• Gig economy helping workers make ‘extra' cash

    By: Deborah Horne

    Updated:

    "It does allow me the flexibility to kind of have some seasonal work," said Zack, as he pedaled along downtown Seattle's 2nd Avenue.

    It turns out it is easier than ever to earn some extra green in the Emerald City.

    "We launched Spare5 because we wanted people who have a 'spare' five minutes to use our app," said Matt Bencke, founder and CEO.

    "And share their 'spare' insights and make some 'spare' cash."

    Bencke sat in the sparsely furnished downtown Seattle headquarters of Mighty AI, the newly rebranded company he started in 2014.

    Users first download his Spare Five app.

    "You open up Spare5," Bencke said, "answer some questions, complete some small tasks that are hopefully fun for you and yeah, every Friday, we pay our beloved 5s on Paypal."

    They earn anywhere from 5 cents to $20.

    The information is shared, anonymously, with companies designing robots.

    "How many 'beloved 5s' do you have?" he was asked.

    "We've got about 150,000 and counting," Bencke said.

    "A hundred fifty thousand people who want to tell you what they think?"

    "Yeah," he said, with a laugh. "It turns out lots of people want to tell us what they think."

    University of Washington computer scientist and author Pedro Domingos sent an internet link to the top 100 gigs from around the world.

    "There are thousands of these companies," Domingos.

    Nearly all of them have an app. So all you need is a smartphone and access to the internet.

    "I could be doing a gig here that's for someone on the East Coast," Domingos said.

    "Because you can do it on the internet?" he was asked.

    "Yeah, you can do it on your computer," he said. "And, again, our interface with the computer is getting better and better. So you can do more and more things on it."

    "It's all because of the rise of applications and smartphones that everybody has today," said Hugh Holman, co-founder and CEO of Observa.

    The app Holman and a partner dreamed up helps show how retailers are actually displaying a company's products.

    "We're using everyday shoppers to collect the information using our mobile apps," he said.

    "Just like me?" he was asked.

    "It's anybody, literally," he replied. "You can download our app out of the Apple app store or the Google play store and get started right away."

    Using the Observa app, you can earn $5 to $20 each time.

    There are downsides, however. Since you're not an employee, the companies don't offer a pension, for instance, nor even a retirement account. And they don't provide health care.

    "The nature of the safety net has to change," Domingos said.

    "Gig" workers have to fund their own benefits package.

    "This whole idea that you have a retirement plan that comes from work, and that you have health care that's provided by your employer, this is on its way out for several reasons," he said. "The gig economy being one of them."

    Hewell says that so far his gigs are, well, working.

    "I certainly have plenty of time off if I needed to find more work or take care of life things," he said. So, yeah, plenty of flexibility."

    While doing this story, Deborah Horne tells us, a lot of people asked are these sites legitimate?

    The ones featured that are Seattle-based are.

    But you will need to do your own research with the thousands of other companies.

    Here's a link to a listing of about 100 "gig" companies.

     

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