Monday, 23 October 2017

The High Cost of Earning Money Online

I don't know what it's like where you live, but in South Africa using the internet can be an expensive business. My service provider charges me a monthly fee of approximately $30 for my ADSL line, but in order to use it I'm expected to pay an additional fee for a landline too. That's not a problem though because I'm one of those people who still regard a landline as an essential method of communication, but many people feel differently.

The good news is that my internet contract allows me uncapped data so I'm free to spend as much time as I'd like online. The bad news is that, by today's standards, my connection is horribly slow. Watching videos online can be a stop-start affair so I rarely watch any that are more than a few minutes in length.

That's my normal way of using the internet. Unfortunately for a few weeks during August and September things were anything but normal. During that time my landline and internet connection were damaged on three separate occasions, and I didn't have internet active on my phone, so I was left with no connection to the outside world for a total of seventeen days in one month.

In the end I was forced to go out and buy a dongle so that I could receive my email and keep in touch with my online friends. The data it used was much more expensive than what I'm accustomed to paying. Trying to earn money using sites like myLot, ForumCoin and Postloop was out of the question. The money I could have earned from my activities at those sites wouldn't come close to covering the cost of the data required to visit them. Yet they're all sites which I enjoy using, and now that things have returned to normal I plan to continue using them in my spare time.

However my realisation of how much it can cost to earn money online made me feel really foolish for ever having experimented with paid to click sites. I hate to think how much time it takes to click enough ads to earn just one dollar and how much data gets consumed in the process.

I firmly believe that those with the right skills can earn a decent income online, but working for pennies is a time consuming business and if you choose to do so, it's important to be aware of the hidden costs involved.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Writing for Virily - First Impressions

My latest discovery in a long line of Bubblews-type sites is Virily. The format is slightly different though as there are several different categories in which one can post:
  • Story - mix of text, images and embeds
  • Personality quiz
  • Trivia quiz
  • Open list - others can add items and vote for their favourites
  • Ranked list - others can vote for their favourites
  • List - a list-based article
  • Gallery - a collection of images
  • Embed content - YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Twitter statuses etc
  • Image - photo or GIF.

Virils (points) are earned in a variety of ways, starting with 10 virils for creating an account and a further 10 for logging in each day. In addition you will be rewarded for each item you publish (rates vary by submission type), views and comments your post receives, reading and commenting on other members' posts and referring visitors and new members.

Until recently Virily was also paying members to follow each other but this method of earning has been stopped, apparently temporarily. I believe it should be abandoned permanently as it's open to abuse. Many members will simply follow everyone they encounter on the site regardless of whether their work interests them. A lot won't ever bother to read even one post by most of the people they follow.

The Viril doesn't have a fixed value. The value is calculated on a daily basis based on the previous day's income. At time of writing I have earned 857 virils which converts to $0.74, meaning that I need approximately 12 virils to earn one cent. Some days are better than others though.

Everything you submit to Virily has to be approved before it is published on the site. Once it has been published a post can't be edited unless you ask support to correct it for you or have them return the post to draft. This should prevent plagiarised content and "junk" posts from being published but, as has been the case with many similar sites, I'm a bit concerned about the possible unauthorised use of copyrighted photos. For my first post I used a photo from Wikimedia commons, being careful to include the required attribution, but when my post was published the attribution had been removed. Under the circumstances I will only be using my own photos for the foreseeable future.

Virily uses two methods of payment, PayPal ($10 minimum) and bank transfers ($100 minimum). I haven't yet heard of anyone being paid but will post an update when I hear any news, positive or negative.

Right now I'm finding I spend a lot of time at Virily for very meagre reward but that may change as the site gets busier.

Will I continue posting there for long enough to get paid? I don't know. I can't help feeling that my time is better spent at sites like Postloop and ForumCoin.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

At Postloop you can earn money posting in forums

Postloop is back

In years gone by, working at Postloop was one of my favourite ways of earning money online. Then in November 2016 the site closed down. Thankfully, unlike some other sites, Postloop's owners treated their members fairly, giving them several weeks notice, and thus affording more active members the opportunity to reach the minimum balance required to cash out. Unfortunately I was lazy and when the site closed I still had a small balance in my account.

