Someone recently posted a question about whether or not legitimate online work really
exists and we here at AskEachOther could immediately detect the
frustration from the tone in which they wrote the question. This sparked
an immediate discussion from much of our staff whose unanimous response
was of course it does. So, we wanted to cover this topic from the
perspective of what we've learned as an internet start-up.
Firstly, one of the key lessons in basic economics is that nothing ever really goes away. Jobs, for example - some company might send a significant number of jobs off-shore and while it immediately eliminates those specific positions, if you were more familiar with the internal workings of that company you might find that by sending those particular jobs off-shore it created other positions to liase with those or that a whole different department spawned from the savings due to the lower expenses, etc. I'm not saying I agree with companies doing this at all, just acknowledging that it happens and what one might do to offset some of their own risk if it does.
Sure, the challenge is that no employee will ever know those inner workings, but if you use basic logic and common sense...you may be able to figure out how to get a little ahead of the curve and anticipate what positions may be needed as a result. In addition, this way of thinking might also help position yourself proactively within your current organization so that your perceived value and actual value is such that it would survive these types of changes.
So now we will move abruptly and quickly to the topic of online work. We are not talking about work from home, we're talking about internet related, online work. There are probably far more types of jobs than what we'll discuss here, but this article is to merely offer a different way of thinking, which may allow you to better find legitimate online work.
1. The underlying economics of online jobs - As the US Economy has suffered over the past several years, many jobs have been eliminated, but this has also caused many people to focus more on small businesses, consulting, etc. Being a business owner myself, I constantly come in contact with people who "do something on the side" and they always ask me for advice. The interesting thing is that these people always have a need that they haven't quite figured out. Actually, they usually have more than just one need - it's multiple needs. They may not need one particular function full time, but maybe 15% of one job, 25% of another. And, it's hard to justify hiring a full time person in those situations.
Sometimes you can see evidence of this if you look on sites like Craigslist. I think it's a great place to look because people who are offering informal positions might not know exactly what they need or even think a person who possesses the various skillsets they need exists...so often times I think people sort of instinctively post a Craigslist post just to sort of test the waters.
The other thing I always suggest to people is to just figure out what skills you have to offer and post those in a bulleted list online somewhere (like Craigslist). This may spark a potential employer to think to themselves "Hmmm, I could use a person like that." Also, don't be afraid to work part-time. Full-time positions have certainly been on the decline, but there is evidence out there that a plethora of part-time positions have arisen in spite of this. Who knows...you may find 2 or 3 positions that offer variety, flexibility and the same compensation one full-time position offers. Sure benefits are always a concern, but this too is getting better. You just have to shop around and do your research. I always say "Research, research, research."
2. The formal online job market - I won't talk much about this one because it's sort of obvious. Sites like Elance and Odesk have become the Ebays of work-for-hire (ie. programmers/coders, graphic artists, social media, assistants, online customer service etc.) These companies are worth hundreds of millions and have a daily volume of work and compensation being exchanged that is staggering. It's how we built AskEachOther.com.
These sites have thought of everything too. Secure payment, peer to peer rating and reviews, team consoles, skills test taking, etc. Starting out may be a little cumbersome, but it's for the best of all parties. This way you are confident that someone who hires you has a good history of payment or that someone you're hiring has a solid assignment history and quality level of work.
Often times you will be competing with off-shore, cheaper workers, but like anything there are pros and cons. While offshore competition scares many Americans off from these types of sites the one thing they often fail to realize is that there is a premium that some employers are willing to pay for english speaking consultants/workers or those who have US based work hours. There's tons more...research, research, research.
3. The informal online job market - This is my favorite by far because this is where you'll find the movers and shakers of this elusive industry. Those who are not only talented, but innovative, aggressive and forward thinkers. People who feel like they have so much to offer that they are confident to go it alone. People who know there is a lot of money to be made online and are doing it every...single...day.
I'm talking about Social Media specialists, SEO specialists, Customer Service experts, Personal Assistants, Bloggers, CPA wizards, website owners...and the list goes on and on. The internet hasn't existed that long, so these people don't have that much of a head start on you. Most people just don't know where to start or simply talk themselves out of believing that online work is even possible to find and out there from the very beginning. I was one of those people who didn't "get" Twitter, but just because you don't "get" something doesn't mean it doesn't have value for you. I like to always challenge myself and try to find some thing of value out of the things that I'm the most uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. There are a TON of movers and shakers and people on Twitter, who are not only working online full-time, but making amazing salaries and livings doing so.
That brings me to the next segment. Online services and marketplaces. While the Elance and Odesk types of websites exist as larger, more formal online job marketplaces - there also exists a large number of brilliant smaller services that have identified the exchanging of certain types of services and sought out to create an online marketplace that specifically addresses those need. One of those is a new favorite of mine called UpHype.com, a website that is "The place for smart people to share the things they'll do to hype your stuff."
I first came across this site when I wanted to get a couple of our coolest poll questions out to more of the Facebook community. They specialize in segments of $8, $16 and $24 - where people can offer to do things for you like post your website's link on their Facebook Group page, giving you more exposure than you might have been able to achieve with your own Group page. I met a young lady on that UpHype who was no more than 22 yrs. old, but had amassed a large enough quantity of "likes" on her Facebook Page that she managed to build quite an impressive list of clients, from famous sports stars to celebs to global corporate businesses.
So, I guess the point is this - there is a whole world online. There are in fact so many legitimate jobs that the sheer number of options and alternatives alone makes it quite a cumbersome undertaking to even begin to investigate or pursue, but by first identifying your own strengths and what you have to offer you should be able to better pin-point what and where to start investigating.
Sure, search engines will throw a bunch of marketing scams at you - just don't get caught up reading those. Go to where the movers and shakers are - places like Twitter.com, LinkedIn.com and UpHype.com. Then, follow a few interesting people (you probably won't find them out and about at functions in your community because while some of these people may indeed be social, the better they are, the more they are probably online). Join a few online related clubs (like the ones offered over at LinkedIn and you'll be surprised at how quickly you'll start to be able to back trace what these people do and how they do it.
Sorry, if you were expecting a nice, neat, clean, numbered list of online positions. It's all still too new, legitimate online work that is. The people out there making money online haven't had time to stop and formalize an official list for your convenience - they're too busy making money. :)