Making Something From Nothing

Earlier in the year, as I was recovering from my recent health woes, I wondered if there was anyway for me to earn even a small bit of money on the Internet.  It turns out that there are several ways that you can do this.  I ruled out things like selling stuff, because a) the stuff I have to sell is not stuff people want to buy, and b) I wasn’t in a position to be able to make stuff that people might want to buy on sites like Etsy.

Still, there were plenty of options.  More than one website pointed out that there are plenty of sites on the ‘Net that will pay you to take part in online surveys.  There were also options like online stock trading.

I initially discounted the stock trading, until I found eToro, which calls itself a “Social Trading Network.”  It works much like any other social network, allowing its users to connect with each other.  The nice part of this is that a newcomer to online trading (such as myself) can search users of the site, follow people who seem to be doing well, and even copy the trades that they make.  This tends to make what can be quite a risky way of making money less so.

There’s always a catch, though, isn’t there.  To be able to trade you have to fund your trading account, and the minimum amount you can deposit is US$50.  If you want to be able to copy other users then you need at least US$100, preferably more.  After discussing things with my wife, we decided that while it sounded interesting, we weren’t in a secure enough position financially to be able to try it out.

So, back to the drawing board, how do you get $50?  Let’s have a look into these survey websites.  It turns out that your typical survey website allows you to earn points for completing surveys, which you can then convert to actual money.  A few reviews I read suggested that the best course of action was to sign up with several sites at once.  I found 4 or 5 sites, and signed up.  Of these sites, the majority offered remuneration as in the form of gift-cards to various sites and stores (like Amazon), or as a deposit into your Paypal account.  I only found one site that wouldn’t deposit to Paypal, but it did offer remuneration in the form of gift-cards to local grocery stores, which was just as handy I figured.

After signing up I discovered the next drawback.  Initially I was rubbing my hands with glee at the long lists of surveys I could take on each site.  However, I soon found that actually getting to complete a survey was not going to be quite so simple.  For the most part surveys have particular people they want to hear from, and I got quite familiar with the message saying that I wasn’t in the demographic they wanted to hear from.  Another issue is that most surveys have a limited number of positions, and I missed out on quite a few thanks to them filling up their quota quite quickly.

The other major issue is simply the sheer number of surveys you have to fill out to actually be eligible to receive any sort of payment.  In the end I abandoned most of the sites, just due to how much work was involved in being able to receive payment.  As it stands I use two sites now, SwagBucks and MySurvey.

MySurvey is nice because its minimum payment figure is A$5, so it doesn’t take as long to be able to earn money.  SwagBucks, on the other hand, has a minimum figure of US$25 for PayPal transfers, but it does offer more than one way of earning points.  I’ve been chugging away for about 3 months now, and have actually been able to cash in points a few times.  Some of the money I earned went towards other stuff, but I’m slowly building up to a point where I could actually consider funding my eToro account.

Another way of earning money I discovered was crowd sourcing.  The idea with crowd sourcing is that if a company has a lot of basic tasks that need to be performed, then they can farm that out to willing people over the internet.  I actually discovered this through SwagBucks, who offer tasks with a site called CrowdFlower as a means of earning points.  The tasks themselves are quite repetitive, and it seems that you have to drudge away at the very boring repetitive tasks for some time before you can access other tasks.  Most of the tasks I did were either transcribing speech to text, or confirming if a speech to text transcription was correct.  I ended up not bothering, because it took a fairly long time for not much reward.

I did, however, find a couple of other crowd sourcing websites.  One site, UserTesting, caught my eye because it offered payment per task completed.  The site offers usability testing for web sites, and a typical tasks requires you to perform certain actions on a web site, while your screen actions are recorded, along with your voice (you need to talk through exactly what you are doing).

The tasks seem simple enough, although the site has a few drawbacks in terms of how easy it is to earn money.  This site has the same issue with wanting particular demographics to perform tests as the survey sites, as well as tests filling their quota quite quickly too.  I’ve found that unless I can do a test as soon as it appears in the test list I tend to miss out.

However, unlike the survey sites, they do pay per test, straight into PayPal.  The only downside is that there is a 7 day period between completing the test and the payment being processed.  Still, it all happens automatically, and most of the survey sites have a few days delay with PayPal deposits, so I don’t see that as a huge downside.

With all of these options for earning the odd bit of money here and there, I’m anticipating being able to fund my eToro account within the next week or two.  Once I’ve done that, then the fun will really start.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to carefully invest my $50 starting money, so that I can then copy other traders who have been able to make consistent profits without taking huge risks.