Myths People Believe about Working Online

I’m well aware of the irony of writing this for people who read online, so let’s make a deal: print out this article and show it to the friend or relative who knows very little about the Internet. You know, the one who’s afraid of buying airplane tickets online because he thinks they’re going to steal his credit card information. Hopefully, by the time he reads this article, he will either lose his fear of the online world or he’ll have you burnt at the stake.

Anyhoo, here are some common misconceptions I get from people when I tell them I work online.

Real men work online

1. You can get scammed easily.

“But if you’re here and your client is in Pakistan/England/Amarillo, what guarantee do you have that he won’t disappear and not pay you?”

The short answer is “none.” But here’s the other funny fact: in most countries, you don’t have a guarantee either. Yes, depending on where you live, there are laws that protect you, but the degree to which they can be enforced varies greatly from place to place. Moreover, enforcing the law may cause you a great deal of stress and consume your time. That’s time that you could be using for something more productive, like working for other clients, cleaning your house or looking at videos of cats on Facebook. I agree that you should stand up for yourself, but sometimes going to court because someone didn’t pay you $30 for a translation just isn’t worth it.

Like in real life (which I’ll refer to as “offline” from this point on), there are some protections you can get, and just like offline (see, I told you I’d use it) it costs you to have those protections. Just like you pay taxes for protection from the government, your bank, or the mafia, you can have a third party—an online escrow service for freelancers—hold your client’s money until the job is complete for a fee. While that third party will generally respect the agreement, he may sometimes disappoint you, just like the government, your bank, or the mafia.

Like she’s ever going to show up…

Finally, trust is something that you build over time. When you have a small problem with your car, like getting a headlight changed, you’re more willing to hire any mechanic that happens to be the cheapest or the most readily available. If you need to install a new motor, an expensive sound system and a dancing pole, then you’re going to be more picky about who you take your car to. Also, once a mechanic does a good job, you’re going to be willing to give him a bigger job.

It’s the same thing online. If a new client comes and wants me to write 100 articles for him, I’m going to ask for half of the money in advance. If an old client comes and asks me to write 100 articles for him, I’m still going to ask for half of the money in advance (those dancing poles don’t come cheap, you know), but because of the history we have I’d be willing to start working right away, even before the payment arrives.

2. It’s great not to have a boss.

Another myth is that it’s great not to have a boss. When a person tells me this, it makes me think two things: A) This person really hates his current boss and B) if I ever hire this person and leave him unattended, he’s not going to do squat.

I understand that it’s annoying to have someone tell you what to do, when to do it, and sometimes how to do it. However, when you work online as a freelancer, you just substitute “boss” for “client” or more accurately, “clients.” Just look at people who run their own businesses. They don’t get to arrive at 11 AM, work a bit and leave at 4 PM to play golf. They have clients and each client feels he is THE client. And when you work for clients, you want to make sure that they each feel that way if you want to have some luxuries in life like rent money and food.

Ok, I’ll agree it’s still not quite the same thing as having a boss. But there’s a disadvantage to not having someone make you work your ass off: YOU have to make yourself work your ass off. You have to find the motivation to keep yourself on your toes and to keep those fingers typing because no one else is going to do it for you. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of, “I’ll do it later,” and then finding you have to work all night long, or lose the client.

3. It’s fun!

This is a bit related to the last point. Working online must be fun, right? Yay!!! No more boring work and doing what I’m passionate about!!! And at my own pace!

Only it’s not like that. Working online tends to be boring and sometimes lonely. I’m writing this article for fun, but before writing it, I had to write 30 articles about things I didn’t know or particularly care about. Even if you like programming, translating, writing, vlogging, etc., there are only so many times you can do it before you get tired of it. Also, like offline, the reward for good work is more work. If I write 5 articles about dog leashes and I do a great job, my client is going to ask me to write 300 articles about dog leashes. (This actually happened, I kid you not!)

Even Overly Attached Girlfriend, a very popular vlogger on Youtube, admitted she felt lonely and bored and let the quality of her videos drop for a while. It isn’t always fun, even when you’re an Internet sensation.

4. It’s easy.

Another myth is that working online is easy. All it takes is to sit and type. I mean, a 14-year-old can do the same thing, right?

No, it actually takes a lot of patience and time. Sure, you can write an article about dog leashes, but if you’re going to write 300 articles, and each of them has to be different and original, then you are going to need to research and brainstorm your brains out.

7 down, 293 to go

And like any other profession, you will need to update your skills constantly to be competitive and to be in a position to command decent money for your work. There’s always a new WordPress plugin, a new social media site that’s going to replace Facebook, or a new trend that’s going to rock the online world.

In my case, I had to learn what a phrase is, what a clause is and the difference between them, and when you use a comma or a semicolon, and what nouns are capitalized in one language but not in another, and even then I still halfway expect my client to complain because the Google translator said something different. And I forget much of this stuff over time, which means I have to study it again and completely understand it before I even start to type. If I haven’t been kicking my own ass as I should, this means I have even less time to meet a deadline.

5. You work in your comfortable pajamas and forget to shower.

Actually, this one is true.

Hygiene is optional

When not busy mixing his whites with colors, Flippy works as a writer, translator, and language teacher. In his free time, he plays video games, takes photos, and writes funny stuff. You can find his humor book, Flippy’s Life Lessons Stuff Every Single Man Should Know, published by Relentlessly Creative Books on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2013, published with permission of the author.

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