How People Are Making Money Using Their Phones (Yes, Really)


Let’s face it, we can all be guilty of occasionally spending too much time on our phones. But while endlessly scrolling through Instagram is all well and good at times, could you be using your phone more productively, and potentially profitably?

There are countless mobile phone apps offering users the ability to make money. While some of these will sadly require you to get up off the couch, others involve minimal effort and might just earn you coin for doing the things you’re possibly already doing, like online shopping or snapping nice photos. 

So what’s the catch? While it is possible to earn money using these apps, it’s unlikely to be a huge amount. Additionally, some money making apps require a fair bit of time and effort before you start to see any returns. That being said, if you’re looking for a way to flexibly earn a little extra cash, they could be worth a closer look.

Canstar has taken a tour through the backstreets of the app stores to identify a selection of money making platforms (below, in no particular order), including ones that allow users to jump into casual paid work in the ‘gig economy’.

1. For those with a side hustle: Airtasker 

There are certain jobs that many Australians don’t have the time, skills or energy to complete themselves. Increasingly, these people are turning to online platforms like Airtasker, where users can advertise tasks – anything from logo design to putting together IKEA furniture – and have “taskers” bid to do the work. 

While Airtasker says its most commonly advertised jobs are for things like cleaning, moving furniture and gardening, people can list a range of tasks from the mundane to the downright wacky: Last year, one Melbourne customer posted an ad offering $30 for someone to compliment their hairless cat. 

How much does it cost? The app is free to download but once a user starts getting paid, Airtasker charges a service fee. This is a tiered fee structure – the cost depends on how much you’ve earned in the past 30 days. Airtasker says the most it will charge you is 20% of your earnings and the least is 10%. 

Is it worth it? Airtasker claims that it is possible to earn up to $5,000 a month using the app, but how much you actually earn will depend on what and how many tasks you do. Airtasker gives users a recommended price guide – for example, it recommends users charge at least $30/hour for basic handyman tasks. However, as the platform works on a lowest-bidder-wins-the-work basis, how much you end up actually pocketing will vary and may be less than what is recommended. Additionally, it’s worth taking into account that some tasks like plumbing and removalist services may take some time to complete and require quite a bit of effort, skill and potentially equipment, so it may not necessarily be the easiest money you’ve ever earned.

2. For online shoppers: Cashrewards and ShopBack 

If you’re a big online shopper, you might be interested in taking a look at cashback apps that promise to pay you money when you shop. Apps like Cashrewards and ShopBack give users a percentage of purchases back when they buy from partner retailers via the app. How much you get back will depend on what store you are shopping at as well as the deals available at the time.

Sydney startup Cashrewards says it has partnerships with more than 1,200 stores, while Singapore-based ShopBack lists more than 500 brands. Both apps offer cashback for a range of different shops, such as Woolworths, David Jones, Apple, and ASOS. As there can be a bit of an overlap, it’s a good idea to check both platforms to make sure you’re getting the best available deal. It might also pay to check the listed deal against the purchase price on the retailer’s site, too. 

How much does it cost? Both Cashrewards and ShopBack are free to download and use. Partner retailers pay the platform a commission whenever someone buys through it and a portion of this commission is then passed along to you (the buyer). 

Is it worth it? While the old saying ‘you have to spend money to make money’ springs to mind here, you won’t actually be earning money per se. What you will be getting is a percentage back of what you’ve already spent. So these types of apps may only be worth using if you’re already planning on going shopping – otherwise, you’ll just be spending money for the sake of getting a potentially small percentage back.  

3. For investors: Raiz 

Raiz (previously Acorns) is a micro-investing app that automatically invests your spare change. Raiz works by rounding up the cost of your everyday purchases to the nearest dollar. So for example, if you buy a $3.80 coffee, Raiz will round this up to $4 and put the extra 20 cents into your investment account. You can also choose to make recurring daily, weekly or monthly payments or deposit a one-off lump sum amount. 

When you sign up for the app, you’re given the option of choosing between six diversified portfolios ranging from conservative to aggressive, so you can choose how much risk you want to take on. Raiz says you’ll need at least $5 in your account before you can start investing. 

