iPhone App Lets You Be a Paid, Crowdsourced Field Agent

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to be a paid ‘field agent’ for clients, using an iPhone. At least, that’s the objective of a new iPhone app, Field Agent, that crowdsources work via mobile platform, for clients who might need simple tasks done, including checking up on their brand placement in stores, snapping pics, and more. While there are some location-based hurdles to face, an app like this has great potential, particularly for digital nomads or anyone who is regularly mobile.

The idea behind Field Agent is a simple yet novel concept: get paid for ‘field’ jobs accepted and successfully completed, most of which relate to brand placement and competitor pricing. Here’s a summary of the iPhone app’s description: Clients post job requests, which agents learn of through “push notification” on their iPhone, or through SMS or email. Job requests are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the first agent to accept a job has a two-hour time limit. Once the work is completed, the agent receives credit into their FieldAgent.net account. Accepted (i.e., accurate) work gets a “permanent” credit in terms of funds available for transfer to a PayPal account, within 48 hours. Keep in mind that clients will receive your GPS location with any data that you submit for a job, and any job not done as specified may not be credited.

A sample location-based job request might be for an item price check, with photo, from a specific store, or to see where in a store a client’s competitor’s brand might be currently placed in various stores. To be eligible for what Field Agent labels as “pricing surveys”, you need to answer four profile questions when you create your account: sex, year of birth, zip code and whether there are kids in your household. It’s not clear whether you simply won’t see certain pricing survey requests depending on your profile, or whether you will get an alert saying you’re not eligible.

Account features let you check on the jobs you’ve accepted but not completed, stats about jobs completed and payments made. You can change the job search radius to filter based on distance from your specified zip code, as well as specify priority of distance (minimal, I’m assuming) or payment (presumably maximal). Jobs listed to your profile show several categories: Opinion data, fact data, photo required, no travel, and travel required. However, you cannot currently filter jobs by category. As well, one fundamentally important feature that you’d expect from a location-based app is clearly missing: the lack of a map showing ALL nearby job requests. You can see a map for a select job, but that doesn’t make it easy to plan completion of multiple jobs. If this feature is available, it’s not immediately apparent.

Could you make a living doing this sort of thing? Not sure about that, at least not yet. Field Agent says that jobs “typically pay between $3 and $12 each,” though most of the “pricing survey” jobs that I see listed in my area pay $2 (nearest is 6.6 miles), with one paying $3.50 (24.3 miles). Given that most of the jobs I’m seeing indicate “70D” (70 days) remaining, I’m wondering why the two-hour time limit to complete work? Maybe this is so that if one agent screws up a job, another has an opportunity to try, or these are fake jobs entered in the system to get the network started.

Presumably, if you are fast and organized, grabbing a bunch of nearby jobs and completing them in the same day, the effort might be worth your while. Or you could hold out in hopes of higher paying jobs that you might be able to work in with other “about town” tasks. Of course, if you’re regularly mobile because of your work, you might eventually find this a worthwhile revenue stream — e.g., if you’re a courier, deliver papers or flyers, have a vending machine route, or if you’re retired and can get around as necessary.

Now, given that some people do make extra money doing being a secret shopper (albeit a lot more than these Field Agent jobs are currently paying), this still sounds like a much more viable way than the pennies you get being a neighborhood spy reporting supposedly suspicious car license plates. However, Field Agent does have the same hurdles that location-based advertising and marketing do, particularly fragmentation of an already small user base. In other words, being currently limited to iPhone users potentially reduces the client base. Still, Field Agent could prove to be a valuable way for clients to crowdsource work and digital nomads or other regularly mobile people to add a revenue stream to their income.