Monday, September 13, 2010

Paybox: Is It the Opportunity or the Scam of a Lifetime?

Paybox is a would-be PayPal and AlertPay competitor that is causing quite a stir at the moment. The online payment processor business is a tough one to break into due to PayPal's dominance, but I think there is enough room for another big player due to PayPal's penchant for freezing funds and suspending accounts. Competition is always the consumer's best protection. Still, at this point, it's not easy for a new processor to emerge and attract business. Paybox has a tough road ahead of it, without question...but it just might be bold enough to challenge a giant. Don't believe me? Well, wait till you hear how Paybox is attracting new users!

Paybox is offering a very sweet offer to members who join it early (these are called EarlyBird members). New users get a staggering $50 bonus for joining. This is very high for the online earning world, but it actually isn't unprecedented in the world of finance: banks, for instance, often offer bonus promotions to encourage people to open new accounts with them. However, Paybox is also paying its early birds daily bonuses for as long as they keep their account active. There's something wonderful about logging into your account and seeing a new $10 or $20 bonus added on to your account -- it's very good for one's psychological health! In return for all this, Paybox is not asking for much. You must login often (bonuses stop accruing after two days without a login and your account can be canned if you go a week without logging in), and you must answer at least one short survey related to online shopping, payment processors, or usage of social media per week. At this stage, early bird members are filling two important roles for PayBox: they are participating in market research to help design the new payment processor and they are bringing in new members, increasing the buzz surrounding the site. Since PayBox offers $5 per referral, people have ample reason to refer others!

So, is all this too good to be true? The way I look at it online money is never truly yours till it it is in your hand. It feels wonderful to login to Paybox and see all the money sitting in your account, but there's nothing you can do with that cash until the site launches. Technically, the money in your account is in Paybox's own virtual currency. Until it becomes convertible with US dollars and other real world currencies, your balances are just numbers on a screen. The site has laid out a roadmap explaining the basic plan for the site's development. Online and debit card shopping and person-to-person transactions may be available as soon as next year, but withdrawing funds isn't going to be an available feature until the very end of 2011 or beginning of 2012. Since developing a payment processor is not a trivial operation, I expect the roadmap will have to be revised from time to time so it may take even longer before anyone can withdraw their money. There's even a risk of the site not launching at all!

With all that said, I do think it's worth joining Paybox at this point. The site is not asking for much in the way of personal information (you won't have to provide any financial info whatsoever). It is asking you to login often and take some time to answer short surveys -- admittedly, if the site goes nowhere this will mean you've wasted your time. I think the potential opportunity of being in early on something that could be huge is worth that risk, but you should definitely go in with your eyes wide open. At present, there isn't a whole lot of information on the site about the company. We don't really know if they're trustworthy or not. At present, the worst risk is losing your time, but it's possible they'll ask for more information down the road -- it'd be rather tempting to share private info in order to withdraw the thousands of dollars sitting in your account later! So feel free to join the site...you won't get many opportunities to help shape a new payment processor...but remain careful, cautious, and patient. This is for people willing to take chances, not for those who are only interested in sure things.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Beware of High Minimum Payouts

As an online earner, you probably want your payouts as quickly as possible. The "ideal" site, then, is one that has no minimum payout and pays instantly...good luck finding it. On the other hand, site owners have a difficult time keeping enough cash on hand to pay everyone immediately, plus the process of making payments (which includes checking for cheaters) can be time consuming. Thus, there are definitely legitimate reasons why a site may have a high minimum payout. However, a high minimum payout can also be a cover for a scam or a waste of time.

If I followed a strict "no high minimum payout" rule, I would be a poorer man today: Google AdSense, Inbox Dollars, and Global Test Market all make you earn a lot of money before you can request your payout. So a blanket rule isn't what you need. Instead, you need to consider each site in context. For a site with a high minimum to be worthwhile, you need to be able to earn enough to reach payout in a reasonable time frame. Global Test Market, for instance, is a survey site which can pay several dollars per survey. It's not that hard to reach payout under those circumstances (though the site may be a waste of time for people in countries that rarely get surveys). In contrast, there is a site called E-Mail Pays U which I joined very early on in my online earning adventures. Its minimum payout is a whopping $75 for your first payment. You make money there by reading emails at 2 cents an email plus three cents in daily clicks if you remember to visit the site each day. The problem is you don't get paid emails daily and sometimes not even weekly. While there are occasional offers to complete and you receive $10 to start out with, let it suffice to say that earning $75 there requires a multi-year commitment. I'm happy to recommend Global Test Market, especially to Americans, because I know it's quite possible to reach that $50 payout a couple times a year. I don't normally recommend E-Mal Pays U to anyone, though, because I can't imagine too many people would want to click for 4+ years before getting paid.

