Anyone searching online for a side job, clients, or a steady position in the arts will come across genuine jobs, scams, and those offers that sound like they might be a little bit of both. In most instances, the business cannot be labeled a “scam” because if you put in the work, you do get money. Scams do not pay you for your work. At the same time, these businesses might not live up to the hype they create in their advertising, or they might be business opportunities for a very narrow group of people, not actual jobs.
Teaching English to Chinese Children Online
You will probably come upon ads for companies like DaDa ABC, VIP Kid, and Landi English. They promise you can make thousands of dollars per month just by teaching kids in China to speak English for a few hours per day. The application process is simple, much like you are applying for any other job.
But it is not a job in the strictest sense of the word. If it were a job, you would be offered a set wage or salary, and if you worked that amount of time, you would receive that money. There is no yearly salary offered by any of these companies. You will not be paid a set fee for courses that you are continually assigned by the company, as in an adjunct teaching position. You will need to recruit, schedule, and retain your own students.
These jobs are similar to opening a franchise of a business in the U.S., but the rules are slightly different. You do have to use the lesson plans they give you, but you are responsible for purchasing your own teaching materials, and setting up a unique classroom. Most places allow you to work for several companies at once.
While these companies are not scams, they are not easy paths to riches. They are side business opportunities for those serious about education, particularly ESL education.
Multi-Level Marketing/Direct Sales Opportunities
Tupperware, Mary Kay, Avon, Pampered Chef, and countless other companies offer untold riches if you just sign up by purchasing their sales kit. These companies are not scams. They are just not as easy or lucrative as the recruiters make them seem.
Should you decide to try working in direct sales, the most important thing to remember is that what you actually did was start your own franchise of an established company. Signing up to sell Mary Kay or Tupperware or Avon is like opening a branch of Little Caesar’s Pizza or McDonalds or JCPenney. It’s not the same thing as starting your own business from scratch, but it is starting your own business.
Workers who sign up for direct sales companies will get paid if they make sales. If Mary Kay offers you 40% commission, and you sell one of their $200 skincare kits to your friend, they really will give you your $80.00. It just isn’t so easy to sell those skincare kits as they make it seem. Your personal franchise could bring you an income of $0.00. It may even wind up costing you money if you are pressured into buying inventory, supplies, or demonstration materials you do not truly want or need.
Testing or Monitoring Web Sites, Forums, or Other Online Environments
A variety of companies offer this type of work. Sometimes they ask you to go on a website and pretend to be someone who has never heard of it before, but found it in a search result. You then navigate the site, and report back on the ease or difficulty of doing so. Others ask you to perform a search using their search engine, and then report back on which search results were best. A third type of work you might do is monitoring of comments on a forum or other social media site. Your job would be to flag, or remove, content that seemed to be from scammers, spoke of illegal activity, or otherwise tarnished the brand image according to company guidelines.
All reports I have read indicate that the majority of these companies are a bit sketchy. I applied and got rejected for a job as a “multimedia judge” for one of these companies. According to the reviews posted online, I dodged a bullet on that one. Reviewers report that the company hires and fires seemingly at random, with no explanation either way.
This could be a decent money making tactic for someone who doesn’t truly need a job or money to pay set expenses, but only wants a little bit of extra spending cash here and there. Just don’t get attached to the work, or take it personally if you get a letter informing you that you are “terminated” with no explanation.
Online Tutoring for People in Your Home Country, Babysitting, Caretaker Work, or Pet Care
Sites like Care dot com, Tutor dot com, Hey Tutor, and Rover dot com work the same way direct sales works, with a little extra screening. They screen you for inclusion in their database. You are then an independent contractor and worker, responsible for finding, scheduling, and recruiting new clients for your own personal franchise of whatever business just signed you up.
If you are a tutor for Hey Tutor, your account on that site is your own franchise of Hey Tutor. If you dog sit through Rover dot com, your dog sitting business is your own franchise of Rover dot com. You still have to abide by their policies, just as the owner of the nearest Subway franchise still has to use standard Subway bread for their sandwiches. But you will be paying your own taxes and running your own business.
How to tell the difference between a personal franchise opportunity and a standard job.
As far as the law is concerned, it all comes down to the documents filed with the IRS. If you fill out a form W-4, authorizing the business to take taxes out of your paycheck when you sign up to do some work, then you are an employee. You have a standard, regular job. If you do not fill out a form W-4, and no taxes are taken out of your check, then you are in business for yourself, working with, but not for, that company.
There is nothing shady or illegal about working with independent contractors. Whether you are an employee or a contractor working with the business should not be a secret. Ask the recruiter or business owner directly, “Will I be a legal employee of (company name) or am I doing this work as an independent contractor/artist/business owner?” If the person hiring you refuses to answer you, then there is likely something illegal going on there anyway, and you will want to avoid that company regardless of the employment status offered.