On Peanuts, Monkeys and Freelancing

I must say I am certainly learning things about this whole freelancing thing I’ve gotten myself into. I do admit it can be kind of nice watching the snow pile up around me as it has been here for the past two weeks, knowing that I don’t have to go anywhere (remind me to tell you sometime about my experience last week during Juno). But on the other hand when business is slow there is more time to sit here and watch the snow pile up.

Not to worry though as work is trickling in. But here is my problem, one I am sure that is shared with other new work-at-home types. Until I can get established with my own client base, I need to rely on various freelancing sites to get work. Some day I will review the ones I use, for the most part I have no complaints, but each time I bid on a project, I am reminded of the old adage, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” Yes this is similar to “You get what you pay for.”

Below is an actual posting I responded to, followed by an email I received cancelling  the project. The question that arose in my mind is where is the line drawn between price and quality? Should one lower their standards just to get work coming in?

Let’s look at a job posting I replied to earlier this week:

Hi,
We’re looking for the CHEAPEST option, so please submit your proposals accordingly. We need an editor to go through some articles (about 30-50 posts, 500-1000 words each) and enhance the quality:
– Expand the material
– Fix grammar, style, other errors
– Make the articles more readable and professional
All articles would need to be expanded by 200-400 words; they all vary in size, complexity, and how much is required to be fixed in there.
I will provide you with examples of a variety of different posts and we can discuss the price accordingly. Optional: please submit an approximate price you’d charge per 500/1000 word article to edit.
I will message every proposal that I feel is suitable for the position and we can go from there.

Thanks for looking into this!

Basically this client is looking for someone to proofread 30 – 50 posts, add to each post and rewrite them. This particular client didn’t provide any samples for me to look at, so I was unable to judge how much work would be required on each, but assumed they are of the usual quality meaning several hours for each. There is one thing I learned working for my father all those years ago (well, although I will never admit it, I learned more than one thing) and that was if you are going to do a job, do it right. This means going above and beyond the norm. So looking at the metrics (now there is a good word) showing the high, low and average bid price ($1370, $22, $285) I placed what  I felt was a fair bid, in fact, it was lower than the average. (I have a pricing strategy we can discuss some other time)

Today I get an email saying the job was cancelled and here was the reason:

I couldn’t find a freelancer that could meet my budget requirements

If we put on our detective hats, what can we learn about this client and job? The lowest bid was $22 per post. If you recall, the client asked for a per post price. Again, assuming this was of average quality, it would require a minimum of two hours to do an average job. This means the client wants to pay less than $11 per hour. After paying the site’s fees and all the taxes, this comes down to about fifty cents an hour. So going back to our earlier adage “If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys”, what kind of job do you think you will get done?

Is there someone out there who would do this job for less than the $22? Probably. But here is the question: Do I want to be that guy? Could I lower my standards and do it for $1 per post? Sure, but would I want to? No, and actually I am not sure I could lower my standards that much. As it was I gave a low-ball price hoping to get some money rolling in. I guess the lesson here is people will try to get everything for nothing and they will get what they pay for. You are the one who would have to live with the decision to become a monkey.

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The Technology Conundrum

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I used to say that a bad day on the computer is better than a good day at work, but that was before I depended on a computer to eat. Okay, not like eat, but to put food on the table. If you don’t have the right tools, then you can’t do the job.

Now for the record, I am not what you would all a computer geek as I once was, but neither am I a newbie (the use of those two terms may date me, I know) but I know enough to realize that, as my father used to say, “You can’t make pork out of pig (fill in the blank this is a family blog).” The key to working from home is productivity, when you ain’t producing, you ain’t eating. Now that I actually have work trickling in, I need to up my game, as they say. Okay, pigs aren’t really game, but I think you get the idea. Now, where was I?

In the last week, I have realized it is time to upgrade from (as my friend and technology adviser Mike suggested) an Edsel to at least a Yugo. Unfortunately that is easier said than done, and where the technology conundrum enters the picture. You see, beginning way back to the time of the Edsel, the automotive industry began what they called “Planned Obsolescence”, basically they would design a model with the intention of making it obsolete in a few years so the owner would want to upgrade. The computer industry does the same thing, which leads to the trials and tribulations I went through today.

First, my financial consultant, Buttons the Wonder Dog, and I decided it really was in the best interest to upgrade our technology. We began searching for what we needed and that would fit into our very tight budget. There is only one thing harder than searching for new technology using old technology, and that is actually trying to buy it. I admit, the equipment I have been using is somewhat dated, in fact, during my search I learned that you don’t need a 3 1/2 inch floppy drive any more. But even with the inconvenience of having to really, really, bang on the C, V, and Q keys to get them to work, it really isn’t that bad. You would be surprised how many words with those letters in them may be substituted with others. After a long and tedious search process, I finally found one that would suit my needs and more importantly my budget.  Little did I realize that the search was going to be the easy part.

