It was apparently exactly six months ago that I gave an update on my status in the world of the gig economy. A lot of things have changed since then. For one thing, almost all my work now comes from a website that I signed up for, that when I first heard about it, seemed like a scam. Let me describe it, and think about what your first reaction is.
First of all, I get paid by the minute. Ever had a job where you get paid by the minute? More specifically, I get paid 17 cents a minute. Multiply that by sixty, and it comes out to $10.20 an hour, but that is only if I work for every minute of that hour. So the job is teaching English. Technically speaking, I am not an employee, but an independent contractor. I sign on to the platform on my laptop, and wait for someone to call. The calls can range from 5 minutes to a full hour. Most are 15 or 30 minutes. There is no set curriculum, although there are modular lessons the students can select. Most of the students just want to practice conversation and have a little feedback. The pay doesn't accrue just because I am signed on, but only comes when someone is talking to me. So I can sign on to the website, and wait around, without pay. There is one big exception to that, which is if I am signed up for "peak hours", I am guaranteed 15 minutes of an hour of pay even if no one calls. Those hours are usually busy enough that it almost never defaults to that lower rate of pay, which would be... $2.55 an hour. Also, students who I meet can later request reservations for me, and after several months on the site, known students are about half my teaching time. The only other requirement is that I have to be presentable and connected to ethernet: its not quite so casual that I can be watching YouTube videos in bed and just tab over.
Does that sound like a scam? At maximum, this pays $10.20 an hour, less than minimum wage in my city. For a job that requires a Master's Degree and years of experience. Often it pays less: I have had two hour "shifts" that I came away from with eight dollars total. The work also requires lots of focus, because teaching English involves lots of mental energy. Broken up by periods of boredom waiting for someone to call. But the reason I consider this job a good deal, along with the fact that I like teaching English, is that it is exactly what it says it is, and it is very modular. There is no commitment. Tutors on this site can choose to only teach two hours a night. Or even one. They can only have a few scattered classes with students they know and like. I spend a lot of my time talking to strangers on the internet. If a scientist in Brazil wants to call me up and talk to me for 30 minutes, that is honestly something I would do for free, and getting five dollars is just a bonus. Unlike in my past post, where I talked about working a few hours a week and still needing to wrestle with Excel spreadsheets on my weekend, this one is truly no strings attached. I get paid for working, and that is that. There is no Interdepartmental Group on Knowledge Leadership sending me e-Mails reminding me to fill out surveys on employee morale.
Along with that, the hiring process was smooth. I submitted a video presenting myself, filled out my profile, took an internet connectivity test to prove I could handle video conferencing, and was approved. I started two or three days later. For conventional academic jobs, and even for ESL institute job, the approval process is slow, and unresponsive. It might take a month or two to read my resume, three months to get it to the full committee, and six months to start, on the off chance I do get approved. This time, I was working the same week as I finished, and making money. Which is promptly, and without fail, delivered into my Paypal account every Monday. To be honest, right now, I am to the point where if I work "a lot" of hours, I can pay 75% of my rent. Which isn't the best, but which is better than nothing. And I had a lot of nothing before.
Speaking of which, I have a 15 minute class starting in 10 minutes, so got to go plug into ethernet and get ready...