After an absence of approximately six months, Postloop is back in business. Ionicware, Inc recently purchased the site from its previous owners, Royal Media, LLC. The good news is that old accounts are still there along with any points members were unable to redeem before the previous owner closed the site.

For those who are new to Postloop

If you enjoy interacting in online forums, Postloop offers you the opportunity to get paid for doing just that.

I'm not saying you'll grow rich from forum posting, but if you follow the rules it's a nice way to earn a little extra money while doing something you enjoy; something you're probably already doing in your spare time without being rewarded for your efforts. And if you choose your forums wisely, you may even learn something at the same time.

Unlike a lot of other online earning opportunities, Postloop is available worldwide, with the only restrictions being that you must be able to write good English and that you are able to receive payment through PayPal.

Before you get started you'll have to go through an application process. This involves writing ten posts in The Postloop Portal. The site's staff will then evaluate those posts to see if you meet their quality requirements. Approval can take up to 24 hours.

Once you've been approved, you can visit the list of available forums and choose the ones that interest you. It's at this stage that things can get tricky for a Postloop newbie.

The first thing you need to do when you see a forum of interest is click on the button marked "i" to find out what that forum's requirements are. Each has its own rules that must be followed to avoid being banned. One of the requirements you'll usually encounter is that you must NOT refer to Postloop anywhere on that forum. Most don't want short comments either. Even if they don't specifically state that, it's always advisable to write a few lines as the forum owners will rate the quality of your posts and the higher your rating, the more you'll be able to earn. Some forums won't even accept members whose rating is too low.

Once you've found a forum you want to subscribe to, you need to visit that forum and create an account there. Once you've done so, go back to the Postloop forum list and click on the subscribe button (the one with a picture of a man). You'll be required to accept their terms before being taken to a page where you must fill in your username and email address. These must be the same as you used at the forum and need not be the same as the username and email address you use at Postloop.

Before you start posting at the forum you've joined, go to your dashboard and click on subscriptions. If the forum you want to post at is listed as active, you're ready to go. However your chosen forum may be inactive for a number of reasons:
  1. You have exceeded your daily limit. This varies from forum to forum, but the majority of forum owners seem to set a limit of five posts per day.
  2. Your forum of choice is inactive. This usually happens when the site runs out of points to pay for new posts.
  3. The forum no longer wishes to pay for comments.
  4. The forum has been banned.
The points you can earn for posting vary from forum to forum, and can also differ depending on how many points a forum has available to spend at a given time. If a forum has a negative amount of points, you won't earn much but may still be paid for your post. However be cautious when you see negative points, because once they drop below -10, the forum will become inactive and you won't be paid until the owner buys more points.

You'll probably earn somewhere between 1 and 2 points per post, with a point being worth $0.05. According to the Postloop FAQ, on average members earn about $0.08 per post.

Once you have 100 points in your account, you can request payment. As long as you haven't broken any rules, you should receive your payment within 24 hours. I usually receive mine a lot quicker than that.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Postloop pays for commenting on blogs too.

Hopefully I've covered everything, but if you've got any questions, please leave them in the comment box below. And don't forget to the visit the Postloop FAQ.

Good luck and happy posting.

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Bubblews Effect

This is an update of a post I first published on my old BlogJob domain in December 2015:

I don't know too much about the world of online writing between 2001 and 2012. Clearly there must have been some good sites out there, but I was unaware of their existence. After the failure of sites like Themestream in 2001, I moved away from online writing into the world of photography, and it was only in 2012 that I decided to give writing another try when I discovered WebAnswers, HubPages and finally Bubblews.

I started out with great enthusiasm at both WebAnswers and HubPages, but Bubblews proved to be a game-changer. It was so easy to write a 400 character post and then watch the pennies flow in while I interacted with my new friends, much less work than writing proper articles for HubPages or researching answers for WebAnswers, so why bother when I was earning so much more at Bubblews?

Unlike some members I didn't write about what I'd had for breakfast or other routine daily occurrences. However I loved to write about the sports I watched, especially the successes of the South African cricket team. It was a report about one of their matches which proved to be the highlight of my Bubblews "career". Somehow that post caught the attention of the cricket-loving world and within hours it had received over 2000 views. That's $20 for 10 minutes work! I was ecstatic and hoped for a recurrence of that success. Sadly it never came.