My technology adviser advised me on the one to buy and all I had to do was order it. In fact, using my PayPal account, I could order it with just one click. Fat chance. You see, when your computer is slow it takes a really long time to get anything in done. In act, I tried to place the order three times and each time the website timed me out with a message “This is taking longer than expected, please try again.” And that was it, back to the beginning.

I thought in this case the fourth time would be the charm because I figured out a plan. The main problem was the fact that it would take me so long to type in my information because of my defective keyboard. Never one to give up, I put everything into a Word file and all I had to do was cut and paste. I made sure everything was correctly typed, and I was ready. Everything went as planned until I was ready to submit my order to PayPal. Here comes another message, “We’re sorry but you don’t have enough money in your account or this transaction.” It seems I didn’t order one computer, I was up to four.  Every time I was bumped off, my order increased by one. This was my fourth time at the site, so I had four computers.

I guess I can get used to using my old equipment, after all, I’ll have time to catch up on the Maury and Springer shows. Just forgive the missing letters.

 

Out of the Frying Pan

and into the fire.

Of course I am talking about my recent decision to enter the “Work From Home” movement. Okay, it really wasn’t 100% my choice, but since the options for this old dog seem to be somewhat limited, I am actively pursuing this option, at least until the unemployment runs out. It is something I have always wanted to do, so now is as good of a time as ever. And what can be better than to make money at home anyways?

This means I will be periodically be updating this blog with things I have learned about the working from home process. I know, I know, for the three of you who actually read this blog, periodically isn’t very periodic, but I am working it into my writing schedule. This is the first thing I learned the last time I was unemployed, you need to follow a set schedule. It is all about time management.

Let’s call this the first Working from Home Tip

Tip Number 1: Have a schedule and stick to it

When you work from home, there are some advantages, and some disadvantages. One of the advantages, especially for someone like me who is really a hermit at heart, is you hardly ever need to leave the house. This comes with some inherent problems however. The main one is you hardly ever need to leave the house. It isn’t like you need to get dressed, get in the car and drive somewhere. My morning routine now consists of rolling out of bed at 8:00 AM (much better than 2:45 AM when I was working in the real world), walking into the other room, having a cup of coffee and … starting my daily routine.

The last time I tried this, I didn’t have a schedule so my routine was more like, roll out of bed whenever, have two, three, four, cups of coffee, log onto the computer, read my email, go on Facebook and read all kinds of posts, never missing a link to follow, and before I knew it, it was time for lunch and my nap. Not very productive.

Even now, I look around and there are plenty of chores that need doing, and if you don’t discipline yourself to work at your business, you can easily fall into the trap of doing those chores instead of doing the things needing to be done for your business. Fortunately in my case, housework has never been my passion or a strong suit, although I do work time for it in my schedule. Why? That will be another tip down the road: Keep those who live with you happy and avoid misery.

My typical day goes something like this:

  • 8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Get out of bed, have coffee and breakfast, watch the news and read emails. I look at this time as my commute to the office, it is just really short and uses no gas.
  • 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM – Respond to emails, search for work on various freelancing sites, like Elance, Guru and Odesk. This includes finding suitable jobs and sending out proposals for them.
  • 10:30 AM – ? – As soon as I am done sending out proposals, I jump right into working on any projects I have for paying customers. If I have none, I will work on some ongoing writing projects (like blogging or articles I hope to sell). This is also a good way of marketing myself and building a portfolio.
  • 3:00 PM – I normally stop working for awhile as the better half gets home. We have dinner (and yes, sometimes I even cook, love my Crock-Pot
    ) and spend time together. After she goes to bed, I will either continue working on a project if there is a deadline, or I may read, either books on writing, editing or anything that catches my eye. After all the more reading you do, the better writer you will become, or so I am told.

I follow this schedule on the days the better half works, when she is home, I try not to work as much, unless there is something really pressing. I still check my email and put out proposals, but other than that, I am all hers.

So far I have found this to be rather a good plan, at least for the last three weeks. I had a few unanticipated things thrown in there, but I still have been accomplishing much more than last time. Now, if I could only spend more time on paying jobs and less on the other things…

I hope you enjoyed this post and tip. Please feel free to comment on it and send it to your friends. And as always, if you would like to help me out, you can purchase something from Amazon by using this link:

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