Scams are even worse than wastes of time. Readbud is one that has recently fooled lots of people -- they were able to make who knows how much money by showing articles with ads to thousands of "article readers." The high minimum payout of $50 meant that people read and read and read just to try to reach the minimum...the site was able to squeeze their scammed users for as much as they were worth! Readbud was particularly clever in the way it made it harder to earn the closer people got to payout. That made it so fewer people were running around calling it a scam as they couldn't say for sure that site didn't pay...they just hadn't reached payout yet. To avoid scams like these, research is pretty much your only hope. In addition to reading what other people are saying about the site, you should also try to figure out how the site supposedly MAKES money -- it has to get paid before it pays you. Readbud's "business model" never really made sense to me and I felt from day one they were promising to pay more than they could reasonably be expected to make. If a site doesn't pass the "smell test," there's a good chance that something really is iffy about it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Task Site Overview

When many people think of working online, they still think of freelancing sites like Elance and Freelancer (formerly GetAFreeLancer). Sites like those still offer terrific opportunities for talented people to make money online, but they are not too friendly to rank amateurs. People without specific skills (such as ability in a programming language) have very few jobs they can bid on and a great deal of competition. Indeed, the whole bidding process turns off some -- every job has to be fought over. It's not unlike the rough and tumble job world which many people look online to try to escape away from.

You can think of task sites as a step down from freelancing sites, though I don't mean that in a derogatory way. What I mean is that task sites tend to have jobs that literally anyone can do -- most tasks don't require special skills. The element of competition is considerably reduced. Rather than competing with other workers on a bid basis, you instead just have to accept and complete a task in the time allotted and before all task slots are used up. I find task sites much more pleasant to use than freelancing ones, but if you have marketable skills freelancing sites can offer you considerably more income. With that said, let's discuss some of the task sites currently available.

Amazon's Mechanical Turk may well have originated the task site concept. What are simply called "tasks" on other sites MTurk calls HITs -- this stands for Human Intelligence Tasks. Whether it was the first of its kind or not, MTurk remains the biggest site in this sector by far. You can routinely find thousands of small jobs available on the site, and there is an enormous range of tasks. Transcription, surveys, and image tagging are just a few of the different job types. Unfortunately, the site doesn't categorize tasks so you have to either navigate through the entire list or use the search engine (which is pretty decent) to find particular tasks you're interested in. Different HITs pay dramatically different amounts of money -- simple ones may only pay a penny while some highly involved ones will pay you several dollars. If you are at all interested in tasks, you pretty much have to give MTurk a try...it's got the most activity of all the sites by far. However, it does have a few downsides. Only Americans and Indians can withdraw cash from the site; people from all other countries can only receive Amazon.com shopping credit for their work. MTurk pays Americans by electronic transfer and Indians by check (everyone also can redeem their earnings for Amazon credit)...no PayPal payments are available. Another unfortunate aspect of MTurk is that Amazon is fairly hands off about it. Scammers and spammers often post HITs that they have no intention of ever paying for. It is up to the users to be vigilant about what tasks they accept so they don't get cheated. You should definitely visit forums like Turker Nation and the smaller but friendlier mTurk Forum regularly so you can learn from other turkers' experiences and avoid the bad employers. Finally, it's very possible to lose your Mechanical Turk account. If too many requesters choose to ban you from working on their HITs, your whole MTurk account could be suspended, causing you to lose all prior earnings. It's possible but quite difficult to get a suspended account restored. For this reason, you should probably withdraw your money as soon as possible rather than let it accumulate indefinitely.

Microworkers is MTurk's most promising competitor. It pays by PayPal, Moneybookers, and Alertpay (minimum payment is $9) and welcomes users from all over the world, giving it one considerable advantage over MTurk. It is also more accepting of some task types that MTurk frowns on, like paid signups and social bookmarking. In fact, most tasks on MW are of the signup variety, including many CPA type offers that are US only. However, it's also one of the best sites to find high paying signup offers for PTCs and other GPT sites. MW also has true technical support...a wronged worker can even get an incorrectly rejected task reversed here. Unlike MTurk, Microworkers doesn't permit penny tasks -- each task is worth at least $0.10 which workers love. However, the number of tasks available here is also considerably smaller than MTurk; I usually see over a hundred available at a given time vs the thousands on Mechanical Turk. MW has a referral program, but it's tough to make money with it: you receive a bonus of $1 for each referral but only after they've earned $25. That may take some serious waiting unless you refer some very active users! All in all, I think Microworkers is a very good site; I especially appreciate how fairly they treat their workers.

Minuteworkers is one of the newer task sites that have cropped up recently. It is quite similar to Microworkers in many respects, but has a $10 minimum payout limit by PayPal. There are a fair number of tasks (mainly signups again) on offer here, but what really sets Minuteworkers apart is its referral system. They pay $0.05 per referral and give out a $0.10 bonus once your referral completes his or her first task. If you can deliver a steady stream of referrals to the site, those nickel and dime payments will really start to add up!

MyMicroJob is another Microworkers-like task site that is worth keeping an eye on. It has the fewest tasks available of the sites I've listed so far, but it seems to have a responsive and determined staff who are serious about making the site a success. Once again, the standout feature of this site is its referral program: here you get $0.10 per referral and a big $1.50 bonus if your referral reaches $10 or more. This is probably the best referral system currently offered by any task site. The downside is that for now the site is small, with a couple dozen tasks usually available...and, yes, they are mainly signups once again. Payout is $10 by PayPal, Alertpay, and Obopay, and the withdraw page features a handy chart that shows you the payment processor fees that'll be deducted from your payment. I wish all sites warned you ahead of time about those!