By mid-2013 the cracks were starting to show. I'd already heard rumours of honest members not getting paid, but I refused to believe they were blameless... until it happened to me. But this post isn't about that. If you want to read my story in all its gory details, you can read an article I wrote in January 2015 at HubPages.

Once the cracks were clearly visible, similar sites started popping up all over the web, hoping to attract the writers who had issues with Bubblews, and they came in droves. I confess that I tried a lot of those sites before I realised that I was wasting my time.

Babblelife, Teckler, Post Any Article (PAA), Persona Paper and CGP Gallery were among the sites I tried. I even got paid a couple of times by PAA and Teckler, but what I earned there wasn't enough to make it worth the effort and I gave up on both sites long before they closed down. Of the rest, only Persona Paper is still running, though they no longer offer payment for their members' activities.  

By mid-2015 I'd become much more cautious and was trying to stay away from sites that were brand new, preferring to watch them until I could establish that they were reliable. As a result, the only similar site I joined at that time was myLot, a site with a good reputation. My new approach served me well as I watched a few new sites fail fairly quickly. But nothing prepared me for the shock of seeing Beer Money Nation announce it was closing after only being online for about two weeks.

Clearly the greed for Bubblews type success was pushing site owners into starting new projects without knowing just how tough it is to succeed in that type of business.

Update 2 June 2017:

Not much has changed since I first published this post. New sites have come and gone, but I've resisted the temptation to join most of them. One exception was Niume, a site which looked more professional than most.

When I signed up for Niume I believed their payment model would be more sustainable than most if only because the rates they offered were a lot lower than what most of the failed sites had paid. However I soon became disillusioned when I realised that a post which received 500 views was only worth $0.50 to me. Although I only had to write a few lines, the need to include a photo made the creation of a new post a time consuming business. And when there was a sudden massive drop in views I stopped posting altogether.

Sadly I've been proved wrong about their model being sustainable too. Niume recently announced that their reward system has been discontinued. However the site will remain open and, according to their announcement:
In the coming months we will work on offering alternative sources of revenue to creators who join the platform.
I'm keeping my account open for now while I wait to see what the future holds for the site. Maybe they can create a model that will work better. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, for many the search for the next Bubblews continues. A few days ago I heard of a new site running along similar lines. I have yet to have a proper look at the site but hope to do so soon. Perhaps I'll even sign up, if only so that I'm able to write an honest review in the days to come.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Hoax email - not a Quotation from Anglo American Platinum

Whether you're looking for ways to earn money or simply going about your everyday business, if you spend much time online you're sure to encounter a lot of scams. Often you need do no more than check your inbox to find a con artist hoping you are gullible enough to believe that it's really possible to get rich without doing anything. Or you may find an email disguised to look like a genuine business deal.

I found one of the latter in my inbox this morning.

I'm not a business person. My interests lean more towards the arts, so when I saw an email with the subject "QUOTATION" my first thought was the someone was sending me some words of wisdom from a famous person. But no, this one was all business, allegedly coming from Anglo American Platinum, a company with which I'm not qualified to do business. Clearly there was something 'phishy' going on here.

This was the body of the email:
Good Day,

You are hereby invited to submit a quotation for the item on the RFQ DOCUMENT Please find attached herewith a request for quotation for your kind attention.We require these components at your earliest convenience. We now await for your urgent response.

Kind regards,
Mpumi Sithole
Procurement Officer 
 A Google search for "anglo american platinum hoax email" quickly yielded all the proof I needed. Anglo American Platinum had published a warning about this particular scam as far back as 17 November 2016. That's nearly four months ago! Clearly this scam is catching some people or the con artists would have moved on to a different one by now.

Alarmingly there really is a Mpumi Sithole working for Anglo American, but in media, not procurement.

The email address is cleverly constructed to look legitimate at first glance. It's only when you stop to look more closely that you notice the two spelling mistakes - a common feature in hoax emails.

I have no idea what information is requested in the RFQ document, I don't open attachments from con artists for fear that there may be a virus lurking inside them.

If you receive this email, I suggest you delete it immediately. I've already done just that.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Do You Remember Themestream?

