December 30, 2008

Paid surveys, focus groups and mystery shopping

Possibly one of the first money making options you run into online is paid surveys. They sound reasonable: $10 for a survey that takes you 15-30 minutes to complete and you can take as many as you like. Plus the ever present referral bonuses. But the reality runs more like this: of the few sites that pay cash, the average wage is $3 for a 30-60 minute survey (down from $5/survey a year ago), and you only qualify for 1-2 per month. If you're in an unattractive demographic (i.e., poor) that can drop to 1-2 per year.

That might be fine if there were hundreds of survey sites offering such work, but a quick review of the Survey Police Panel Rankings
yields about 20 sites that meet this standard (and will likely pay out) for an optimistic grand total of $120/month at $6/hr. With a diligent downline, you might be able to double that. Something to think about if your minimum wage job is cutting back on hours. If you're interested, try
I'm ignoring "build a huge downline" options here because, well, it takes the same amount of effort to pick up dollars as it does dimes, and paid surveys are definitely on the dimes side of things.

Ocassionally, diligent survery takers in attractive demographics will be offered participation in a focus group at $20-$40/hr. Again, this is a once-a-year type deal, so it might boost your average monthly take to, say, $125.

Mystery shopping is a natural extension of paid surveys. Mystery shoppers are paid to act as a customer at a specified shop and report on the experience. According to the forums at
this can be a full time occupation if managed correctly, with a wage around $10/hr. Frustrations include exacting reporting requirements as well as lack of reimbursement for mileage and gasoline. Bonuses include occasional assignments to spend $150 at a restaurant or spa. This is work that actually could pay the rent (after months spent establishing good relationships with a few dozen agencies), but it doesn't really lend itself to the kind of wealth generation we're aiming for here.

December 29, 2008

Get Paid To ... (GPT)

I mentioned paid to click (PTC) and paid to read (PTR) sites as a money making option in my last post. These are more generally referred to as "get paid to" (GTP) opportunities and include get paid to ... sign up, search, and post, as well as some more innovative ideas. MsFit has a nice sampling of current such opportunities at:
I haven't been able to bring myself to sign up for any PTC sites, but you can get a good feel for the current state of the market by reading the discussion forum:
As JB mentioned, the average wage is $0.0025 per click. Many sites advertise "up to" $0.01 per click, but actually have many ads (to click) at much less than the average. The average number of paying ads to click per site is around 10 per day (I saw as low as 4, and as high as 65 mentioned), for a grand total of $0.025 per day. There seem to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 at least somewhat legitimate sites, although judging from reports at Talk PTC, sites south of the top 30 have an increasing chance of simply ceasing to exist one day along with any accumulated earnings. This is particularly irksome as most have minimum payout thresholds (e.g., $0.50-$10.00, average $2.00).

So, a particularly diligent clickworker, clicking every ad at each of 50 sites every day, could accumulate, say, $1.25 per day, or $37.50 per month. Even at, say, an hour a day, this is not well paid work. Many sites pay a commission for referrals (e.g., 5%-100%, average 15%), so someone with 7 referrals, each just as diligent, could perhaps accumulate $75 per month (note that this would not exceed the minimum payout threshold when averaged over the 50 sites).

The site owners make money by selling clicks to advertisers and upselling the clickworkers. Some clickworkers upgrade to paid memberships in order to earn more per click and other bonuses, including higher commissions from referrals. It seems that seasoned clickworkers do in fact buy these upgrades from the longer-lived sites.

Advertisers tend to be affiliate marketers and the like. With "splash" pages designed to get the viewer to click for more information in the under 5 seconds of attention that they've bought. I can't imagine buying this sort of advertising myself, particularly because of the persistent issues that the PTC market has with your "viewers" ending up as bots.

To sum, I'm not sure even the site owners are getting a reasonable return on their time investment. All but a handful are constantly changing ownership. I personally don't think that even the $75 month scenario is achievable. It is one thing to have your downline signup at 50 sites, it is another to have them reliably visit each of those 50 every day for $1.25. Maybe if some thousands of people had already paid you $49.95 for the priviledge of being allowed to signup as part of your downline on these sites ... but that is a post for another day.

December 28, 2008

So, what are the ways to make money online?

Honestly, the real money is in the trading of financial instruments: forex, commodities, stocks and bonds. That's where we want to be. However, such things are either:
  • low risk, but low return, or
  • reasonable return, but significant risk as well.
The low risk strategies require very large amounts of money before overhead is negligible (mid 7, if not 8 figures). The reasonable return strategies probably require 7 figures to comfortably generate 6 figure income. With a bit of luck we can bootstrap from low 6 figures, so that'll be our initial goal: $200k net.

Initial "making money online" research immediately turns up the following:
  • be paid to click (PTC), be paid to read (PTR) email,
  • surveys and mystery shopping,
  • be paid to write articles for content aggregators,
  • paid per click (PPC) advertising,
  • affiliate marketing,
  • ebay and amazon selling,
and several, at best, quasilegal and/or morally questionable options. I'll only explore ethical business options here and, happily, there seems to be no need to look beyond those options.

Being paid $0.003 per click probably isn't intersting to you, but each and every one of these options is generating money for someone, so we'll give each its due in upcoming posts.

December 27, 2008

Why would you read this blog?

Yes, indeed. There are a myriad of blogs. Why would you read this one?

It has come to my attention that wealth is no longer optional. We are hurtling towards the Gibsonian dystopia. The much threatened middleclass will evaporate. The Singularity will not rescue us. My children may live a thousand years, but only if I am able to pay for the life extension treatments. The treatments will not be covered by wage earner class health insurance.

There is an argument that I should, then, devote all my energies towards social reform. And certainly I will make efforts in that regard. But I believe that a tipping point has been reached. The existence of effective transnational corporations requires a one world government for effective regulation, but no such government is imaginable without a vicious interregnum. The warning signs are all about us. There is no telling how long I have to build an ark to survive the coming storm. It is a handful of years at most. I must begin immediately.

So, in short, here I will document my attempt to become wealthy. I may succeed or fail. In either case I should provide interesting, or at least entertaining, reading for those similarly inclined.

Is not the first step always the hardest?

Hail to the people of the screen.
The future is ours.