Finally, there's myLot. I've written previously about how it is one of my favorite online earning sites, but it's still very green when it comes to tasks. myLot is, without a doubt, the best paid to post forum on the Web. I had great hopes it would become one of the best task sites as well, but so far it hasn't really taken off as quickly as I expected. For this, I partially blame the notoriously opinionated myLot community. There were so many complaints about all the PTC signup offers that were filling up the task section in the early days that such offers were banned. Unlike most of the other sites I've talked about, myLot does not now allow paid signups. That wouldn't be so bad if there were other tasks to complete, but I rarely see more than a handful available at any given time. It's still a relatively new addition to the site so I plan to give it some more time. At least one feature is so sorely needed that I'm sure it will be added before long: if an employer posts a task and does not verify it has been completed after a certain amount of time, payment should be automatically awarded to the employee so you don't have a situation where there are a lot of "orphaned" tasks in limboland as currently is the case. Additionally, myLot might want to develop some sort of referral system for tasks in the future...currently it only gives referral earnings for posts. You should definitely join myLot for its other features -- the task section, for now, is a bit lacking!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the opportunities on the other side of the task spectrum: you can of course make money by posting tasks as well as completing them. So, for instance, if you need referrals you might post a paid to signup offer on Microworkers. If you need content for a web site, you might post an article writing job on myLot. If you have some information on old paper forms you need transcribed to digital form, you might recruit the thousands of workers on MTurk to help you out. Don't settle for "just" being a worker if you have a great idea for a task of your own! You can even use your worker earnings to pay for your own tasks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Importance of Site Building

Sometimes I feel like a struggling musician, perpetually toiling away in obscurity but ever waiting for that big hit which always seems to be just around the corner. Part of the process of making money online via blogging seems to be to start a lot of blogs with the foreknowledge that they won't all be money makers. I don't know of too many people who achieved success with their very first blog -- in part, that's probably because people tend to pick a topic close to their heart or what they're most interested in without reflecting on keywords or potential popularity. Most bloggers seem to become more analytical and research-oriented as they go on, but I have to admit that just writing what you want is more fun especially since "research" doesn't guarantee success!

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize I haven't had an absolute failure yet. There are two blogs I created early on in my blogging career that I have tended to think of as failures. One I couldn't find a good monetization strategy for and pretty much ended up relying on random affiliate banners and text referral links. The second blog was a mistake simply because the keyword situation was bad. Not only did I have a lot of competition, but most people searching for those keywords were using them in a different context than I was. (Ugh, I thought this post would be more relatable if I spoke in general terms, but after reading that last sentence I wonder if specificity would've been clearer!) The odd thing, though, is that both those blogs did benefit me in the long run. I got referrals and made a little money from both. If you calculate the amount of time I spent working on those blogs and compare that to the results I actually reaped from my efforts, then building those sites probably was not a good use of my time. Nonetheless, I got something from it all, and it was not just experience though that was probably the most valuable gain.

Ultimately, what my past endeavors have shown me is that the most important thing a blogger or writer or webmaster can do is to keep trying. Keep building those blogs. Even if you're building blindly, without doing any keyword or niche or market research, that's better than doing nothing at all. Building gives you the chance for success at least -- to paraphrase (and murder) Tennyson, "Tis better to have blogged and gotten few clicks than to have never blogged and gotten no clicks at all." Stay in the game and keep fighting!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

myLot, the Paid to Post Powerhouse

There are countless forums online where you can post until you're blue in the face/fingers, but very few of them will help you pay the ensuing doctor bills. That's what's so beautiful about myLot: it's one of the biggest and best forums sites I know of, but it pays its participants for every post they make. It's not like the typical forum site which has a definite theme -- myLot is a place where people can discuss most anything. Users even have the freedom to create their own forums (called "interests" in myLot parlance). I love the money I can make there, but I love the freedom the site offers just as much.

myLot is more than just a massive forum. It also has news and blogs sections which enable you to comment on the news and on blog posts and get paid for those, too. More recently, the site opened up a tasks section so it's a competitor of sorts to MTurk and Microworkers. Currently, the site is also experimenting with a "search and earn" program. The site also rewards you well for referrals: you'll earn 25% of what your referrals make by posting.

How much can you make with myLot? You'll only earn pennies per quality post here, but since the payout by PayPal is just $10 it's really not too hard to reach if you like to talk. I usually can reach payout monthly. There are a couple of peculiarities about myLot payments you should take note of. First, your earnings credit to your account the day after you make your posts. In other words, you'll see how much money you made by posting on Tuesday on Wednesday. Secondly, you're automatically paid (if you've reached the minimum payout which you can set to a larger amount than $10 if you prefer) once a month...no need to request payment.

