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expuser
Community Member

Job warning signs

When reading a job description, what causes you to go "Ut-oh!"? What red flags do you see in applications that at least puts you on your guard, if not actually skip to the next one? Here's some of mine (and others):

 

First and foremost The work is yours until you are paid in full. You own the copyright until you have been paid the agreed sum. If you choose to work for 15 cents per hour then that's your problem. If it takes longer than you thought..again, down to you. BUT. If you have done your bit according to the contract that you agreed, then the work is yours until it's paid for.

 

Asking for payment or to use your own accounts (Thanks Dave!) Money comes from the client to you; anything else and you're doing it wrong. Do not ever (unless you know the client really well, and give it second thoughts even then) pay for something for the client unless you have received the money from them first. Deposit for something; webhosting accounts; domain name; subscription for site X that is "essential for the job" etc etc. No money. Ever. Similarly, do not use your own eBay, Craigslist etc. accounts to list things for sale...chances are high that it will end badly and wreck any good karma you have built up there. And it'll be you in the frame if it turns out that it was illegal.

 

"Bait and Switch" (Thanks Selcalmel!) Clients advertise one job and then offer a different job at interview. Now there can be valid reasons for this; but a big difference between the job description and the work you're being offered should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Mostly on oDesk it's either jobs that you wouldn't have applied for if the job was described honestly or changing the rules to try and get the price down.

 

Too many people being interviewed This can be a sign that the buyer is dividing the job up and giving the various parts as a 'test' to applicants...with the intention of getting the job for free. It could just be that the buyer is looking for a very specific set of skills, or other innocent motive, but maybe not.

NOTE: (Thanks Brandon!) This also applies to the client's history...check the total number of jobs posted versus people hired. If there are a load of jobs posted but few contracts awarded, then proceed with caution.

 

Only low bidders being interviewed If you're not one of the low bidders on that job then it's probably not worth applying.

 

Long list of demands, silly budget We've all seen them; the jobs for an all-singing, all-dancing website for $100, followed by either a HUGE feature list and/or a long list of qualities required by the contractor. Luckily for you, the buyer is advertising the fact that they are a wanker (behaviour which is unlikely to change if you were unfortunate enough to land the contract). This buyer knows the market well enough to know exactly what they want; and must therefore know that the budget is exploitative...move on. And as a corollary to the above (Thanks Louis!):

 

People who bellow orders, often in capitals "SUCH SUCH WILL NOT BE READ I IF [insert term].... OTHERWISE I WILL DELETE YOUR APPLICATION IMMEDIATELY". Or "MUST ATTACH SUCH AND SUCH OTHERWISE YOU ARE WASTING MY TIME". Some people -presumably after watching Alan Sugar or that twat Trump- think that this is how bosses should behave. I see it mostly as a sign of either someone being new to being in a position to call the shots and is a bit insecure about it, or someone who is a natural git. In either case your job will be more difficult because of it. Also, these types of application are frequently paired with a ridiculous budget. Any buyers who are reading this should note that this isn't the way to go about things...also all capitals make it harder to read and you're increasing the chances of applicants missing an important detail. Annoying people before they've even applied for your job cannot possibly help. Am I the only one, by the way, who feels the impulse to reply in kind?: "Listen up bitch. I reckon I can do it in 10 hours which'll cost you $450 and if that isn't good enough then you can just **Edited for Community Guidelines** would be a fairly short application, probably.

 

Mention of half-finished job/previous contractor/s There are two factors here...sorting out what someone else has done often takes longer than just doing whatever it is from scratch. You will very probably be inheriting a hairy-arsed nightmare. The other factor -and a question you should be asking yourself (and the buyer, come to that)- is exactly why the previous contractor didn't finish. It does happen that buyers get a run of bad luck with contractors (often after playing in the lower budget ranges), so it isn't necessarily the buyer's fault. On the other hand, it could be. Rescuing a client from a wall-to-wall catastrophe at the 11th hour is one of the best smug feelings you can get as a freelancer; but these jobs are high-risk...you need to ascertain for yourself that the buyer is genuine before getting in too deep. A note to any buyers reading this: If you've already been through two or more contractors and you still don't have a result, you need to seriously consider throwing a match in and starting with fresh code. I've had jobs where it took significantly longer to find out what the hell the previous guys had done than it would have taken to just bin everything and do the job. And with other people's code, you can never be 100% sure that you haven't missed something important/broken/nasty.

