The Death of Squidoo

Squidoo recently announced that the site had sold out to HubPages. This is a big blow to everyone who has been struggling to meet the ever crazier requirements to keep their lenses live on Squidoo. Unfortunately, it looks like that was all in an attempt to make the lenses more suitable for HubPage integration.

Not many people are impressed with the way the demise of Squidoo was handled. With less than two weeks until the transfer, everyone is scrambling to back up their content and trying to get their own sites up or content moved to another site. Not many seem interested in going to HubPages, where earning potential is considered to be much lower.

While I recently removed most of my lenses from Squidoo, there were still some big earners there. I’m frustrated and annoyed with the way all of this was handled, but at the same time, it’s a good push to get my own sites going. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to make that happen before my income from Squidoo runs out. The issue here is that passive income makes up about 3/4 of my overall earnings and now that is all going away.

I’ll be working feverishly to get my own sites running better, so I may not be around as much these days, but At Home Mom is on my list of sites to improve, so it will be getting more content in the next while.

How to Avoid Scams on Elance

I’ve been testing out Elance lately for writing jobs. While there is plenty of work there, the majority of the jobs are low paying. Unfortunately, there are a number of scam jobs, as well. A recent scam left many writers reeling from the deception, most were owed hundreds of dollars.

Over my 9+ years of writing, I’ve been scammed a few times. I’ve learned from those experiences, though and this one took me by surprise because the scam artists didn’t follow usual protocol. So, what should you watch for? Here are a few ways to avoid scams on Elance.

1. Check the client’s history. I don’t work for anyone that is not payment verified, but some people prefer to work only with someone who has already paid at least one freelancer.

2. Don’t do free samples. This seems obvious, but people still fall for it. I did in the early days of my freelance writing career, too. Basically, if someone asks you to create a sample to see if you are right for the job, let them know that you would be happy to, but at your usual rate. They should be able to tell from the samples you have provided whether or not you are a good fit for the job.

3. Work for a set fee and use Escrow. Sadly, hourly jobs have no real protection on Elance. They do have a WorkView program that is supposed to guarantee you get paid, but in this recent scam, that did not work. I only work on set rates because of this and also due to the fact that I am up and down all day while I’m working.

4. Check how many jobs the client has posted. You can look at the client’s profile and see if they have posted other jobs, as well as their award rate, or how many jobs they have chosen a writer for. This recent scam had over 50 jobs posted with only a couple awarded. Avoid those who never award or who have more than a handful of jobs posted recently.

5. Do a quick search. If you know the company’s name, do a fast search on Google. In the case of this recent scam, I Googled “Star Outsourcing scam” and came up with several reports.

6. Always send files through Elance. Even if you send files through email or Skype, they should always be sent via Elance’s workroom message feature, too. This will give you a record on Elance that can be checked. It’s also best to make sure that the terms and conditions of the deal are all laid out on Elance.

7. Listen to your gut. If your gut tells you something isn’t right, listen to it. It’s not worth losing days of real work and having the emotional and financial strain of being scammed. Many people said they didn’t feel right about this recent scam, but they were enticed by the money to go with it anyway.

While sites like Elance are great for finding lots of work in one place, they are also replete with scammers. Though Elance tries to get rid of these “clients,” that isn’t always possible, so it’s up to the freelancers to do their due diligence.

Do you have any tips for avoiding scams?

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Has Squidoo Gone Too Far?

Squidoo recently announced yet another round of changes to the site. For those of us who have been there for years, it was another nail in the coffin and many more lensmasters have decided to move on from the site. While I plan to leave my best earning lenses up for now, I’m definitely working on my own sites to begin to eliminate some of the uncertainty that surrounds the site.

Just what are these changes that have people running for the hills? There were two big announcements.

1. Squidoo’s minimum payout is now $25. While this wouldn’t affect me since I earn far more than this each month, it means that many people won’t be able to see income from the site for a long time. This is particularly true for beginners, because they won’t get paid for many months. Most people don’t make enough money each month to receive payout and for some it could take a good year to collect that much. The downside? After a year of not cashing out, your account is assumed inactive and all funds are given to charity.

2. Squidoo reduced the number of featured lenses. Now only the top 145,000 lenses can be featured on the entire site. This is meant to keep lenses updated and fresh, which makes sense . . . but it also means that there is a lot of competition to get your lenses into the featured slots. Everything else goes into work-in-progress mode and cannot be found by search engines or anything, so it’s pointless to have lower ranking lenses. While republishing edited lenses can give them a boost, you have to remember that there are hundreds of thousands of lenses on Squidoo, if not more. Even if a fraction of lensmasters update their lenses, they can’t all hit the top 145,000.

