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Bottom Of The Barrel: Avoiding Freelance Slave Labor
To Win Bids, You Have To Work For 30 Cents/Hour
Set up a booth near the lineup outside the Unemployment Office. Go recruit people to sign an Indentured Servitude contract: Three squares a day and a dry-cleaned slave toga. In return, 60 hours a week of slavery, but no beatings, overt humiliation or overly excessive exploitation. See how many people you can convince that it's better than what they're doing now and get to sign up.
You might have some luck with that. After all, something not too different is going on right now on various "Freelancers Bid For Work" sites. If you think that indentured servitude is illegal, then those sites must be operating outside the law.
If you've never been on some of these "Freelancer Bidding" sites, imagine an international, electronic slave market where companies and individuals that require freelance services suitable for telecommuting such as website coding, copywriting, graphic design, etc. can post their requirements and get bids from around the world. It actually sounds like a reasonable Web 2.0-ish sort of way to get stay-at-homes to find paying gigs, doesn't it? It is, until you look at the rates.
Some of the bids are not just outrageous, they are downright exploitative. Take a quick look and you will see 1000 words complete with extensive web research being compensated with $1. That means that the "winner" will have to spend time googling around to gather the appropriate information, compile that data into a report as long as four pages of a novel, suffer through re-edits and the obligatory re-writes, and at the end of it will be able to receive the compensation: One item off the Wendy's 99 cent menu.
And that's when and if they get paid.
It's true that no one is forcing these people onto this site, and it's also true that many of these types of bids end up being "won" by Third World mills, mostly on the Indian Sub-Continent. Much of the population in various countries which have an English-language educational system but are ravaged by poverty could certainly consider spending three or four hours on a project in exchange for one US dollar a reasonable return.
However for the inhabitants of the more developed countries, it is simply not feasible to work for 30 cents an hour. A large talent pool that could benefit by a truly equitable "Freelancer" online market is being undercut so severely that it is dissipating. It is just not worth while chasing up possible freelancer opportunities for this sort of compensation.
This is not to say that all projects posted are criminally exploitative. There are some companies that post strict quality requirements for their bidders and offer reasonable and competitive compensation. The Third World mills have problems with quality since the overall standard of the work is rather low. Some projects have "American-native" as a requirement. That is not at all discriminatory. Various English-speaking nations have adopted a form of patois into their everyday accepted speech patterns. This patois finds its way into the writing generated by the Third World mills and that will confuse an American target audience. Therefore, out of respect for the target audience and the effectiveness of the message, not to mention ROI, the proper project offering will have very strict requirements that call for very specific quality controls.
It's time for a completely new type of "Freelancer Jobs Site," one with extremely high ethics and rigid standards. Instead of just letting anyone pitch anything in exchange for a commission on every winning bid, establish very firm and fair minimum limits. For example, one cent per word should be the absolute minimum for any kind of writing that requires even a bit of research. In exchange, all bidders can only log on if they have passed a basic literacy and skills test. This ensures the project managers that they are dealing with serious, educated professionals, not just semi-illiterate time wasters.
It is time that freelancers demand an online market that is in adherence with the professional standards they deserve. It will be a boon to both project managers who will receive highly-qualified applicants for their mission-critical assignments, and to the freelancers all over the world who will be able to earn a respectable and honest living exercising their craft.