 

One-line descriptions Buyers quite often don't know the information that a contractor needs in order to produce a final product the client will be happy with; that's not a problem and it's the contractor's job to ask the right questions. But when you see a job like "I need a website. Plz replie", just move on. If they can't be bothered, then neither can I.

 

Payment method not verified Sign either of a first-time user or a scammer. If the unverified user is overly familiar with the way oDesk works...warning! If it's a first time user, you may well have to do some unofficial oDesk support and talk them through it. And you might still get scammed at the end.

 

Anything where you have to create a user account on another site (that isn't the site you're working on) before you start. No. Just no.

 

Business plan with failure built in As a webdesigner, I hear 10 plans for world domination before breakfast. Some job descriptions have fail built into the very fabric of the scheme. The worst ones are the ones where you have to mess around with NDAs and soothe the buyer that you're not going to be over the horizon with his masterplan (which often as not turns out to be another bloody facebook or youtube clone). *sigh*

 

Jobs where 'clients' are mentioned I don't really like sub-sub contracting. Firstly there's there's the thought of the buyer sitting on his arse collecting cash for my work; which rankles a bit. Secondly -and more important- is the 'Chinese Whisper Effect'; where the original client's specs is filtered through the middleman's idea of what the end-client wants. These specs may well not be accurate. You *will* be doing extra work because of this. The same applies to large companies where an underling has been given the task and is now offloading it onto you; but in this case the specs are more often written down. The worse case in this latter scenario can be where it's a committee and everyone present has to get a design change in there -no matter how pointless- just to get their name in the minutes of the meeting.

 

"It will only take 5 minutes" No it won't. No job in the history of contracting has ever taken only 5 minutes. It takes longer than that to liase with the potential client, for a start.

 

Jobs that aren't worth it ((Your hourly rate) * (Number of hours you think it will take)) + (Say 10% safety margin for extra missions/unexplained bits) = (Your price for the job). If there's not enough money or not enough time, then it's usually best to move on.

 

Anything that mentions CAPTCHA or removing watermarks It's naughty. Don't.

 

Web scraping Nah. Probably illegal (copyright) and definitely immoral. You're stealing someone else's work. Worse...you're automating stealing someone else's work.

 

Jobs where it looks like a reasonable budget for the job until you read the description and it turns out that the budget is a monthly wage for full-time work of the same type This is annoying and wastes time.

 

Non-profit organisation (Thanks Mahesh!) A non-profit organisation is not the same thing as a charity. Some are, of course, but some are tax dodges, some are for groups of people, with the aim of the organisation being something you don't necessarily approve of..."Mothers in support of the ruthless oppression of Brits in Spain"; "White supremacy"; "Black supremacy"; whatever. Or -as Mahesh points out- it could just be weasel-wording for the fact that they haven't made any money.

 

Buyers asking for free work samples/tests (Thanks Anna!) It is the buyer's right to ask, just as it is your right to refuse. It's also discouraged by oDesk. All the veteran contractors (including me) will advise against free samples and in any case that's what your portfolio is for...to show previous examples of work and the standard that you're capable of. For contractors it just is not worth it...if there's 30 applicants to the job, you're spending time doing work for a 1 in 30 chance of getting a job. You can spend your entire life doing this and not make a penny. Now that I've said all that, a free sample is what landed me my first job on oDesk...someone wanted a graphic vector conversion and -having some free time- I just did it and sent an (unusable) sample graphic in. The buyer didn't demand a sample (I would not have applied if that were the case), but I proved I could do the job by doing it. Traditionally in design work, it used to be the case that the designer offered several alternate designs; but those were for *much* larger-budget jobs. It isn't worth even considering for the sort of jobs that are at oDesk. If you do choose to give free samples, always watermark them (Thanks Ernesto!). In the case of writing samples, send them as a graphic or locked PDF so that the text can't be used without paying you.