Because myLot welcomes everyone who has a PayPal account, I think it's a site that everyone trying to make money online should join. There's a lot of good discussions happening throughout the site so you'll probably enjoy your time there independent of the money you make. One piece of advice, though: do read myLot's guidelines before you start posting; if you post referral links in your messages (posting them on your profile is fine) or break the other rules, your posts will just get deleted and you won't make any money. I would also advise you to write thoughtful, on-topic messages -- it might seem like you could make more money by posting lots of short, meaningless replies, but n practice it simply doesn't work that way.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another ICS Update

A little over a month ago I wrote a review of Instant Cash Sweepstakes which was generally praiseworthy except for the fact that I couldn't help but point out one little detail: the PayPal fee charged when you cash out was quite noticeable. The fee makes small cashouts (the minimum payout is $2) much less attractive so for this reason some people hold off on cashing out until they've earned a larger amount which is no fun at all. Luckily, there's some light on the horizon.

One consequence of ICS' PRO program is that it seems like it will be much easier to make bigger sums of money on this site in the future. By answering the short multiple choice surveys on the "main" site, you will receive regular small cash prizes generally worth a few cents. I believe the most I ever earned from ICS in one day from survey prizes was about thirteen cents. Since you can answer surveys every three hours, you have about eight opportunities to win money -- I usually win once per session, but my schedule doesn't let me hit every session. By enrolling in the PRO program, however, survey takers will have opportunities to earn 50 cents or more per each survey. As I mentioned previously, the program is currently open only to those willing to take part in video surveys, but it will be expanded over time.

Although I don't have an inside source at ICS or anything, I do think it's also possible the site will expand internationally at some point. Many of ICS' clientele seem to be startups and software companies, and technology is perhaps the most global industry there is. Additionally, ICS uses PayPal, a payment system well suited for international use. For now, however, the site remains limited to users in the United States.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two New Ways to Make Money with ICS

Instant Cash Sweepstakes, a popular mini-survey site with a phenomenal referral program, has recently started offering two new ways for its member to make money. First, it has now introduced an Ask Your Target Market referral program. Ask Your Target Market is the client end of ICS' business -- it's where people who want to conduct market research go. Thus, you make money with the AYTM referral program by referring survey makers rather than survey takers. The next new feature is the PRO membership program. PRO members will be able to take surveys which carry guaranteed cash awards; membership is free, but it is selective. Currently, those invited to become PRO members must record an introduction video explaining why you want to join. A certain comfort level with making videos is thus a prerequisite for membership -- indeed, one interesting aspect of PRO membership is that it includes video surveys in which respondents are asked to respond by video. I'm glad to see ICS continuing to innovate and explore new areas. Still, I suspect most users will earn more from taking the regular surveys on the site and referring other users than from either of the new methods.

Referring new companies and individuals to Ask Your Target Market has the potential to be quite lucrative. If a referrer purchases at least $29.95 worth of market research from the site, you will receive $10. I like the sound of that in theory, but there's just one little problem...where exactly do you run into people interested in conducting market research? I think just a small number of people will be able to really take advantage of this simply because survey takers and survey makers are such different folks. People with contacts at businesses or startups might be able to interest their friends in the offer. People who maintain blogs or web sites related to market research and business in general might draw in audiences quite interested in AYTM's services. I rather doubt sticking up a link or graphic on a general interest blog would do the trick, however. (Of course, it doesn't hurt to try!)

PRO membership is a long-awaited feature and has more general appeal. What people tend not to like about ICS at first is that they don't get cash for every survey they take. Instead, you receive periodic cash prizes and chances to win the daily and weekly drawings. PRO membership allows people to get paid for every survey they take (well, for every PRO survey they take at least). In the future, I would guess that PRO membership is going to be something that draws people in to join ICS as it will not always require a willingness to record video responses to surveys. For now, the video thing is going to hold some people back. It cuts off people who don't have webcams or don't feel comfortable using them. It also peels away the veil of privacy that survey takers tend to expect to a degree -- you're now very close to interacting with the company doing the market research directly. I think people are more likely to be honest, especially when it comes to criticism, if they can retain their privacy as much as possible, but on the other hand the YouTube generation is very accustomed to sharing their views on camera for the world to see. They might very well actually prefer taking surveys by video. Surveys by webcam is a concept that some will embrace and some will flee from, but I certainly think it's a logical and innovative step for the market research industry to take.

Luckily, ICS remains a fine site for people to use even if they can't refer companies that want to conduct market research and don't even know how to turn on their webcams. The basic multiple choice mini-surveys, instant cash prizes, prize drawings, and matching referral earnings will continue to be features of the site.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Few Survey Sites People From Around the World Can Join

For me, taking surveys has been a good way to make money online, but the conventional wisdom is that only people from a handful of countries can really make money with surveys. It's certainly true that many survey sites only accept members from the one or two countries that make up their base of operations. For that reason, it makes sense to search for survey sites based in your own country. However, there are also a few international survey sites that welcome any and all to join. Just because they let you join doesn't mean they'll actually have surveys for you to take, of course, but there is sometimes another way you can make money with them: by referring other users!

The first site I want to mention is SurveySavvy. They welcome members from all over the world, but what really sets them apart is their excellent referral program. Not only do you earn money every time one of your referrals completes a survey, but you also earn whenever one of your referrals' referrals completes a survey also! All isn't quite sunshine and light, however. For one thing, SurveySavvy doesn't send out a whole lot of surveys to its members regardless of what country they hail from -- unlike some sites, you probably won't have daily opportunities to earn and neither will your referrals. Another thing of particular interest to international survey takers is that SurveySavvy pays exclusively by check. You can request a US dollar denominated check as soon as you earn a $1, but bank fees could eat up all the earnings of international users unless they wait a while before requesting payout. It's a very trustworthy site, however, and definitely one of my favorite survey sites of all time.

