Bad Freelancing Opportunities

Original Post: Here

With the economy being the way it is, the bad freelancing opportunities are coming out of the woodwork. Here are three to watch out for:
1. Continuing to work for the same company, but as an independent contractor. Last year, this happened to employees at advertising and PR agency here in Tucson. Our local newspaper headline said, “Most Unnamed Inc. employees losing benefits.” (Unnamed Inc. is not the real name of this agency.)

The newspaper’s online comments were very harsh in their assessment of this agency. The politest comments were of the “lousy PR move by Unnamed Inc.” variety.
If your employer decides to make your benefits your responsibility, I’d advise lining up other work. Things aren’t going to get better. Or you could start freelancing – for other companies.
2. Freelancing for very low pay. Last week, I was at a networking mixer in a building that’s being converted into a collaborative workspace for creative professionals.
The mastermind behind the conversion process gave us a brief history of other local businesses that had previously occupied the space. One of those companies was an Internet Service Provider (ISP), and the very mention of its name set the alarm bells off in my head. I really had to struggle to keep my mouth (aka The Troublemaker) shut.
Around Tucson, that ISP was known as the company that offered freelancers the measly sum of $10 an hour for website work. I don’t know of any freelancer who accepted this offer, but it sure got talked about around town. And not in a good way. By way of an update, this ISP was bought out by a competitor.
Moral of this story: If your potential client is paying so little that you’ll struggle to cover even the most meager operating expenses, it may mean that the business isn’t viable.
3. The job that isn’t. In my previous FreelanceSwitch article, I talked about how I stumbled and fumbled around in the publishing business. In the spring of 1995, I realized that my publishing venture was doomed. So, I started job-hunting. Finally got an interview in the summer of 1996.
Here’s what happened: The interview was with another local ISP. This one was much more devious than that $10 an hour outfit. Starting with the advertisement in the local paper. It looked to all the world like the ISP was looking to employ a website designer.
Then there was the appointment at the ISP’s lavish headquarters in a Downtown Tucson office tower. We, the job-seekers, sat in the lobby, hunched over the applications that we were required to fill out. While we were working on our applications, haughty employees strutted back and forth, barely hiding their condescension toward, us, the lowly job-seekers.
A Gordon Gekko lookalike summoned me to his back office for the interview. At last, I thought, here was my chance to leave Struggleville and return to Steady Paycheck Land. The guy quickly disabused me of any such notion when he said that the job wasn’t a job. It was freelance. I was too stunned to point out the bait-and-switch that his company just pulled on me and the other job applicants.
A few weeks later, I got a form letter from the ISP. Among other things, the letter said, “We are not in a position to offer you a position at this time.” I was tempted to send them a thesaurus so they could find some synonyms for the word “position.” Wasn’t too long after that when I heard that they were on the verge of going under.
Oh, by way of an update, this ISP was also bought out by a competitor.
So, there you have ‘em. Three cautionary tales from the Martha file. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.