Welcome to my AskWonder review!
AskWonder, also called Wonder, is yet another work-from-your-laptop-on-the-beach online money-making program. It's a research platform that promises lots of money for actually using your brain.
Now, this money doesn't come from some magical system that dumps riches into your bank account while you sleep. AskWonder researchers actually earn it.
But is AskWonder too good to be true? Well, let's research it...
Summary: AskWonder pays slave wages to their contractors. They claim they pay per hour, but it's actually per task. They have no training program and arbitrarily fire their researchers without warning and without payment for their work. Understandably, they aren't accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
WHAT IS ASKWONDER?
AskWonder, operated by the ironically named Balderdash, Inc., is a global research network based in New York City. It was founded in 2015 by 30-something Justin Wohlstadter, who, according to LinkedIn, attended Oxford and Harvard and held high-level positions at three firms before helming AskWonder.
Wonder is a platform for companies that have complex questions but no time to find the answers. These questions are researched for them by AskWonder's contractors. According to DiscoverOrg, AskWonder has over 3,000 analysts.
HOW DOES ASKWONDER WORK?
AskWonder is a crowdsourcing enterprise. Companies submit research questions and contractors (also known as sourcers, researchers or analysts) are assigned topics from this pool.
Next, analysts research and summarize an answer supported by detailed sources and statistics. Sometimes this research is relatively simple. Other times it requires deep dives. I imagine this could appeal to someone who enjoys poking around the internet for information or just for fun.
WILL YOU MAKE MONEY WITH ASKWONDER?
Yes, you will make money. No, you won't make anything remotely acceptable for the amount of work you'll be required to do. AskWonder pays between $8 and $16 per question, depending on the question's complexity.
I joined AskWonder to get a peek under the hood. Here's a sampling of the questions they want researchers to answer: "Find any information on the HFold sum set lattice point algorithm."
Here's another doozy: "What is the market size for people in the US who want to build a startup company that makes a product that they don't know how to create and can't pay someone to create it?" I have a question: "Are you kidding?"
You've got to be a machine to succeed at this job. You're given a tight four-hours to read and process complicated notes, make an outline and write a professional, error-free answer. Do this, and you'll earn your whopping $8 to $16.
Although you get four hours to complete a task, AskWonder estimates you can produce a stellar piece in only 60 to 90 minutes. I attempted this after joining, and I needed more than four hours. Odd because, as a journalist, I have years and years of research experience. Go figure.
If Wonder rejects your research, you have 30 minutes to snatch it back so that you can edit and resubmit it. Thing is, you must remain online and available during that time. If you commit the sin of dozing off, walking the dog or showering, your 30 minutes will have expired.
And get this... AskWonder will discard ALL your hours and hours of hard work without pay if that happens. The research request gets kicked back to the general pool. Unpaid work? Smells like fraud to me.
AskWonder also purports you can make even more money if you're chosen to be on their review team! For that privilege, you'll be paid an insulting $1 for each answer you review.
According to Wonder, their active researchers earn $2,000 or more a month! But they don't explain what "active" means to them. In other words, $2,000 is just a number they pulled out of their hat.
On the client side, AskWonder charges $19.99 per request and $99.99 in advance for five requests. Fifteen requests will set you back $279.99, and fifty requests cost $899.99. The fishy part of this pricing is that Wonder's website provides no information about cancellations, refunds or guarantees if the client is dissatisfied with the work.
A LOOK INTO THE ASHWONDER SIGNUP PROCESS
To AskWonder's credit, their signup process is free, with no upsells down the road. There are no generic Creative Commons photos of fake cheerful employees to entice you to join. Testimonials from businesspeople are real. (There actually is a John Graham at Merck, Inc.)
You'll start the signup process by completing an application. Due to some vague regulation that's never explained, AskWonder doesn't accept anyone from California, Massachusetts or New York. That's odd since they're based in New York!
After completing the application, you'll take a brief test to see if you're AskWonder material. This test contains everything from simple grammatical and spelling questions to more challenging ones such as ratios and critical thinking.