In my opinion, it isn’t really worth it for new lensmasters to join Squidoo anymore. It’s going to be an uphill battle to beat out the competition. Despite the new limitations, the quests are still going strong, so lensmasters are pumping out more and more content every day, which can only go on for so long. With payouts slashed from last year, it just isn’t the same site.

What are your thoughts on the new norms at Squidoo?

The Snugg: A Better Way to Protect Your Devices

It’s not often you find a product with a lifetime guarantee these days, but that’s exactly what The Snugg offers, in addition to many other benefits. I recently had a chance to test out one of this company’s mobile phone covers and it is pretty great! The company boasts ‘We don’t do cheap, we do quality’ and this is very true.

First, let’s take a closer look at what The Snugg is all about. The company produces high quality cases for a large range of tech devices. These cases all come with a lifetime guarantee and they can be shipped worldwide (very important for those of us who live outside the US). In addition to shipping to over 200 countries, the company also accepts Paypal, which is much appreciated by those who earn online. They also take major credit cards and are available on Amazon, so you could technically use gift cards, too.

I got the Blackberry Mini Ultra Thin case for my phone. It is extremely light, but very sturdy. You can tell just by feeling the material that this is high quality. What products do they cover? The Snugg cases are available for laptops, tablets, cell phones, cameras, audio devices and ereaders. In short, if you have a device, they probably make something to protect it.

While I haven’t actually tested scratching the surface (that will happen soon enough with three kids!), the case is scratch resistant! Major bonus for moms or anyone who tends to bash their poor phone around a lot.

Since this is a thin case, it is designed to just clip right onto your phone and you barely notice it’s there! The added level of protection is impressive since it doesn’t even add weight to your phone. You can feel how sturdy and strong it is even without having to drop it.

The case is also non-slip, which I love, since my phone often slides across slick surfaces. Not with The Snugg! It stays put right where I leave it, even on the dash of my car.

You can see just how thin this thing really is in this picture. It is like a feather in my hand.

Of course, the company offers more than just these ultra thin cases. They also have heavier duty silicon cases, pouches and wood cases made from actual bamboo. There is literally something for everyone.

The only downside to the cases is possibly the price. I know a lot of people prefer to buy cheaper cases, but the fact of the matter is that you get what you pay for. The Snugg will definitely protect your phone, plus,you just can’t beat the lifetime guarantee or the wide range of styles and colors available.

Check out the website to see all the different types of protective covers you can choose from.

Are Micro Jobs Worth It?

Micro jobs are small tasks that usually pay a few cents each, though sometimes they’ll pay up to a few dollars. There are a lot of opposite opinions on these types of jobs. You may or may not be interested in working for small amounts of cash. I thought I’d lay out some of the pros and cons to help readers decide if it is worth it to them.

Pros of Micro Jobs

  • They’re easy. When you need something that doesn’t require a lot of brain power, these tasks are usually a good choice. They tend to be insanely simple.
  • You can do multiples of the same task. If you like a task, you can usually do multiples. These are usually very repetitious and come in batches.
  • No skill needed. It’s pretty rare that you need a specialty skill. While this does depend on the job site (some require that you are able to speak a certain language or write reasonably well), most offer jobs that anyone can do.
  • They are always available. With sites like mTurk, you can work whenever you want. If you need to make some extra cash before the end of the month, you can just get to work.
  • You can work as desired. With a micro task site, you are under no obligation to work a certain amount of hours each week. Instead, you can work when you want and leave it if you have something better. This makes micro jobs a great filler for freelancers.

Cons of Micro Jobs

  • The pay is low. You are literally going to be making pennies per job.
  • They are tedious. It’s not exciting work and you will get bored easily.
  • Payment may take a while. Some sites take days or even weeks to approve your tasks and this means payment can take a while.
  • Everything takes longer than you expect. When you first read about a microjob site, you’ll hear things like, “If you work hard, you can make $20 an hour!” That’s highly unlikely though and you will probably make closer to $3-6 an hour.

Micro jobs are definitely not worth it if you have anything better to do. However, if you want to make a  little extra spending cash in your spare time, while waiting for kids to get out of school or while waiting to fall asleep at night, it can be a good filler activity.

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