If you are already an experienced freelancer currently looking for work online, you probably have a list of things that tells you when to skip applying on a job posting and proceed to checking the next one. Newbies, on the other hand, are quite new to making money online that they don’t see the warning signs that indicate if a job offer is a scam/hoax, not worth the time and effort, and posted by a terrible client/employer.
The list below are my red flags that I use to crosscheck the worthiness and credibility of job postings. While this list is made for finding real employment in oDesk, some of the items may also apply for other online job marketplaces such as Elance and Guru.
The average bid of interviewees is very low.
While you cannot possibly know the exact individual bids of your fellow contractors, oDesk shows the average bid of both applicants and those who are being interviewed for the job. If the average is low among interviewees, then obviously the client is only interested in low bidders who they can exploit by giving strenuous tasks for minimum pay. It’s worth noting that low bidders tend to produce outputs of mediocre quality. These types of contractors and clients deserve each other, but I digress.
Outrageous qualifications and tasks are demanded but the budget is small.
Similar to the situation above, there are postings that enumerate quite a lot of responsibilities as well as qualifications. Given these long demands, the client can be safely assumed as already experienced in hiring online employees. That and they also know how to exploit by promising a very low pay. Your best move? Do not apply.
Payment method is not verified.
Odesk guarantees payment for hourly contracts, but that cannot be fulfilled if the client has not verified his or her means to pay you. We can assume that the client is maybe a first-timer and that we, the contractors, may urge him or her to clarify their payment method before doing any work. The possibility also exists that these unverified employers will turn out to be scammers.
There are too many interviewees.
While freelancers already have created their online portfolio to showcase their skills, some clients still want you to undergo some sort of tests. They may ask you to write a sample article and insert a keyword phrase for SEO purposes. Unfortunately, too many applicants may be interviewed and asked for a sample. These samples turn out to be the actual job that is simply divided to applicants who are not actually hired and have done the client’s work for free.
Client has a terrible feedback.
Working online for more than three years has taught me to apply on jobs by clients who are oDesk veterans. That way, I can at least verify that they have hired someone before and made payment. I can also check their feedback and rating to see if their work history is great, which means their previous contractors had a great time working with them.
Granted, it’s quite insulting to ignore first-time clients in oDesk. I myself should be actually grateful that, as a newbie contractor back then with no feedback and rating, I got accepted by an understanding client who trusted me right away and never doubted my competence.
There are more many signs to consider when spotting a scam among legitimate job postings. If you want to know more, a forum thread in oDesk extensively discuses job warning signs.