Monthly Archives: December 2018

The Ongoing Truth About Telecommuting and Work From Home Jobs

I was referred a few days ago to the Utah Rural Online Initiative, and this editorial is a combination of a generalized overview of the current status of telecommuting and working from home, and a discouraged commentary on the uselessness of the U-ROI.

If you are here for the info in the title of this article, please bear with me. It IS here. I’ve written this though, to help people save time and understand that government intiatives fail in this area because they never isolate the REAL problems with working from home. They NEVER have people with experience working from home full time in the idea pool, and they NEVER try to teach what IS a real work from home JOB, and what is a SCAM, and they simply BELIEVE every single job title that suggests telecommuting, but they do not READ the job posting to see that it is NOT what they think it is.

 

Anyway… To the story…

I’m always a bit skeptical when a government entity sets out to solve a problem. Usually they approach it from the rear, try to bridle the back legs and tail, and then get into the saddle with the reigns facing forward and try to ride the beast with no way to direct the head. This attitude of mine proves founded so many times that I will not excuse myself for the sarcasm that it usually smears across my commentary.

The House Bill that appropriated the funds and stipulated the goals sounded reasonable.

Utah youth move away from rural areas. No jobs. We know this.

 

New residents (except retirees) stay away from rural areas. No jobs. We know this.

 

Existing residents move out of rural areas to find upward career growth. No jobs, no advancement. We know this.

 

Populations in rural areas are declining, except for seniors. Jobs are a factor. We know this.

So in an effort to resolve this, the legislature was persuaded that telecommuting, or freelancing was a good solution.

Now, we must first understand (as they did not), that telecommuting and freelancing are two VERY DIFFERENT THINGS!

Telecommuting, or Work from Home JOBS are jobs that are paid by an employer, sometimes with benefits, and which involve regular hours and steady employment.

 

Freelancing is just self-employment. Yep. You own your own business, you hustle your work from a collection of clients, you work as a subcontractor, and you do your own taxes. No benefits.

This difference is VERY CAREFULLY AND DELIBERATELY cloaked on all of the U-ROI descriptions.

Because people want a JOB.

 

They do NOT WANT A BUSINESS, it is TOO MUCH WORK!

There is some noise in the original HB that funding is also being provided for businesses that are willing to expand with remote workers. (Apparently they have been unable to find any, because there is NO EVIDENCE of this goal in any of the resulting program pages.)

The resulting program provides training for workers. That is all. Just a training program, and NOT for employers.

To make it sound impressive, they made it a CERTIFICATION program.

It is administered by Utah State University. It is clear they have a TOTAL disconnect between the program they are presenting, and the ACTUAL NEED of workers in the state.

The training consists of learning team cooperation, video conferencing, project management software, and time tracking. They do take a swipe at a few other useless modules also.

If you are telecommuting, the training is COMPLETELY USELESS.

 

If you are freelancing, the training is BEYOND USELESS, and doesn’t even come CLOSE to approaching the training you REALLY need.

There is NOTHING for a business that WANTS to allow employees to work from home, and there IS a solution that would open doors for about 1/3 of businseses to allow that in some respect.

 

All of it demonstrates clearly that they have NO IDEA what the jobs are that are ACTUALLY available, or WHY more are not showing up.

The telecommuting world, as a whole, has NOT MOVED FORWARD AT ALL within the last TEN YEARS. Technology has done its utmost, and we are stagnated.

Yet somehow these people think this mostly failed concept is the new doorway to an old problem.

It COULD be PART of a solution. But not unless we acknowledge the current state of affairs.

This is what “telecommuting” is now, and what it has been since its inception:

  1.  The old “envelope stuffing” scam, and all kinds of variations on it. We must acknowledge first and foremost that the phrase “telecommuting” or “work from home” is one of the top scam phrases in the world. And most of what you find under it is outright scam, or something OTHER than what it is presenting to be. (This is never acknowledged in the training, and no caution is ever given.)
  2. “Outbound leads acquisition”. This is telephone sales, people. Cold calling. And it is so brutal that nobody stays at it long. You spend all day trying to get just ONE PERSON to not hang up on you. And you get paid $2 for a confirmed sale. You can’t make money at this. NOBODY PAYS HOURLY on this!
  3. “Inbound sales”. This MIGHT be calls coming from ads. It might. But if it is, you are in an office, on-site. If you are HOME, it is computerized call transfers. Same thing as cold calling, only you get it partially pre-screened. You can’t make money at this either. It is still $2 per sale.
  4. “Technical Support, Phone or Chat”. Now this is REAL WORK, and it pays HOURLY. But you don’t get to do this unless you are a TOP customer service rep, or TOP TECH. This means you have had 2-4 years ALREADY on-site with the same employer. It is NEVER every day. It is only a few days a week, and usually half days or less. The rest you do IN THE OFFICE. We do NOT HAVE call centers with all the workers in their homes. Supervising them is a nightmare, and completely impractical, and the limited ability they have to do so is inadequate.
  5. All other out of office jobs. This is a wide range. You may be doing graphics, coding, writing, client meetings, outside sales, deliveries, setups, troubleshooting, consulting on-site for the client, and many other jobs.  These generally pay hourly, and ALL OF THEM can usually be done as a freelancer (your own business, as a subcontractor). They NEVER hire someone to do these jobs outside the office unless they have a proven record INSIDE the office (except delivery and worksite-call jobs, and those are NOT work at home jobs). ALL of these may be listed as “telecommuting jobs”. You spend 3-5 years IN THE OFFICE before you get to even take work home and still get paid for it. These are also NOT a job you can work from a rural area, when the company is in a city, because you have to REPORT IN PERSON for a couple of days each week at least, or you pick up at the beginning of the day, and report at the end of day. They require that you LIVE  in the city WHERE YOU WORK.

So, we now understand that either the job is a BAD ONE, or that it requires that you live in the same city as the job does.

And this is why the training is useless.

NONE OF THESE benefit from the training.

 

Either you learn what the U-ROI course teaches ON THE JOB, or you do not NEED it.

They teach three pieces of software, and none of them are industry standards for telecommuting, they are just used to facilitate the training. Software you need for the job is something different, though project management and video conferencing are sometimes used, the ones taught are NOT commonly used.

So what was really needed?

Training for EMPLOYERS, to open the door for REAL working at home. This means both an increase in remote work at home opportunities, and an increase in the use of subcontractors. And the training that is needed is NOT anything like the University is offering, it only needs ONE training module (yeah, I’ve got it, hold your horses… that means the HEAD, not the REAR).

 

Training for WORKERS, to learn to run their own business as a subcontractor. Unfortunately this is fairly extensive training, and the University is TOTALLY unqualified to teach it since they have NO IDEA what is actually involved in making money from a small business (they can only scale down corporate business training, and this is ALL WRONG for a small business) Any other training is useless, since if you are qualified to work in the office, you are qualified to work at home. (Yes, I am qualified to speak definitively on this subject, given my background in small business startup consulting and small business website development.)

The real problem with telecommuting, and the reason that it has not expanded is obvious to every employer who tries it.

You cannot monitor the productivity of your workers.

This is a MASSIVE Problem!  It stops you cold with pretty much every worker that you DO NOT TRUST, and that you cannot see, from work turned in, to judge productivity in your absence.

This is a VALID concern!

So we need to acknowledge three significant truths:

  1. Employees hate to work, and we are in the middle of the biggest employee laziness crisis that the world has ever seen. If you don’t SEE the work, it ISN’T happening, and your business DIES. This is REAL.
  2. If you pay someone by the hour and they are not in your presence, you need to understand average productivity per hour, and know whether EVERY EMPLOYEE is producing at least an average amount of work. (Me, I go for higher standards than that.)
  3. There are only certain kinds of work that can be monitored remotely.

Those that can be remotely monitored through technology (and we’ve tapped that).

Those that can be monitored remotely through work turned in (documentation of work done but not visible is a time waster, so don’t even go there…. oh…. you already did… I’m sorry you are losing your shirt). So the expansion potential for home based work is in WORK TURNED IN.

So what is the real solution?

Flat rate pricing. Also known as Piecework.

This works for Subcontractors, and for standard Employment. With benefits if you wish (determined by work output rather than total hours).

For an Entrepreneur, hourly rates are a trap. If they convert to flat rate pricing, they break the income ceiling, and open up a window for unlimited income growth. This article explains.

For a business owner, paying flat rates to subcontractors or remote employees (or even employees on-site) allows them to pay every employee according to ACTUAL productivity.

Yes, there are problems. But they are solvable.

