There are lots of ways to side hustle some extra money. Answering homework questions is one way …
Knowledge is power. More practically, knowledge is marketable. If you have knowledge on a topic that someone wants badly enough, they'll pay you for it.
Studypool.com is a website that advertises fast, reliable homework answers from tutors. They provide a means for people with homework questions to get answers from knowledgeable people.
In this website review I'll be focusing on the experience from a tutoring perspective. I haven't looked at it from the student perspective. I'll discuss the sign-up process, bidding on questions as a tutor, answering questions, and overall impression.
The sign-up process was painless enough. The barrier to entry for becoming a tutor on this site is reasonably low. There are no subject exams to take (I've had to take subject exams on other sites). I basically jumped in pretty quickly answering questions.
Meaning: If you feel you can do a good job, they'll give you a shot.
I put in a brief description of my suitability as a tutor (three sentences, though they allow more). I also indicated the school I graduated from.
Bidding on questions
From there, it's a matter of bidding on questions and getting business. This is (mostly) a competitive process against other tutors. I found a few questions to answer in math and physics by browsing the active questions in those subjects.
The student will post a question (or questions), a price range, and a time frame. Tutors will respond with a bid, saying I'll do it for $X and have it done within Y time.
If the student finds a suitable tutor, he or she selects them to answer the question and the answering process begins.
Some questions are marked “Auto-Assign” which means that the Studypool team can choose a tutor for the student if the tutor can meet both the price and timeline required. This was how I got the three questions I answered.
Questions are definitely not created equal on this site. If I were knowledgeable about a particular subject I could bid to do an entire practice test (or two!) for $15. Or, I could bid to do a master's-level term paper for $100 — in two weeks.
I was fairly choosy on the questions I bid on. If someone would do the work required for a 30+ page term paper for $100, with citations, great on them! That wasn't me. A few bucks for one or two math problems is more my style. 🙂
After I won my bids on the problems, the answering began. I chose problems that had a time frame of a day or more, so I had some time to find out that I actually won the problem before it was past due.
From there, it's a matter of answering the question(s) within the agreed time limit. There's a bit more to answering the question than just answering the question, including introducing yourself, giving an estimate of when the answer is coming, asking the student if there are any other requirements for the answer, etc. The student whose questions I answered said nothing back to me (except at the end to say I gave good answers), so all of this felt a bit like I was talking to myself. (But hey, it's not as if I haven't been accused of doing this anyway!)
Answering the questions were simple enough: Crack open a document in Word, draw pictures using line and rectangle art, and add the answer text around it.
One part that almost got me on the first questions, surprisingly, was the plagiarism check! I uploaded my solution — which I wrote completely from scratch! — and it came back with 13% plagiarized. This was approaching the limit of what they'd accept (19%). My initial reaction was, “I didn't plagiarize any of it,” but once I did a bit of research as to what plagiarism meant I found out that it doesn't have to be willful, so I took it a bit less personally. I chalked it up to there being only but so many ways to say “where x is the displacement, v is the velocity, and a is the acceleration” before it starts to sound odd, and I chose one phrasing that people somewhere on the internet had used before. But I get it: They'd get into big trouble if they sell work that infringes on copyright.
Overall impressions of Studypool
The platform is pretty good. It's tastefully designed and it's functional. They've made some updates to the site design within the past couple of months, which was when I answered the questions.
The customer service chat was quite responsive. The staff answered questions I had promptly. The “ask a question” button was prominently displayed on each page, making it easy to find.
Once I got the hang of where to interact with the students on their questions, things went more smoothly. The first question I actually got warned because I didn't do some of the politeness things. (Well, I had — just not in the question's area.) I interacted with them by sending them messages from their profile page.
For most people this probably wouldn't have been an issue but as a blogger the type-a-message area (at the bottom of the screenshot below) looks an awful lot like inside of WordPress, so I figured that was for something else:
I probably completely overthought this interface, which led to my warning. One suggestion would be to add some just-in-time “placeholder” text in the form that said something like: “Introduce yourself to the student here and give a timeline for when they can expect an answer.” I don't think that Studypool wants me to be naughty, so a nudge in the right direction would have helped a bit.
I'll need to check Studypool at different times of the day. The number of questions right now is a bit low, which makes it challenging to earn money answering the questions. It's also not that late into the semester so things may pick up nearer to the end of school terms.
What I see as Studypool's main challenge is increasing their paid question volume.
There are already big sites where anyone can ask a question for free, and get an answer (or several!) for free. What's typically not tolerated at those free sites, though, is simply asking for an answer. The people providing answers at those sites expect the questioner to show what they've tried, and visibly work a bit for the answer. They're there to help, but they don't want to be used.
This is the audience that Studypool needs to tap into: the people who just want an answer, and have money to get that answer.
This isn't a problem, per se, because the tutors at Studypool, though, expect just to answer the question, because they're being paid by the student to do so. (Well, the student pays Studypool and Studypool pays the tutor once they've accumulated $50.)
Personally, I like helping. I'll help people on a StackExchange site for free (almost to a fault) and get imaginary internet points added to my reputation. I do so because it's enjoyable. If I could do the same thing at Studypool and get a few bucks, even better, but I acknowledge that I'm being paid for my work and with that comes restrictions. As long as the enjoyment vs. money doesn't go too far out of whack, I'll probably continue.
Which gets back to increasing paid question volume. Again, I like to help. But if the questions aren't at Studypool, I'll help elsewhere if there's nothing for me to answer at Studypool.
Overall, Studypool has good bones. They've already put thought into the design and process of getting questions answered in a timely manner, and they seem to be soliciting feedback and acting on it to make things better. It will be interesting to see how they continue and grow, and it will be especially interesting as tutors make more money by answering questions.
(Studypool.com compensated me for this website review. All opinions are my own.)