Yes, in fact there really is a website claiming that they can help you get paid to drink coffee. You can look it up. I’ve also seen: get paid to raise your kids, get paid to drive, get paid to shop, get paid to dine.
Sigh. If only.
Any person who has ever searched the Internet for a way to earn extra cash at home knows the frustration of trying to sift through the endless scams. So to help you in your search (and to have a little fun) we’ve assembled the Pajamacash list of scam indicators.
It’s probably a SCAM if:
• It contains any picture of a person leaning on an expensive car
•Testimonials contain first name and last initial only
• It features lots of really, really good-looking people
• It contains images of money raining from above
• It has the words “get paid to” in a headline
• It loads music or a video immediately upon entering the site
• It links to a Top Ten Home Business list
• It highlights words a yellow highlighter pen
• It has a web pages that scrolls down and down and down for miles
• It loads a popup or popunder
• It won’t let you leave without a live operator box asking, “Are you sure?”
• It requires you to “act now”
• Contains anywhere the phrase “shocking truth”
This short list will go a long way toward helping you spot a scam. Perhaps if enough people learn to spot them and stop falling for them, the scammers will simply go away.
Sigh. If only.
Imagine a website where people who need something done can go to find people who can do it. The client gets his job done, the freelancer earns a paycheck. The website brokers the deal.
If you can think it, then you know it exists. In fact, it's not even new; there are dozens such sites. The biggest is Elance (www.elance.com), and that's who we're going to talk about today. Elance has been around since 1999, and for most of this time, it has served as a way to hire designers, programmers and writers for projects big and medium-sized.
More recently people have begun using it in all kinds of ways that expand its usefulness, and which can provide a good income to a home-based (pajama-clad!) freelancer. There are now sophisticated users who will post jobs that can take as little as 15 minutes - tasks like changing a setting on Outlook or writing a killer resume or finding the steps to properly bake a stuffed quail. However, most jobs still take days or weeks and pay accordingly. The point is, there are a wide range of opportunities for the home-based worker.
How it works
For a small, monthly fee, you are allowed to put up a profile and bid on projects, ebay style. If you win the project, then you complete the work, get paid, earn positive feedback and build up a circle of clients who come back to you again and again. Much like ebay, elance brokers the deal. Clients are required to place the fee in escrow before you begin working. Then when the work is completed to the client's satisfaction, the money is released. The real assurance against being ripped off is the open feedback, much like ebay. Clients and freelancers can view each other's feedback history, which keeps everyone honest.
How to get started
It's really quite easy to just dive in with both feet. Go to www.elance.com and register as a freelance provider. Then view the jobs that are available in your skill category and begin bidding. Initially, you will have to bid low, in order to give prospective clients a justification for hiring someone with no feedback. So you may work some long hours for low pay. But gradually, as your feedback improves and your earnings grow (also visible to clients and fellow freelancers), you will be able to command higher fees.
There are thousands of categories for freelance jobs, so I won't list them all here. You can do everything from ghost write a book to write an iPhone app to consult on pet training. After viewing the range of jobs, you may find yourself acquiring a few new skills, just so that you can bid on a particularly lucrative category.
A few things to keep in mind
1) Don't be discouraged by the high earnings of some of your competitors. Some of them have earned over $100,000. Don't be jealous or intimidated. Most have been at it for years.
2) Browse the work history of lucrative freelancers, and if you're not in their competing niche, ask for advice.
3) You may lose money at first. You'll be bidding against people in India and Philippines who are willing to work very cheap, so it will take some time to get your rates up.
4) Be selective about the projects you bid on. The client should have a history of giving good feedback, since good feedback is more valuable than money to you in this early stage of your elance career.
5) Don't underbid. As stated earlier, you'll have to bid low, but price is not everything, and clients understand that. Many clients simply will not deal with third-world freelancers despite their low cost. They understand that cheap is not the same as a value. So bid low, but don't give away your time.
