On the side: a primer to online freelancing

There are many different ways to make money online, but they require time and dedication. (Photo Illustration by George Walker | The Collegian)

You’re in college. You’re broke. Welcome to the real world.

It’s not all bad news though. Freelance work is a viable alternative to part-time jobs, and it doesn’t come with a set schedule or require you to be at a job site. Whether you can write, tutor, program or just answer surveys, there are a number of freelance opportunities.

What to avoid

The important thing to remember about freelance work is that it is still work. A freelancer only makes as much money as the amount of time they’re willing to put in. If you don’t have enough discipline to pull yourself away from Netflix, working freelance is not for you.

Although several freelance jobs exist, it is also important to do your research to make sure they’re legitimate. Some websites are either complete scams or pay very little for the work you do. Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League, warns people not to believe claims of making a lot of money with minimal effort.

If in doubt, contact the Federal Trade Commission. In any case, you should never pay to get started as a freelancer. Legitimate employers are there to give you money, not the other way around.

Where to start

One of the bigger freelance sites is operated by Amazon. Mechanical Turk is a crowdsource work site that allows freelancers to complete a number of small and large tasks for money. Such jobs include creating captions for photos, filling out surveys or transcribing audio recordings. They pay a relatively small amount (5-20 cents) for tasks that take little time, though longer tasks usually pay more, according to Gizmodo article.

If you’re looking for larger projects to work on, oDesk is a specialized crowdsource site that allows you to set a minimum wage you’ll work for. Potential employers then bid for workers based on their rate, experience and other job factors, according to a Wall Street Journal article. oDesk covers a variety of jobs, from writing to programming to data entry.

Freelance work isn’t for everyone. It takes discipline to work for hours on the computer and not get distracted by the comforts of home. If you can do it, however, freelance work will give you the flexibility a lot of part-time jobs can’t.

Jon Parton is a senior in mass communications.