It’s hard to ignore the appeal of making real money online—after all, we live in a world where bloggers land book and movie deals, where top YouTubers are multimillionaires and where celebrities collect thousands of dollars in exchange for a single sponsored tweet.
While some of us dream of a wildly successful Internet career, the rest of us are happy to settle for online earnings that are a little more modest. Thousands of money-making opportunities are just a web search away. Whether you’re selling your old stuff, scoping out freelance opportunities or running your own digital storefront, there are tools and resources to help you along every step of the way.
In recent years, a new approach to making a quick buck online has been gaining traction: online rewards programs where you can earn money by performing a variety of online activities. Some sites are based on consumer activities (e.g., online shopping, submitting product reviews, watching video promotions), while others are geared towards data-related activities (taking surveys, image tagging, transcribing information). Though the sites vary in nature, they share some commonalities: they are built around “microtasks”—online activities that do not require much time or experience to complete.
Microtask and shopping rewards websites are appealing because of their perceived easiness. Most of their paid activities can be completed in mere minutes and almost anyone can do it—it doesn’t get much better than that, right? Other ways of making money online suddenly seem slow and labor-intensive by comparison. Why spend time and energy getting a freelance gig when you can sit around filling out surveys instead?
Well, before you go signing up for every free trial and installing every search bar plug-in, consider that the selling points (Easy! Fast! No experience necessary!) on these websites also serve as red flags that this type of money-making may not be worth your while.