It would be great if I could figure out a way to make millions on the Internet. But short of that, are there ways non-entrepreneurial people could make modest amounts of money online without becoming victims of “work from home” scams? Is there something a person could do for a few days a week to make a couple hundred dollars a week?
OK, now that I’ve painted a bullseye on this blog, let me plead my case for a quest for legitimate work. My mom is 67 years old and has worked most of her adult life doing clerical, bookkeeping, and general office support work. A month ago she fell and broke her hip. She’s recovering, but I wish I could find a way for her to work from home. She lives in a small town in rural Virginia where jobs are hard to find and the pay is typically less than a teenage babysitter “commands” here in Boston.
I sent her to my favorite career sites, like Brazen Careerist and Escape from Cubicle Nation, and referred her to Guy Kawasaki’s new AllTop, but she’s not really looking for a career or to start a business. Most online work requires a “freelancer ethic.” It is discouraging to read articles like this one that promises 50 Ways to Make Money but hardly any of those are practical for me, let alone my mom, because they require a fundamental shift in thinking to an entrepreneurial or at least freelance approach to working. Or you need a blog that gets 100,000 visitors a month.
Then, there are sites like LegitOnlineJobs a scam so breathtakingly brazen I could hardly believe it…until I saw a TV ad for the Crazy Fox. Perhaps “scam” is too harsh a word…the site is more properly termed a “muse” as described in Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Work Week. These sites are informational products–you pay money to get an e-book or something with a “system” for making money. The system is selling the e-book to other suckers.
Is there something realistically accessible to smart, hard-working people who deserve a decent supplement to Social Security in a world where $200/week could be the difference between breaking even and going broke? I don’t mean to imply my Mom is desperate or poor, but when she goes out looking for a job, she is competing in the world Barbara Ehrenreich described in Nickel and Dimed, a hard world where people are expected to work hard for very little money and not complain.
What my Mom needs is something like an online temp agency. Not elance but something a little more basic. She’s done medical office work, word processing, basic bookkeeping–AR/AP, and, in one of her more bizarre experiences, administering allergy shots to patients. She knows her way around the web, but you’re not going to find her on Facebook, mySpace, twitter, etc. I also suggested starting a blog, but I suggest that to lots of people and forget that not everyone is bursting with words like I am.
Another idea I thought of for her was homesourcing, but I wouldn’t know where to tell her to begin to line something like that up. Another idea was online editing–I know many of us bloggers could use a second pair of eyes…but if I had the money for that, I’d probably be looking at professional editors. I think her best bet is some form of bookkeeping support or online research work…for example, using google to search for information to fill in some company’s database of competitor information. But again…how do you find that gig?
So, ultimately, I did not find “an answer,” except the obvious negative ones: don’t send any money to the Crazy Fox or subscribe to any web-page that promises to identify opportunities for you.
I’m going to post a link to my Mom’s resume here. It demonstrates the work ethic of a person who believes the resume is your work life story–she’s got stuff on there from the 1970s…because…it was work she did, so it needs to be reported. But somewhere on that resume it should probably also report how she and my father scraped together the money to send me to a better school, even when my Dad was on strike and out of work for months…and how they sent me North to Boston and MIT and paid a good portion of that bill while enduring a difficult divorce. It should include how she and her new husband left their dead-end jobs to pursue their dreams of living in the mountains and his working in radio…and how, as those dreams were challenged, they rolled with the punches, tried various things, moved several times and ultimately landed on their feet. She deserves better than working part time at McDonald’s cleaning tables or giving people allergy shots and getting yelled at for not doing it perfectly.