The next site I want to mention is Global Test Market. They currently welcome members from 43 countries. GTM has a high minimum payout -- $50 -- and also pays by check. I've heard anecdotally that one's ability to earn on GTM very much depends on what country you are from, but at least they let people from many countries get their feet in the door. As an American, I've generally found it to be a good site and I've been paid several times.

YourDailySurveys is a bit different from the other two sites I've mentioned. It is a "daily surveys" site that works with other survey companies instead of conducting its own market research directly. It's very easy to use: you simply login, go into the surveys section, and try your luck with the surveys that are available to you on the day. Depending on what country you are from, you may be able to complete as many as five surveys each day at $0.50 each. Americans can take up to five surveys per day while Canadians and Britons can take up to three. Residents of Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Italy have two daily surveys available to them. However, YDS lets people from other countries join with the understanding that they can refer other users to the site even if they can't take surveys themselves. There are definitely sites that pay more per daily survey than YDS, but it is unusual for having a low payout ($3 by PayPal for non-upgraded members) and because it pays a generous percentage for surveys your referrals complete (25%). The site has had some extended (and forewarned) downtime recently, but seems to be functioning again now.

There are at least a couple of other ways people from around the world can make money with surveys, of course. Many GPT/offers sites also have daily surveys so some of what I said about YourDailySurveys is true for them too. Perhaps a bigger opportunity is to join a CPA network and get paid for every signup you deliver to various survey sites. This method is only open to you if you have a web site/blog or do CPC marketing, but it will give you the opportunity to work with some of the best survey sites around, including some that don't have referral systems.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Profile Updating Time

Surveys can be an excellent way to make money online, especially if you live in the United States. However, most everyone who takes surveys feels frustrated about not qualifying for more surveys or perhaps not even getting enough invitations, at least from time to time. There is no perfect remedy to this issue -- I strongly suspect that even the most successful survey takers in the world fail to qualify for most surveys they try to take. Nonetheless, I feel that there is one relatively easy way most anyone can maximize their survey earning potential: complete your profiles!

Profiles contain the information that survey sites need to match you up with surveys suited to you. Some sites have bare profiles that just ask for the most basic information, like your location and gender. Others have literally pages and pages of profiles that can take quite a lot of time to complete. To be honest, filling out profiles isn't my favorite thing...they're like taking surveys and not getting paid for them. However, in my experience filling out profiles pays off in the long run. You get more surveys and, even better, more targeted surveys that you are more likely to qualify for. It won't always lead to great things, of course. I'm a member of a couple of survey companies whose profiles I have filled out and kept updated yet they've never sent me a single survey! That's definitely not my usual experience, but it can happen, especially if you join the smaller survey sites.

How often should you update your profiles? I personally try to update them at least once a year and recently finished up this year's "campaign." If something big happens in your life, you should update your profiles pretty quickly -- market researchers want to know all about your first baby or that new car you just bought. Even negative things like being diagnosed with a medical condition are worth an update.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bold Prediction: One Year From Now, Gagabux and Readbud Will No Longer Exist

One advantage of having years of experience trying to make money online under my belt is that I now have a pretty good feel about whether a program has the potential to last or not. This enables me to avoid getting excited by and wrapped up in sites that, in all likelihood, will turn into scams before long. Unfortunately, my inner scam detector tells me there is a strong likelihood that two of the most hyped earning sites of the moment are not going to last very long. I'm willing to go on the record here and state that I don't think Gagabux or Readbud will be paying sites one year from hence. Indeed, I doubt they'll even exist. I'll be happy to acknowledge being wrong if that's how things turn out, but please let me make my case first.

Gagabux is the latest in a long line of "bux" PTCs that pay 1 cent per ad clicked and promise great riches to those who invest in the site by upgrading or renting referrals. These sites are generally speaking ponzi schemes because their advertising costs are too high to attract real advertisers (hence the ads you see are mainly self-sponsored by the site itself)...thus, their main source of income is the money they earn from upgrades and referral sales. It's from this pool of money that they must pay their clickers and investors. Bux sites generally don't last too long -- NeoBux is the remarkable exception to this rule.

Gagabux has even less of a chance to last than the typical bux site, however. They have been offering somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 PTC ads per day, enabling all members to earn around $0.15 a day without referrals. You can cash out at $2.00 so in two weeks anyone can click their way to a payment. Currently, the site IS paying though payments are already starting to take longer to process. While Gaga is earning a lot of goodwill by paying so many people, I think it will soon be forced to at the very least raise the minimum payment or reduce the number of ads available to free users...no PTC can afford to pay $0.15 a day to each and every clicker. In GB's defense, I will say that at least many Gagabux ads are affiliate ads that can earn the site some money -- this is in contrast to a site like bux.to which was notorious for mainly featuring paid ads about itself! The site is basically stuck in a corner, though. Any changes it implements will reduce the trust people have in it and hence make people less eager to invest. This site might be a fun one to "ride" for a while, but I suspect it is already nearing the end of its rope.

