As the recession deepens, a small but growing number of people are taking their skills online, doling out expertise or performing specified tasks for a fee. Labor-at-the-keyboard sites are gaining popularity as people increasingly turn to the Web in search of work. Internet job-search sites saw a 51% rise in traffic from January 2008 to January 2009, according to comScore Media Metrix, to 26.7 million unique visitors.
Among the many fee-for-service Web sites out there, at least three are attracting a significant number of users -- though consumers should exercise a healthy degree of skepticism when consulting any of these sites. LivePerson (www.liveperson.com) seeks out experts on a slew of topics, including mental health, financial services, shopping and fashion, as well as psychics and spiritual advisers. Mechanical Turk (www.mturk.com), a Web service run by Amazon.com Inc., pays workers to perform tasks, such as cataloging products online. Associated Content (www.associatedcontent.com) pays contributors to write articles on a wide range of subjects, from organic flower gardening to how to apply for financial aid.