Working for Yourself Online

“The new information technology, Internet and e-mail, have practically eliminated the physical costs of communications.” Peter Drucker

Working for yourself online is a growing phenomenon, and Peter Drucker’s comment explains why. With little cost for companies and clients to communicate, it is becoming ever easier for people to find work online. A BLS report published in the US in 2004 reported that approximately 7 million people worked self-employed from home. This trend is growing, and is across a diversity of industries, from management to teaching, customer service, and many more.

There are many appealing aspects to the idea of working online. No boss, flexible working hours, flexible location, work on the projects you choose. One of the great things about working for yourself online is that you can do it from anywhere. Mike, who took the plunge six months ago, summarized some of the benefits:

“It’s great. I can work from my bed and take lunch whenever. I’m a ‘late’ person so I can work the hours that I want, which are usually late afternoon or the early hours of the morning.”

Of course, disadvantages are clear. There is no paid vacation or sick pay. There is also the worry of finding enough work to get by. And working online is not without its risks. The two worries that most freelancers have are: “Will I get paid?” and “What if this is a scam?” One of the best ways to avoid both of these issues is to use a reputable website to find clients. But how is this done?

In the past five to ten years, countless websites have sprung up, which hook up those seeking work with those that have projects to offer. Some of the bigger names include:

These websites and others like them are known as “bidding sites”. The way it works is that you sign up, create a profile that sells your skills, talents and experience, and then you are ready to bid on jobs. “Buyers” post jobs that they want completed. You place a bid based on cost and time you think you will take to do the job. If the buyer is interested in your bid he/she may contact you with questions, or just select your bid. Some such sites allow you to place as many bids for work as you like, for free. Others charge you for bids, and some apply a fee to be a member of different work areas and apply for work.

The work that can be found through such websites varies from writing and translation through customer service, administrative tasks, marketing web development, design, accountancy and a lot more. The different websites have varied types of work available.

If you use these websites effectively, they can be lucrative both in terms of finances and quality of life. A French national who relocated to South America said,

“I found long term, full-time, well-paid web development work for a large US corporation through a bidding website. I can work from the beach if I like. This arrangement suits them, and it definitely suits me!”

Bidding websites can reduce the risk of not getting paid or getting scammed. The use of Escrow allows clients to deposit monies for the project, so that the provider can see that the funds are available for the work. On delivery, the funds are released.

Touting for work outside of a site that offers a payment framework can be risky but also worthwhile. One place to look for work is Craigslist. Of course, scams here are widespread. But with a little common sense, you can reduce risk to yourself. You might consider asking for a proportion of the pay upfront, so that both you and your client are taking some risk. Alternatively, break the project down into small chunks, with a payment plan for each milestone. That way, you don’t get to the end of a large project, hand in your work and find that your client drops off the face of the earth.

Other options that are out there include websites where you can do “human intelligence tasks” or HITs to get paid. One of the best examples of these is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome). Here, you work on tasks such as completing surveys, tagging photos and analyzing text for a few cents per task. While this isn’t going to bring in the big bucks, it can serve to supplement your income while you get started.

In general, working online can be risky, but it can also be extremely worthwhile. By taking a few steps to protect yourself, you can build your online business from home, safe in the knowledge that you will be paid.

Paula Newton has been working for herself for many years.  When not working on her own freelance projects she assists others in getting their work-from-home careers off the ground.  She has recently joined the ResumeBucket marketing and outreach team.


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