There are thousands of ways to make money with side hustles. But there are also poorly-paid, time-wasting side gigs masquerading as valid options.

Don’t want to get sucked into working for an insignificant amount of money? Here are five time-wasting side gigs to avoid.

Mechanical Turk

Owned by Amazon, Mechancal Turk offers to pay for micro-tasks. These include evaluating audio tapes, writing captions, and marking edges in images. At any given time, there are likely to be hundreds of jobs available. The catch? Most of the jobs pay between one and 12 cents and can take several minutes to complete.

Worse, Mechanical Turk’s terms say: “We…have no control over the quality, safety, or legality of tasks or…the ability of requesters to pay for tasks.” In other words, you might not get even the few pennies that were promised.

Some users say that the pay gets better after you complete hundreds of jobs. But, you’re getting paid almost nothing for those first few hundred jobs. That makes Mechanical Turk the definition of a time-wasting side gig.


Clickworker also connects freelancers with a wide array of small jobs. However, a good number of these appear to be poorly-paid surveys and “AI learning” projects.

The “learning projects” ask you to upload sensitive personal information, ranging from your facial features to a copy of your driver’s license. And you’re not allowed to cover up personal information, such as your address or license number. The site says this information will be used solely for AI-training and not shared with anyone who might abuse your data. But do you really want to take that chance for $1.50?

You can take a host of “assessments” to qualify for more projects. But users maintain that the money is pretty poor regardless.


A relatively new entry into the time-wasters club is Invisibly, a site that aims to pay $2 to $5 per month for your personal information.

However, to get the full payment, you’ll need to answer 48 screening questions. You’ll also need to give the site access to your Internet browsing history and all of your social media accounts. Invisibly wants to view your bank and credit card transactions too. (If you allow access, the site can’t touch your accounts. But it can see what you buy and pay for.)

But what makes this site a major time-waster is making sure that the information they’ve gathered about you is accurate. If you want to do that, you must monitor your “data vault.”

Given the amount of information they’re tracking, that could take several hours each week. And, you should know that the $2 to $5 monthly that they propose to pay you is an estimate, not a guarantee.

Most survey sites

Dozens of survey sites offer small payments for you to share your views on everything from politics to baby products. These sites include Swagbucks, Suvey Junkie, Perksy, and MyPoints.

However, most of their surveys require you to “qualify” before answering any paid questions. Theoretically, this is to ensure that if you’re answering questions about baby products, you have a baby and contemporary experience with the topic. However, you’re usually asked dozens of seemingly unrelated questions, including your age, income level, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and whether you own a home or rent, too.

It’s common to get disqualified from the paid portion of the survey, after spending several minutes answering questions. A few survey sites, such as Qmee, might pay a few pennies as a consolation when you’re disqualified after a lengthy session. But on the basis of hourly wages, survey sites are almost always time-wasters.

Indeed, the only survey site that recommends is Prolific, which asks you to fill out some of these qualifying questions in advance. After that, the site prescreens the surveys. It only invites you to participate in surveys for which you are qualified. Prolific also tells you how much each survey pays, how long it takes, and provides an estimated hourly wage before you accept.


Preply is an online tutoring site that allows tutors to set their own rates. So how could it be a time-wasting side gig?

Even though you set your own rates, Preply tutors don’t get paid for the first tutoring session they complete with each new client. They only get paid when a client books additional sessions with the same tutor. Tutors say they can spend days tutoring new clients before earning any pay.

There are dozens of good tutoring sites. Most promise to pay tutors $15 to $40 per hour for helping kids with everything from math and English to music and art. The other sites never expect you to work for free.

Sites worth recommending for tutors: Wyzant, Varsity Tutors, Juni Learning,  LessonFace, and TutorOcean.


2 responses to “Time-wasting side gigs”

  1. JayPer Avatar

    Worse, Mechanical Turk’s terms say: “We…have no control over the quality, safety, or legality of tasks or…the ability of requesters to pay for tasks.” In other words, you might get even the few pennies that were promised.

    I think you meant this to read, “In other words, you might NOT even get the few pennies that were promised.”

    1. Kathy Kristof Avatar
      Kathy Kristof

      I certainly did. Fixing that now. Thanks for the catch!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link