Online Unemployment Part 1

Online Unemployment: What To Do (Part 1)

Ever wonder what you will do when you suddenly find yourself facing online unemployment?

I have been very quiet recently – that’s because I suddenly lost my full time job. Well lost is such a drastic term I guess. I was told to take two to three weeks off while they get to work on some things on their site. Apparently, I was writing too fast and they couldn’t keep up with publishing what I was writing. I guess, it’s hardly anyone’s fault that I am suddenly left to look for a job.

So what do you do when you are suddenly unemployed online? Three things come into mind.

Online Unemployment Options

Online Unemployment Part 1

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The first is to follow your employer’s advice and take a break. Go relax, spend time with your kids and pamper yourself. Indulge in doing nothing. It does get boring after a while so better move on to tip number two on my list.

The second is to go work on something that you have been putting off. In my case, it is an eBook that I have been wanting to finish. I wanted to write about how a Pinay mom like me stumbled into the online world of freelancing. I have this dream of sharing to the world how I juggle taking care of my husband and son while keeping a 8-10 hour online job.

While this seems like a good time to start on it, I didn’t. Which brings us to the option that I followed.

The third option that I acted on was to look for a job. Unlike the real world counterpart, you get paid vacation leaves. That does not happen online. Unless you have a really generous employer who will pay you even when you go on leave – which is like a needle in a haystack.

So that is what I did. I looked for online employers – which, fortunately, I was able to find immediately. Though it’s a bit of an irony – I procrastinated to start on my eBook, only to end up landing an eBook writing job.

While I got good employers to replace my full time job, I realized that you should always be prepared in case you are faced with this particular scenario.

One thing is for certain though, online unemployment makes you realize just how much of a test of faith this working arrangement really is. The lack of an online job security is a real challenge that freelancers have to face and deal with day in and day out.

So let me share more about what I have been going through the past week. Part two will be all about my tips about online unemployment. Stay tuned for that!

Set Up your Home Office

Set Up to Work at Home

Honestly, it is quite easy to set up your home office. In fact, it is so easy that people often times think very little of it. Some people setting up a home office just pick out a random available space, and give no thought about how to make their work space more comfortable.

I think that is a mistake.

While your home office will be purely dependent on your personal preference, you need to understand that there are ways to set it up in such a way that will make work bearable for you come crunch time. Believe me, even work from home scenarios have stressful moments – more so if the goals you have set for yourself are very high. Not only that, if you set up your home office in a way that makes it conducive to productivity, you will find that your work progress will be a lot faster.

What You Need to Set Up your Home Office

Set Up your Home Office

Photo Courtey of Master isolated images

I really don’t need much in terms of equipment and furniture in my home office. All I need is a computer table, a phone, and of course, your laptop or desktop. A stable internet connection is a must too. That is all that I have. I do have the usual pens, papers, stapler and other office stationary stuff but I rarely use them. I don’t even file paperwork – except for the bills and other financial statements.

I realized that you don’t need too much space – just enough for you to move around and be comfortable.

Tips for your Home Office

There are three considerations when you are working on your home office set up.

Find your Work Space
Choose the right space where you can concentrate. It is best to stay away from the living room or the kitchen – if you can. I found myself gaining weight because my home office was within reach of where all the food were. Trust me, you do not want that.

The perfect spot should ideally be where you can work in peace without distractions and be most productive. However, for stay at home moms who need to keep an eye on the kids while working, you can position yourself where you can still be in their presence. I understand that completely because I have that arrangement. You just need some careful planning to make it work even if you are where all the distractions are.

Plan your Home Office Layout
No, you do not have to hire an Interior Decorator to do this for you.

I placed my home office where I can see my son as he plays and watches television. I had to do this because my son is at an age when a minute you leave him behind can be quite disastrous – both for himself and the house.

Since I had no choice but to be near the TV, I just shielded my line of vision so my eyes do not get distracted by it while my son is watching. If you can’t stay away from the distraction, the key is to compromise.

Also, make sure your space of corner is well ventilated, has the right lighting and everything you need is within reach.

Select your Furniture and Equipment
The last consideration when you set up your home office is to choose the equipment you need. If you will be mostly on the computer, a small table should be enough. If you need writing space, you can select a bigger table.

Choose your office chair so it is comfortable. I love office chairs with wheels because it allows mobility when I need to run after my son when I have to. I also prefer laptops because of the mobility – besides, you don’t really need much when you are just writing. If you are a graphic designer or web developer, you will need a bigger screen so a desktop is more preferable.

Just remember to set up your home office in such a way that will suit your needs perfectly. The most expensive investment here will be your computer equipment – but other than that, you will not shell out much money on this. Find that right space, plan how you will layout your office and get the equipment that you need. You can always rearrange your home office when you feel something is not right. Feel free to experiment until you find that perfect set up for your home office.

