Working Online: Self-Employed Contractor

Working online is a growing phenomenon. It is becoming ever easier for people to find work online or to start an online business, with little cost for companies and clients to communicate. The trend is growing and is across a diversity of industries, from management to teaching, customer service, and many more. As the famous management guru Peter Drucker wrote:“The new information technology, Internet and e-mail, have practically eliminated the physical costs of communications.”

Tips for working online. How to start an online business at home.

Advantages of working online

There are many appealing aspects to the idea of working online. There is no boss, flexible working hours, flexible location, you can work on the projects you choose therefore working online can be done anywhere. Mike, who took the plunge six months after he retired, summarized some of the benefits:

“It’s great. I can work when I want to. I love that I have time for the things I want to do, but I’m still earning and using my brain.”


Of course, there are some disadvantages of having a home based business. There is no paid holiday or sick pay. There is also the worry of finding enough work to get by. And working online is not without its risks. The two worries that most freelancers have are: “Will I get paid?” and “What if this is a scam?” One of the best ways to avoid both of these issues is to use a reputable website to find clients. But how is this done?

Bidding Websites

International sites and an Australian site

In the past ten years, countless websites have sprung up, which hook up those seeking work with those that have projects to offer. Some of the bigger international names include:

The top Australian site is Airtasker and it is definitely worth a look. I have used Airtasker repeatedly for tradesmen and odd-jobs around the house, but not for professional jobs yet.  However their list of professions is impressive too, and if you are looking for some work it is worth having a look at their site.

Human Intelligence Task Sites

Have a look at websites where you can do “human intelligence tasks” or HITs to get paid. One of the best examples of these is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Here, you would be working online on tasks such as completing surveys, tagging photos and analyzing text for a few cents per task. While this isn’t going to bring in the big bucks, it can serve to supplement your income while you get started.

Other sites cater for just one task.  A friend of mine recently did some work for Rev who connect transcriptionists and captioners with people needing those services. You are paid per video/audio minute at a low amount per minute, but that adds up once you get used to the task. She said she particularly enjoyed transcribing Scottish accents for the challenge!  You can choose the jobs you take, so she used to choose the jobs that were on topics that interested her.

What’s a bidding site?

These websites and others like them are known as “bidding sites”. You sign up, create a profile that sells your skills, talents and experience, and then you are ready to bid on jobs. “Buyers” post jobs that they want completed. You place a bid based on cost and time you think you will take to do the job. If the buyer is interested in your bid he/she may contact you with questions, or just select your bid. Some such sites allow you to place as many bids for work as you like, for free. Others charge you for bids, and some apply a fee to be a member of different work areas and apply for work.

The work that can be found through such websites varies from writing and translation through customer service, administrative tasks, marketing web development, design, accountancy and a lot more. The different websites have varied types of work online available.

Quality of life

If you use these websites effectively, they can be lucrative both in terms of finances and quality of life.

“My job was made redundant when I was 54 and not ready to retire, psychologically or financially. I found long term, full-time, well-paid web development work for a large US corporation through a bidding website. I can work wherever I like. This arrangement suits them, and it definitely suits me!”

Getting paid

Bidding websites can reduce the risk of not getting paid or getting scammed. Payment for the project occurs through the company, with clients setting up their automatic payment arrangements before they are able to use the site. Once the work is completed to the client’s satisfaction payment occurs.

A riskier path

It can be risky to accept work outside of a site that offers a payment framework but, with caution, it can still be worthwhile. One place to look for work is Craigslist, or the Australian site Gumtree. Of course, scams here are widespread. But with a little common sense, you can reduce risk to yourself.

You might consider asking for a proportion of the pay upfront, so that both you and your client are taking some risk. Alternatively, break the project down into small chunks, with a payment plan for each milestone. That way, you don’t get to the end of a large project, hand in your work and find that your client drops off the face of the earth.  You can also use general Social Media (other than LinkedIn) to make it known that you are available for work. This could work well if you are well connected with people who know your capabilities.

In general, working online can have risks, but it can also be extremely worthwhile. By taking a few steps to protect yourself, you can build your online business from home, safe in the knowledge that you will be paid.

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