6) Keep your eyes open for new opportunities. For example, you may begin by writing articles for certain websites at $25 each, but then you discover that you're just providing content for lucrative blog sites that you could run yourself. The point? Elance provides a tremendous window on the world of ecommerce. By getting involved, you have a perspective that can spin off in ways you never knew existed.
Now you're getting it!
So you’ve taken the Pajamacash challenge, assessed your skills and now you have an actual idea for a work at home business. Well done!
Q: Uh, now what?
A: Get help!
There’s no such thing as a “simple business.” Launching a new business, no matter how simple it may seem, can feel like getting a 747 off the ground. You must find customers (marketing). You must fulfill your good or service (production). You must collect money for your good or service (accounts receivable). You must pay your own expenses (accounts payable). It can be daunting, so before you go any further, for heaven’s sake, take advantage of all the help out there. You’ll be amazed at how much help there is – experienced volunteers, resources and even grant money and low-interest loans!
SCORE – www.score.org
SCORE is a non-profit association charged with the mission of helping small businesses launch, grow and succeed. It has been around for over 40 years and is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They have a great website, where you can create an account, search for templates and tools and most importantly, find a mentor. Presently, they have over 13,000 mentors covering 62 industries, so you have a great chance of finding one that knows how to succeed in your home-based job.
Besides finding a mentor, the website can also help you find training or even a local chapter of SCORE.
Small Business Administration - http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business
The SBA is the voice of small business in Washington D.C., and it’s mission, in a nutshell – is to see to it that you succeed. To that end they provide advice and seed money for your work at home business. The scale of ways the SBA can help you is too great to cover in a simple article, but there is no need. Just go to the website and begin to explore.
Entrepreneur - http://www.entrepreneur.com/bizstartups/index.html
Entrepreneur magazine is a useful resource for the entrepreneur, and their website takes it a step further. You’ll find all kinds of unbiased information about starting, planning, financing, growing and managing a small business.
Most states have their own equivalent of the federal SBA – organizations with the mission to promote small business. They usually carry names like Small Business Development Center, or Business Incubators. A simple Internet search can locate these organizations quickly. Besides having great advice from locals, most also have access to state-level loans and seed capital to start your business. Just call them up and tell them what you need.
Short-cut to Success?
Is all this really necessary? No. You could probably get your 747 off the ground eventually. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for ways to earn extra cash yesterday. And getting help in starting your work at home business is the fastest route to a successful business. And never forget the old adage, “Time is money.”
So begin by examining what you’re good at. The list below is not intended to be comprehensive, merely to get your mind working.
We all gotta eat, right? Your ability to cook is valuable, under the right circumstances. Catering is an obvious way to profit from that great family Chili recipe.
Are you good with children? Home-based child care is carefully regulated, but done right can be one of the most rewarding Pajamacash jobs you’ll ever find.
Are you an exercise buff? Put your knowledge of physical training to work! You may require a certification to work with others, but that’s a small matter beside the chance to earn extra money helping others get healthy.
Do you speak multiple languages? There is a great need for translators of written and recorded materials. You wouldn’t even need to build your own website. Translations services exist already. Just contact them and offer your services. You’ll be paid by the page or minute, so you can work around your schedule. This one is a no-brainer!
Can you sew? In the current economic conditions, alteration and mending services are flourishing. Design shops and fabric stores also have need of talented, home-based seamstresses. Offer your services, and you start earning cash immediately providing these services in your own home.
Freelance writing is the original home-based job. The internet has greatly expanded opportunities for freelancers to earn money, either a little extra money or possibly to build a full-time income. www.Elance.com is a great place to start to pick up contract work. Blogging and earning cash from advertising can be fantastically profitable, but it takes time to build up a following.
This one is competitive, but if you’re good, you can have a home-based business that is creative and rewarding in so many ways.
Some other examples are online tutoring, telemarketing, consulting and maintenance. You get the idea. Hopefully, this will get your mind working.
Taking stock, of course, is just the beginning. You must market yourself, do professional work and get paid for your efforts. We’ll talk more about that in next week’s blog.