You’ll never make money freelancing if you’re applying for the wrong jobs. Steer clear of these freelance job postings so you can get paid what you’re worth.

Freelancing is a great way to fine-tune your professional skills and work on your own terms. As a young professional, working for yourself can offer freedom and help you earn a little (or a lot) of extra money so you can finally ditch your Ramen diet for good.

It’s easy to find work through sites like, oDesk and Elance, but you’ll quickly discover that job listings on these sites are not always as they seem.

Over the past couple of months freelancing, I’ve developed a sense for what people actually mean when they post jobs online. Once you better understand the hidden meaning behind these job postings, you can move beyond freelance rookie status, better navigate the competition and sail right up to the best jobs.

1. “Native English-speaking article writers: excellent quality articles required”

Translation: We pay $0.50 per 500 words. We’re aware that in countries where native English-speakers actually live, $0.50 will not cover the cost of the electricity required to write those 500 words.

For this reason, we’re looking to hire a financially secure trust-fund baby who has an insatiable desire to write keyword-rich articles about the new iPhone. Or possibly someone who has moved to Mali. And has no desire to afford to a plane flight back. Ever.

2. “Female-only virtual assistant”

Translation: I want a hot blonde (with sizable breasts) who I can say inappropriate things to over Skype.

This is usually accompanied by, “should be open-minded and easygoing,” which roughly translates to… well, you can figure it out.

3. “eBay sellers required”

Translation: We have a warehouse full of expensive cameras that “fell off the back of a truck.” All you have to do is sell our stolen goods through your own eBay and PayPal accounts. We offer generous commissions for this indictable offence.

Or, alternatively: We don’t actually have those cameras. But we can supply you with photo-realistic images of cameras. All you have to do is list our “cameras” using your eBay account. When some sucker buys ’em, just transfer the money to our PayPal account (minus your commission) and you’ll never hear from us again.

4. “Very easy data entry job”

Translation: You know captchas? Those annoying, messed-up letters that prevent our bots from creating Hotmail accounts? Yeah? Well, we need some cheap, real human eyes to transcribe those for us. Then we can get back to creating mass email accounts to send our important “news bulletins” about Viagra. Kthxbai.

5. “Great opportunity for planning/urban design professionals”

Translation: We’re a large company that bid way too low on a massive project (like, ah, the Urban Design Proposal for Kabul, Afghanistan*). Surprise, surprise, we won the job since they couldn’t resist our rock-bottom price. Now we’re trying to outsource it to reduce our losses. This is the perfect project for anyone who is desperate and/or doesn’t know any better.

*This was an actual project. I didn’t just invent it for the sake of drama. Unfortunately, the job was deleted before I had a chance to snatch it up.

6. “I understand your requirement and am ready to start work”

Translation: I have no idea what this project requires. My computer program responds to every job on my behalf.

How to earn money on sites like

Now that you know which jobs to avoid, use these tips to win bids on the real jobs so you can earn more money:

Market your talents confidently

If you’re good at what you do, tell people you’re excellent at what you do. Learn how to sell yourself and talk yourself up. Obviously, you need to back up your claims with good work, but do what you say you’ll do, and your employer will be happy.

Infuse personality to stand out

Show some personality, people! Sure, it’s important to act professionally, but have a bit of fun with it. Show your potential employers why you’re funnier, more charming and more reliable (and more human) than the guy whose computer responds for him.

Bid what you’re worth

Don’t offer low-ball bids just to beat other freelancers. Often, even if you’re more expensive than your competition, you’ll still win the job — especially if you followed the two previous pieces of advice.

Bid what you’re worth and stand out from the crowd because of your skills and personality, not because you’re the cheapest. Good employers recognize that they get what they pay for. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) If they want the job done well, cheaper isn’t better.

Once you learn to filter through the rubbish, it is possible to make decent money freelancing on these sites. Don’t fall for the dumb scams, don’t undercut your rates and be yourself. Then you’ll find reasonable people willing to pay reasonable rates for your work.

And if all that fails, I hear Mali is lovely this time of year…

Brodie Norris is currently avoiding destitution by blogging at Architecting Life and freelancing on


  1. Nikki R

    You hit the nail right on the head with your scam post translations! Great post.

    • Brodie Norris

      Thanks so much, Nikki! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  2. Barbara Mckinney

    Thanks for sharing this information Brodie. We must be aware of these scams to avoid any trouble. If you think that the offered job is too good to be true, then you have to think twice before doing something.

    • Brodie Norris

      Absolutely, Barbara. The terrible thing is a lot of ‘newbies’ get excited about getting a really well-paying job and then end up being disappointed when the job doesn’t live up to its description. It can be very disenchanting. Great advice though – be very suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true!

  3. Wepaar

    Thanks for sharing this article. Everyone should be aware of scams in freelancing jobs, Most of them tries to cheat you at payment when most of work is done…..

    • Brodie Norris

      Thanks, Wepaar! You’re absolutely right. I recently had a company ask to have all the work before they would awarded me the job on Freelancer. This could have left me vulnerable to being ripped off when it came to payment. I have a policy to never start a project until I have been awarded the job – in this case that policy paid off!

  4. Cassie Nolan

    Fantastic post, Brodie! So funny and so useful. Great job!

  5. Ysmelda

    I have had two Bad experiences. First a guy “hired” me for a translation
    job. I accepted and when I talked to him, he told me he didnt create
    any project. charged him and me 5$.

    somebody hired me for technical assistance, asked me my skype account
    and while we discussed the project he tried to hack my computer. I
    turned it off and asked for assistance. He had put two malware in my
    computer and I haven´t accepted any file from him

    Here is the profile of the person

    provide his skype soon,. Im afraid to log in skype, he really made me
    nervous. I could report him and change all my passwords ASAP in another

    As u see is a person with good reputation and cannot imagine how many new freelancers has fallen with him.

    I reported him and his project and freelancer hasnt sent me any comment. Thats dissapointing.

  6. Pramzy

    I was scammed when I applied for a freelance in happened in late September. At first I thought it is legit because I google it and thecompany is legitimate. Here me a newbie at freelancing does not have any clue. Do you know where I have been interviewed its through yahoo messenger. Here he told about the company’s history, blah blah blah. Then he told me that they will send me equipments for my work. Here I was very happy that I will received such things. He promised to give me a laptop and software to be used. Then me being suspicious looked for his name in web but he seems legit also. Do you know he has a LinkIn account, there a thought the job was free from scam.

    Then suddenly he asked me if I understand our conversation and I told him yes. Here he states that I was to send money for the payments of the equipments. At this I had my intuition that I am to be scammed. But because of excitement and stupidity I pay them through Western Union or Moneygram for it for $300. I do not know but at this moment all of you who have read this far is laughing at me if NY naivety and stupidity. But I was really excited and my salary wouldbe $25 am hour. THe one who conducted my interview is from Chicago and the money should be sent in Newark, Ohio in a different name. I cannot track the name because I am not from the States.My country has13 hours time difference but at the time of the transactions he is widely awake. Beware of this scam. Even though you applied in a legitimate Outsourcing website be sure to investigate and be vigilant to scammers. Hope you will not experience what I had gone through.

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