  1. Tracking production. This works best if you have only one person per task or sets of tasks (or per station). YOU have to be able to verify counts. This makes some types of work suitable, some types less so.
  2. Employee theft. If you have a chaotic shop or office, employees WILL steal each other’s work. Off-site employment pretty much stops that, but separating stations and tasks does this also. MANAGEMENT theft though, is rampant either way if it is allowed in the business.
  3. Motivation. If you work your numbers right, a new worker will make LESS than they want to make. As they speed up (watch for quality issues as they do), they’ll realize that they make as much as they work to make, and they’ll get more efficient, and quickly learn to make MORE than they could have by the hour. This is GOOD for the employer, because he only pays for what is produced anyway, and the faster the workers produce, the less the employer pays for in shared overhead per output.
  4. Pricing… This takes experience. Some things run on an average, so sometimes it takes less time, sometimes more, but averages out to a reasonable pay scale.
  5. Lazy workers. Ok, so I said this. But if you pay flat rate, every new worker will complain about low wages, because they haven’t learned that they EARN based on EXPERIENCE, and SPEED. It takes them WEEKS to really grasp that every time they are disappointed in their paycheck they can look at their work and find a way to speed it up.

Implementation of flat rate pricing is simpler than it seems, but does take some judgment calls in the beginning, and then adjustments to the reality. We often see the ideal, or the worst case as being the “norm”, and base our pricing on that, and over a repetition of 20-100 times, we can get a good average production time for a specific task, and come up with a fair price for it.

You start with a generous hourly rate basis. You do NOT start with minimum wage!

Start with a well paid, productive worker. Let’s say somewhere between average and top producer, with the same hourly pay scale.

 

In-office that might mean anywhere between $12 and $35 per hour, depending on industry (though many go higher).

For a subcontractor (they own their own business), you must increase it by 50-100%, depending on industry, overhead, etc. Remember, you SAVE that money in your office, so a subcontractor is WORTH that much more. THEY set their rate, but YOU negotiate, and you have to be able to calculate what it is worth compared to hiring it in-office in many instances.

Next, observe the output for that productive worker. For our offices, that is me. I want to be generous here also, so I don’t calculate my top production rate, I calculate it when I am skilled and have learned one or two rounds of speed increase.

So if I am working comfortably (not pushing it) I can make 20 valves per pour. It takes me 15 minutes to do 1 pour. That’s 80 valves per hour.

 

I can unmold, trim, and cut,  about the same rate per hour comfortably. This is still not pushing it.

 

So I can produce 80 valves in two hours. And this is NOT at my top speed.

 

I pay 50 cents per valve, finished to quality standard.

 

I have calculated my other expenses for the product, and can AFFORD to pay 50 cents per.

 

A competent worker can earn at $20 per hour, once they learn to do the tasks. They will START OUT earning much less. Probably half to begin with, until they are familiar with it.

 

A FAST worker can earn twice as much. A worker who pays attention to detail in the pour, will trim less, and can increase their speed again.

 

Ideally, you want top workers who are innovative enough to be earning $50 per hour or more as subcontractors, or $20 per hour or more as employees, in a similar situation. Many industries would need to have a MUCH HIGHER earning potential.

If your hourly rate basis is fair (this consists of the pay that an average GOOD SKILLED worker would make per hour at the flat rate you pay), and if your employees or subcontractors get the idea of increasing speed without compromising quality, and if you pay attention and start teaching productivity skills, you, as an employer, can reduce your payroll waste, and improve your production.

Yes, I’ve done this with services. It works. I never CHARGE hourly, and I never PAY hourly, it is all flat rate.

Flat rate piecework pay models are probably the number one overlooked business tactic today, and they are the single most liberating tactic for small businesses to increase pay potential, as well as being a means where many businesses can hire more remote workers.

I’m really disappointed to have to be so negative about a program which has at the root a real possibility for growth. But the way they are doing it is not going to change anything, because they didn’t isolate the problem before throwing a canned solution at it.

The U-ROI doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful in bringing more rural employment. Conversely, all it did is assure a few more jobs on the USU campus. But that may have been their real goal all along anyway.

Yes, our company DOES offer consulting for both small and large businesses for flat rate pricing, subcontracting success, and small business startup and profitability.

And unfortunately, we are NOT hiring in rural areas.