 

Free work samples - Part II If the buyer is asking for free samples and if it's the sort of job that can be broken up into smaller tasks then pay extra attention; and also look closely at the number of people being interviewed.

 

"Great opportunity for newbies" (Thanks Judith!) This means that a buyer is offering a risably small budget for work in exchange for giving you feedback. This is either feedback blackmail or investing time in order to get in the game, depending upon your point of view. You are definitely being taken advantage of; but really it's your decision...as long as you go into it with your eyes open and as long as it's all agreed at the start. Buyers trying to use feedback to change the terms after the job has started, however, should be reported.

 

Vague specifications (Thanks Louis!) It's harder to work with vague specifications, mostly, but you see quite a lot of jobs with insufficient detail. If you're extremely lucky, it's a buyer who wants this Thing to perform this Function; is busy; has correctly assessed your level of competence; and trusts you to get 'er done. This is rare. It is, however, also difficult to write job descriptions with exactly the right amount of detail. Insufficient detail could be due to laziness; unfamiliarity with the oDesk system; lack of knowledge (which is after all why the buyer is getting a professional in)...lots of reasons. The best way of approaching this -I believe- is to use the application letter and interview to clear up any ambiguities and to focus in on the specs so that you and the client both agree on what the job actually is and where the boundaries are. If you start the job and only have a vague idea of what the client wants, you are going to have problems. Possibly big problems if the job description also states...

 

Unlimited redo A job description containing these words should be approached with caution. Particularly with website work, as you're essentially agreeing to maintain it forever as part of the deal. Add a bit of mission creep to a contract like this and you're in a world of hurt. I always specify 'reasonable amount of re-do' in the cover letter. It's a contract and you should never agree to something that can suck up an infinite amount of your time for free. I understand that buyers want their work the way they want it and the 'unlimited' is mostly just a way of ensuring that their needs will be met. You, the contractor, also needs to ensure that you're covered, so best to renegotiate this phrase.

 

"Send us ID" This is not needed to work at oDesk. Don't do it or you will be very sorry. Verify who you are through oDesk, if you must, but ***NEVER*** send ID; bank account details, PayPal, eBay or any other information that can be used by ID-theft types.

 

Write to me outside of odesk This isn't necessarily a problem...everyone has their preferred methods of communication. At the first hint of paying outside of oDesk you should run away quickly: It's against oDesk rules; will get your account terminated if you're caught; and you will probably get stiffed by the buyer anyway.

 

Phishing (Thanks Santos!) The way this works is that someone sends you a link (usually an obscured one like "http://bit.ly/whatever"). This takes you to a page that *looks like* a login page to a common internet service (Gmail, Paypal, Amazon, whatever), but isn't. What the page is, is a copy of that login screen and the idea is that you type your password in and it gets captured by naughty people. It's then standard practice to use that email/username/password on lots of other common services to see if they work. If you 1) fall for it and 2) use the same password everywhere, you're stuffed. Don't trust an obscured link; and ALWAYS check the URL on a login screen, just to make sure you're in the place you think you are. Personally, I go a little further than that and keep a link with my (encrypted) password file and I only use my local link to visit web services.

 

Good luck out there!

