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We test drive 3 'make money online' jobs

When the ad says you can make thousands working from home, is it accurate or is it a scam? We test three work from home options to find out.

13 September 2021
6 minute read

Have you been tempted by the online ads telling you that you can make money working from home? Well, we tested them out for you! We selected three advertised jobs and tried them out for a few weeks. Find out what we learned and what we earned.

1. Complete surveys

The ad says: You can make up to R150 a survey. 

What you need to do: Sign up, give some personal details such as your cell number, and complete surveys.

What you need: A smartphone, laptop or desktop and internet connection, and time.

How it works:
You are notified via email of survey availability, or you can keep an eye on the websites for opportunities. Most surveys ask a few pre-selection questions so they can survey a particular target market such as moms. Everyone answers the pre-selection questions and based on the answers you are either accepted for the survey or not. If you are selected the survey will come up, and the fee paid when you complete the survey. All the surveys we investigated only needed a certain number of respondents, after which they are no longer available. 

Our experience:
Completing surveys is easy, but we didn’t meet the pre-selection criteria for many. This may have been because of occupation (media industry worker and teacher) or earnings, number of people in the household or because we did not use or were not familiar with what was being surveyed. For example, in one survey we were asked what TV shows we watched in the nature and news categories such as BBC Earth, National Geographic and Bloomberg. We only watched one channel and didn’t meet the selection criteria.

The amounts earned per survey are minimal. For a 20-minute survey we could earn around US$1.50.

There are also many surveys offering points or rewards such as airtime, data or gift vouchers instead of cash payment, which we did not use.

What we made: In 2019 we made around US$2 (R30) and earned some airtime for two and a quarter hours spent completing surveys. In 2020 we made US$3.25 (R50), for around 30 minutes spent completing one survey.

Verdict: The ad is an oversell. You may be able to make some extra money completing surveys, but it is very unlikely you will make a good living. The rates are low and payment in point or reward format limits what you can spend your money on. Although the number of surveys you can complete has grown in the last two years, the pre-selection criteria means that there might not be enough surveys to keep you busy. There are also a lot of people waiting to complete surveys, and if you don’t respond immediately when a notification pops up it may be too late to respond because the survey may already have enough participants.

2. Type or transcribe from home

The ad says: Earn money transcribing. Amounts differ but ads say you can be paid between a few cents per audio minute to US$25 (R375) an hour. Average hourly rates are around US$15 (R225).

What you need to do: Sign up and complete an assessment. If you perform well and the platform does not already have all the transcribers it needs, you become a beginner transcriber and have access to jobs from around the world. We signed up to one supplier, another indicated they had enough transcribers and would come back to us. We have noticed that since lockdown in 2020 transcription sites have indicated they have enough transcribers, although many allow you to go on a waiting list. In addition, a number of automated transcription programs and apps are now available, which means fewer opportunities for transcription services.

What you need: A laptop or desktop and internet connection and time. Some platforms require certain software or transcription programs, others supply the programs. You also need a PayPal account.

How it works:
You log in and claim jobs. Each job has a set time – for example a 20-minute audio file will need to be transcribed in five hours’ time. You complete the transcription, following the style guide, and submit it. Your transcription is then checked, and you are graded. You are paid on a Monday for jobs completed the previous week. Transferring money out of your PayPal account into a South African bank account takes three days.

Our experience:
Jobs were available to existing transcribers (there is a waiting list for new transcribers), and training audio transcriptions were also paid. Some of the jobs had multiple speakers and were hard to hear. You can unclaim a job within a short time after claiming it if you have a problem. When audio was good and the speakers clear, the work was easy – but you have to pay close attention to detail, so each transcription took the maximum time allotted. The amounts earned are around US$8 (R120) for a 20-minute file. When you are more experienced you can earn higher amounts.

What we made: Around US$40 (R600).

Verdict: You might be able to make US$25 an hour if you are a really fast, accurate typist. This is not too bad in rand terms (about R375 an hour) and it could add up quite nicely if you were able to get enough work.

3. Microjobbing

Microjobbing is doing small quick tasks such as writing product descriptions or taking photographs of yourself or places.

The ad says: Make some extra cash. Jobs are varied, so are amounts earned.

What you need to do: Sign up, complete an assessment in some cases and apply for jobs.

What you need: A tablet, mobile phone, laptop or desktop and internet connection, and time.

How it works:
You sign up, log in and apply for jobs according to your skills and assessment results. You complete the jobs, submit and get paid.

Our experience:
We signed up on both a local and international platform. Available jobs included taking photos of a specific place for a small fee and uploading photos of ourselves over the years for an AI programme. Although the jobs are easy, they take a few hours to complete and in the case of a local platform we had to go out and find a particular kind of shop or restaurant. Pay is minimal – around US$5, or R75.

What we made: US$0.

Verdict: We felt going out wasn’t strictly working from home. The jobs are small, so is the pay. So, you can make extra cash, but you are unlikely to make substantial amounts of money.

Final words

Having a few extra rands at the end of the month is a really good idea – and there are ways you can make money. We made money transcribing, so this was a viable option, but it was also quite time-consuming, and it would be difficult to bring in enough to cover monthly expenses. However, it has potential. We didn’t find the other two options viable. So, when you look for ways to earn a little more, do a test run to see if they suit you and if they’re worth the extra money at the end of the month.

Top tips for making money working from home

  1. Be careful of confidentiality. You may be asked about your bank accounts, personal details and other information. Giving out this information online is a risk and can open you up to being spammed or scammed, so be very cautious.
  2. Don’t believe the ads that say you can make thousands – our experience is that this is very unlikely. Always check the companies you want to work with before signing up.
  3. Don’t pay for software or to sign up to a platform unless you are 100% sure it will make you money. Many, many platforms require a sign on fee or ask you to buy some course or special program. You may not earn it back.

Original article published on: 27th August 2019
Updated on: 13th September 2021

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