Readbud is a more unique kind of site -- indeed, I'm not aware of any site quite like it. They actually promise to pay you for reading articles. That's right: READING articles, not writing them. I can imagine such a site existing that paid a very small amount to article readers, but Readbud pays its readers up to $0.10 per article read! From a publisher's point of view, I know these rates aren't sustainable. Even if Readbud merely paid 1 cent for every article read, this would imply that it earns at least $10 from an article with a thousand views (1 cent * 1000 = 1000 cents or $10). Many AdSense publishers would kill for a $10 CPM rate, but Readbud is promising to pay more than this to its article readers from around the world. It simply beggars credulity. One smart thing that Readbud does is have a minimum payout of $50. That's very high and not easy to reach...presumably, a lot of readers will give up prior to reaching such rarefied heights. That, in turn, saves Readbud some money. However, how is the site going to manage to pay the patient sorts who do reach the $50 mark? I don't think it can, at least not for long.

How serious is my prediction? Pretty serious -- note the lack of referral links in this post. I just don't think there's much point in getting referrals for Readbud and Gagabux.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Solvster Is Hungry for Ideas

Solvster is one of the most unique online earning sites I've ever used. Essentially, the site allows businesses, consumers, and anyone with a good idea to come together and share. There are three main sections to the site: TrendQuest (which is about business trends, product innovation, etc), IdeaQuest (where businesses directly solicit ideas from people), and ShopQuest (which allows users to "invest" in ideas and profit if their chosen idea is selected). It's like three sites in one because the sections are so different. TrendQuest resembles a discussion forum where ideas and opinions are exchanged, IdeaQuest is something like a written proposal to a company concerning a specific business idea or plan, and ShopQuest is like a virtual "idea market" where good ideas are traded like stocks. Though each section is unique, they all are basically concerned with ideas -- that is Solvster's bread and butter.

Solvster is really cool and innovative...I would even go so far as to say it offers us a glimpse of the future. However, can you make money with it today? For now, the site is still under development and opportunities to earn are limited; it's very "green" to say the least. While the site is in beta, only the specific activities mentioned on the beta page will earn you real money. Even as it is, though, the site has a functioning "currency" of sorts called shells. You can earn 1,000 shells for many of your activities, such as commenting in TrendQuest. You can in turn use these shells to invest in ideas in ShopQuest and make money if you invest in the winning idea. If you submit a winning idea in IdeaQuest, you can also receive a cash reward. Eventually, shells will be able to be converted to euros at a rate of 1,000 shells to 0.05 euros so I suppose that will offer an alternative to investing in ShopQuest for those that want sure money.

What I am most intrigued by is what Solvster might become in the future. Even now, there are some quite interesting projects you can complete, but if more companies start using the platform to get customer feedback and solicit ideas Solvster will become a very happening place! Because the site is small, joining now will allow you to get used to the site, perhaps submit a winning idea or two, or possibly even win a contest (there's currently an iPad up for grabs!). It's not the best site for instant money if that's what you're looking for, but it has tremendous potential...I'm glad to be a part of it relatively early on in its evolution.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

UpDown: Learn About Stocks and Make Money, Too

Getting started investing is no easy thing. There's a lot you need to learn if you don't want to get burned so it's common for budding investors to begin their stock trading careers on paper rather than by jumping in with real money. The Web has made "paper trading" a whole lot more fun via stock market simulation games that let users build real portfolios with virtual money. There are several good ones, but UpDown stands apart because it lets new investors earn real money as they play without them having to risk a dime.

So, what do you do on UpDown? You buy and trade stocks listed on American stock exchanges. As a beginner, you'll receive a million virtual dollars to trade with as you wish. Don't worry: if you make some bad moves, you'll be able to reset your portfolio (you can do this once every three months) and get a new cool million to play with. It's certainly much preferable to lose virtual money as opposed to real money. UpDown would still be great even if was just a learning platform, much like Marketwatch's Virtual Stock Exchange and Investopedia's Stock Simulator. However, it's more than just a learning tool: UpDown sponsors monthly and yearly stock contests that reward players for outperforming the S&P 500. That's certainly not an easy feat -- sometimes even professionals have a lot of trouble doing that -- but I think it's fantastic that "paper trading" can actually be profitable!

The top ten UpDown traders who beat the S&P each month get cash prizes ranging from $500 for the best trader to $50 for those ranked 3-10. I've never had a top 10 finish yet -- I'm probably too cautious, even with virtual money -- but I have beaten the S&P a couple of times and gotten $0.10 prizes just for doing that. Your odds of winning one of the big prizes aren't that great (there seem to usually be between 7,000 and 8,000 players each month), but if you're serious about learning how to be a good stock investor your time on the site will be well-spent regardless of whether you win a prize or not. Learning to invest could be worth a lot more than $500 a month, after all!

