Archives: Seasons 1-5
Segment | Economy

Need a Job? There's an App for That

Need a job? Stop texting and start making money now! Though that might sound like spam, don't stop reading, because a whole new economy is sprouting up on your smartphone with powerful new apps that can point the way to your next job, and maybe even the one after that. As long as you don't mind getting paid just a few bucks at a time.

Brian Rooney: Among the crowds of people taking pictures of the famous Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, chances are only one of them is making money doing it. This is Ross Chitwood -- using his iPhone to take photos of Hollywood landmarks. It's a paying gig, although not a gig in his usual line of work.

Chitwood [talking to student at piano]: Pay attention to the words, but don't get wrapped up in the emotions.

Rooney: Ross is a singer and a vocal coach -- a graduate of Julliard with a Master's degree in music.

Student: [singing]: I know it's been some time.

Chitwood [to student]: Consistent.

Student: But there's something on my mind. You see, I haven't been the same.

Chitwood: Fantastic, that's really good.

Rooney: So, how was he making money in front of the Chinese Theater?

Rooney: Chitwood discovered a smartphone app called Gigwalk that lists thousands of micro jobs anyone with an iPhone can do. Taking pictures of restaurants or landmarks for map applications. Doing customer surveys. Five, ten, fifteen dollars a gig. It's easy money to supplement his income.

Rooney: You just took a picture of the famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Chitwood: Right .

Rooney: What did that get you?

Chitwood: Fifteen dollars.

Rooney: So that's work?

Chitwood: Yeah.

Rooney: We followed him into a store, where he did a price survey and took pictures of peanut butter.

Chitwood: And we're done.

Rooney: He took a picture of a restaurant exterior, then grabbed a shot of the menu. After the photos are approved, he gets paid online.

Chitwood: Five dollars. Easy! It's a really easy payment structure -- all done through PayPal.

Rooney: Gigwalk is part of what you might call the "App Economy," a class of smartphone apps -- instantly connecting work that needs to be done with people willing to do it. Many economists say secure jobs with benefits aren't coming back after the recession, and Ross Chitwood agrees.

Chitwood: I think that what Gigwalk can teach us about the economy is that you have to work for what you do, and I think the days of pensions and things like that are gone.

Rooney: Several apps are on the frontier of this new world.

Voice on computer screen: Enter Taskrabbit!

Rooney: People post jobs on Taskrabbit for anything from household chores to office work, even errands. Taskrabbits have to undergo a background check because they go into private homes. Rabbits put in price bids for jobs, then hop to it when the customer accepts their bid. Zaarly is a similar app on which people post jobs they're willing to do for a fixed price. Then there's WeGoLook. Interested in buying a high ticket item in another state? jewelry...art...property...a car? ...even heavy construction equipment. They send someone to look for you.

Chitwood [to student]: I'm not going to play as loud this time. It's all up to you.

Rooney: Chitwood finished college and started working in 2008 -- just when the recession hit. This is the only economy he's ever known, so he's always had to cobble together several sources of income.

Chitwood: This is my business card and flyer. It comes with a free 45 minute voice lesson. I pass these out at a lot of local auditions -- XFactor, American Idol -- anywhere where people are stuck in line all day long, and I get to just stand there and talk to them. It's a great place to make connections."

Rooney: He moved from Houston to Los Angeles to jump-start his teaching business. He was on his last dime.

Chitwood: So I set out with my phone, and, in my car, and started taking pictures of restaurants, and at a time when I desperately needed cash, Gigwalk was kind of there to fill the void.

Rooney: What's a good day doing Gigwalk. What's the best you've done?

Chitwood: Best I've done, in two days, I think was about 800 dollars, taking pictures of frozen pizza.

Rooney: Karen North at the USC Annenberg School says these new job apps are the front wave of social media, doing for work what Facebook did for friends.

North: If you need somebody to come in and type something, they can be paid to come in and type that one thing. If you need a courier to take one package somewhere, they can do that. If you need somebody on the other side of the country to go scout something out for you, you can pay for that exact thing.

Karen North: Well, you know what? Craigslist, as new as it is, is now sort of passé. It's last decade. The, the genius of this is that it functions in real time. I need a task to be done, and I post it. You want to do some work, and you click on it, and you do it right then and there, and you get paid right then and there.

Rooney [to Chitwood]: So we gotta find the app store.

Rooney: Chitwood helped us get set up with Gigwalk. You just load up, sign up, give them a Paypal account, and you're good to go. So I'm going to see if I can find a gig of my own. I could always use the money. So I tap on the application, Gigwalk, and the map comes up. And all these green pins here, those are jobs that I could potentially do, but most of those are five, six miles away, and I don't want to bother. But the application knows exactly where I am. That little blue flashing dot there. So, I tap on the one close to me. And up it comes, and it's to photograph the outside and inside of a restaurant. Five dollars. So that's fine. I hit apply. Approval could be instant, or up to about 45 minutes. So the first thing, they want is an exterior of the restaurant. Taste of the Islands Jamaican Restaurant. So I just hit "tap" here. So, now I have to take an interior panorama, and that's it - five dollars.

North: If you're really diligent, and hard-working, and if you have that app up, or a bunch of them all the time, and you just keep on clicking on the next task, the next task, the next task, you can actually make a lot of money.

Chitwood [to student]: Ready, go.

Student [singing]: Where do broken hearts go?

Rooney: Chitwood's music business is healthy again, but most days, he still makes a little extra money with Gigwalk.

Chitwood: The other day I took a picture of a Mexican restaurant's menu 'cause I was just walking by. So I made four dollars, but it took me thirty seconds. If I can make four dollars every thirty seconds, I'm doing pretty well.

Rooney: In the app economy, there's always a job in the palm of your hand.

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