For two years Bubblews was probably the hottest writing site around. Some people were making hundreds of dollars every month without ever having to write quality content. All that was required was to write a few 400 character posts every day, then spend the rest of your time socialising with other members of the site. It all seemed so easy, but in the end the money ran out and thousands of members were forced to accept that Bubblews couldn't pay all they owed them. Finally in November 2015 Bubblews closed down with no warning.

This story brings back memories of my first venture into the world of online writing.

Themestream was an early forerunner of Bubblews, dating back to around the year 2000. The concept was similar but formatting your articles was a lot more work. As far as I recall it was necessary to upload articles using some form of HTML and I have vague memories of  the special software necessary to prepare my work for publication.

Like Bubblews, Themestream paid per view, though there was nothing for comments and I'm not sure the like system had even been invented then. I believe that Themestream started out offering a massive ten cents per view and some people were earning a lot of money there. Sadly I was a late arrival and rates had already fallen by then, but I was still able to accumulate about $30 in my account before Themestream went broke and announced that they would be closing the site within days. I never saw a cent of my "earnings".

The bug had bitten though and I tried a couple of other sites after Themestream closed. The results were the same, with both folding before I got any money for my efforts.

Shortly after that I bought my first digital camera and I drifted away from writing into the world of photography. It was about a decade before I tried writing for money again. Fortunately my luck was a bit better this time. Bubblews was the first writing site that actually paid me, but I still lost out on a few payments in the end.

You can read more about my Bubblews experience in an article I published at HubPages in early 2015.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Welcome to my blog

Hi. My name is Gina and I'm a wannabe internet millionaire. Well maybe not. I don't believe that making millions will make me happier. All I really want is to earn enough to live in comfort without having to go out and work at something I hate.

I've been trying to earn money online for almost as long as my computer has been connected to the internet. Some of my efforts have been more successful than others, but to date I've had no major successes. I've had my fair share of failures though.

This blog isn't only for South Africans. I merely chose to tag it "A South African Perspective" because many popular earning opportunities aren't available to people from my country. However a lot of other so-called "international" users all over the world find themselves in the same situation. If you don't come from the USA, the UK or possibly Canada, many sites aren't the least bit interested in you.

To complicate matters many of the popular sites will allow you to pay them a visit, read their terms of service and privacy policy and even commence the sign-up process without ever once making you aware that you're persona non grata. One site I wanted to join went as far as allowing me to create an account but then gave me obscure error messages every time I tried to log in. It was only when I contacted their support to find out what I was doing wrong that the truth was revealed.

Despite the name I chose for this blog, I'll be discussing my good experiences as well as my bad ones. I'll recommend a few sites along the way - sites at which you'll be rewarded for your efforts. Some will pay well, others less so. But barring some miraculous future discovery, you won't find me recommending any get-rich-quick schemes. I firmly believe that if it seems too good to be true, it's almost certainly a scam.

Wherever possible I'll write from personal experience, but I always try to research a site before I sign up for something new, so I'll pass on some of that research too. And if what I find out is really bad, I'm not likely to sign up to a site with a bad reputation just to confirm that its reputation is justified. Instead I may decide to pass on some of the details which were responsible for my decision not to join a particular site.

I hope I'll be able to provide you with some useful information in the days to come. Maybe I'll even help you to find some sites which work better for you than they do for me. But if I can prevent you wasting your time on a dud site, I guess I'll be providing a worthwhile service.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Prolific Academic - get paid to participate in academic studies

Do you take surveys for cash?

Maybe you're one of those lucky people who gets inundated with surveys and receives regular payments, or maybe you're more like me, someone who never seems to fit the demographic that most surveys are interested in.

If you don't live in the USA, UK or one or two other preferred countries, many survey sites won't care that you exist. Others will accept you regardless of your country of residence, but that's no guarantee of success.

Over the last few years I've tried several survey sites, some international, others based in my country of residence. Without exception I've been unable to earn enough to cash out from any of them. Not even once. (You can read my experiences at PaidViewPoint in an article I published at HubPages in 2014.)

Prolific Academic is Different

Strictly speaking Prolific Academic (PA) isn't a survey site. You're actually participating in academic research, answering far more meaningful questions than whether you regularly buy Brand X or whether you prefer Brand Y.

It doesn't matter whether you're an average mother with 2.5 children or whether you're fifty-something and live alone. I doesn't matter which country you live in. You will fit the demographic for some studies.

