The Gig Economy : Utest Software Testing

I’m still trying to make ends meet using the Gig Economy.

Following my tour of bus shelters, I thought I’d try something more familiar, software testing. Before being made redundant, testing software had been a large part of my day to day life. It was something I knew I could do, so I registered with UTest (UTest.com), who bridge the gap between companies with new apps or websites to test, and a community of 400,000 software testers. Well now actually 400,001.

The first step is to register, and its a little complicated. It involves visiting the UTest website, adding the usual set of personal info, and completing a UTest profile. A profile is a list of devices that you own, and that you’re happy to use for testing. It could include laptops, tablets and phones, and also smart home devices, streaming services and even cars. As well as the hardware, you also add model numbers, operating systems and software versions. I’d added seven devices, so this took me an age, having to trawl through various settings and menus to find the necessary information.

The UTest profile also contains a users UTest rating. This rating goes up once bugs are approved, but down if there’s any deviation from the test plan, or if a tester, reports duplicate bugs. In simple terms, the higher a users rating, the more projects they’ll be involved in, and the more money they’d make.

Payment comes in two ways. Firstly, there’s a flat fee for taking part in a test project, and also individual payments for each approved bug you find. This amount goes up depending on how severe the bug is. Payment amounts differ from project to project, but typically finding a non-critical bug, like a typo, spelling mistake or layout problem would pay around £3-4, but finding a critical issue, like forcing an application to crash could earn £10-15.

Once the profile is complete, the next port of call is the UTest Acadamy. The Acadamy is where you learn how UTest works and where UTest explains their rules and policies, and it’s excellent. There are lots of informative videos to browse through, and also a test website where you can practice hunting for bugs.  

Having some history with software testing, I thought I’d know most of the basics, so I jumped straight in with testing, only having watched half of the videos. In hindsight, this wasn’t a good idea. Fifteen minutes into my first testing job, I was utterly baffled by the reporting process, platform UI and admin. I also fell foul of breaking some of UTests basic rules. I uploaded a .mov and not a .mp4, which turns out is not the done thing at all. The test admin, actually called TTL (Test Team Leader), was very helpful though and pointed me in the right direction, and more importantly, didn’t take any points off my rating.

Since then, I’ve been a part of five projects ranging from testing mobile phone apps to shopping websites. I can’t say who/what they were, as I’ve had to sign an NDA, but they were from major high street and online retailers. 

I’ve actually enjoyed the testing I’ve done. It feels like ‘real work’, and it’s quite exciting when you find a bug.  

There are though a few negatives. The main one being that testing isn’t as easy as you may think. Setting up the tests and reporting issues can be very complicated. You need a good robust set of IT skills even to attempt a testing session. So far, I’ve rekindled my skills in video transcoding and editing. Set web proxies, sideloaded applications and learned about console browser logs. The list goes on..

I was also surprised by how convoluted the ‘report an issue’ process was. I was testing a website on my android phone and, as per the instructions of the test when I found a bug I needed to.. record the screen of my phone showing the issue. Get this recording to my laptop (I used OneDrive), edit the video so that it only contained the problem. Add a blur effect to the footage if it showed sensitive data. Finally, I then had to covert this video to mp4 and upload it to the platform and check it played. I’d found four bugs so I had to do this four times and it was all a bit tedious and time-consuming.

But in the end, I made about £70 for about five hours of work. I also learned a lot, and once I’m a little more experienced, I’ll probably get quicker. 

All in all, it’s an excellent side hustle, maybe even more than that. There is talk that you can make a living out of this once your rating improves. The issue is, as it always is with the Gig Economy, is the uncertainty that there’ll be work tomorrow, and then the day after, and the day after..

Pros

  • You could potentially make a living out of this, providing that you can find regular tests to be a part of.
  • This is ‘real work’ and could go on your CV.
  • Getting your hands on, and testing the latest apps, websites, and tech is exciting and can be fun.  
  • The UTest academy is excellent and gives you enough knowledge to get your testing ball rolling.

Cons

  • ‘Work’ could dry up at any minute.
  • Registration is quite involved.
  • You’ll need a lot of devices to get regular work.
  • The testing process differs from Test to Test, and it can get confusing
  • You need good IT skills. I found myself video editing, transcoding setting gup Web proxies. (all straight forward once you know how)
  • Not everyone is suited to software testing.

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