4 Online Freelancing Jobs You Should Approach with Caution

First time freelancers make the mistake of accepting every single job that comes their way.  I made this mistake, and there’s a good chance that you did too.  Who can blame us?  Freelance income isn’t stable, especially when you’re starting out.  We tend to think that we should accept all the job offers we can get today – because there might be none tomorrow.

Sometimes, however, the jobs we take end up costing us instead of giving us profits.  What we intended as another step in our career only becomes a lesson we shouldn’t have learned the hard way.  How do we identify these problematic jobs and what can we do about them?

The Low Paying Job.
These are the jobs that are often advertised on craigslist and they try to compensate for the low pay with promises of “exposure” or a percentage of the profits.  They also make excuses, which include the following:

  • they’re just starting out as a company;
  • web workers in developing countries charge at that low rate and you have to compete with them;
  • and your pay will be increased over time (although this claim is vague and not indicated in the contract).

Even if a low paying job were legitimate, accepting it has disadvantages.  This job will take hours away from your work week, hours that could be better spent on boosting your marketing efforts to get the well-paying jobs.  Plus, it will lower your average hourly income overall.  Ideally, you should be increasing your rates as the years go by and not the other way around.

Unless you’re just starting out and looking to build your web working experience, there should be no reason to take this job.

The Job You Can’t Learn From. In a previous post, Mike Gunderloy talked about how he only takes jobs that will allow him to learn something new.  While I believe there’s something to be learned out of every experience, I would rather take Mike’s advice than accept a repetitive copy & pasting job.

Take this kind of job only if you’re low on cash or if you plan to outsource or delegate it, otherwise, you won’t be getting much else apart from the money.

The Audition Job. You know those jobs where you have to “audition” by doing a design mock up or a draft and if your client likes it, they’ll pay you.  If not, well, that’s too bad.  This approach to job applications is also known as speculative work (or simply “spec work”).  While it’s true that not all people who ask for spec work are out to scam you, it’s not the best way to conduct business – both for the freelancer and the client.

The “Easy” Job. Some jobs seems simple enough when you look at your client’s initial specifications, but once you get deep into the project you realize how big the scope actually is.

It’s hard to identify this kind of job at first.  What usually gives it away is when your client tells you “It’s easy!” or “It will only take 10 minutes of your time!”  Think about it, if the job were really easy, shouldn’t they be able to do it themselves?

Also, while there are clients who are appreciative of a freelancer’s skills and efforts, there are always those who will undervalue your work.  Do you know this client well enough to trust that the job is truly easy?

One way to work through the “easy” job is to assess the project yourself, discuss it with your client, and define the deliverables before you start working.  This protects you from “surprise” tasks that suddenly creep in when you realize that the scope of the project is much larger than what your client initially thought.  In some way, you’ll risk looking like you’re out to milk your client for every penny, but if you give them all the information and references they need, they’ll know that you’re only doing what’s best for them in the long run.

What other jobs should online freelancers be cautious about?  What was your experience with these kinds of jobs?


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