If you listen to or read about economic discussions, you may have heard the term immaterial labor floating around.
Immaterial labor is distinct from material labor, which is labor that results in the direct production of material goods. On the other hand, immaterial labor, as you may have guessed, is the often unseen labor that does not produce material goods.
The concept and theory of immaterial labor is nothing new. However, it has received increased attention in recent years with the huge shift toward digital labor. As an increasing number of jobs revolve around information, rather than material goods, the role of immaterial labor is changing. This has caused companies and workers alike to rethink labor in general, as well as how to make money.
This probably has you wondering, what are the different types of immaterial labor? And, how can you make money providing immaterial labor? Here’s a breakdown of what, exactly, immaterial labor refers to. Then, we will take a look at some of the most common ways to make money through immaterial labor today.
What is Immaterial Labor?
Immaterial labor is defined as labor that produces nonmaterial goods. This does not mean that there is no actual labor involved, or that the labor is less than material labor. Immaterial labor can, and often does, require as much or more time and energy as material labor.
For example, immaterial labor can refer to labor that produces cultural, intellectual, or informational commodities. Within the broader category of immaterial labor, two further distinctions are often made: analytic labor and affective labor.
Analytic labor refers to
Affective labor refers to labor that is focused on producing emotional responses. The most
Immaterial Labor and Digital Labor
We can view digital labor as another subcategory of immaterial labor. As the name implies, digital labor refers to labor based on technology, information, and communication. In addition, digital labor has taken on a much larger role in our society with the boom in digital platforms for all types of services.
Digital labor is often immaterial, but is essential in maintaining the digital labor that has emerged in recent years. Affective digital labor can take many forms, and is not necessarily restricted to online platforms. For instance, an Uber driver performs affective labor by transporting customers from one location to the next. That driver also performs digital labor by accepting ride requests, setting navigation, and coordinating the ride.
Digital labor has created a unique trend in our relationship with work. As more workers turn to forms of digital labor, they are, in a sense, taking on the role of their own manager. Many
There are pros and cons to these sorts of
With that in mind, here are some common immaterial labor examples for those looking for new ways to make money.
Immaterial Labor: How to Make Money
Buying and selling products online
Manufacturing is a form of material labor. However, retail, or selling products, is immaterial labor. One common form of digital labor today involves creating and operating an online store. With the availability of services like dropshipping, the demands of running an online store are less than you might think.
When running an online store, your role is largely to facilitate customer purchases and ensure a positive user experience. The role of manufacturing, storage, and shipping can all be handled by
Buying and selling products online is appealing to many for a few reasons. First, it has a low barrier of entry. And second, the income from running an online store is often passive, requiring minimal work.
Copywriting is an essential job in the digital labor market. The digital economy is largely dependent on communication and information exchange. Companies often rely on copywriters for these tasks, whether it’s for website copy, content marketing, or other forms of digital media. If you possess strong writing and communication skills, and a basic understanding of SEO, copywriting could be right for you.
Graphic design is another essential job in the digital economy. Digital platforms rely on having
Rideshare or delivery driving
As mentioned in the example above, rideshare drivers perform a form of immaterial labor. Driving for Uber, Lyft, UberEats, GrubHub, etc. have all become popular jobs because of the freedom and flexibility they allow. The workers who perform these jobs are free to set their own schedules and act as their own manager. They work as much or as little as they prefer.
Translation has always been an important form of immaterial labor. But the rise in digital services has created even more opportunities for translators to find work. Digital platforms connect people across the globe. This global audience often necessitates multilingual accessibility.
If you are fluent in more than one language, finding work as a translator is an ample opportunity. Translation services fill a vital need, and you can perform them from anywhere in the world.
Virtual administrative assistant
Administrative assistants perform various tasks from day to day, ranging from responding to emails to balancing schedules and finances. The rise in digital labor has given way to the role of virtual administrative assistants. Virtual administrative assistants can perform all the duties of a traditional administrative assistant, but from the comfort of their own homes.
This is a great remote work opportunity for those with strong organizational skills who are looking for extra cash.
Website development or website tester
Nearly every company needs its own dedicated website in the digital world. Simply having a website is often not good enough. Companies often devote significant time and resources to developing a smooth and
If you lack all of the technical skills and experience required for development, some companies will also hire website testers. A website tester is responsible for testing website features for any bugs or friction points that negatively impact user experience.
These immaterial labor examples are just a few common jobs you can choose from. There are plenty of other ways to make money by providing immaterial labor, both digitally and
However, one thing that’s clear is that digital labor has created more value for immaterial labor than ever before. Understanding the new and emerging opportunities for digital labor can be a great advantage.
Helping you find innovative ways to make money in the digital world is something that Ecwid was designed for. Follow Ecwid’s blog for more helpful resources and creative business ideas.