There is a bit of luck involved, however. You have to visit the site at the right time because places in the studies are limited and, as a rule, PA won't send you notifications when a suitable one becomes available.

My Experience

I joined PA in February 2016. Within a day of joining I'd participated in my first study. It paid £1.25. Despite that the going was slow. I've never been lucky enough to get the high paying surveys which offer £5.00 or more. I'm not sure whether it's a case of my not fitting the demographic for those or whether it's just bad timing. Regardless I get enough studies to make it worth the effort.

I cashed out for the first time in early May 2016. To date I've been paid £55.00 and I've currently got over £7.00 in my account. I've participated in over 60 studies, none of which have taken long to complete. It's not a fortune, but I've yet to find another site where I can earn as much without putting in a lot more time and effort.

How it Works

Once you've created your account at PA the first thing you should do is visit the prescreening section where you'll be asked a number of questions about yourself and your lifestyle. While answering these questions is entirely optional I recommend that you answer everything that doesn't make you feel uncomfortable. The more information you give PA, the more studies you're likely to receive. I found the questions pretty basic and haven't encountered any which I was unwilling to answer.

The prescreening seems pretty effective as I've only once been disqualified from a study I started, something which seems to happen quite frequently at a lot of regular survey sites.

Once you're finished with the prescreening questions it's time to check the studies page. You probably won't get your first study immediately but hopefully you won't have to wait too long. Some times of year are slower than others however, so don't be concerned if you have to wait a few days. I got no studies for a full month over the Christmas holiday period. Thankfully traffic returned to normal in the second week of January and I've had several studies since then. It's always unpredictable though. Sometimes I've had to wait a week or more between studies. Other times I've received three in a matter of hours.

Be sure to refresh the studies page frequently so that you won't miss out on the studies for which you're eligible. They can show up at any time of day or night, and they usually fill up fast.

When you complete a study the money you earn will go into your pending balance. Depending on who's running the study, the payment could be cleared within hours or it could take a lot longer. I've had payments remaining pending for two weeks or more, but they all get cleared eventually.

PA is based in the UK, so studies pay in Pounds. You can request payment via PayPal as soon as your have £5.00 in your account but you may prefer to save on PayPal fees by waiting until your balance reaches £20.00. Once you've requested payment the money will arrive in your PayPal account pretty quickly.

You may have questions I haven't covered, so be sure to read PA's participant FAQs.

If you decide to join PA, I'd appreciate it if you use my referral link. It will cost you nothing, but it may help me to get my next payment a little sooner.

Update 1 May 2017

In February 2017 I discovered a wonderful app called VisualPing. This app will notify you every time a web page of your choice is updated. As members aren't notified when there are new studies available, I chose to get "pinged' every time the studies page changed.

As soon as the app pinged I'd click on the accompanying notification and the studies page would open. With my relatively slow internet connection I was often too late to see the new studies, and even when I did many were already full by the time I clicked on them. Despite that I was getting a lot more studies than I had in the past.

Then in early March the studies stopped coming. I was disappointed but unconcerned as I'd experienced dry spells before. But after a month without a single study it became apparent that something wasn't right. I'd heard talk at ForumCoin that some countries had been banned by PA. Could South Africa be one of them?

A message to PA support confirmed my fears. Their response read:
Yes, I am very sorry to let you know that this is true. You currently have no eligibility for studies due to changes, which mean we are currently unable to support participants in your country on the platform. Please check back in future when we hope to be able to offer you more studies.
I'm keeping my account open in the hope that things do change because PA was the most lucrative site I've been a member of for quite some time. I also hope I can still get a bit of income if some of my referrals cash out there. But I'm really disappointed that I can no longer take part in their studies as I found some of them quite enjoyable.

For people from countries that haven't been banned, PA is still a site I highly recommend. According to information I read on ForumCoin, the following countries should be able to participate: AT, AU, BE, CA, CH, CL, CZ, DE, DK, EE, ES, FI, FR, GB, GR, HU, IE, IL, IS, IT, JP, KR, LU, LV, MX, NL, NO, NZ, PL, PT, SE, SI, TR, US.  If you're still uncertain whether studies are available to people from your country. I suggest you contact PA support. Maybe you'll get a more positive response than I did.