Monday, September 26, 2016

Side Hustle Week Day 1: Studypool


Welcome to Side Hustle Week here at Road To A Tesla! Most personal finance bloggers love to talk about side hustles - ways you can make some extra money on the side to help you achieve your financial goals more quickly. These are usually jobs you can do as a hobby or while you are still employed full time somewhere and, with luck, you may be able to parlay them into big-time income producing projects.

I tried out my hand at some side hustles and each day this week, I will be posting my results and thoughts on some of the more popular ones.

Day 1 - Studypool
Day 2 - Wrapify
Day 3 -Loanables and Craigslist
Day 4 - Amazon Mechanical Turk
Day 5 - Udemy

Studypool is a tutoring website where students post questions or requests for help and others can assist them - for a fee. Each question posted has a dollar range that the student is willing to pay for assistance, as well as a time frame they need the answer by. As a tutor, you place bids on the questions and feel you can answer, sort of like an auction.

They have a reputation system for both students and tutors, but it’s fairly rudimentary. As a tutor, you can increase your reputation by just submitting 15 or more bids in a day. The bids don’t have to be accepted by any students for you to get the increased reputation.

 The Process

Once your bid is accepted, Studypool has a very specific process you must go through to help the student. You are forced to send a “Hello” message to the student and tell them when they can expect your answer. Then you send them your answer.

This is where things get strange. To get credit for submitting an answer, you have to mark the question as completed before the end of the time frame the student specified, but the next step in their process is to answer any additional questions the student might have. So if you never hear back from the student, which happened to me 100% of the time, technically, you can't mark the question as complete because you don't know if the student has other questions. I ended up waiting until 5 or 10 minutes before the time frame was to end, then marked it as complete. And finally, in order for you to get paid, the student has to mark your answer as acceptable.

How It Turned Out

I had many issues with the site: They break down questions into categories, but they are seemingly random. For instance, they have three separate categories called Mathematics, Algebra, and Calculus. Mathematics is a general enough term to cover algebra and calculus, so not sure why those are broken out separately. They should just use the two more specific terms and ditch the Mathematics category. Other categories include Graphs, Film, SAT, and Excel. They have separate categories for Programming, PHP, HTML/CSS, Javascript, and Computer Science, even though they are all Programming.

The site is fairly slow. Additionally, they use a spinning wheel graphic at the end of their search results. This makes you think the site is still working, but in reality, it’s done. Very poor user interface design.

The questions themselves range from the ridiculous to the absurd. I’ve seen questions asking to explain the Pythagorean Theorem or how to graph X=5 and ones asking for an 18 page paper on economics. The students seem to have little sense of value. For example, the question that required an 18 page paper was set with a maximum price of $10. I feel I am competing against people in third world countries for working at that price.

Many students often post questions with instructions like “Use the methods discussed in class…” Umm.. We weren’t in the class. How are we supposed to answer that? Or look at this one:

“Read chapter 13 and 14.” Said chapters are nowhere to be found. Not even a name of a book to try to find them. The required deliverable is a two page essay. Want to know what the student was willing to pay for this? $1 to $7. Oh, and the student wanted this done within 15 hours. Place your bids now to compete for the right to answer this one!

Worst Auction Ever

And speaking of competing, there is next to no way to distinguish your bid from others. Bid amounts are limited to a list in a drop down box that only contains values within the question’s listed price range – and those are only in $2 increments. If you see 5 people bidding $5 on a question and you want to bid $4, too bad. Can’t do it. You’re stuck bidding $3.

The only way to differentiate yourself from other tutors is by your reputation score. However, this presents a catch-22. You can’t raise your score until you answer questions and no one will pick you to answer questions if your score is low. You can raise your score, as I mentioned earlier, by bidding on 15 or more questions per day. This, of course, opens the door to artificial reputation inflation.

Not Much Work Available

Questions are very hard to come by. I signed up in July, when school was out, so I can understand the initial lack of questions. However, I continued to search for questions once or twice per day until the end of September. The pickings were slim. Once again, I felt I was up against hordes of people overseas who spend all their time on this site, snatching questions up as soon as they become available.

Studypool started a new feature shortly after I joined – something called “Recommendations.” Basically, Studypool will recommend a particular tutor to the student to answer a student’s question. (It's unclear if this is an automated process or not.) Here's how they explain it:

There are several factors in determining if a recommendation gets made, including price and time limit, satisfaction rate (i.e, a tutor’s reputation rating), etc. The problem is that once Studypool has made a recommendation, no one else can view or bid on the question. This drops the number of available questions to miniscule amounts. Here is an example of what I have seen every day for the past month:

Everything grayed out is non-bidable due to a recommendation. There is only one available question (at the top), and this is searching ALL questions on their site.

So to recap – questions get a recommendation about 20 minutes after being posted. Once a question has received a recommendation, no one else can bid on it (or even view it). This means you have to monitor the site constantly in hopes of getting a question you can bid on.


After answering 10 questions, new tutors get a $25 bonus. I never made it that far. I was only able to answer 3 questions, earning a total of $11 in pay. Unfortunately, the site does not let you withdraw money until you have accumulated at least $50.

The Final Word

Let’s be honest - with this site, you are getting paid for doing someone’s homework. Even if you are OK with that, your time will best be spent elsewhere. Unless you are dirt poor and willing to work for pennies an hour, avoid this one.


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