Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

My Gigwalk Experiment

I’m broke. And, like a lot of people in New York, one reason I'm broke is because I sink a lot of money into my iPhone. So when I heard about the recently launched and revamped Gigwalk, the app that lets you make extra money by using your iPhone to find odd jobs that businesses need doing, I jumped at the chance to be a guinea pig. Basically, you open the app, tap the red dots around you on the map and do a small job for a few dollars. There are tons of these red dots all over the city, and most consist of just taking photos. Submitted gigs earn you “streetcred," or Gigwalk karma points. The more streetcred you have, the more those map dots pay. The app keeps track of what you earned, and you collect the money through PayPal. It sounded easy enough, so I set out to see if you could make enough on Gigwalk to have a solid supplement to a too-small paycheck.

Gig #1: Captain Café, Murray Hill
During my lunch break, I clicked on a red dot near my office building to pick up a quick gig. The map told me to head to Tony’s Burger to take photos, but the address listed was occupied by Captain Café. If a business is closed, Gigwalk only pays out $2; you just have to snap a couple photos to prove the business is closed. There were no instructions about what to do if there’s another business in the very same spot, but I figured if I went through with the whole assignment, I could get the full $4.

One secret of Gigwalk: when you first get started as a “Gigwalker," you have zero streetcred so nearly all the assignments open to you will be for Bing Maps. Each assignment required five photos: an exterior shot taken from across the street, an exterior taken from the same-side sidewalk, an interior "panorama" shot, and then two close-ups of items snapped in the panorama. Taking photos of the outside of the building was easy. As I fiddled with the app before taking my next steps, the hirsute proprietor came outside for a cigarette break and said, “You take lots of photos of my business.” I muttered an answer and tried to look busy. I felt awkward and kept giving one-word answers. Then came the hard part: I had to go inside and take the panorama shot using Microsoft’s Photosynth app.

As I stood in the middle of the room, rotating around with my camera, the owner shooed me away. “The customers, they don’t like to have their picture taken. Come back later when it’s not so busy.” I went back a few hours later. The owner was still there, and he asked what this was for. I tried to explain that I was a writer working for Bing, which is like Google but not. The cashier, who appeared to be his daughter, tried to translate for me but she was just as confused as he was. “You make money doing this?” Um, sort of? “Write something nice,” he said as I hurried out of the shop.

Time spent: 30 minutes
Amount earned (if accepted): $4

Gig #2: Bagel Café Ray’s Pizza, East Village
The East Village is chock-full of nutjobs, so no one will notice me snapping photos, right? After I got the façade shots out of the way, I spent $2 on a Snapple so it wouldn’t look odd that I was hanging around there. I went in and did the panorama shot as quickly as I could; but, of course, I screwed up because I was rushing. Retakes. Awesome. Walking by, one pizza guy said, “You recording, huh?”—but otherwise I was left alone. My hands got a little shaky when I did the close-up shots of baked ziti and the refrigerator but it was over and I submitted it.

Time spent: 20 minutes
Amount earned (if accepted): $4 (minus $2 for Snapple camouflage); +3 streetcred

Gig #3: Starbucks, Union Square
I thought this one would be easy—after all, lots of people visit Starbucks just to use the bathrooms, so I didn't expect to look conspicuous being there without buying anything. (Although, I had to wonder: Who the hell uses Bing to see what a Starbucks looks like inside?) I’d had a bad day but marched across Broadway, phone held high, confident a completed gig would boost my mood. But while taking the panorama shot, two people at table behind me kept stopping their conversation to giggle and stare at me. I tried to hide behind a girl with an iPad but they kept staring and soon other people were staring too. I abandoned the gig and ate a cupcake at home.

Time spent: 10 minutes
Amount earned: $0

Gig #4: Pret A Manger, Murray Hill
I have a friend at Pret A Manger. Or rather, there’s a guy there who gives me free cookies sometimes. I can’t tell if it’s because he thinks I’m cute or because he feels sorry that, like clockwork, I buy a chocolate-chip cookie every day at 4 and pay for it with a debit card. Either way, I thought I could nip some of Gigwalk’s accursed awkwardness in the bud by telling him upfront, “Hey, I’m not crazy, I'm getting paid to do this," and going in during a slow time. I took the damn panorama and the required close-up shots, but got stuck when it came time to take a picture of the shop across the street. Park Avenue is very wide so the shot wouldn’t be clear without zooming in and Gigwalk does not like zooming in. I wasn’t about to risk my life standing on the tiny sliver of an island. I punched in the bit about the island and submitted it.

Time spent: 15 minutes
Amount earned (if accepted): $4

Conclusion: It might just be that the "entry-level" Gigwalker jobs are the least fun to do, but I found completing the gigs to be embarrassing and impractical: try as I might, I couldn't find a way to get the required shots without getting in people's way with my iPhone. Once you earn "streetcred," the jobs might get better—but the app doesn't tell you how many more points you'll need to reach the next level. After a couple days, I found the work for the first two gigs had been rejected, meaning of the three completed assignments, I only earned $4 for one of them. At least “Sam" was nice enough to leave a comment in the feedback section of my account: “Some tips to prevent issues in the future are to dress well and make an appointment to photograph a difficult business.” For $4? No, thank you. I’ll stick to odd jobs on Craigslist.