976 REPLIES 976
wilkinsonrichard
Community Member

Much as it pains me to say this Darren - that was the most informative, intelligent and insightful post I have seen for a long time - even this "old dog" managed to learn a lot from it :-) As one of the other poster said - "a must read". Top hole - as we "native speakers" are supposed to say. My two cents - I have my own "red flag" mechanism - well it works for me :-) Fortunately or unfortunately we are forced to use dollar currency and a banking system which recognizes figures down to two places of decimals ($0.01) - anything after the second place of decimals does not exist. As contractors we work in units of minutes (we are measured in multiples of 10 minutes), therefore if our quoted rate ($x.xx / 60) is less than $0.01 then we are surely dealing in something that does not exist. As employers, posting work where the budget amount divided by the number of units is less than $0.01, then surely they are dealing in something that does not exist. Example posting:- $1 for 150-word article = S0.006 per unit (this is not the worst example) so anyone posting or accepting such work is Socially unConscious About Money. I have never seen a coin for $0.006 - in actual fact the last time I was in the States, the smallest coin I could find (with difficulty) was 10 cents (and that was a few years ago). How can anyone pay or be paid with something that doesn't exist. And surely dealing in something that does not exist is either illegal, immoral or makes you fat. In deference to the state of the global economy I have modified my parameters to a minimum of $0.10 (maybe in the desparate hope that I can still find a ten-cent coin), and anything not conforming to these parameters is labelled as Socially unConscious About Money, and move on. Sounds complicated - but I learned about this in school when I was learning the 3Rs (reedin, ritin and riffmatik). The unfortunate problem with this method is that you have to READ and UNDERSTAND, and that is a personal choice - there is no easy button for that. Update - now my ten cents worth - two basic priciples of life - ignorance is no defence in any country of the world - when all else fails read the instructions. Sorry about that (just a little bit) - but it works for me ๐Ÿ™‚

Spaniard has too much time on her hands, me thinks!
expuser
Community Member

* Sorry to cause you distress Richard; any intelligence was purely coincidental. *removed by admin

The distress was caused by my beer-deprived state (as always) - I hope this was not the cause of your ink-blotched response :-) Your original posting should not only be made a "sticky" - it should be "super-glued" (mental note to remind the mods) ๐Ÿ™‚

[quote=Richard Wilkinson]"super-glued" [/quote] :)

You were not the cause of the ink-blotched response. I was replying both to you and Mahesh and was -in particular- refuting Mahesh's gender misidentification of me in the earlier post. I did so by parodying Mahesh's trademark "*headscratch*" response by referring to scratching another part of the body. * Just so you know. There are loads of swear words that I haven't tested yet though: * seem to be safe, but it is all very subjective. *removed by admin

Why would anyone in their right mind consider "13OLOX" to be a swear word - it's the registration number of my neighbour's car - he has a bit of a problem with the typesetting. And I question why the shortened version of ARSENAL should be considered a swear word - but then again there is no accounting for people's taste when it comes to soccer. As for the remainder, I have it on good authority (Geoffrey Chaucer and my quality-control parrot), they have not only said it - they have done it as well. Reminds me of the time during the Crimean War, when I was castigated for saying "Oh Jings" - maybe that is why I have never been able to have children. **SIGH** Has the cake arrived yet?

*...so not only has the 'B' word been flagged; but also the technical and medical term for that part of the body; which is just plain wrong. The 4 words that appeared to be OK turn out not to be, despite appearing in other parts of the forum. It is possible to draw three conclusions from this: 1) The moderating standards for this forum are inconsistent, subjective, and demonstrably wrong on occasion. 2) It is entirely conceivable that I may disappear from the forum without warning...I expect that there are many examples of my posting already about on the forum that may offend somebody enough to be flagged; and I don't really intend to pre-vet future posts to make them inoffensive to absolutely everybody. You end up with insipid, milksop dribblings that probably aren't worth reading. If you neuter the language, you also neuter thought. 3) Sweaty spheroids to both Barbara and whoever flagged the post. *removed by admin

Meh, are you still surprised about it? I'm not anymore. I miss Jacqui. (I hope nobody reports me for this. LOL)