UpDown is not the only site that offers cash or prizes to virtual traders though I do think it is the best. One of its biggest competitors is Wall Street Survivor which has monthly and weekly prizes. Prizes there can vary, but you'll most likely have to be a top three player to get a cash prize (they have two tiers of prize winners based on trading activity, though, so there are really two sets of monthly prize winners). Lesser winners have to content themselves with such items as Amazon gift cards and newsletter subscriptions -- UpDown's cash only approach is a big advantage for it in my opinion. Wall Street Survivor also seems to require photo ID verification of its winners which seems odd in this day and age of identity theft. At least WSS is free just like UpDown; there are also a bunch of virtual trading sites that require players to put money into the game if they want to make money themselves. I can't endorse or recommend any of these sites. They are really targeted towards a different group of users, namely people who already confident in their stock trading capabilities and want to take on the world. UpDown is definitely a better choice for people just trying to learn about stocks which is the category I belong to.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Forums Offer Opportunities

When trying to make money online, it's easy to start focusing just on sites that will pay you directly such as PTCs. While such sites offer a more or less straightforward way of making money online, there are often hidden opportunities to earn that only the more adventurous Web surfers will discover. You might expect a discussion forum to be more of a place to chat and share ideas than to make money, but forums are best thought of as online communities. Do you know of any real life communities where commerce isn't taking place in some form? Forums are no exception to that general rule.

Earn Money Space is a nice example of a forum bustling with commercial activity. On the surface, you might just notice a group of people talking about various aspects of making money online and chatting amongst themselves. The more you look around, though, the more opportunities you'll see. EMS even has a referral program -- this is nothing to get too excited about because only top referrers receive a cash prize due to their referring activities, but it is a moneymaking opportunity open to every EMS poster. In April 2010, the top referrer will receive a $50 prize and five other referrers will receive lesser cash prizes. Of course, only people who can refer a lot of members will win a prize. There is also a $10 weekly prize drawing open to users with 40 posts or more. For those of us neither lucky nor good at promoting, the Referral Deals, Downline Builder, and Referral Exchange sections may offer more promise. These subforums are all about helping users get referrals, but you can't simply spam your ref link and run away. The Referral Exchange is for, well...exchanges. You come to an agreement with other users to join your site in exchange for you joining theirs. For instance, you might pick up an Incentria referral as long as you agree to join myLot using your Incentria ref's referral link. As long as you both are active on your new sites, both of you will profit. The Downline Builder lets you pick up at least one referral in a particular site as long as you join that site under a previous poster. The Referral Deals section allows promoters to offer deals, often cash, to people in exchange for joining a site. So someone might offer pay you ten cents or more to join a site -- indeed, they might even offer pay you a little something every month as long as you remain active. There are also Buy & Sell and advertising subforums. Perhaps the easiest way to advertise of all is to include a link in your signature so it'll be seen on all your posts. The possibilities to make money here may not quite be endless, but they are many. As with any forum, you should be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the forums (and each subforum may have its own rules) before you post! After all, you can't make money if you lose your account.

It boggles the mind when one considers that Earn Money Space is just one forum. How many other forums are out there? Millions! Granted, not all will offer the same number of opportunities as EMS, a freewheeling GPT-oriented community -- many will outright discourage user attempts to make money. What ever the skills or interests you may have, though, there are forums relevant to you which will enable you to connect with similar minded folks. At worst, you'll just make some friends; at best, you'll make some friends and some money too. It's well worth spending a little time on...there's a whole world of opportunity out there online that people rarely seem to talk about!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Instant Cash Sweepstakes? Great. PayPal Fees? Not So Great

Instant Cash Sweepstakes is a really interesting take on online surveys. Surveys are one of the best ways for Americans to make money online, but they aren't always easy: usually full-length surveys are designed with a particular demographic in mind so many won't qualify to take them and for those you do qualify for many will be quite long. ICS offers a different experience: it specializes in short surveys (three multiple choice questions usually) with no qualification questions. Takers of these mini-surveys are rewarded with entries into the daily cash draw for $50 and the $100 weekly draw, coins with which they can buy extra entries, and occasional cash prizes.

You might be thinking, "Oh, it's one of those sweepstakes sites. You never win those!" at this point. What really makes ICS a great site is that those occasional small cash prizes actually come in steady and often -- you really don't need to win the daily or weekly prize to make money there. Sometimes I find myself comparing it to NeoBux because it's easy to go there and at least pick up a few cents a day. ICS also has a fantastic referral program: you get matching prizes and tickets from your referrals. In other words, if your referral wins $0.05 and 5,000 tickets, you too will receive $0.05 and 5,000 tickets. Winning the big prize is frankly probably very unlikely (I can't say I've ever won it even though I believe I joined the site fairly early on in its existence), but Instant Cash Sweepstakes can be quite a lucrative site even if you never do win the big one.

What I like least about Instant Cash Sweepstakes is that PayPal fees eat up a sizable portion of your payout. I lost 36 cents off of a recent $2.01 payout. For this reason, some people wait a while and cash out a larger amount so they don't get double or triple fee'd. Oh well -- that's an issue with PayPal, not with ICS. PayPal fees aside, I give Instant Cash Sweepstakes my very strong recommendation! Note: this is a US only site. Unfortunately, this is typical of survey sites...those outside just a few countries have quite a limited selection of sites and a limited selection of surveys from those sites that do let them join.

