Back in March, I realised that if I didn’t earn some money I might have to find a ‘proper’ job before the end of the year. And that didn’t feel like a good option for me then. Especially after I’d briefly considered a (mostly) full-time job that sounded interesting on the run-up to Easter. My burnout was, and indeed still is, in a recovery phase. I’m doing better month by month but it is still a reality around which I have to plan.

So, I decided to look at (what I came to call) Microworking opportunities. These are little projects I could pick up from home and do when I felt like it. I started off with things like Clickworker and some retail survey sites but rapidly realised that a lot of them pay in points rather than cash and that filling in surveys didn’t feel good - it felt like I was selling my opinion. Neither of these sites provided tasks that felt like they contributed to my overall purpose of kindness.

I moved on to sites which, mostly, are related to research-based surveys - Prolific and, later, Testable Minds. Both of these are often questionnaires, or tasks, being done to assist with academic research. These tasks are usually quite short, don’t bring in a lot of money, but feel like they’re contributing a little to the greater good. I’m still actively picking up tasks for both of these sites as and when they are available when I am.

The next thing I tried was being a user on crowdsourced user testing platforms. That means doing web-based usability studies for various sites. I’ve done quite a lot of work with different providers over the past few months and have found it ultimately pretty interesting. I’ve learned a lot about how different organisations plan their user testing, and also about how different kind of sites affect me in different ways - online gambling made me nervous, online shopping is well within my comfort zone. Having signed up with Freeagent to keep a track of what money was coming in from where I know that I’ve had the most user tests from UserTesting, followed by WhatUsersDo and have done the odd test here and there for quite a few other providers. UsabilityHub deserves a special mention as it provides tiny tests, and pays cents for doing them, but has been interesting to me to realise that I’ve had to say I prefer design A over design B because I liked the colour better. I realised that I’m just as subjective as everyone else. And that felt like a good lesson to learn. I’d recommend every team signs up and contributes to see what they uncover about themselves. I’m still actively participating in these as I enjoy them, it feels like I’m helping society in a small way, and I learn about myself doing them.

I then moved on to ‘proper’ testing. QA. Bug testing. Whatever you wish to call it. Effectively I’m testing sites and apps to identify flaws. And I’ve discovered an aptitude for this. My curiosity and my pedantry/attention to detail are both great assets in this work. I’ve ended up doing testing work in my two previous jobs, but it has always been ‘just another thing’, or I’ve been a temporary solution while we found a ‘proper QA’ rather than something I should focus on, and invest time in to improve. So this has been fun. And this feels, again, like I’m living my kindness purpose by pointing out areas that don’t work as well as they could. The three sites I’ve had my best experiences with are uTest, We are Testers, and Bugfinders. All three need a bit of an investment to learn the platforms, and processes, but once up-to-speed there are many projects to get involved with.

This ‘proper’ testing, and a chance conversation with my friend Alex about what I’d been doing in the previous few months, led me to meet Steve at eConsult to talk about doing a research piece for them. I left that meeting agreeing to go in for three or four days per sprint to start the QA processes off at eConsult. I started that a month ago, and I’m enjoying it so far. It gives me a reliable schedule to work with, and there’s a whole new domain to learn about, as well as a broad remit of where I can get involved. And it turns out that having that stability in my week means that I can pick up odds and ends of other projects around my scheduled days and that I can give myself Friday off as a mini dose of Deliberate Downtime. And again, that feels good and in keeping with my wish to be kind to myself and continued recovery from burnout.

All is well at the moment. And that deserves to be celebrated.