Time spent: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total earned: $4 – $2 Snapple = $2

Desiree Browne is the weirdo behind the vintage fashion and pop culture blog Pop-o-matic Deluxe!. She likes dancing salsa, decade theme parties, and Hello Kitty in a completely not ironic way.

21 Comments / Post A Comment

ha when you first introduced what you were doing, I thought oh this sounds like a way for me to make a couple extra bucks, but wow not worth it at all. crowd sourcing is such bad news.

Duane Reade has its house brand Earl Grey Tea in the cooler for $1.99. I thought it was very refreshing.

James Jennings (#45,532)

Way to compete Ms. Brown. Great clip! Ponzi's need love to.

That is a sweet dress :)

I had this same idea (which is brilliant) about 12 years ago but I envisioned it as a city agency. Because I was born before 2001. Too bad these jobs are so shitty. I was imagining things like unloading crates or something. And slightly less scammy in structure.

GailPink (#9,712)

I can't believe anyone notices or worries about anyone taking photos of a Starbucks.

"I abandoned the gig and ate a cupcake at home." If I had a nickel! And I LOL'd at: "I buy a chocolate-chip cookie every day at 4 and pay for it with a debit card."

I'm pretty sure the author of this piece came into my job today to take pictures. When I asked her if she was part of that thing on the Internet I had read about that takes pictures for money (couldn't remember Gigwalk) she said no I actually work for Bing and I hate those people because they're taking my job! I should have told her no.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

This was great to read. Thank you.

Slapdash (#174)

The job seems iffy, but your dress is spot on.

I just cleared $1800 in two weeks (my 1st two weeks)… The job is all about timing, personality, and stamina… If you'd put in half of the effort you put in your flowery blogging into taking a panoramic, you could have a better result, maybe… Truthfully, I don't think you've ever busted your ass in your life… And let me tell you, this is nothin'…

I'll put it to you this way, in the amount of time you take to do 4 gigs, I do 8. 8 gigsX$8.00=$64.00 in 1hr15min, times 8 hours…well, you do the math there sweet-cakes ;)

So… You go ahead and wear that lil' frilly frill dress of yours and complain about how hard it is to use Photosynth, whilst I take care of business, sound good?

One piece of advise for you… A little tact goes a long way ;)

@Fernando Navales@facebook
Ok, just read back what I wrote and I realize that was incredibly harsh and sexist. This type of work certaintly isn't for everyone…

I apologize for what I said.

@Fernando Navales@facebook Where do you apply for this job? You do not know me, but I just heard about this on the World News with Diane Sawyer and I got on the internet and googled it and I cannot find where to sign up. Can you help me with this?

Great article, I thought it'd be a little easier than the experience you had. Based on the last guys post I guess it fits certain personality types better than others. The yellow dress is definitely a hit. So I guess you have to try it out for yourself and see.

LarryMack (#239,510)

Google trusted photographers can get upwards of $400 per gig doing spherical panoramic photos of businesses which is essentially the same thing except for the quality of the photography. Microsoft Bing's use of Gigwalk to do the work is a different approach and makes good business sense although because quality is an issue, I don't see myself using Bing over Google.

424707178@twitter (#254,395)

I know this was created 2 years ago, but as of today, I literally did 2 gigs in about 10 minutes and made $14.
And I have done 10 gigs in a day and made 70$ over a course of 2 hours.
Just take good quality photos, be friendly, and if you know your stuff then you can get the job done.

Where do you sign up, I just heard about this on the World News with Diane Sawyer. So, can someone send me the place to sign up for work!

Not So Happy! (#261,946)

Gigwalk is fun to do but I must say I am disappointed in the lack of attention the Bing reviewers take when looking at submitted gigs. I have been "hoofing it" in a big city and ran into a lot of businesses closed or changed. I submitted thorough proof that is more proof than the asked for, and can tell by their comments that they did not even look at it. They ask for proof of closed businesses by showing they are boarded up. In one particular case, I submitted pics that shows the street number along with the whole front of the building boarded up. Obvious the location is closed and being renovated. The comment I got back was "We cannot approve this gig as the proof you have submitted is not sufficient". I have submitted gigs that were previously refused but after further explanation,have been approved. I had to point out what to look for in the pics to get them approved. I even supplied photosynths for closed businesses that had no addresses on the outside of the building trying to make sure I supplied sufficient proof. I would get back some crazy message like "please submit internal pictures" which has nothing to do with submitting a closed gig.

Overall it was fun doing Gigwalk but not very monetarily rewarding due to lack of attention by Bing of what I submitted. I have done over 80 gigs in 2 weeks and so far have only been approved for 25. 16 were refused and the others are hovering in outer space some where. I did get to meet some interesting people as well as find some new restaurants. Lastly, getting paid is frustrating due to time lag in transfer from Paypal to checking account. Not anyone's fault, it's just the way it is.

Excellent read! Gigwalk does sound like an interesting opportunity but getting tossed out of a pizzeria for taking pics would be highly embarrassing.

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