You’re about to find out some interesting and totally legal ways to make money online, from home.
But first, some background…
High unemployment and limited opportunities are two of the biggest problems facing young people in developing countries.
While millions of young Africans complain of, and suffer from biting unemployment, a growing number of our counterparts in Asia are making a decent living while working from their bedrooms. This is no joke!
Thousands of young Asians (especially from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines) are using their skills and talents to provide services to clients around the world.
While our continent is still focused on exporting commodities and goods, the Asians are heavily exporting their services. The global outsourcing service industry is booming and more people are using the internet to hire quality labour at competitive and affordable prices.
In this article, I’ll reveal the top 5 most demanded and outsourced services and the most interesting places you can get FREE training to develop the skills you need to join the services industry.
Finally, I’ll show you the top places to find jobs/projects and get hired as soon as you’re ready. You will find this article to be very eye opening.
My experience with the Asian miracle…
Yesterday, I was up at five o’clock in the morning for a Skype conversation with Qazi.
He’s a 20-something year old freelancer in faraway Joypurhat (Bangladesh), a city that’s five hours ahead of Lagos (Nigeria) where I live.
I hired Qazi about two weeks ago to customize a new website I’m working on. His spoken English is not perfect but I try my best to make sense of most things he says.
Nevertheless, we mostly communicate via email which greatly reduces the communication barrier. At such a young age, Qazi is good at what he does. Above all, he is very polite, eager to help and his customer service is just amazing!
Qazi is just one of millions of Asians (especially in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines and several other South East Asian countries) who make a living from the huge multi-billion dollar global service industry.
Like us, they live in developing economies with high unemployment rates. But these young entrepreneurs are not shackled by the physical boundaries of their location or limited by the business opportunities within their immediate environment.
Every day, thousands of young Asian freelancers like Qazi work from their bedrooms (or wherever they like) and get paid by clients from around the world. While they enjoy this flexible and amazing lifestyle, millions of their counterparts (especially in Africa) continue to groan about unemployment.
By the time he finishes working for me, Qazi would have earned about $200 for his services. For 20 hours of work, it’s surely not a bad sum indeed.
$200 is more than three times the minimum monthly wage in his country, Bangladesh. Not bad indeed!
Through this experience, I realised that internet provides a huge and amazing opportunity for Africans to join the likes of Qazi and tap into the huge global service market.
In the following section, we shall look at the top five most-wanted services that have become a huge source of income for entrepreneurs across the world, especially those living in developing regions like Asia and Africa.
The Top 5 Most Wanted Services on the Freelance Market
In 2013 alone, more than $750 million was earned by entrepreneurs around the world who got hired via Elance, one of the largest freelancing and outsourcing platforms on the internet.
The major chunk of this sum is concentrated in the five hotly demanded services I’m about to share with you.
In the rest of this article, I’ll share with you everything you need to know to join this league of online service entrepreneurs, if you’re interested.
1. Virtual Assistance
Virtual assistance is one of the fastest growing services on the internet.
A virtual assistant (commonly known as a VA) is an independent entrepreneur who typically works from home and uses technology (internet, email, phone, instant messaging) to deliver services to clients globally.
In summary, a VA is the internet version of a Personal Assistant.
What can a VA do? Everything a personal assistant does and more! In addition to general administrative and clerical work, today’s VAs handle bookkeeping, online research, data entry, manage and respond to clients’ emails, schedule tasks and also offer language translation services.
Nowadays, more VAs are increasingly hired for customer care tasks. With the aid of internet phone technologies (VOIP), VAs can act as receptionists and answer the phone when customers call to make enquiries or complaints.
You could make a phone call to a US-based company and its VA in Pakistan would respond to it. Amazing! VAs are helping both startups and established companies to save costs on office space and hiring full-time physical assistants/secretaries and customer care reps.
Virtual assistants are also getting hired to take care of mundane personal, administrative and social tasks that stress busy business people everyday. This is surely one service area that will grow tremendously in the not-too-distant future. (image credit: endeavorvirtualassistant.com)
2. Online Marketing
Online marketing (also known as digital or internet marketing) is the new deal. Both big and small companies around the world are shifting their advertising spend from traditional channels (like newspapers, radio and TV) to focus on online advertising.
We now live in a world where people watch more Youtube than television and read more blog articles and Facebook posts than newspapers.
To find and influence more customers to buy their products and services, anybody who wants to succeed in business today just has to invest in online marketing.
Online marketers are specialists and independent entrepreneurs who help people, businesses, organizations and even governments to increase their presence and influence on the internet.
In a world ruled by Google, Facebook, Twitter and several forms of search and social media, online marketers are paid by clients to spread their message (advertisement), find customers and increase sales in the most cost-effective ways possible.
As the influence of the internet grows in the modern world and the complexities of social media and search engines increase, the demand for online marketing specialists will surely be on the rise.