When you pass, you're shuttled to their "Research Starter Course," where you're force-fed a truly mind-numbing amount of information about how to conduct research for Wonder. There are pages and pages and pages of information about research strategies, Boolean search strings, Google X-ray searches, triangulation, statistics, percentages and much more.
Also, you're expected to be a mind reader: "Make sure your sources support the client's stated or implied goals." All this for $8 to $16? Ah, I don't think so!
Your reward for surviving this ordeal is three "practice requests" (unpaid, of course) that must be completed within 48 hours. Then, and only then, can you work on "live requests."
These hurdles seem more in line with the ones I'd imagine potential New York Times, Time Magazine, and Forbes researchers may have to clear. It's ridiculous to expect the same from someone being paid $8 to $16 a pop. It's shameful Wonder's researchers' wages are so disproportionate to the actual work done.
AskWonder's employment spiel is misleading. It lists a generic set of qualities and skills required of contractors. Most people have these skills, so it's implied that the job may be easy-peasy. The last four bolded points, however, foreshadow the true, harsh realities of the job:
- A discerning eye for quality content
- Command of the English language and strong/grammatical writing a must
- Ability to create lean, high-level, often quantitative summaries directly answering users' questions
- Critical analysis, logical reasoning skills
- Keen attention to details
- Understanding basic economics (knowledge of markets a huge plus)
- You not only know how to extract and validate hard stats but can calculate some of your own on the fly if need be
- Those with a narrow, deep understanding of a STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] field/prior study in a technical subject are also encouraged to apply
- Those with a narrow, deep understanding of astrophysics, jet propulsion, electron microscopy, and the meaning of life are also encouraged to apply. (Just kidding, but you get the idea.)
Interestingly, I headed over to GlassDoor and found 20 photos of AskWonder employees. Only three of these showed employees actually working.
The others were cutesy shots of them doing cutesy stuff: Playing chess, kicking back by a waterfall, eating an apple in a grassy field and laughing it up in the kitchen. Apparently, they don't work very hard for their money so why should we?
WHAT IS THE FEEDBACK LIKE?
The majority of feedback I found about AskWonder was angry and resentful. Many current and former AskWonder contractors agreed that the company grossly underpays their workers. They also don't like the assignment system. Analysts used to be able to choose their topics, but now the company assigns them.
They largely agree that they work under the intense pressure of a demanding points system and a countdown clock. Your work must maintain a quality level of at least 4.4 out of 5.0 stars or you'll be ditched.
A former employee said that the company hired approximately 400 analysts in one month, which means you're expendable.
Many AskWonder sourcers find the industry-specific questions bewildering if you don't have experience in that particular niche.
They complained that AskWonder's overseers are inconsistent, and their critiques and decisions can be arbitrary and subjective. For example, you could be fired because some information isn't available unless you pay for it on the internet.
The few pros described were so generic to be meaningless: You can work in your bathrobe. You can work anywhere. You can work anytime. You can work as many or as few days as you want. The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.
More specific benefits mentioned included knowledge growth and challenging assignments. Dependable, bi-weekly PayPal payments were also a plus, as well as an easy-to-use interface.
PROS OF ASKWONDER
CONS OF ASKWONDER
AskWonder is an unethical and possibly criminal enterprise that overworks and underpays their analysts. You can earn money, but the company pressures their contractors with unrealistic deadlines and ousts them over trivial errors. If an assignment doesn't meet their arbitrary criteria, you may not get paid at all.
AskWonder is a scam. I don't recommend it.
SO, NOW WHAT?
Working as a top sleuth for AskWonder isn't just a waste of time, it's also a waste of your talents. For all that effort conducting exhaustive research for others, you could be researching and writing your own in-depth content for your own projects and earning handsomely from it.
No, you won't earn money right away like a paid researcher on AskWonder, but is all that effort really worth it in the end, considering how little they pay?
Instead, you could be building a real asset for yourself, one that pays you dividends in the future with the work you put in now. It's the same business model that set me on the path to earning a full-time income from home. Sound interesting?
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
What do you think of AskWonder? Leave your questions and comments below!