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The Anatomy of a Web Working Ad

Landing an online job, especially if it’s your first, can be tough. I remember spending several hours a day scouring the web for job ads. Since face-to-face interviews and phone calls tend to be optional for web workers, we need to know as much as we can from the ad itself. Several clues in the ad can give you a hint of what awaits you once you’ve sent in your application.

Ad length. Long ads that are broken down into sections (such as “job description”, “qualifications”, etc.) give off the impression that the company or individual doing the hiring is very professional. They know exactly what they want, and they’ve taken the time to have all the details down. This is one advantage of online job ads vs. newspaper – businesses can take as much space as they need to put up a “looking to hire” ad.

A shorter ad, on the other hand, tends to be vague and will require more two-way communication before you get a clear idea of what the job entails and what the potential client expects.

Tone. The tone of the ad can help you get feel of the working atmosphere that awaits you. If it’s casual and conversational, the business is probably laid back. If it’s formal, they’re likely to be a corporation or a bigger business with more rigid practices and scheduling.

Also, pay attention to how the ad was written. Does it have poor spelling and sloppy grammar? If so, the person who wrote it may just be a poor writer, or they didn’t make enough effort to put up a well-written ad. If it’s for a writing position, this usually means that they can’t accurately judge the quality of your work, and you should turn to your unique ideas and extensive experience to make you stand out from the other applicants.

In my experience, people who don’t make the effort to write a job ad well are often those who also won’t make an effort to communicate with you effectively once you get the job. Of course, there might still be exceptions.

Cost. Did the business pay to take out that ad? When the ad is paid, this usually means that the business isn’t just tire-kicking – they are really looking for a professional and have the budget to pay for one. Although there are a lot of legitimate ads that are posted for free, the lack of fees makes it easier for scammers and low-paying gigs to get placement.

Expectations. You can tell from the ad how much of your time will be devoted to the work. Phrases like “must be available for contact” or “must have good communication skills” indicates that you’ll need to spend more time than usual talking to this client. Those looking for organizational skills probably expect you to have all paperwork and project data easily and readily accessible. In other words, it’ll be a turnoff if they hear you say something like “What was it you said again about that thing I should do?”

Look out for any mention of “fast turnaround times” or “needed immediately”. Any mention of urgency indicates that the client won’t tolerate lateness and the work itself, especially if it’s a one-time project, will require so much time from your immediate schedule.

Skill and certification requirements. Some ads will state that you need “X years of experience”, but this isn’t set in stone. This is because the person writing the ad assumes that you need to work a certain number of years to learn the skills required for the job. So if you lack a year or two of experience, just make up for it with your skills and folio. Besides, since online trends and technologies change so fast, it makes no sense for business owners to put up ads looking for someone with, say, 7 years of experience in WordPress.

As for education, I rarely see web working ads that require certification or a diploma. Usually, the businesses that do ask for such requirements are companies or organizations with a very institutionalist outlook.

On the other hand, those simply looking for ‘working knowledge’ of a programming language or software will pay more attention to your portfolio and experience. Impressive as your educational background might be, it doesn’t matter all that much to these people whether you graduated cum laude from an Ivy League school or dropped out of the Community College for Gnomes and Fairy Creatures – as long as they know you can deliver the best work.

Compensation. Some ads note that you should send in a quote, or that the price will still be up for discussion. If this is the case, some negotiation skills to justify your cost will come in handy.

Most of the free ads I’ve seen offer non-monetary compensation, if at all. There’s a vague promise of some kind of reward – exposure, will pay when business grows – but as I’ve mentioned before, accepting these gigs is equal to investing your own money in that business.

In an ad I found while researching this article, someone was looking for a web designer, who, upon getting the job, will be paid with fresh shrimp. Usually, something like this is a sign that the person who placed the ad is new to the idea of hiring a web worker, and doesn’t completely understand the value of your work.

As for the shrimp, they could not be reached for comment.

Reading between the lines of a job ad isn’t an exact science, but if we make an effort to do so, over time our experience can sharpen our instincts.

How much time do you spend looking around for web working job ads? What red flags do you watch out for? What patterns do you see?

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