living, while getting trained and educated for a particular career. This could also be a way to introduce someone to the idea of productive employment or entrepreneurial endeavor. A mobile career/work center could be sent into communities to provide career mentoring and teach people how to use micro-tasking for earning. See http://career-winner.blogspot.com/2011/11/concept-for-mobile-career-center.html for more on the idea of mobile career centers.
A comparable expansion is also possible for internet cafes. Much has been made of nefarious uses of such establishments. For instance, they provide anonyminity to those who wish to conduct harmful activities. Such activities have gotten so bad that nations have started to treat them the same as they would terrorism, to include conducting covert operations (http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/01/07/1834233/israel-says-it-will-treat-online-credit-card-theft-as-it-would-terrorism). There is also the more benign but still potentially insidious use of internet cafes for gambling (http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/internet-sweepstakes-cafes-rip-off-consumers-need-regulation-dewine-says-1308756.html). Gambling to generate revenue and taxes should be no surprise to anyone in the United States since its state and local governments promote that (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-01-23/states-casino-gambling/52746498/1). In any case, even at internet cafes aimed at gambling time can be purchased and that time can be used for anything, not necessarily for gambling. If the user wants to generate funds, a more certain approach is micro-tasking. Rather than condemn internet cafes as places used for ill purposes, we should take a positive tack and encourage their use for earning. Café operators could even sponsor classes in micro-tasking. Both user and owner would benefit from this mutual synergy.
To be considered is that micro-tasking typically follows a self-employment concept, not a traditional employee/employer relationship. There is also the matter of who would own the access devices. My own thought is that the individual should fund their own device as part of a self-conducted micro-business. An Internet Cafe or Career Center could provide Internet access and workspace, either via subscription or some type of subsidy. Some equipment could be provided to get a person started, perhaps through a more expensive subscription.
Micro-Tasking Websites - Overview
During my review of micro-tasking websites I found that there are lots of wanna-be and low-performance sites. I eliminated any that did not allow me to preview projects without registering. These came across as sites phishing for email addresses.
Some sites had no listings even under "featured jobs". One site had so many grammatical errors that it lost all credibility. If they are that sloppy, how serious can they be? How well do they run their business, especially payments to workers?
Also eliminated were sites that expect you to bid on jobs. These are freelance jobs, not micro-tasks as discussed in the article. A micro-task website has small/short activities for immediate acceptance and fulfillment. Still, several freelance sites are listed.
If you venture into micro-tasking, be aware that you have to provide quality work and finish what you start. Otherwise, you will soon be banned. About half the tasks I have seen are for US-based people only, although the article presents organizations that specialize in micro-tasking for people in developing nations. Further, fraud abounds in this arena. Be very sure to carefully research any site and client you engage with. In this article I do my best to show credible sites but you have to take responsibility for your own choices, actions, and results.
In the full article I introduce micro-tasking as a good use of internet accessibility that is becoming increasingly and inexpensively available world-wide. We discuss internet access devices that have the potential to enable micro-tasking via the internet. Also shown are websites and companies that make micro-tasking opportunities available world-wide, even deep within developing nations, rural areas, and underserved-populations in developed nations.
Use caution when undertaking any remote work such as micro-tasking. Several sites and companies appear to be legitimate. However, scams abound. Even legitimate aggregate task offerors can be taken in by dishonest concerns that say they are offering tasks or looking for workers. NEVER pay a fee of any kind to get access to tasks. Nor should you fall for scams that require you to purchase documentation, equipment, or materials from them. Learning is a good thing. Reading material can be great for expanding your understanding. Just be careful of the junk. Scams are plentiful in the marketplace. On the other hand, it is normal for workers to own their own tools, such as internet access devices. What to purchase and the vendor should be up to you.
Micro-tasking may well be a solution if you are a retiree, student, unemployed, or someone looking for extra cash. My advice is that you not depend on this approach if you need full-time employment and benefits, although it may be a start until you establish such employment. This is particularly true in the expensive economies of developed nations. Many in developing nations have found micro-tasking to be a good start for economic growth.
It is said that dreams come true when preparation, opportunity, decision, and action meet. Micro-tasking is an opportunity. The article helps you to prepare. The decision and action are now up to you. Take responsibility for yourself and move forward to your future success.