The Odesk Work Diary Invasion of Privacy

The Odesk Work Diary: Invasion of Privacy?

The oDesk Work Diary is a tool riddled with controversies – at least for contractors. Employers love it because it is a great way to monitor and check if the contractors they hired are spending quality time to accomplish the job assigned to them. It is their assurance that they are not paying for time spent surfing the net or visiting social networking sites.

It is a different story for contractors though. Let me give you the two sides of it.

Invasion of Privacy

On one side, a lot of contractors did not like the oDesk Work Diary. They feel that it is an outright invasion of their privacy.

Here’s the thing. When you work from home, you give up on a lot of benefits. You give up paid holidays, the employer’s share in taxes, health care benefits and other relevant perks that comes with being employed.

You give all that up for one thing: freedom. That is, freedom to work where and when you want to. The where part is not really the problem – it’s the when part that is bothering some contractors.

Truth is, freedom is your one big benefit when you work remotely from home. With the oDesk Work Diary, you take that away from us. You get to see when we work – how fast or slow we do it. The basis for payment is no longer reliant on the quality of the work but also how long it is accomplished.

Assurance Guaranteed

On the other hand, contractors cannot object to the fact that the Work Diary does guarantee payment. If the screenshot shows an image connected to the job at hand, then the employer does not have a reason NOT to pay you.

Using this tool gives contractors an arguable proof in case of disputes. And we call know that in disputes, proof is everything. Since you have screenshots of what you did during the work week, the employers does not have a choice but to pay their dues – simply because you were true to your end of the bargain. You worked hard for it.

The Odesk Work Diary Invasion of Privacy

Photo courtesy of oDesk

My POV

Personally, I like the Work Diary. I started out getting fixed priced projects and I can still remember the anxiety every time I submitted a project. Will I get paid or not? It is not a stress-free feeling.

This is why I am now opting for hourly jobs only – because of this feature. I strongly believe that it is a win-win situation on both parties.

Re the freedom to work when I want to, I still have that. I make it a point that I get employers who understand that I need to work day hours MY TIME (UTC+8). If they want me to work during THEIR work hours, I usually decline the job offer. Rare cases like meetings and telecons are acceptable.

So all in all, the oDesk Work Diary is a good tool. It is effective in the sense that it offers assurance for employers and guarantees payment for contractors. I believe that is the bottom line when you work remotely.

How to Avoid Scammers

How to Avoid Scammers

Learning how to avoid scammers in outsourcing sites can be a bit tricky. Even the top three sites (Elance, Odesk and Freelancer) have their own share of stories about contractors and employers being victims of scammers.

For contractors, being scammed means they do not get full payment for the job they did. Sometimes, they get paid partially but there are other times they do not see even a cent of what was promised. For employers, it means paying for something that is either incomplete, poorly done or a task that was not done at all!

While I believe that no one deserves to be scammed, my sympathies lie with contractors simply because I have never been an employer myself. Whatever I will share here might be applicable to some employers but most of them are best viewed as a contractor in oDesk.

How to Avoid Scammers

Photo Courtesy of Ambro

I can understand how frustrating it must feel – working hard over something and not getting what is rightfully yours.

This is what this article is all about: how to avoid scammers.

How to Avoid Being Scammed Online

Fortunately, I was lucky enough not to fall prey to any scammer. Even my fixed price employers gave me my compensation after I delivered the output of a project – in my case, an article.

I’d like to think that was because I was extremely picky about my employers. I knew what I can deliver and I had to make sure my employers are those who will not over expect what I am capable of giving.

Before I apply for a job, there are a couple of things that I check out.

1. Payment verification
Odesk has a series of payment verifications that will tell you if an employer is reliable when it comes to releasing funds. I never go for employers that have not gone through this process.

2. Work history
If you think that only employers should check this out, well that’s where you are wrong. While employers have the option to keep their company names out of the job post, oDesk gives contractors the option to see the feedback scores received by the employer. I make it a point to see how many they have hired before and the ratings given to them.

3. Feedback
Relative to number 2, I read through a couple of feedbacks. Odesk gives both employers and contractors the chance to rate each other once a contract is completed. When I see a low rating with a hidden comment, I put my guard up and do a bit more reading on other feedbacks. Odesk allows us to hide comments but we cannot do the same for the ratings/scores. If I see one or two negative scores or feedback, I usually move on to the next job post.

I did a project before that required me to create an employer account on oDesk. I was writing an article about how to hire through oDesk and I wanted to experience firsthand how it was like to create an account, post a job, etc. I only got to the part of posting a job so I could see how employers view applications.

Get this, my account was new, I had no payment verification, no work history and no feedback to my name. But despite that, I still got 5 applications within the next few minutes after posting the job! If I was a scammer, I would have got them all!

