The Work at Home Job Scam, the Freelance Job

This is a followup, and part 2 of a 4 part series, on the work at home factory job of today (read part 1, The Work at Home Job Scam, the New Factory.  This post deals with the freelance job market, the upcoming posts will deal with the call center jobs and Internet evaluator or website annotator jobs.  Keep in mind the term “freelance” encompasses a huge genre of work from photography to writing to virtual assistant to anything you can find on Craigslist in the job area.  The scope of this post is really just dealing with Elance and the Elance alternatives.

Elance is the biggest player in the Internet freelance job area.  After paying for their premium service for 2-3 years, and trying over and over for years to find a good flow of freelance jobs, I found exactly one decent hard working person who hired me to do some ‘Internet research” for $10/hr, which over a period of 6 months has earned me $85.  I still do work for him, he is trying to build his business, and he pays higher than most at $10/hr, but after almost three years, I have found nothing legitimate and it cost me $14.99/month ($450) for revenues totalling $80.

I am not here to say Elance or the others are scams (although there are posting scams all over the place), I am just trying to point out the value of your time and what it is worth.

There are plenty of alternatives to Elance like oDesk, Guru, Rentacoder, Scriptlance, Mturk, Freelancer, Getacoder, and some of my observations from sites like these are:

  • there are always tons of jobs available
  • Elance at least has it down to a science as far as pay and project organization
  • you are competing with an endless supply of workers from India who charge $1/hr (yes, on average your competition will charge $1-2 PER HOUR)
  • you have to work literally for nothing to get started by taking projects that will pay $50 for 30 hours of work
  • you are competing with noobs and people who have no idea how to run a legitamate business who will do anything for nothing, though their work is often very low quality, something you can easily overcome
  • quality is not valued as a whole… I have found the large majority of listings on these sites are looking for the cheapest possible outcome, with no regards for quality work
  • and of course, there are tons of scams everywhere you look, offers for work that will have your ISP ban your service, have eBay shut down your account, or worse… some offers might reward you with a federal search warrant and your computer equipment confiscated

Of course not all freelance work is like this, but I know of many people, who live and work within the U.S. and have to pay expenses associated with living in this country, not India.  You can only work for nothing for so long, eventually you have to either cut all expenses (not realistic) or have some revenue.

I have basically worked freelance as a photographer for more than 15 years and the key is to slowly build a client base that will recommend your work to others.  It is slow, tedious, and doesn’t pay well, but it’s far better in the long run than the results from these sites listed above.

Do yourself a favor in the long run. If you are interested in doing freelance work, treat your business like you would any other entrepreneurial endeavor by looking at some of the basics. For what it’s worth, my list also includes ::

  1. Don’t quit your revenue stream (job) until you are established
  2. Determine what unique skill or art you are going to freelance (what’s your market)
  3. Be prepared not to make any money early on, but even so, stay away from the sites above
  4. Pursue your passion, not a position
  5. Know that trying to monetizing your passion may destroy it or at least significantly change it
  6. Seeking alternative “positions” in that industry may also destroy your passion
  7. Seek out others who are doing the same thing and try to learn as much as you can from them
  8. Working more hours will not always equal better results
  9. Trying to integrate your passion into #1 above (results may vary)
  10. If you can mentally live without a steady paycheck, a 401(k), a retirement package, and stability, forget about #1 and pursue your passion instead of the culturally accepted “American Dream” but when you struggle to find your way, re-read #3, then, as Buffett would say, breathe in, breathe out, and move on.  My wife and I went over 15 years without a single paycheck (the W-2 type) and I still managed to eat.

Have you had any experience with Elance or any of the other sites listed above?  In my experience most, if not all, of these sites way over promise and way under-deliver for those with quality, experience, and education in their field.  I would love to hear if you have had any success with any of them in your freelance pursuits.

The Work at Home Job Scam, the New Factory

It costs me $20-$30 per hour worked to have a work at home job.  Working from home is totally different, I am talking about a specific classification of job, the work at home job. The job that targets those who want to spend more time with their family, not waste half their life in traffic, the homeschool mom, the out of work in between work individual.

Notice I didn’t say it made me x-amount of money, but it has cost me x-amount of money.  That is the difference between today’s standard work at home job and one you have to actually drive to get to, between $20-$30 per hour less even though today, most jobs can be done from anywhere.

If you are looking for the newest in sweat shop factory work (and there are tons of people who are), you won’t find it at the local tire or car plant. No way, their union wages are far too high ($50-$75/hr) to compare with these jobs.  The new factory work in our culture today is the work at home job.  After owning my own business for 15-20 years (and running it from my own home no less) I never understood the extent of the work at home scam until I started looking for one of these great jobs.  I figured that there was some company that could see the value in hiring me, a Linchpin, to work from my home office, but after 2-3 years of searching, and working, now I’m not so sure.

I will review a few companies and positions in a series of upcoming posts for those who are still looking since every time I came across one of these positions, I had to find a decent review about the company (look at forums and sites like WAHMJobVent or GlassDoor.com) to find out if it was an actual scam or not.  Most were not scams in the technical sense of the word, but I am amazed at what conditions we are now willing to accept just so we can have a work at home job (there is a huge difference in working from home and work at home).

Most of these jobs pay under $10 per hour (many well under, like $5-7/hr) and in the U.S. you will be lucky to cover your home office expenses for that. Generally you are required to put in a specific volume of tasks per hour, calls per hour or however they rate you, and always follow the manual, map, guide, instructions with no deviation.  Most hire you as contract labor so they don’t have to pay taxes, worry about law suits, pay for training, or pay for any benefits whatsoever.

The difference that makes one job an actual scam, or at least a big clue, and the other job not a scam is if they require you to pay them for the job.  Most of these work at home jobs don’t go that far into the true scam world, they are factories of course, not scams. They do go as far as paying you by the minute, requiring you to incorporate, and require you to take “tests” to become qualified, and they don’t pay for your training.  These “tests” are in essence the very work of the job, work you do for free because it is part of the “interview” (I took a 10-15 hour “test” to “qualify” and later realized that I was doing their actual work, unpaid of course).

In each site or company I list in my upcoming posts I am only showing the most obvious match, and those I have direct experience with in the past.  Under the surface there are tons of companies all doing the same thing, looking for the cheapest most expendable warm body, but I know for some, any job is better than no job, and I totally understand that.

The list could be endless.  You have freelance work, call center (centre) jobs, tech support, customer service, programming, search engine evaluators, data entry and so on. In these three upcoming posts I will highlight the three areas I have looked at the most, freelance, call center, and search engine evaluator (or annotator, search engine technician, ads quality rater, etc).  For those of you who are looking for a meaningful job where you can add value to the company, I have an exahustive list of who to avoid, but I would love to hear from you too.  Good luck in your search.