Not surprised, no. Just irritated at inconsistency. Barbara has a job to do and I understand that. As an example; look at the rating for this post. At 22 votes it was 10.0, so 100% approval (Haven't looked at it really, since 22 votes). Currently, there's 31 people who voted and the score is 9.9...so that's one or maybe 2 people who didn't like it. One person obviously didn't like it and flagged the edited post. Flagging the post may have been due to genuine offence or it may have been due to some other reason...politics, trolling...anything. So - overwhelming majority who weren't offended, one person who was *maybe* genuinely offended. So Barbara is forced to do her job, and results in me pulling a final warning. Should I, then, pre-edit every syllable for the benefit of the small-minded minority; thus making extra work for myself (it's harder to write in a constrained style than writing naturally) and making posts less interesting? Or should I cordially invite said complainant to go and pleasure themselves with something pointy and plugged into the mains? It's a dilemma.

One flag doesn't automatically mean a violation. The one who flagged it could have done so because s/he didn't like you posting such a popular thread or whatever. Barbara could have read your post and made her own judgment whether it was offensive or not. If in her judgment it was, just because it was flagged once, therein lies the problem. She has the stick, we don't.

[quote=Aleah T.]One flag doesn't automatically mean a violation. The one who flagged it could have done so because s/he didn't like you posting such a popular thread or whatever. Barbara could have read your post and made her own judgment whether it was offensive or not. If in her judgment it was, just because it was flagged once, therein lies the problem. She has the stick, we don't.[/quote] If a post is flagged it is the moderators job to check and see if it really is a violation or not. Otherwise it would be really unfair. I got a warning for something i did not do. Even if was allowed i would never post anyone's contact info. :(

Did you not get an apology and retraction for the warning yet? That is patently wrong.

Don't hold your breath ๐Ÿ™‚

Lets see if we can do something about that...

[quote=-Darren- J.]Did you not get an apology and retraction for the warning yet? That is patently wrong.[/quote] :(

Natasha and Aleah - apologies for getting you confused. I have only a small brain and apparently it doesn't do revolutionary fervour and tracking the right name simultaneously.

No sweat, I didn't even see that post hehe

want to remove billed time, how can i make it?

Hi, 2 all of you Any body can help me.I want to run OSX operation system(which is design for Apple Machine) in my Intel/Dell System. Thanks

The response from the powers-that-be is a prime example of analphabetism - it seems that someone in the hierarchy is intent on banning the entire works of Geoffrey Chaucer from English literature - sorry, no chance, it is still required reading in a large majority of English PUBLIC schools. Typical of the situation that was prevalent in this country (South Africa) several years ago where people were jailed for 10 years for calling members of the Government "stupid fools" - one month for offensive language and the balance of the 10 years for giving away State secrets. Ah the sweet memories of censorship. Makes me wonder about...... This whole posting, even in its dilated format, should still be SUPERGLUED at the top of the forum. And if that is offensive to anyone - sorry, just a teenie weenie bit.
lori_t
Community Member

i finally came to the forum, and it was with every intent to vent. yet again i was hosed over by submitting finished work of supreme quality but not paid. i was going to give a shout out warning about taking projects on contract price without getting anything upfront. by the time i finished reading the thread i just felt a bit better that i wasn't alone in having a challenge finding trustworthy clients. i have some that are awesome, but i waste way too many hours every week doing projects that don't pay. it isn't even like my rates are outrageous, and i do consider myself cautious about who i accept, but i just know the scoundrel is going to submit my content to the website as his own. i guess it goes with the territory of not taking just hourly, but that limits me to which machine i can be on. i personally thank you darren for your list of red flags, i wish there was another means other than the public feed back we could warn off other contractors about the ones that take advantage of us. thanks for posting, your thread gave me the grins and relief i needed to get back to work, you all have an amazing day ๐Ÿ™‚

Barbara Wright or Wrath *removed by admin ๐Ÿ™‚

people are always trying to find ways to screw with the DMV through their license plates. i wonder if that one would go through?

