Abstract: This article is about those who need or want to make a living from working on online platforms. Moreover, questions of financial dependence are related to why this work is done and what social recognition the workers expect from it. Our mixed‐methods approach captures this heterogeneous field of online platform work by dividing it into three categories: (a) microwork, (b) mesowork, and (c) macrowork. Microwork involves offering short, repetitive tasks to an anonymous crowd, such as human intelligence tasks. Macrowork consists of market‐based freelance platforms offering highly skilled professionals complex and more extensive tasks. In between, mesowork covers platforms offering specialized tasks such as software testing or content creation. While income opportunities and working conditions vary widely between these platforms, common features include self‐employment and the ability to work from anywhere. Quantitative results show that only for a few highly skilled workers does income from platform work account for a crucial share of their household income. Surprisingly, workers’ household incomes do not differ by skill level. Qualitative results complement this picture by giving us a more contextual understanding of the significant variation among workers. We find cases in which monetary remuneration is not the only reason for doing platform work. So, despite all the criticism of precarious working conditions, platform work does have some positive aspects and can also hold the potential for the social inclusion of people who cannot participate in traditional labor markets. This article contributes to these discussions by providing workers’ perspectives on the risks and challenges of online platform work, acknowledging their different living situations, socioeconomic status, and health issues.
Keywords: clickwork; occupational health; online freelancers; online platform work; platform economy; qualitative interviews; social precarity; social recognition; well‐being