WebAnswers: Another Way to Earn With AdSense

One of the toughest aspects of making money with AdSense is bringing in traffic to your content. If your ads are never seen, you'll never make a penny. Because bringing in traffic is easier said than done, AdSense revenue sharing sites have an undeniable appeal. What these sites let you do is piggyback on their success and have your AdSense ads displayed on their turf. These sites come in all sorts of forms: there are AdSense revenue sharing forums, blog hosts, social bookmarking sites, etc. WebAnswers is an example of a AdSense revenue sharing answers site -- think of it as a Yahoo Answers type site where you can actually get paid for your work!

In practice, WebAnswers does not quite live up to its promise. It is certainly easy to get started with it: you just need to answer ten questions and link your AdSense account up with WA. In no time at all, you should be getting impressions and clicks. The question of just how many impressions you'll be getting is a troubling one, however. WebAnswers uses a cryptic system of ranking users that it calls a "quality score" -- the higher your quality score, the more AdSense impressions you'll receive throughout the site. In addition, you get the lion's share of the impressions on answers for which your response is awarded the best answer. Having a good quality score is rather critical to earn from the site as many question askers end up never awarding any answer. The problem is you cannot check your quality score...indeed, you have no idea what it is except indirectly by watching how many AdSense impressions you receive from WebAnswers. Supposedly writing high quality answers is the key to increasing your quality score, but I'm very skeptical of that. Keep in mind that quality scores are calculated automatically; since computers aren't well known for recognizing good writing, let alone good grammar, I suspect there is much more to quality scores than WebAnswers chooses to reveal.

Ultimately, if my earnings are going to be determined by algorithm, I think I trust Google's algorithms a lot more than I trust WebAnswers'. The problem with AdSense revenue sharing sites in general is that you're settling for lesser earnings for the sake of easier traffic, probably because your content is not highly ranked in Google. However, those who get really into AdSense revenue sharing sites often start promoting those sites in order to increase their earnings. Suddenly, that traffic you're getting isn't so easy any longer; you should ask yourself if you're really better off promoting a site like WebAnswers or a site of your own. If you promote a site of your own, you'll get 100% of all AdSense impressions and earnings. If you promote WebAnswers, you'll get a slice of the AdSense pie...which WA itself will cut for you according to their own secretive methodology.

I won't say that WebAnswers isn't good for anyone. It does provide a way for people to earn by answering questions so if that's your thing it could be a great fit. I myself made a few bucks in about a week there; that compares favorably well with many other methods of making money online and, since you continue to get impressions on past answers, it would be theoretically possible to build a nice passive income from WA. Personally, though, I prefer to use sites that aren't so secretive and don't make me feel like I'm being cheated.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sites That Are Quick to Delete

Last year I decided to check out a bunch of new paid to read sites that I'd seen advertised quite a bit. I ended up joining four or five sites. Within a few months, I'd lost every single of these new accounts due to inactivity (I happened through a very busy period in my life around this time). Don't get me wrong -- this was no big loss for me. To tell you the truth, I wasn't too impressed with the earning potential of any of these sites. If I had been, I probably would have stayed active. Still, this experience made me reflect on how inactivity policies likely affect the long-term success of sites.

It's normal for me to go through hot and cold periods when it comes to earning online. Sometimes I feel very gung-ho and would click all day if I could; other times I feel like I'd prefer to not ever again click on a paid link in my life. To a certain extent, the sites I've stuck with are the ones that have stuck with me through periods of inactivity. It's true that I tend to stay active on the sites I really like, but, still, things happen and I've gone inactive even on my best sites from time to time. The sites that didn't delete me are the ones I've continued to use, to advertise on, and to refer others towards. The sites that did delete me are the ones that lost me forever.

Ultimately, I don't think it pays to be quick to delete. So many PTRs barely manage to hold on to a few hundred members due to their harsh inactivity policies. Many offer "vacation" modes to enable inactive users to keep their accounts, but usually you can only go on vacation for a limited amount of time and if you're experiencing some crisis in your life you're apt to forget to do even this. Sites seem to frequently justify their inactivity policies by pointing out advertisers care about how many active members there are. There is truth in that statement, but I wonder why other PTRs can't simply do what PetMails does and report the number of active members in addition to the number of total users. It seems to me that that is a far better system. The sites that deleted me saved a few cents in potential payout, but I suspect they lost more than that in the long run. There's no harm in deleting the users who most likely will never return (though there can be surprises even there...I've read about people returning to sites after years of inactivity!), but after 30 days? Too harsh in my view.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Get Paid Frustration

Don't let anyone tell you differently: making money online isn't easy. I've been working on building a reliable income stream online for years, but I'm still learning new tricks every day. Since I'm constantly checking out new sites and new ways to make money, I decided I ought to share my experiences with the rest of the online world...and maybe pick up a few referrals along the way. However, I'm not going to lie to anyone here -- I'm going to tell both the good and the bad points of the sites I use. If being honest gets me a few fewer referrals, so be it. The way I figure it most referrals would be disappointed anyway if the site they join didn't meet their prior expectations. I want this blog to help both of us out!