How much does it cost? Raiz is free to download but once you have money in your account, it will start charging you a monthly fee. At the moment, Raiz charges $2.50 per month (or $30 a year) for accounts under $10,000 and 0.275% of your account balance per year for accounts over $10,000. For example, you would be charged $55 a year on a $20,000 account balance. 

Is it worth it? This will depend on your personal circumstances, how much you invest, how you choose to invest and, importantly, market movements. It’s important to keep in mind that it may take a while for you to see returns – and even then it may not be a huge amount considering the platform is based on ‘small change’ investments. Of course, your investment could even drop in value, depending on how it’s invested and how the market is doing. Remember too that any potential returns would be eaten into by the monthly/annual fees. 

If you like the concept but are not keen on the fees and risk, some banks such as ING and Bank Australia offer similar ’round-up’ features on their transaction accounts whereby your spare cash is transferred into a linked savings account

4. For pet lovers: Pawshake and Mad Paws 

Love animals? Through platforms like Pawshake and Mad Paws you might be able to earn money by dog walking and pet sitting local animals. Once you’ve been vetted and verified by the platform, you can advertise services ranging from doggy daycare to house visits to pet boarding. Both platforms allow you to set your own prices and availability and to choose what types of animals you want to look after. Kind of like Uber for dogs, pet owners are able to see which pet sitters are available in their area and can choose to connect with them. At the end of the day, pet owners will then rate and review their experience.

How much does it cost? It’s free to sign up to both Pawshake and Mad Paws, however, once you get a booking you’ll be charged a service fee. At the time of writing, Pawshake charges a 19% fee and Mad Paws charges a 20% service fee. 

Is it worth it? Generally, people list a price of between $10 to $20 for dog walking and upwards of $20 per night for pet sitting or boarding. However, as Pawshake and Mad Paws allow you to set your own prices, it’s a good idea to check your local area to get an idea of what other pet sitters are charging. And don’t forget the golden rule of operating a small business – supply and demand. If there are lots of walkers or sitters listed on the site in your local area, that could well impact the amount of jobs that you may be able to secure. Customer service is important too, as your clients will rate your performance, which may impact on your likelihood of securing further work.

5. For photographers: Foap and Twenty20

If you have an eye for photography, you could use apps like Foap and Twenty20 to sell your photos to brands and businesses. There are two ways you can potentially make money through these apps: selling your photos or winning photo competitions. Foap has ‘missions’ and Twenty20 has ‘challenges’ that require you to fulfil a photographic brief – for example, a photo of a particular item or scenario. If you win, you get a cash prize. The obvious potential downside with the mission/challenge set up is that you could put time and effort into a brief with no guarantee of receiving a payment.

How much does it cost? Foap and Twenty20 are free to download and use. 

Is it worth it? On Foap, at the time of writing photos sell for $10 each with the profit split evenly between the photographer and Foap – so $5 for you and $5 for Foap. On Twenty20, you are paid a commission each time one of your photos is licensed for use by a subscriber. The commission is not fixed, and can change over time, depending on how many photos you upload and how many subscribers buy them. Twenty20 uses the ‘subscriber share’ model to work out the commission users earn – this means you’re paid a portion of the photo buyer’s Twenty20 subscription. Competition winners typically receive $20-$40 for a Twenty20 challenge and between $100 to $500 for a Foap mission.


Please note we’re not making a recommendation about these apps. It’s important to do your own research before deciding if any of these kinds of services are suitable for you.

Considering entering the gig economy? Here are some things to look out for

If you’re considering using apps like some of those mentioned above to make extra cash in return for casual work, it’s useful to be aware of the potential pros and cons. For example, one of the benefits of working in the gig economy is the flexibility it can allow and the fact that you’re not tied down to a nine to five job. However, on the flip side, be aware that the availability of jobs, and therefore the income you could earn, may be inconsistent and scarce at times. Be prepared for a dip in your income if you get sick or take a holiday and cannot complete jobs.

Additionally, while some of these apps allow you to set your own rates, you may not have much bargaining power when it comes to negotiating a higher pay. Instead, there’s a good chance that a potential customer will favour the lowest reputable bidder.

Be conscious of safety too, particularly if you are visiting a customer’s home or inviting them or their pets into yours. Consider checking what insurance, such as public liability cover, is included as part of the platform you’re using and whether you need additional cover.

Image Source: GaudiLab (Shutterstock) 

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