Jessie mentioned some freelance opportunities in an earlier post, and mostly as a kind of research experiment, but also because there were some consulting and contract jobs on Flex Jobs that I thought I’d try to grab in my “spare time,” I signed up for Flex Jobs and a couple others. Below is my assessment of each one I tried. Other people might have had better experiences. Please feel free to share if you have.
- Most of the jobs I found were linked to from elsewhere on the Internet through free sites like Monster and Simply Hired. Out of the dozens of jobs I examined, only two wanted applications directly through Flex Jobs.
- Most of the jobs I found said “telecommuting,” but then when I clicked to go to the original posting, it turned out they wanted someone in a particular area.
- The vast majority of jobs appeared extremely low paid. On a whim, for example, I investigated a “content writing” job through a firm that seemed legit, and through no effort on my part they “approved me” for this job. Turns out it was editing random entries online in sites like Tech How for $25 per entry. I estimated what that would be hourly for the work required for each entry and it was basically minimum wage or less (it’s not an hourly rate, so they can charge whatever they want–it’s not “their fault” if you end up making pennies on the dollar because their offering takes you hours to complete it).
- They also offer “skill tests” to make you stand out to employers, but these skill tests were VERY difficult, even in areas in which I consider myself an expert. I flunked my first one, for instance, and got a B in the “technical writing test,” even though I have been doing that work for years.
- After my preliminary examination, I asked for a full refund (which I did receive).
- At first, Scripted appeared to be a much better model. It was free to sign up for, and after a particularly fascist grammar test (which I also failed the first time), I was “approved” to write 500 word articles that appeared in my dashboard for close to $60 per article. I estimated I could do an article in 2-3 hours, meaning that I’d be earning $20-30 per hour. Not bad.
- Then, however, I realized that I also had to apply for “industries” in order to land those articles. These industries are governed by anonymous “community moderators” who accept or decline you based on a writing sample which they judge for voice, clarity, flow, and reader engagement.
- You actually have to submit two writing samples, one you’ve published somewhere and one generated in response to a prompt. After being told that my writing sample was “too short” (but not which one was too short), I lengthened it and then was quickly declined for the “industry” I applied to, which was business, a field I have numerous peer-reviewed publications in. Below is the “feedback” I received. There was no option to revise or resubmit.
Regarding the consistency of your voice: I know what voice this piece needed, but the writer didn’t execute it perfectly.
Regarding the clarity of your writing: I see what the writer was trying to express, but I’m still a little confused.
Regarding the flow of your prose: The thoughts linked together, with one or two notable exceptions.
Regarding the extent to which you kept the reader engaged: The subject was interesting and informative, but my focus still wandered.
- So, near as I can tell, both these sites are owned by the same company (oDesk Corporation). I signed up for oDesk, on a whim, which was also free and seemed built on a similar model to Flex Jobs with notable exceptions: the user interface was much more intuitive, it pushed jobs to me instead of me having to do numerous, time-intensive searches, and the first “skills test” I had to take was actually a very helpful tutorial in how to use their system to get work.
- Results here are inconclusive because I haven’t applied for anything yet, but I will let you know my experiences, because there are some freelance opportunities on there I might apply for.
The best way to find freelance work, in my personal experience, is to get out there in your backyard and find organizations that need work done. Now, full disclosure: I have never made a lot of money as a freelancer. There are faculty who have done so at ECU and elsewhere, so if you want to know how to make money at freelancing, you should probably talk to those folks ;-).
Having talked to a few of them, myself, they all seem to all say similar things:
- You have to develop recognizable expertise within a particular field (meaning, recognizable beyond academia).
- You have to find actual people out there willing to pay you money for that expertise.
- Getting your first freelancing gig is always the hardest, but once you develop a portfolio of work and some testimonials from past clients, you can leverage that into a steady stream of work.
I’m considering turning these anecdotal experiences into a full-blown research project about freelancing. If I do that, you’ll definitely hear more about that.
Again, if anyone else has had different experiences with freelancing, via the above sites or elsewhere, please let us know!