5 “Make Money Online” Ideas that Just Aren’t Worth Your Time

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I’ve Tried That has reviewed a plethora of ways to work from home and make money online. Personally, I’ve tried all kinds of money-making ideas, from engaging in clinical research trials to selling crafts on Etsy to affiliate marketing. Some of these efforts have really paid off; others, not so much. After my many years of hustling, I’ve compiled the following list of work-at-home “duds”. Hopefully, this list will save you some time (and even money) as you seek out new ways to make a buck (or five) on the side:

1. Mystery shopping

Last April, I mentioned my own experiences with mystery shopping. Since that time, I’ve continued to mystery shop as time allows. However, the pay has not been the greatest; I’ve been averaging $6 per shop plus free food/stuff. One of my last shops was a real disappointment; after I’d eaten my food and submitted all my paperwork, I heard that the client was not happy with the food pictures I submitted. Now, if I know how to do anything, it’s to take pictures of food. I resubmitted the photos with a “warmer” coloring/tone but they were rejected nonetheless. Thus, the actual money I made on my last few shops was lost because I had to pay out-of-pocket for the food purchase I made at the rejected shop.

Given the time it takes for me to request and receive a mystery shop, read the shop directions, drive over to the shop or make a food delivery call, take photos and submit my paperwork, mystery shopping is probably paying me about $7.50/hour. Sure, it’s fun to try new places and get a free meal or other stuff, but this activity is certainly not going to make me rich. Plus, the paperwork involved with some shops is quite lengthy and prone to eventual human error (which disqualifies the shop). One of my friends who regularly mystery shoppped confessed that she finally had to quit because trying to memorize the detailed instructions on her forms made her too nervous about screwing up.

2. Online surveys

It’s not that online surveys don’t pay out money. It’s just that, by the time you do receive your payout, you may have long forgotten where that money came from. Survey sites take forever and a day to pay you because there is often a threshold amount that you need to first reach. However, you may receive valid money-earning surveys only once or twice a month. Furthermore, the surveys you do receive will pay about 1/10th to 1/20th of what you’ll need to cash out. As a result, most folks who fill out surveys for money sign up with at least three or more sites.

Another issue with online survey sites is that they take a lot of time. A $2.50 survey takes an average of 20 minutes to fill out- and if you are disqualified from the survey halfway through, that time is lost (although most sites give you a raffle ticket as a consolation prize). Finally, I don’t know about other folks, but taking online surveys puts me to sleep. The process is long, tedious and boring. After filling out X number of surveys, I don’t ever want to talk about my house, my grooming habits, my dogs or my laundry detergent ever again. Ever.

3. Paid-to-click ads

Blogger Katina Blue summed up paid-to-click (PTC) ads the best when she wrote, “I don’t know about you, but an hour of my time is worth much more than $0.80 cents.” PTC ads and emails are advertising platforms that pay you to click on and view ads for a set amount of time- usually 30 seconds. For that viewing, you are paid a whopping 0.25-2 cents. Yes, you read that correctly: You may actually earn under one penny per ad or email clicked. If you are really bored (or serving jail time), clicking on these ads may not be an issue for you. However, seeing my inbox filled with 100+ PTC emails on a daily basis eventually drove me nuts. Also, I could’ve sworn that my computer became riddled with all kinds of viruses and malware as a result of my clicking on these questionable ads and emails.

PTC ad platforms are also overrun with scam artists who assure you that you’ll receive your $1 or whatever payout when that threshold is reached…and then once you have accumulated your 100 hard-earned pennies, the PTC site either shuts down or offers no cash-out button.

4. Internet research

In August, I reviewed Internet research as a possible way to make money online and even start your own data mining business. After all, there is a lot of online information out there and many businesses, firms, etc., don’t have the time to find it. However, unless you plan to specialize in a niche area and find your own clients, most Internet research sites pay poorly and are often a waste of time.

Student of Fortune, for example, is an online “tutoring” site where students ask and pay (from $1-$50) for tutorials on how to solve homework problems. The “tutors” are expected to provide tutorials, not direct answers, to student questions. These tutorials can be purchased again and again, suggesting that a passive income can be established with a critical mass of tutorials. However, the “tutors” who provide tutorials to the site often receive very little money for their efforts, with most tutorials being valued at about $1. Furthermore, most SOF students want direct answers to their questions and not actual tutorials; according to the SOF site terms, this constitutes cheating. The SOF site itself takes a 20% commission on the first tutorial purchase and a whopping 40% commission on all tutorial repurchases.

Weegy is a more general Internet research site where you simply sign up and start answering questions (which are termed “conversations”). If you decide to answer a question, you have only 15 seconds to accept the conversation. Should your answer be accepted, you receive 20 cents for your efforts. The payout threshold is $20 so you’ll need to answer at least 100 questions before you reach payout. Of course, since not every answer you submit will be purchased, prepare to quickly answer at least 300 or so questions before you see your first $20. In my opinion, you have better things to do with your time.

5. Revenue share sites

Infobarrel, HubPages, Shutterstock, Helium and Bukisa all operate via the revenue share model. In other words, the (usually Google) ad revenue that you generate by submitting your content, photos, videos, etc., is split between you and the host site. While you provide the items (e.g., photos), the hosting site provides traffic to your items. Seems like a win-win situation, right? Except that it’s not. To begin with, your material is submitted completely free to the hosting site and becomes dependent upon the marketing savvy of its webmaster(s) for revenue. You end up with very little control over how your material is promoted. Many revenue share sites inundate submitted materials with so many pop-up ads that visitors get turned off and leave. Also, unless you have hundreds of items submitted, your ad earnings are very low and often don’t even cross the payment threshold. Simply put, rather than waste your time writing hundreds of articles or submitting thousands of photos to a revenue share site, consider working with a higher quality site that will at least pay you up-front for your work. For example, here is a list of websites that pay at least $50 for guest blog posts.

The Bottom Line

Always remember that time is still money and, unlike money, is finite. Spending two hours of your life to earn $1.60 through PTC ads is just silly. Likewise, the time spent on revenue share sites is better applied towards working with nonprofit websites or submitting free guest blog posts; at least these activities help build your portfolio. Making serious money online is possible, but first you must let go of online sites that are just time-wasters.

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Photo credit by MGChan