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What Is a Micro Job?

And other questions related to task sites, crowdsourcing and online jobs...

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What Is a Micro Job?
Dan Kitwood/Getty

A micro job is, as the word implies, a very small paid task. A better word for microjobs might actually be "gigs" because the word "jobs" might imply employment, and no micro jobs are for employees but only for independent contractors.

See: Places to Find Micro Jobs

What Are Micro Jobs?

The basic concept of a micro jobs--receiving a small fee for a small task--runs across many possible types of micro jobs. These might include:

  • Online tasks - These small tasks, or microtasks, can be done entirely online, requiring no real-world interaction. Buyers of these services advertise on microjob websites to find someone willing to do the task. Amazon's Mechanical Turk is one of the most popular sites offering this type of micro job.
  • Real-world tasks - Similar to online tasks in that buyers of service advertise online for workers, the task is not completed online but in person. Websites promoting these types of micro jobs are basically a marketplace for odd jobs. Taskrabbit is one of the more popular real-work task site. However, Taskrabbit and others like it usually offer online tasks as well.
  • Crowdsourcing projects - Using an online crowdsourcing platform, companies hire workers to do one small part of a larger project. Workers generally log on to a company's website and choose from available tasks.
  • Website usability testing - Remote usability testers review websites and mobile apps for a set fee (usually around $10), typically using a screen or voice recorder. See list of website usability testing jobs.
  • Online services marketplace - In these microjobs, workers offer small services (usually for a set fee) and buyers browse the marketplace to find people offering the services they need.
  • Reward programs - Some microjobs may not offer payment in money but in points or something else. The tasks in these often involve marketing products to the worker.
  • Surveys - Completing surveys as a work-at-home job has been around for a while and is, perhaps, the original micro job.

How Are Micro Jobs Done?

Many microjobs, particularly those of crowdsourced data entry projects, are done completely online from a computer. However, some microjobs may be done in both in the real world and online and could require a cell phone. For example, a company may want you to go to a store and photograph a display of a product or conduct a price check and submit the information online via your cell phone. For more on these type micro jobs see these

How Do Micro Jobs Pay?

Generally, these jobs pay very small sums, but they should require very little time. Jobs may pay anywhere from 1 cent to $50, and the idea is that the labor required should be in proportion with fee offered. That said, in order to make money, you have to work fast and take on as many tasks as you can.

Since these are done on a contract (and not employee) basis, there is no guarantee that these micro jobs pay minimum wage. Most companies pay cash (usually through a PayPal account) but some pay in something other than cash, i.e. gift cards, reward points, services, bitcoins. Often the pay is calculated in US dollars but can be converted into a different currency when paid into a PayPal account.

Related Definitions:

  • Crowdsourcing - Similar to and sometimes used synonymously with microlabor, crowdsourcing often employs volunteer labor.
  • Task Site - Online forums that connect buyers and sellers of small services.
  • Microlabor - Similar to and sometimes used synonymously with crowdsourcing, microlabor is paid, though usually small amounts.
  • Bid sites - Sites like Elance, where workers bid on projects, are examples of bid sites; the difference between them and microlabor is the pay scale and the complexity of the projects.
  • Independent contractor - Micro laborers are independent contractors, but at the lowest end of the pay scale.
  • BPO - Business process outsourcing, see more about the difference between a BPO and micro labor.
  • Data Entry - Some data entry companies employ microlabor by breaking up large data entry projects into disparate tasks done by a range of people.
  • Outsourcing - Using microlabor is a different type of outsourcing than offshoring or homeshoring.

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