Katherine Boehret

Help Wanted: Moonlighters for Mobile Apps

You know that using your smartphone costs money, but did you know it can help you make money?

This week, I earned a little dough on the side using an iPhone and two free apps: EasyShift and Gigwalk. The idea behind the apps is simple: Companies hire you to do some pretty simple work using your iPhone. You submit the work using these apps and you get paid via your PayPal account.

I focused my testing on similar jobs from both apps, doing beginner-level work that didn’t take more than 20 minutes per job. EasyShift, made by Quri Corp., launched nationwide in May 2011 as an iPhone app that’s focused on stock-checking tasks in grocery, convenience, drug and discount stores. Gigwalk launched nationwide in May 2011 and works on the iPhone and Android phones. It matches businesses or people with workers, so its gigs, like taking menu photos for $4 or testing a mobile app for $20, vary more than EasyShift’s jobs.

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The EasyShift app offers step-by-step clarity when describing jobs.

In the case of EasyShift, these jobs are done for manufacturers or competing stores that want to check things like promotional prices, product placement and stock. Gigwalk jobs vary, but menu photos are taken for companies like MenuPages and Seamless, which use the photos so people can order food online.

These jobs can become addictive really quickly. The tasks I completed were easy and some were even fun, like answering a few questions and taking photos of energy drinks at CVS for $2. I found myself scouring the apps’ built-in maps for nearby jobs as I drove around Washington, D.C., where I live. In cases when the job felt more like work than fun, I got paid enough that I didn’t mind ($8 for taking seven simple photos). I was startled by how much pride I took in doing the task correctly — all for a few bucks and a good reputation within the app’s community, which can lead to higher-paying jobs.

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Users earn money and points for completing a task

These small jobs add up quickly. The average active Gigwalker, as the company calls them, makes between $200 and $800 a month, while casual Gigwalkers make about $40 to $80 monthly; the average pay is $18 a job. The average EasyShift user makes about $100 to $200 monthly, with an average pay of $4 per job. According to EasyShift CEO Justin Behar, one couple made enough money with EasyShift to pay for their honeymoon, about $1,000. (Gigwalk and Quri send out 1099 tax forms to people who make over $600 annually.)

Though Gigwalk paid better, I preferred using EasyShift’s app. It divides each step of the job into different screens, making it clear what I had to do to finish the job. In cases where photos were required, I tapped an in-app camera icon to open the iPhone camera. Gigwalk’s app lists a basic explanation of what the job entails but it doesn’t offer the step-by-step clarity of EasyShift.

EasyShift jobs always list the name of the place where you’ll go to work and its address, like the CVS at 1101 Connecticut Ave. I went to for the energy-drinks job. But you won’t know who you are specifically working for. Gigwalk tells you the address of your gig but may or may not tell you the name of the business. This is left up to the person or business posting the gig. Unlike EasyShift, anyone can post gigs on Gigwalk.com. I could post a gig for someone to pick up my dry cleaning every week for the next three months.

I grew frustrated by not seeing business names in the Gigwalk app. I was sent to 775 G St. Northwest and only realized it was Proof, a restaurant I know, when I got there. If I had known the restaurant’s name, I would have known it was closed for lunch on Mondays, when I went. Luckily, I was still able to do the work — taking photos of the menu and restaurant from outside.

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With Gigwalk, users must apply for jobs and wait to hear back if they’ve been accepted.
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Gigwalk jobs available in an area

If you see an EasyShift job you want, you can instantly claim it by tapping Reserve. Gigwalk users must apply for jobs by tapping Quick Apply, and find out if they got the job as soon as 30 minutes later and no longer than 48 hours later.

The Energy Drink Audit in EasyShift involved tasks like checking off a list of available energy drinks and taking photos of the Red Bull shelf at the Connecticut Avenue CVS, which took me 12 minutes to earn $2. After I finished, I could find similar jobs around town at other CVS stores and do each in half the time.

This wasn’t the case with Gigwalk, where the tasks often involved varying degrees of effort even if they were similar. I drove to a Chinese restaurant called Hunan Delight where my $4 task involved taking photos of its menus and answering a handful of survey questions like whether or not the restaurant had outdoor seating. But the take-out restaurant’s many menus were taped onto a glass wall and the text was very small, forcing me to take a dozen photos to capture all of them. At another restaurant where a similar-sounding job paid $8, the menus were easier to capture and I didn’t have to fill out a survey.

With EasyShift, most people who do work during the day get paid that night. Gigwalkers get paid within a day or two of submitting work and no later than five days after finishing a job. Both apps offer simple ways to make quick cash — and no one is overqualified to say no to that.

Email Katie to katie.boehret@wsj.com.


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