Where Have you Been Part 1: Freelancing

by Tabitha Kidwell

A standard greeting in Indonesia is to say dari mana?, or, as my students would often translate it, Where are you from? At first, I would answer with a confused From Ohio… (you know, just like the last time you asked). But then I realized they meant to ask something more along the likes of Where have you been? After 6+ weeks with no blog postings, maybe you, too, are wondering where I have been. Well, I have been very busy, and this is the beginning of a series of posts telling just what I have been up to.

Throughout the months of September and October, I spent a couple of hours a day searching the project listings on two online freelancing sites: elance and odesk. People looking for freelancers can post jobs on these two sites, and freelancers place bids telling how quickly they will do a job and what they would charge. I really enjoy the process of applying; trying to sell your qualifications and undercut the other bidders can be a really fun competition. I would rather bid on projects all day than sit down and do the work. Unfortunately, you are only paid if you actually, you know, do a project. And I have done quite a few, including:

Editing college application essays
Editing academic papers and case studies
Translating a legal contract from Spanish to English
Translating a government report from French to English
Translating vacuum instructions into French and Spanish
Translating self-help articles from Bulgarian to English. (I was very clear that I do not speak a word of bulgarian – they said that was fine, they just wanted me to cut and paste into google translate and then clean up what came out. Hey, if the price is right.)
Calculating a Brazilian student’s GPA for his application to American grad school
Researching scholarships for a high school senior in Illinois
Writing online English language arts lessons aligned to the new Common Core Standards
Writing reading comprehension quizzes for the Children’s Poet Laureate’s website
Teaching English via Skype
Writing a general English curriculum and a TOEFL prep curriculum for a start-up language teaching site

It’s been interesting to do such a variety of projects, and I’ve made a couple thousand dollars, which isn’t bad for two months of part time, flexible work. There was definitely a learning curve to it, though. You have to get make your profile appealing to people, take arbitrary “skills tests,” and find the right niche. You also have to figure out what jobs NOT to apply for or accept. There is a lot of shady stuff going on on these websites, including:

Doing people’s homework (Of course, no one says it in so many words, but there are lots of posts for “read these articles and give me a summary,” “answer these 5 questions,” or “write an essay on this topic.”)
Enabling plagiarism (Again, no one says as much, but there are tons of posting looking for people to “spin” articles, meaning to rewrite them line-by-line so they can’t be found by plagiarism checkers)
Writing dinosaur porn (I don’t think I need to comment on that. I wish I were joking.)

There are also less nefarious clients, like the many hapless writers looking for editors for their self-published eBooks. I only search the “Writing and Translation” postings, so who knows what is going on on the IT, Admin, Design, Legal, and Sales boards. I just hope it’s not dinosaur porn.

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One Comment to “Where Have you Been Part 1: Freelancing”

  1. Do you expect that I am among the readers of this post Tabitha? Well admittedly, there are things I cannot really understand about the post as an Indonesian, but I am happy to know that you present yourself there in the post as a polyglot and you mention a bit about bahasa Indonesia, especially thing about dinosaur. Good Luck with all things you do now and see you when I see you.

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