Freelancing is a great way to fine-tune your professional skills and work on your own terms. As a young professional, working for yourself can offer freedom and help you earn a little (or a lot) of extra money so you can finally ditch your Ramen diet for good.
Over the past couple of months freelancing, I’ve developed a sense for what people actually mean when they post jobs online. Once you better understand the hidden meaning behind these job postings, you can move beyond freelance rookie status, better navigate the competition and sail right up to the best jobs.
1. “Native English-speaking article writers: excellent quality articles required”
Translation: We pay $0.50 per 500 words. We’re aware that in countries where native English-speakers actually live, $0.50 will not cover the cost of the electricity required to write those 500 words.
For this reason, we’re looking to hire a financially secure trust-fund baby who has an insatiable desire to write keyword-rich articles about the new iPhone. Or possibly someone who has moved to Mali. And has no desire to afford to a plane flight back. Ever.
2. “Female-only virtual assistant”
Translation: I want a hot blonde (with sizable breasts) who I can say inappropriate things to over Skype.
This is usually accompanied by, “should be open-minded and easygoing,” which roughly translates to… well, you can figure it out.
3. “eBay sellers required”
Translation: We have a warehouse full of expensive cameras that “fell off the back of a truck.” All you have to do is sell our stolen goods through your own eBay and PayPal accounts. We offer generous commissions for this indictable offence.
Or, alternatively: We don’t actually have those cameras. But we can supply you with photo-realistic images of cameras. All you have to do is list our “cameras” using your eBay account. When some sucker buys ‘em, just transfer the money to our PayPal account (minus your commission) and you’ll never hear from us again.
4. “Very easy data entry job”
Translation: You know captchas? Those annoying, messed-up letters that prevent our bots from creating Hotmail accounts? Yeah? Well, we need some cheap, real human eyes to transcribe those for us. Then we can get back to creating mass email accounts to send our important “news bulletins” about Viagra. Kthxbai.
5. “Great opportunity for planning/urban design professionals”
Translation: We’re a large company that bid way too low on a massive project (like, ah, the Urban Design Proposal for Kabul, Afghanistan*). Surprise, surprise, we won the job since they couldn’t resist our rock-bottom price. Now we’re trying to outsource it to reduce our losses. This is the perfect project for anyone who is desperate and/or doesn’t know any better.
*This was an actual project. I didn’t just invent it for the sake of drama. Unfortunately, the job was deleted before I had a chance to snatch it up.
6. “I understand your requirement and am ready to start work”
Translation: I have no idea what this project requires. My computer program responds to every job on my behalf.
How to earn money on sites like Freelancer.com
Now that you know which jobs to avoid, use these tips to win bids on the real jobs so you can earn more money:
Market your talents confidently
If you’re good at what you do, tell people you’re excellent at what you do. Learn how to sell yourself and talk yourself up. Obviously, you need to back up your claims with good work, but do what you say you’ll do, and your employer will be happy.
Infuse personality to stand out
Show some personality, people! Sure, it’s important to act professionally, but have a bit of fun with it. Show your potential employers why you’re funnier, more charming and more reliable (and more human) than the guy whose computer responds for him.
Bid what you’re worth
Don’t offer low-ball bids just to beat other freelancers. Often, even if you’re more expensive than your competition, you’ll still win the job — especially if you followed the two previous pieces of advice.
Bid what you’re worth and stand out from the crowd because of your skills and personality, not because you’re the cheapest. Good employers recognize that they get what they pay for. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) If they want the job done well, cheaper isn’t better.
Once you learn to filter through the rubbish, it is possible to make decent money freelancing on these sites. Don’t fall for the dumb scams, don’t undercut your rates and be yourself. Then you’ll find reasonable people willing to pay reasonable rates for your work.
And if all that fails, I hear Mali is lovely this time of year…