Doing Math With Google AdSense

I used AdSense on a few websites many years ago. I made enough money from it to be worth my time. I sold the sites I had it on after the third or fourth noticeable drop in click revenue in the face of increased traffic. Google was obviously getting more greedy.

When I checked back a few years later, a penny a click was the norm. Gone were the days of being able to actually EARN from AdSense.

Recently I tested it again on some of my websites. It is even worse. I concluded one thing:

Google does not know how to do math.

If you earn 5 cents one day, and that gets added to 2 cents from the day before, and your monthly total was already 35 cents, you’d think that you’d have a new balance of 42 cents, right?

Wrong.

You now have 38 cents.

Now, you may think I am being petty using such low numbers. Or that I’m being silly. Or that my own numbers must be higher. Or that if my numbers are not higher, I’m doing something wrong.

You’d be wrong again. Many people with AdSense don’t even do this well.

I was using GENEROUS numbers.

GENEROUS, PEOPLE!!!

A few days ago I had $2.61.

I earned $1.14 the next day. It was a bumper crop!!!

That gave me a balance of $2.64. Apparently most of the apples were rotten and we just could not see it.

Then I earned 16 cents the next day. All in all, a fair harvest.

I now have a balance of $2.68. By now I’m SURE the pickers are stealing from me.

I’ve seen the monthly balance drop.

I’ve seen EVERY SINGLE DAY that I earn over $1 wiped out at least in part in the monthly balance.

I have NEVER seen more than two or three days in a row without downward adjustments.

I have more than one website with this on it. They are not high traffic, just normal. The kind I used to be able to make $100 per month from with AdSense.

So let’s do the math. Google obviously cannot!

I have en0ugh traffic to get AT LEAST (we are being conservative here) SIXTY CLICKS PER DAY (ok, go ahead and laugh, but I know the clickthrough averages, and I know what my site traffic is for some fairly obscure websites!). Remember I used to make money even with this little traffic!

Even at ONE PENNY PER CLICK, we should be averaging SIXTY CENTS per day!

You can laugh again… But let’s finish this!

They are SUPPOSED to pay you on a percentage. And the lowest a click can cost is (or was) 5 cents… and they DIDN’T lower that number! Most keywords cost WAY more than that! But Google does not seem to pay more than a penny for anything anymore.

Even so, at a penny a click, I should be earning MORE than 1 penny a day, EVERY day. Right?

Because there are SIXTY legit clicks per day average!

That’s $18 per month. Legit clicks. REAL CLICKS!!!

No big deal. But stick with me.

I average $5-9 per month.

This month had particularly good traffic.

The income is $2.68 on the 28th day of the month. I doubt it is going to top $3.

This is the first month since putting the ads back that it has made less than $5 in a single month.

I suspect Google has gone to fractionals anyway, but it is now clear that they are engaging in outright click-fraud.

It is no wonder people are taking down the Googles.

I’m going to run this a little longer, and optimize a little bit. But I expect this is going to be more work than it is worth (I’m a tester of things, and a writer about tested things, so I’ll get my money another way).

Just one more thing that is sounding the death knell for Google. Cost of clicks is UP UP UP, and payment for clicks is DOWN DOWN DOWN, and organic search results are a thing of a bygone era. There are major problems with most of their “free” services, and we don’t even want to talk about Google Labs.

Shame on you, Google.

The Scientific Limitations of Women’s Brains [Sarcastic Editorial]

Being a woman myself, I’ve noticed some interesting things in certain professions regarding the capacity of women to contribute to the industry.

I’ve had a few experiences that have suggested to me that under no circumstances will a woman be allowed to propose any kind of challenge to existing knowledge, no matter HOW logical it is. In fact, if a man (one who has a reputation in the industry, or one who is the rankest of careless anateurs, it matters not!) is mulling over two hypotheses, one of which is more logical than the other, and a woman suggests that this is the case, he will immediately take the weaker case, insult the woman for not having the brains to know which is actually true, and when he cannot support his contention with fact, will resort to name calling and personal insults, in a barage of verbal abuse designed only to drive her off. It usually works – at least on one hand. She leaves. But he is still an unthinking idiot.

Don’t get me wrong here – I know many men, who are actually shining examples of rational thought. So not every man does this. But enough do that the pattern is verifiable.

It seems that some men have not moved far from the Middle Ages in their thinking regarding women.

