Are online freelance jobs legit?

By Eugene Wanekeya

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Speaking authoritatively as a person who has earned significant paydays from part-time online freelance jobs, I say they are legit. But as is common with many other income generating platforms, online ventures are not free from abuse therefore it is important for you as a job seeker to do your due diligence.

So how does it work? The availability of internet connectivity globally has in essence dissolved physical borders that separated people across continents. Through the internet, several websites have been created to link potential employers with potential employees from any part of the globe. As a job seeker for instance, you do not have to leave your country or even the comfort of your house in order to work for a global brand. All that is required is for you to create an account on a third-party website. Some sites require a small fee whereas others are free. Your account is basically your profile where you state your skills and your preferred types of jobs. Anytime an employer posts a job that matches your skills and preferences, you get an email notification requesting you to apply for the job. Employers will often review all applicants and give a small test to verify your competency for the job. It is important for you as an applicant to know that these are real employers offering you real opportunities to work for global brands therefore you need to stand out because there are plenty of other job seekers from around the globe contesting for the same jobs.

The beauty of freelance work is that it gives you flexibility to select your working hours. Depending on your monetary goals, it is up to you to choose the workload you take up and the number of hours per day you are willing to work. This basically means that even employed people can have it as a side hustle. If you happen to be unemployed, you are likely to never consider employment because the dollar rate per hour for a lot of these jobs beats what many employers in Kenya’s formal sector are willing to pay entry level employees. The only downside is the lack of job security.

So, if you are fed up of dropping your CV in companies that never bother to give you a call or you are employed but you need a side hustle that does not require too much of your time and physical energy, then this is for you.

Here are six tips for you:

  1. You need access to a reliable internet connection

Piece of cake, right? With internet penetration in Kenya at just under 80 per cent, this is the easiest piece of the puzzle. I would say that for a start, you do not even need a laptop. You can use a smartphone to search for online job opportunities. If you are successful in securing a job, depending on the requirements, you can work offline then head to a cyber café to upload your content. A laptop offers you flexibility in terms of working at your own convenience but in terms of monetary benefits, even if you have a laptop but you are paying for the data bundles, it would be cheaper for you to work from a cyber café to cut on your data costs.

  1. Research

There is a common misconception that these freelance jobs are available to anyone with basic skills in computing. The truth is that online jobs are open to a variety of professions therefore the key is to be up to date with trends in your industry and this involves plenty of research. Personally, I have done jobs ranging from content writing, online marketing, advertisement reviews to trend spotting. The common denominator was that all employers who are mostly from developed countries expect a high level of awareness of current technological trends, writing styles, consumer preferences – basically, everything current. Research also comes in handy when trying to identify the legitimacy of some of these freelance sites. Employers who have burned employees in one way or the other mostly have bad online reviews. Be sure to use your research skills to do your due diligence.

  1. Avoid middlemen

A common trend currently in Kenya is whereby tech-savvy guys who learnt early on about these freelance job opportunities tend to take advantage of desperate job seekers. Basically, a person will source for jobs online then outsource to other job seekers and offer lower payment terms. Once the jobs are complete and he/she is paid the premium rate, they then pay the workers based on agreed terms and pocket the difference. It is quite a profitable venture if you do it right. At the end of the day it is Capitalism i.e. willing buyer, willing seller so I will not fault them for their hustle. What you need to know as a job seeker is that you can make so much more if you avoid middlemen and hunt for these jobs directly.

  1. Negotiate good payment terms

Based on the jobs I have done so far, after employers have done their due diligence which usually involves giving a potential employee a small sample job as a test of competency, they are usually willing to negotiate payment terms. Often they offer a small percentage up front, then a sizeable percentage midway through the job if certain milestones are achieved, then a final payment on conclusion of the job. This is a win-win approach for both parties which I would recommend for job seekers. This way, you are guaranteed of payment and the employer is guaranteed of delivery from your end.

  1. Ethics

Online jobs should not be seen as a way to make quick cash, they require a lot of hard work, creativity, originality and most of all, integrity. You must realize that there are plenty of software available to employers to check on plagiarism and copy pasted content. If you are flagged as a culprit of this, you are likely to be blacklisted therefore damaging any chance you have of securing employment through these online platforms. Remember, once you create an online account, your profile becomes public therefore your details can be shared with other potential employers.

  1. Create a PayPal account

PayPal is a fast and safe way to send money, make an online payment, receive money or set up a merchant account. From my experience, 99 per cent of the online employers I have dealt with make their payments through PayPal. The only downside of working with PayPal in Kenya is that it is too much of a hustle cashing the money from your online account. You have to seek the services of third parties who often take a hefty commission thus eating into your returns. It is therefore upon you to weigh the pros and cons of cashing your money through these third parties. So far, I know of Equity Bank and Payoneer who are third parties that can facilitate cashing money from PayPal.

If you are tired of the 8 to 5 arrangement or you need a flexible side hustle or you are having problems securing employment, then freelancing online is definitely something you should consider. Just keep in mind that your goal should not be quick cash but rather a continuous and sustainable source of income.

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