Learning from the Woes of Third World Web Workers

I’m a Third World web worker who often finds herself working for First World clients.  I live and work in a small city in the Philippines where, if you earn a monthly wage of 300 US dollars, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.  My clients are often from North America and the UK, and although I give them regular updates, they rarely see the unique problems I run into as a Third World web worker.

Since the Third World isn’t exactly stable and luxurious, their web workers have to be resourceful and keep several backup plans. From time to time, First World web workers need to put themselves in those less-than-stable shoes. After all, there’s nothing like imaginary worst-case scenarios to help you test the sustainability and reliability of your business model.

What if…

… technology suddenly fails you?

Here’s something I’m tired of: the phone and internet cables in our area are stolen. This happens roughly once a year. Thieves steal them at night and my connection is cut off in the middle of something important. The operative word in “web worker” is “web”, and without it, I am cut off from my professional life.

What if you suddenly had no web access? This could happen through a variety of malfunctions and natural disasters. Do you have any backup plans as to how to reconnect? Alternatives could be visiting wi-fi hotspots, going to an internet café, or using your cellular phone as a modem. Know how these alternatives work, as well as their availability, so that setting them up will be easy during internet emergencies.

How about your computer? The hardware and software you have isn’t going to last forever. Make sure you do regular backups – both online and offline. Using an online storage service, online applications, and external devices will ensure that your data lives on – even if your computer won’t.

… you couldn’t accept online payments? In the Third World, it’s hard to find information or services that are relevant to your area. This often means your transaction options are less.

Can clients only pay you via PayPal? What if they have bad experiences with PayPal, how can they pay you? Make it a point to include payment instructions when projects begin, and reiterating them in an email when sending out invoices. Try other online shopping cart services that support major credit cards. You can also accept money orders and wire transfers.

…your clients need more proof that they can trust you? Trust is a primary obstacle when working with clients exclusively online. Personally I’d love to meet my clients, but vast oceans make it an issue.

So how does one establish trust without face to face contact? First, you need a strong online presence. What would a potential client find if they Google your name? Also, provide several means of contact. Apart from email, you need to be accessible via VoIP, instant messenger, social networking sites, and even snail mail. Potential clients will also feel safer if you can provide references from existing clients that are in the same vicinity as them.

It also helps to strike a balance and find both online and local clients. That way, you’ll have local businesses to fall back on in case your access to the internet will be limited.

By looking at the harsher problems that Third World web workers face, you can take the first steps in making your internet ventures more stable and secure. Since these conditions are somewhat expected in the Third World, their web workers are usually prepared.

The question is, are you?

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