Clearly some people will go through any lengths to get a job. I understand that but I don’t think it’s right that you jump the gun immediately. It was obvious that these applicants did not care about my background – if I can pay them or not!

Of course with odesk, I wouldn’t be allowed to start a contract without completing the payment verification. But I hope you get my point.

How to avoid scammers is really more of a personal vigilance than anything. It is true that outsourcing sites have put up various ways to help protect employers and contractors from being scammed. However, they can only do so much and it is really up to us to watch our own backs.

oDesk.com Review

Odesk.com: My Personal Review

As promised, I am bringing you my oDesk.com review so you can gauge for yourself if this is the right platform that you want to use to launch your work from home career.

I started working on oDesk.com in early 2011. I had to try it out first before I fully resign from my day job to make sure I do not seriously compromise our finances when I shift careers.

Being a part time endeavour at first, I only took fixed projects so I have the leisure of working on them anytime. While you can still do that in hourly jobs, a fixed project is usually a lot more flexible. Of course, that would really depend on your employer and the details of the job.

So on to my rating for oDesk.com.

What Makes oDesk.com Work

Just to be clear, this review will be based on my personal experience with this particular outsourcing site. I will base my review on 4 categories: job opportunities, work convenience, payment processing efficiency and contractor guarantee. I will rate each category with 5 stars – 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.

Job Opportunities
In terms of job opportunities, I have mentioned before that I never ran out of jobs on oDesk. Even as one employer ended a contract, I always find myself employed by another almost immediately. Of course, that may be because apart from IT jobs, a writing job is really in demand on the Internet.

oDesk.com ReviewApart from writing, there are a lot of vacancies in web development. Feel free to browse through the job categories. I am sure you can find a job that you are qualified for.

Based on this experience and the opportunities that they have, I give this category a rating of 4.5 stars.

Work Convenience
I must admit that working for either a fixed project or an hourly job had both its pros and cons.

As mentioned earlier, fixed projects allowed me maximum flexibility in terms of working hours. I can work for 30 minutes, stop and continue after an hour or so. It allowed me to maximize my free time when I still had my day job. As long as I met my deadlines, the employer didn’t really care what time I worked and how many hours I spent working on a project. The downside to this job type is it is very difficult to ask for more money when the project proves to take a lot more time to accomplish than you intended.

Hourly jobs are still flexible if your employer is not strict about what time you log in. The Team Room and Work Diary tools of oDesk.com are simply amazing. It gives contractors proof of the hours they worked on a project and each hour you spend working on a project will be paid – unless the screenshot is not work related. That can be grounds for a dispute by the employer against the contractor. Overall, the guarantee that the Work Diary gives to hardworking contractors make this job type preferable that fixed projects.

In terms of work convenience, I rate oDesk with 4.5 stars.

Payment Processing Efficiency
The only thing that I have against the payment processing is it takes a very long time for your work to be paid. It takes 2 weeks before you can actually withdraw the work you did. For instance, the job I did for the week of April 23-29 will only be paid on May 9. That time frame is only to credit the payment in your oDesk “wallet” or financial account. That does not include the processing period when you actually withdraw the account. That will take another 3-5 banking days – longer if there are holidays both in the US and in your country.

I find that really slow. I wish they can speed things up a bit so contractors can receive payment a lot faster.

Because of all these points, I give this particular category a rating of 2.5 stars. Still passing but there is much room for improvement.

Contractor Guarantee
With the presence of the Work Diary, payment guarantee in oDesk is quite high. In fact, this is what they call the oDesk Guarantee.

If you work with an hourly job type, you are guaranteed payment from oDesk. As long as the employer does not dispute a screenshot entry in the Work Diary, you get paid for every minute you worked on the project.

Fixed projects are more of a risk because there is no guaranteed payment. You really have to rely on the honesty of the employer you work with.

Based on the other three categories, the outsourcing site did the best they could to protect both employer and contractor. As far as I can remember, I never encountered an employer that did not pay me – even those in the fixed project job type.

I believe that can be credited with my own employer qualifications. I am extremely picky about the jobs that I apply to. So based on my own personal experience, I want to give this category a rating of 4.8 stars.

Overall, my review of oDesk.com as an outsourcing platform is 4 stars.

Various Reviews About oDesk.com

Though this account is based on my personal experience working with oDesk, trust that I tried to make it as objective as possible. I came across some bad comments about this outsourcing site and I find it unfortunate that some contractors have problems with some of the employer hiring through this site.

How that happened is something that I have yet to explore so I can give you a more objective point of view. I should probably list a couple of comments about oDesk so you can gauge if it is the right platform for you.

Nevertheless, let me know what you think about my oDesk.com review. Your comments are very much welcome!