I'll Pass

I’m always checking out online work boards to see what I can find.

I signed up with oDesk (nope, not providing a link. If you’re that interested, Google will get to it just fine).

I asked them to remove me just as quickly after I downloaded the software and did a tour.

The company was trying to solve the problem of trust between an unknown remote worker and employer. Is this a serious issue? You betcha. You hear all those “Work in your underwear” stories and if you’re hiring someone, you will wonder whether or not that slacker with his laptop is working or not. I’m not arguing that it’s an issue.

One solution is to pay by the job. (i.e. “I’m taking bids on a 50 page e-book on the mating habits of hummingbirds. I’ll need it in three weeks after the contract is accepted. What do you bid?”)

That’s the way I usually work. I get a contract, say how long it’ll take me to do it, then deliver it by the deadline. After that, it’s up to me to make it work. If I don’t make it work, I get a bad review. I like this approach.

However, working to the job doesn’t really work out with everything. Sometimes an hourly rate seems like the better option. Then, trust becomes a serious issue. You don’t want to pay for slacking.

If you’re going to hire a telecommuter, a good way to handle it is to hire someone you know and trust. You know they’re not going to screw around. They’ll work the hours they claimed, you can see they put out a lot of good product, and it’s all hunky-dory[1].

What if you wanna outsource and you’re hiring a stranger?

oDesk’s option is… well, there’s no other way to put it, you might as well be working in a cube farm. If you get work through them, you’ll be getting a video camera to be trained on you while you work. No kidding! You download the company’s software, which takes a screenshot every ten minutes while you’re working, and logs mouse clicks and keystrokes. Friends, I’ve never had an office job with that level of monitoring, and I worked briefly for the Department of State! It seems to me that this is all the drawbacks of a “real job” (constant monitoring, stress) with none of the advantages (regular paycheck, benefits such as insurance, paid sick leave, etc.).

Why would you want the insecurity of going freelance if you’re not going to get the benefits?

Addendum:  Apparently there are buyers who don’t like it all that much, either.

There’s no point in outsourcing if you have to babysit your coders on the progress every step of the way (which would be how you would prevent bleeding too much money via oDesk).

[1] My father does this. But he’s been in his field 40 years and has a pretty solid rep.

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