If it did, it would be awesome ๐Ÿ™‚
barbarawright
Community Member

Thanks for posting. The fact is that this entire forum is for hints and tips that everyone can share. That is the purpose of the community forums. So, in essence, the entire forum is a "sticky."
"Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say." - Brenda Ueland
ggutianjo
Community Member

You've got a big heart Darren to spend your time composing the very informative and comprehensive piece!!! You made the virtual world brighter to live. May you be blessed...
mjundis
Community Member

Thanks, Darren for these warning signs! I also noticed that some buyers change the title of their job post but have the same description. I applied to one where you are asked to take a test and the test was to describe an experience of using the service of a certain company. After a day, I checked to see the status of the job post, there were 70 plus applicants, with no one being interviewed. I checked the buyer's other job post and there were a varying description of the title but the same requirement. Now, if all those applicants took the "test" he will gather so many free "testimonials." Clever, huh?

I totally agree, I am a medical writer and see that some of the "samples" I have written for example when asked to write my definition on the lab test cortisol. I do believe that the 50 plus proposals were all asked to write a "sample" on different labs and whammo, the client gets his entire lab compendium written gratis!  We have to as a group, not accept this stuff, so that when clients get zero proposals, they will be forced to be reasonable. I am only now becoming indoctrinated to the culture of vultures out there, that one must be on guard for.  Totally not cool. Sorry but 10 dollars for 1000 words doesn't cover the med school loans. And, I agree intellectual property should be a highly valued item, let us not devalue ourselves, be responding to ads that show no value for us!    

wilkinsonrichard
Community Member

I do not see why a word meaning "the inability to read and understand" should be banned from these fora. However as an example of tangential cogitation it could serve as a euphemism for the diarrhoetic trend that is analogous with this site - that of "bottom feeding" - for us contractors it is a deep-seated problem and we are continually getting a bum deal - I wonder if we shall ever see the bottom of this with its removal from the arsenal of exciting positions offered and we can continue without fear of being rear ended. I suppose we shall just have to wait for a definitive ruling on this hole issue - maybe that will happen when everyone returns from their holiday trip to Uranus. Or am I being to cheeky???? ๐Ÿ™‚

you are a hoot!!
thinkalam
Community Member

Great! Great!! Great!!! Eye opener of Contractors!

Darren, you are brilliant!!
faithlessmary
Community Member

One of my newest favourite warnings: ,,Very simple, do it while you are watching TV or talking on the phone. Simple! Will pay .33 cents an hour for this extremely easy work." Yes.. I will watch TV with my right eye and the computer screen with my left one. I will hold the remote with my right hand and the mouse with my left one. After earning a fortune with this rate, I will probably have to go to the doctor's to check my eyesight or I will apply for a position in circus.

Oh darn, can't believe I missed this great opportunity. A whole 33 cents an hour. At that rate I'll be able to buy a Big Mac at the end of the month. Wow.Some offers are truly ridiculous!
cycroft
Community Member

Thatโ€™s disconcerting. But thanks for the well written article, a good refresher.

I am a newbie, and i have this feeling i'm about to get scammed. the notification and message sent to me has all the impressions of a fixed and not hourly rates even when in its ad, it said hourly. and it said i can start, giving instructions for downloading a program. no contract or anything else appears in my My Jobs tab and I still appear as a candidate. this feels like i would be working out of odesk. will someone help me? how should i proceed?

Hi Maricel. I had just answered your thread ๐Ÿ™‚ If you can't see it in your My Jobs tab then you are not officially hired therefore you don't need to do any work. Trust your instincts :) --- Citizens of the Philippines are called Filipinos, not Philippians
expuser
Community Member

Pyjamas? I didn't know there was a uniform.

Pyjamas - legal requirement under terms of OSHAC safety regulations - see under section on protective and safety clothing - to be worn in case of fire - usually resulting from overheated mouse. Provision of such clothing suitable for use in the workplace is the responsibility of the employer.
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