Making quick and easy money, perhaps from your couch at home, working whenever and however you want – a fake-news bubble of recent years or is there some truth in it? Surveys, affiliations, crowdworking and mystery shopping are good ways to top up your income but, remember, they do require time, effort and professionalism. Is it always worth it? Is “Earning Online” a really valuable option?
What ingredients go together to give us full and lasting happiness? It’s a question on our minds since the dawn of time. Today, most would be answered like this: “health, love, and a good job that takes up as little time as possible while earning a lot”.
And so, always following the most-wanted drives of the majority, the market makes provision by using its means of communication to persuade and attract.
Before the internet had become such a big part of our lives, people would build the basis of their salary on their job, and then moonlight doing extra jobs, services or part-time activities, outside of their regular jobs.
Nowadays this is a consolidated reality more than ever before. But unlike in the past, there are increasingly more channels which allow us to earn extra, or which even encourage us to build actual careers . Or at least, that’s what they propose.
The internet, instead, brings a dream with it: that anyone can, with no obstacles, from their home or phone, whether beautiful or not, with or without qualifications, can make money – in some (rare) cases even considerable amounts of it.
But how true is this belief? What variables does it not take into account?
The data about Earning Online
The confirmation that the drive for easy gain is inherent in each of us, comes in this case from the most famous search engine in the world: Google. In fact, anyone who has a computer and internet connection can look up some dizzying data simply by doing these searches:
- How to make money online? – 4,470,000,000 hits.
- How to earn online? – 1,530,000,000 hits.
- Ways to make money online – 2,060,000,000 hits.
… the number of hits is always growing.
The list of related searches is naturally much longer. It’s interesting look at the results we can find online by looking for the best-known and “simple” ways of earning money online:
- online surveys – 224,000,000 hits (from a UK based search);
- mystery shopping– 382,000,00 results;
- crowdworking– 940,000 results.
In short, the phenomenon is one we cannot ignore.
So it’s fitting to take an overview of what these various ways of earning money are and what they provide. Our approach is analytical, aiming to reveal also the dark side, which sites and blogs often forget or omit as they want to attract leads and new users.
The most common ways to make money online: surveys, mystery shopping, and crowdworking
📱Paid online surveys
Paid online surveys are the most debated and searched for online earning solution, perhaps the one that deserves the most consideration. Let’s start by answering two questions:
- Is it possible to earn money by filling out online surveys? Yes, it is.
- Is it possible to make this practice, which is simple and within the scope of all, a job in its own right? No.
The network is teeming with proposals for earning some extra money by answering a few simple quiz-type questions. You will find many in-depth resources online on the subject. They should help you through this jungle and run your own experiments.
There are two main issues in play in this type of micro work:
- the first, more sociological, is where does the profit come from for those who pay? We’re talking about the sharing of consumer habits and sometimes the transfer of personal data to third parties. When data is transferred in bulk, it is almost impossible to verify who it has been transferred to and why, unless expressly requested.
- The second, certainly more tangible, concerns the earnings: the earnings per survey ranges between 0.30 and 15 euros ; however, to be paid, you need to build up a large number of credits, which you can only earn by completing many – and sometimes tedious – survey-response sessions. This leads many users to give up before they reach their minimum pay-out threshold.
Despite these two issues, the sites and apps offering this type of services are booming: Globaltestmarket, Nielsen, Toluna, Crowdville, OpinionOutpost, Swagbucks, PrizeRebel, Univox, ySense and many other more-or-less reliable survey websites. The choice is really broad, and diversified also by business sector, survey difficulties and type of reward, which can vary from cash prizes to vouchers and discount vouchers.
So, can you really earn money by doing surveys? The truth is that ‘earn’ is an exaggeration. It’s more a case of “rounding up your main salary” , but only if you are willing to register with several sites and apps and complete the questionnaires with a great deal of patience.
🛍 What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery Shoppers are defined as workers hired (indirectly through third-party companies) by shops, financial institutions, restaurants and service providers to verify the quality of products, customer service and, in general, the environment of these retail activities, often by way of “incognito” visits to the shop pretending to be normal customers.
Their main task is to buy goods and report on their physical and/or online shopping experiences.
The work they have to do is certainly not the easiest and includes, among other things, two important characteristics:
- integrity, critical observation and communication skills;
- some free time to carry out a cycle of tasks that include: visiting the shops, buying, writing reports online, and undertaking this cycle several times in periods that are close together.
For those having these qualities, the earning potential is better than many other tasks you can find online. Perhaps this is why the Mystery Shopping platforms have multiplied in recent years. The best known ones include: bemyeye.com, ishopforipsos.com, crowdville.net, mysteryshoppersamerica.com, secretshopper.com and many others.
So, is it worth it? In this specific case, the earnings are higher than with surveys, however also the bar is raised and you have to be willing and able to go to various stores, follow a check-list of tasks/actions to perform there, and then fill in a report online.
So longer hours, more effort … and still low hourly earning rates.
🤝 CrowdWorking: another often unknown way to earn online
The topic of crowdworking is different again. This term can generically and hierarchically include the two previous types of work. Hailed by some as “one of the great innovations of the working world in the digital age”, it does not, however, lack many critics, particularly with regard to low wages and lack of social security cover that are inherent in its operation.
What is Crowdworking? It indicates the new business models that the gig economy (on-call working) is creating. Increasingly more people decide to add to their salaries by turning to the many digital platforms and apps where they can easily search for potential customers, and depending on their levels of specialization, sign up to do of all types of jobs, large and small: pony-express deliveries, product testing, request quotes, etc.
In Europe, the phenomenon is by now very well-rooted:
- A study entitled “Crowd Work in Europe” sponsored by Feps – European foundation for progressive studies, already in 2016 brought to light examples of Western countries such as t he United Kingdom where 5 million individuals are now paid via online platforms, of which 3 million are engaged in crowdworking .
- In another little country as Italy, the most important study on the sector is the one carried out by the Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti, which showed that, even in Italy, there appear be about 700,000 gig-workers.
From these basic figures, we can see the need for regulatory intervention in the sector as, if not properly addressed, the potentially destructive circuit based on cutting labour costs can lead to much wider social issues.
Here too, it is incorrect to talk about “online earning” as the issue is always one of the value of hourly pay, of protection for workers (who are mostly absent), and of future prospects (basically non-existent).
The pros and cons of online earnings: wrapping it up
To wrap it up, there are clearly several pros and cons.
👍 The advantages certainly have to do with the possibility for everyone to make their own “social climb”. If they apply themselves and combine their commitment with consistency and verve, everyone can potentially use these tools to find a new job, visibility, and earn extra income.
Broadly, online earning is akin to building one’s own brand, perhaps to go on to become established experts in a certain field, i.e. aiming to become sort of ‘influencers’ and thus become successful at selling online through marketplaces or personal sites, or simply at exploiting the web for visibility for already-acquired skills or traditional jobs.
👎 However, the disadvantages or limitations lie in the low earnings of the earning-for-the-masses methods, and the difficulties in reaching the real earnings online of established influencers and e-commerce stores. Here, there are real entry barriers, which exclude the overwhelming majority of those who invest their time and money trying to get a foot onto the bottom rung of the ladder.
Online earning can appear a shiny and glossy mirage in which everything looks simple, quick and earnings almost immediate. The real results – both online as in the real world – are in store only for the relatively few deserving, tenacious and fortunate users.