It is apparent that they still believe that since women’s brains are smaller in size, obviously they lack the ability to process certain types of information: Psychology, Mycology, Surgery, Mathematics, Engineering, the knowledge to obtain any PHD, and many other types of “higher” learning.

They assume that because a woman’s brain is smaller than a man’s, that the portion that is “missing” is the part that is responsible for actual thinking, especially the part that is responsible for NEW ideas!

Lest someone think this is actually a sustainable argument, women are smaller in size than men, overall, therefore do not require as large a brain to power the body. A man and a woman of equal size, will have an equal size brain, if all other considerations (genetics, nutrition, use of recreational drugs or medications, etc) are also equal. So the whole “men have bigger brains than women” is a false argument in the first place.

A cleric in Saudi Arabia was recently mocked and publicly humiliated for claiming that women should not drive cars because they possessed only half the intellect of men, which made them unsuited to controlling a vehicle. I’m sure some of the men whom I’ve encountered would agree – but most of the thinking world has moved beyond such unsupportable fabrications.

This attitude was widely held in earlier ages of this world. One would think that we could move beyond it, since standardized testing shows unequivocally that women are in fact better students than men, and that they score higher across the board in intellectual achievements.

Having been verbally abused numerous times by men who knew less than I did about the topic at hand, and who exclaimed in outrage that I must be wrong because other “experts” said I must (in the face of evidence to the contrary), I have run out of patience. I have left the scene, boys (and a few girls who cling to the boys but cannot stand on their own to support reality). I am NOT going to stand down just because you have insulted me. I’ll go somewhere else, where YOU are not, and continue my work. I’ll publish where you cannot ban me because I would not be intimidated by your abusive paranoia. And I’ll just continue to prove by evidence what you deny by reason of “he said so”.

What is really happening is nothing more than pure envy. There are still people in many industries that will “review” the work of another scientist or scholar, degrade it violently, and then turn around and publish it as their own work. This reprehensible practice has gone on since the dawn of time, by unprincipled “experts”. You will invariably find that there are more people succeeding at this practice who HAVE a reputation than there are who have not! This is kinda sad, since those are the people that the world thinks drive the industry – when in fact, they are hiring a chauffeur with a gun to his (or her) head, and claiming to have got there under their own steam. Theft is rife in the academic and research world. And this happens with the works of men, as well as the works of women – but a woman is more likely to be slammed and belittled in the process. They’ll deny her the PHD for her writing, and then publish it almost verbatim as their own brilliant idea.

For those men who have adopted the attitude that women have no place in the world of the sciences, I have only this to give you:

“And if a person [interpteted to mean “a man”, since women did not merit the distinction of personhood] lived a good life throughout the due course of his time, he would at the end return to his dwelling place in his companion star, to live a life of happiness that agreed with his character. But if he failed in this, he would be born a second time, now as a woman.” Attributed to Plato – [Needless Commentary: I womder if he thought a woman could ever live so as to aspire to becoming a man? If so, what a horrid after-life it would be – or if he thought there was no afterlife and only reincarnation, what a horrid place a “perfect” world would be, with only men to populate it!]

What IS It About Boys and Sticks?

We actually had to have a RULE in our home (and for our yard), that you could not play with sticks. Cruel, I know! But it was NECESSARY!

Something about a stick, and a boy. Ok, so not just boys, if you have boys, and girls, the girls have this problem also.

Oh look! A stick!

(Picks up stick.)

No fair! He has a stick!

(Grabs other end of stick – notice the yard is full of sticks.)

(Brief wrestling in which both boys cry foul.)

CRACK!

Oh look! We have TWO sticks!

No fair! You have the bigger stick!

(Drops stick, grabs end of other kid’s stick.)

WHACK!

Where’d SHE get THAT stick?!

(Starts over, with all three kids.)

You see, if there is a stick, they HAVE to pick it up! And it is all down hill from there.

If you clear out ALL THE STICKS, they will find something that is LIKE a stick. And you can NEVER clear all of the things out, they will always find one.

They fight over them. They fight with them. They hit things with them. They break them off things, they break things with them. The only thing they do NOT do with them is clean them up after a storm and THROW THEM AWAY.

I have it on good authority that girls love sticks because they are ALWAYS the magic wand. You have to hit things with them. Hard. Or the spell will not stick.

There is NO safe game you can play with sticks. Trust me. My kids played ALL OF THE GAMES with sticks!

So we HAD to have the rule.

And they still played with sticks. Badly

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.