There are lots of ways to earn a little extra cash online. You can do paid surveys, you can write for Associated Content, you can respond to a number of Craigslist gig ads. The question is, how little is your time worth?

How low are you willing to go to earn a little extra money? Would you spend an hour on a survey that paid $2? What about 20 minutes? 10?

In November, I answered one of those Craigslist ads for people to write short SEO pieces. They paid $4 per 500+ word piece. That’s less than $.01 per word. Now, if I’d been able to pound out 4 in an hour, I might be making a decent rate. But these weren’t supposed to be crappy pieces, they wanted research and whatnot.

I did it for a week before I had the self-respect to say “No.” Micah helped me with the great phrasing:

I have discovered that the amount of research and creativity required for these projects far exceeds the remuneration [company*] is able to provide. To continue working for [company*], therefore, would constitute for me a net and growing monetary loss.

How do I feel about writing for Associated Content for a similar payout? Fine, because I can write about things that interest me and require less research. Plus, it’s something I can choose to do, not something I’m assigned.

I don’t think the answer has to be the same for every person or every activity. Suppose that a blogger can do surveys while she’s watching her favorite tv shows. Huzzah, she just made $8 while spending an evening on the couch with her laptop, her hubby, and the cast of CSI.

On the other hand, Clever Dude wrote recently about spending 1/2 hour for a $10 rebate and not feeling that it was worthwhile.

Our “free” time is not free at all. We only have a limited amount and it’s decreasing every day. It is our sanity time, our relationship time, our spirituality time…it’s all well and good to sell your time, but how little is it worth?

What do you think? How do you value your time? How little would you be willing to earn? In what context?

*If you want to know who they are, e-mail me…

(photo by judepics)


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

E.C. December 12, 2007 at 3:08 pm

I made $3 doing a Pinecone Research survey while eating my cereal this morning. I don’t mind doing the occasional paid survey since, as you’ve mentioned, I can do them during time that’s also being spent on a little mindless recreation.

Ashley December 12, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Depending on the survey, sometimes I make more doing that while watching tv for a half hour than I do at my student job at the library for an hour. I took a $10 survey a few days ago that I think lasted 30 minutes. I only get paid $5.85 an hour for actual work at the library. I almost doubled my pay by sitting on my butt.

Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net December 12, 2007 at 3:39 pm

It depends on my mood. I hardly ever write for Associated Content anymore, mainly because blogging takes up so much of my time, and writing a good article requires me to think. But if I’m bored, I’ll click on the MyPoints Bonus Mail in my inbox, to earn a few points toward a gift card.

Kacie December 12, 2007 at 4:08 pm

I think you bring up a great point.

I’m ok with doing things like Pinecone surveys, even though I don’t get compensated much for my time. I don’t mind them (sometimes I’m even interested in the product).

But things that waste your time and don’t compensate well–I say forget about it.

Stephanie December 12, 2007 at 5:32 pm

There are so many factors to consider. I do some paid writing for roughly what you were getting paid, but I can choose the topics within a broad subject. Some require some research but they are all things I enjoy writing about so it is worthwhile to me. I often consider what I’d be doing instead when I decide if it is worthwhile.

Back in August I wrote a post of a similar theme about the time it takes for frugal activities, but the logic works both ways. If you are interested. Is it worth my time?

m December 12, 2007 at 5:33 pm

My time is my most precious resource and I have very little of it, therefore I guard what little I do have very possessively.

I wrote about my feelings on this topic not too long ago as well. (Hope the link works.)

Generally if I wouldn’t accept a job at that hourly rate, I wouldn’t consider whatever the task is worth my time. And even if I would accept a fulltime job at that rate of pay doesn’t mean I’d give up my free time to make that mount of money. It all depends on a combination of how much time I have; whether,like you, I actually enjoy the activity; and how much I want or need the extra money.

remodelingthislife December 12, 2007 at 7:14 pm

I think about this every time I do an online survey. How little money it is for the time. But I keep doing them.

wealthy_1 December 12, 2007 at 7:29 pm

I think it’s important to put a price on our time. Time is valuable and precious and it goes by very quickly.

Patrick December 12, 2007 at 8:41 pm

I do the quick surveys for Pinecone research, but that’s about it. They take about 10 minutes and pay out $5. But, I can do that after eating breakfast in the morning and still make it to work on time. A ten minute block of time is easy to find. More time than that, and it probably isn’t worth it for that little bit of money.

mrsmicah December 12, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Wow, great response on this! Surveys seem to be big, especially among female bloggers (though Patrick, I commend you for taking advantage of Pinecone’s constant search for male bloggers–they seem to pay well).

I nearly went insane doing those short-bits. Made my life miserable because I was trying to make them real quality. *sigh* What I really appreciate is my quality time with Micah. 🙂

FinanceAndFat December 12, 2007 at 9:42 pm

I haven’t tried any surveys, but maybe I should. I have my laptop in front of my while I watch TV anyway. In fact, that could fit in nicely during slow parts of a football game.

I also pour hours and hours into my blog, which actually costs me money to maintain, so I’m burning away lots of my time on that for no return. I do it because I enjoy it and because it actually helps me to better myself (so far).

Dividendgrowth February 13, 2008 at 4:38 pm

I like those pay per click e-mails that come into my inbox. Sure I make 5-10 cents per click, but it only takes me 30 seconds or less to open my e-mail, click on the new message and then click on the advertisement. That’s like 6 bucks per hour 🙂

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