June 03, 2010, 8:01 AM — You could call it the new American dream: making a living without ever leaving the living room.
Sure, it may sound silly, but there's something inexplicably appealing about earning an honest dollar without putting on pants. (Why do you think I became a writer?) It's no surprise, then, that more and more people are happily moving toward the telecommuting -- aka the "honest, honey, I was going to shower this morning" -- approach.
Of course, the Web's workforce isn't all business as usual; there are plenty of odd jobs filling the world's cyber-cubicles, too.
I tracked down six such money-making endeavors. Some of them are simply unconventional; others are downright bizarre. But all of them are perfectly legit, and all of them are things you could be doing this very minute.
So tell me: Are you ready to live the American dream?
1. Looking for Porn
Yep, you read correctly: Seeking out smut can earn you shekels. But not in the way you might expect.
Let's just get this out of the way now: You can't earn cash by clicking over to whatever sort of weird stuff you're into. You can, however, make a few bucks by directing your prurient interests to a more productive place.
Meet CrowdFlower. Founded in 2007, the agency works with online businesses to help them handle random jobs -- you know, like looking for nudie pics.
"Sites that allow user-generated content uploads often contract us to make sure porn doesn't get uploaded," explains Lukas Biewald, CrowdFlower's founder and CEO.
So how does it work? A business reaches out to Biewald and explains what kind of work it needs done. Biewald then turns to his workforce -- driven by online staffing agencies like Amazon's Mechanical Turk and LiveWork -- to find the right people for the job.
Paula Harrell is one of those people.
"I've seen some funny pictures," Harrell says. "Some you had to zoom to see if they were revealing."
Another CrowdFlower regular, Andrew Engle, is a bit less coy about what he's encountered.
"It's nuts, man!" Engle laughs. "You'll see some dude in the background with his pants down or something. Sometimes I don't want to tell anybody what I saw!"
CrowdFlower's tasks pay anywhere from $1 to $40, depending on their complexity and how urgently they're needed. They aren't limited only to porn surfing, either: The agency also handles numerous other tasks such as address verification, data sorting, and social media analysis.
But those make for far less impressive date-night conversations.
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