A website is a virtual office space. If you own a business or run any kind of organisation in today’s world but don’t have a website, it’s typically assumed that you don’t exist. Period!
Almost everybody wants a beautiful website but not everyone has the skills to design one. The huge and growing global market for visually appealing websites has increased the demand for people with talents and skills in website and graphic design.
Apart from websites, people with these skills design book covers, corporate logos and do graphics for magazines and marketing collateral (like banners, brochures etc.)
In fact, on platforms like 99designs.com, ordinary people like you and I can post a description of the kind of design we want (colours, quality, impression etc) and the price we’re willing to pay for a good design.
After we post this, hundreds of graphic designers around the world would send in their sample designs and you get to choose which one you want. After you select the design you like best, the owner/winner gets paid.
In addition to the wide range of options you receive, this innovative way of finding designs that meet your needs is more convenient and very affordable. (image credit: redbubble.com)
Through the internet, thousands of people in developing regions of the world earn a sizeable income by designing websites, graphics, logos etc. for clients who live on the other side of the world. As the internet population expands, the demand for design skills will definitely increase.
Content is king on the internet and even the most popular websites/blogs are constantly looking for rich, fresh and creative blog articles that will keep their readers satisfied and engaged.
Many of these blogs have to publish new articles everyday to remain relevant and sustain the volume of readers and visitors they receive.
To meet up with this demand, thousands of freelance writers are hired every day across the world to produce the content that feeds the internet’s insatiable appetite for fresh information.
It’s not just enough to know how to write very well in English, French, Chinese or any other relevant language.
Knowledge of the subject matter is also very important. Most writers specialize in one or several subjects like art, science and tech, business and entrepreneurship, politics, personal development, shopping, gossip etc. The more specialized, the better. (image credit: clickbd.com)
5. Programmers (Coders)
The global software industry is worth billions of dollars.
In recent years, the spread of smartphones and other mobile devices has significantly boosted the software industry and computer programming (or ‘coding’) has become one of the most sought after and highly paid skills in today’s world.
The demand for coding skills is projected to grow exponentially over the next decade.
With the rapid rate at which technology is changing, coding skills are becoming ever more specialized and sophiscated. Today, PHP, WordPress, Android and HTML programming are just a few of the trending and highly demanded programming skills.
Nowadays, anyone with a brilliant software or app idea can hire freelance programmers (coders) from anywhere in the world to build one for them.
On platforms like Freelancer.com, anyone can describe the software they would like to build and invite qualified and experienced coders to bid for the job. This competitive selection process ensures that the client always hires the right quality talents at an affordable price. (image credit: networtech.com)
How Can More Africans become a part of this industry?
We often complain that there are more unemployed people than jobs in Africa.
While physical jobs can be limited by geography and international boundaries, the service opportunities revealed in this article are not. As long as you have the relevant skills, there are several platforms on the internet that provide the opportunity to sell your time and talent to anybody anywhere in the world.
Although this is a fantastic opportunity for our continent, there are a couple of things you need to know and do before you can enjoy the lucrative benefits of this industry. Here they are…
1. You need to invest in yourself and develop useful skills
Although talent may come naturally to some, we definitely have to invest in training ourselves in order to build the skills required for the highly competitive but rewarding world of freelancing.
But are there top quality places you can learn these skills without bearing the cost of travelling abroad for training?
Yes, there are and many of them are FREE! Yes, they don’t cost anything! You don’t have to travel anywhere or enroll for courses that you can’t afford.
I’ll introduce you to some of the most effective, flexible and affordable ways to learn and practice all the skills you need.
- Coursera – This is definitely my most favourite education platform on the internet! Coursera partners with top universities (like Stanford, Harvard etc.) and organizations around the world to offer online courses for anyone to take, for FREE!
You can sign up on the portal and choose from over 400 different courses on several subjects that are created by the world’s top educational institutions. Many of the courses also come with verified certificates. You can get started with Coursera at www.coursera.com
- The Open Education Database (OEDb) – This is a comprehensive directory of both free and paid online education courses. OEDb is a leader in the open education movement and provides frequent and up-to-date information on programs from accredited online colleges across the world. You can access this platform at http://oedb.org/
- Udacity – Especially for anyone interested in learning programming skills, Udacity is just the place for you! Most courses on the platform are free and range from Data Science, Web Development and Android Apps. You can find out more info at https://www.udacity.com/faq#section-0-3
- Udemy – This is one of the leading online learning marketplaces with over 3 million students taking courses on a wide range of subjects. Udemy currently has more than 18,000 courses that are taught by expert instructors. All courses are available on-demand, so students can learn at their own pace, on their own time, and on any device. There are quite a number of free courses on Udemy and you can check them out at www.udemy.com
- Lynda – This is another leading online learning company that helps anyone learn business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve their personal and professional goals. For about $25 per month, members can access Lynda’s extensive video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts. You can explore this platform to find out more at www.lynda.com
Update: I recently wrote an article on some of the top places Africans can find courses for FREE on the internet. Here’s the article: Free Online Courses: Top 10 Places Africans Can Learn Anything For FREE!
