Looking For Extra Cash? Try Getting Online
LIANE HANSEN, host:
So, are you looking for extra cash? Work from home in your spare time. These days, that's not just a come on from a flyer stapled to a telephone pole, it's now a growing part of some Internet and cell phone based services.
And as NPR's Ted Robbins reports, it's helping some families make ends meet.
TED ROBBINS: Here's a question.
Ms. DENISE RILEY(ph) (Guide, ChaCha): What tag team was Stone Cold Steve Austin in before he was Stone Cold?
ROBBINS: That might be a tough one, even for wrestling fans.
Ms. RILEY: I don't know anything about wrestling. I will give this a shot.
ROBBINS: Denise Riley is what's known as a guide for ChaCha, a service for cell phone users. You ask or text any question and it's routed to a guide with an Internet connection and research skills.
Ms. RILEY: Okay. Up here it says that he teamed with Dr. Death Steve Williams. This was before he was Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1992. I'll send that information on. I don't see that this particular duo had a specific, you know, nickname, but hopefully that's what they need.
ROBBINS: For Riley, that answer was worth somewhere between 10 and 20 cents -the company sets the rate. Denise Riley began with ChaCha a couple of years ago. Back then, she says, friends and family looked at it as a goofy pastime with mediocre income.
Ms. RILEY: But then as our economy started to change, and people became a little more concerned about their economic well-being, people have really come around. And I've had a lot of people come back to me and say what is this thing you do? You know, do you think I could get in on this thing?
ROBBINS: ChaCha is based in Indiana. The company's marketing director, Susan Marshall, says guides average about $5 an hour. She says the company has 50,000 guides and it's adding more.
Ms. SUSAN MARSHALL (Marketing Director, ChaCha): I think we've seen a lot more of the stay-at-home moms or our folks who may be out of work, but they have a special skill. You know, they're online anyway, maybe they're looking for a job or doing some other type of research, and they can be doing this simultaneously.
(Soundbite of typing)
Ms. RILEY: The baby loves the laptop.
ROBBINS: Denise Riley fits the profile. She has three children, ages 14 months to 13 years, whom she homeschools. She's busy, but she says she can carry her Wi-Fi connected laptop around and answer questions in her spare moments.
Ms. RILEY: I might ChaCha in my bed, I might ChaCha in a chair, I might ChaCha on the couch. I will do it on the front porch.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ROBBINS: Her husband Kyle works for Arizona State University. ASU is making employees take one unpaid day off every two weeks to make up a budget deficit. So the $300 ChaCha income Denise averages each month comes in handy.
Ms. RILEY: That's a car payment. That is a few utility bills. That money really adds up at the end of the year.
ROBBINS: There are tons of other Web sites offering part-time online work -some legit, some not. The usual online scam warnings apply to customers and workers. Liveperson.com is a networking site linking clients to experts - from doctors and lawyers to psychics and fashion consultants.
Robert LoCascio is LivePerson's CEO. As the economy has faltered, he says more and more experts have signed on, especially after a recent article about LivePerson in the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. ROBERT LOCASCIO (CEO, LivePerson): So, normally we do about 200 new experts a day. It's fairly significant. We got up to 800 experts applying to be experts a day about a week ago. We're down now about 300, just a little over 300 per day.
ROBBINS: Three hundred new people each day trying to earn extra cash at just one online company. ChaCha guide Denise Riley says she tries to squeeze in at least 100 questions a day, from what's the nearest bathroom to the Matterhorn at Disneyland to this one…
Ms. RILEY: Someone wanted to know how many ping pong balls it would take to fill the Louisiana Superdome. And I did find an answer to that.
ROBBINS: It took finding some facts and doing some math. Speaking of math, 100 questions at 10 to 20 cents each is $10 to 20 a day. Not much, but for a lot of people in this economy, every little bit helps.
Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
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