2. The next step is to promote yourself and sell your skills
After you have learned the skills of your choice, the next step is to offer your services for sale.
To successfully do this, you need a platform that will expose and project your skills to the whole world. The cheapest and most effective way to accomplish this today is over the internet.
There are quite a number of online work portals (and we’ll look at a few shortly) that help skilled freelancers around the world to find work/projects at very competitive prices.
The way these platforms work is quite simple. You have to go through a quick registration process that includes creating a profile of yourself – your skill areas, experience, rate ($ per hour) etc.
When a potential client hires you, many of these platforms provide escrow services and time tracking software that help to ensure that clients only pay for work they approve. As long as a client approves your work, payments can be made to you every week or at the end of the job/project.
Let’s now look at a few of the top freelance platforms available on the internet…
- Elance – Elance is free to use for employers (there are no fees for finding workers). When a potential client posts a project on Elance, they can either pay a fixed price for completion of the job or an hourly fee. This platform also offers time tracking and screenshots of your computer while you work. This allows clients to track the progress of their projects and only pay you for the hours worked. You can check it out at www.elance.com
- oDesk – Early this year, oDesk merged with Elance and now both platforms are jointly owned, although they continue to operate independent of each other. oDesk is also free to use and provides options for fixed pricing and hourly-priced contracts. There is also a time tracking application that allows your clients to verify and approve the work you have done. You can check out oDesk at www.odesk.com
- Freelancer – This is definitely one of the big names out there. Since 2009, the company has acquired several other online freelance and outsourcing marketplaces. The platform charges a 3% fee on all payments made to freelancers through their website. Freelancers can either be paid a fixed price upon work completion or an hourly fee. You can visit this platform at www.freelancer.com
- Guru – To date, more than two million people have used this platform to complete more than 800,000 jobs worth a total of more than $200 million. Like the others, jobs can be posted on Guru for free and clients can pay freelancers on a fixed price or hourly fee basis. You can check out the Guru platform at www.guru.com
When you have acquired the skills in your chosen area and you’re ready to make some money with your talents, you will need to choose one of these platforms, register and complete your profile.
Most freelancers don’t pay sufficient attention to their profiles despite its huge importance and influence on potential clients.
I strongly recommend that you use a clear, attractive and professional-looking photo for your profile, provide well-written details about your skills, experience, hobbies and contact info (telephone, Skype and maybe email).
3. Hardwork, Patience, Hardwork
Like most paths that lead to success, making it as a freelancer in the services industry will require a great deal of hardwork and patience, especially in the beginning.
Clients don’t want to take risks with a novice and usually would prefer to hire freelancers who have a wealth of experience. As a beginner, it may be difficult to get hired at first, but with patience and hardwork you’ll surely find someone who will hire you.
In the meantime, when you can, you could offer your services for free to further develop your skills and showcase the quality of your work.
While you wait for clients, take more courses and practice your skills so that you can always do a great job when a client finally hires you. And by the time you have successfully completed a series of jobs, the quality and size of your portfolio will easily attract more customers to you.
Image credit: rejionline.com
4. Use great customer service to grow your reputation
On all of these online freelance platforms, the quality of customer feedback you get can easily make or break you.
For every job you’re hired for, the client is encouraged to provide feedback on the quality on your work and their level of satisfaction with your service.
In addition to leaving a feedback comment, customers can also award a 1(low) to 5(high) star rating. And when future clients think of hiring you, most of them will first read through your previous ratings and these will likely influence their decision to hire you or not. As a result, freelancers with high ratings and positive customer feedback are likely to get more jobs.
Another good reason you should focus on providing great service to your customers is that it always pays off in the long run.
Clients prefer to work with freelancers they’ve worked with before and are comfortable with their services. If you impress a customer on one job, they’re likely to consider you first when they have another project. And their patronage definitely increases as your relationship with them deepens.
Now you know some interesting ways to make money online. What’s next?
The new and interesting concept of freelancing has opened a vast world of opportunities for skilled entrepreneurs, especially in developing regions of the world like Africa.
Though job and business opportunities may be limited in our various countries, by using your skills and tapping into the platforms I’ve shared with you, you can export your services to clients in other countries. It’s simply amazing!
Another reason I’m thrilled by the freelancing opportunity is that it is largely merit-based and very competitive.
I have noticed that entrepreneurs from low-income regions like Asia and Africa are able to charge much lower rates than freelancers in high-income developed countries. This low cost advantage allows us to outbid the competition and make us more attractive to clients.
Now that you know the in-demand services on the market, the best places to get free training to develop the required skills and the top online platforms to sell your skill/talent for money, what exactly are you waiting for?
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To your success!