27 July 2010

Work at Home - The Grand Scheme of Things

So the news with freelance work is that there is virtually a hundred sites for every type of work out there. From website design to graphic design, SEO consulting to article outsourcing. So how do you know who is legitimate and who is not. Well, if you're like me, you go and try them yourself in a trial-and-error type process. I'm a writer, so I will write one article and then see if I get paid. Most legitimate companies will ask you to fill out a W-9,  but you should know what that means - you're working off a 1099 for the year and you need to save money out of your checks to for taxes. Aside from this, there are three things you need to look for: credibility, payment schedule and rate, and word of mouth referrals or testimonies.

It's difficult to discern is a company has a good reputation or not, but the easiest way is to look for the name of the company followed by the words "scam" in order to get a good idea of whether or not that company pays and has a reputable staff or not. It's one thing to sign up for a "bid" site (which I hate), it's quite another to sign up for a regular site that pays (in my case) per article, but has a horrible staff and never pays on time. So far, I have been lucky to only run into one site that doesn't pay - Review Stream. I wrote one review for them, it was published and then I never heard from them again. Aside from this, they don't ask for any information regarding how you would like to be paid and they definitely don't ask for your Paypal e-mail, which is a dead give away after you sign up for a site (unless they pay by paper check, which they will normally state outright). Other sites to look out for are ones that never really tell you what you will be doing or even what they sell. Finally, unless you're looking into getting into Avon, Mark, or Mary Kay, you should never have to pay a company to hire you. Period.

Companies that provide you with a W-9 or the link to a W-9 are asking you for tax information so that they can file for their business expenses at the end of the quarter or year. While this might make a company look like they are just after your social to steal your identity, if you've done your Google research as outlined in the previous paragraph, then you should all ready know if a company is reputable or not. Newer companies might be harder to find information on and sometimes it's best to just let other people figure out the good and bad before you dive in head first - especially if you're worried about identity theft. Filling out a W-9 signifies that you are an independent contractor, which means you will be dishing out taxes at the end of the year - so just be aware of that and don't say I didn't warn you. Most companies require this form filled out in its entirety and returned before they will begin issuing payments. 

Aside from that, getting paid through online and work at home companies has actually been more beneficial for me than working a normal job where you get paid biweekly or twice a month. I have three outlets I use and I get paid every Sunday, on the 6th and the 21st, and as soon as I complete 20,000 words (around every 7 - 10 days, not business days). This means that however little I make, I am still getting paid on a weekly basis and I make anywhere from a minimum of $200 a week to upwards of $500 or $600 a week, depending on what I can crank out and what I can find available. Aside from this, You Data pays me my savings trickle every Friday.

Finally, word of mouth and personal referrals or experiences ties in with what was first explained above about a company's credibility. Being able to search for reviews or information about a site from other people's personal experiences can really help you out and help you to understand what kind of site you're getting into. Keep in mind that people and opinions vary greatly and only you can make the decision to dive in or opt out. The only links I provide on this site are ones that I have made money from myself or sites that I know pay. I don't work with sites where you bid in order to catch a job (usually) because the market there is so competitive, plus there is always a deadline and I'm not interested in those. Finally, bidding markets are extremely tough because if you're a professional at what you do, someone is always there ready to bid the minimum - and it sucks, I won't lie.

If you have questions about a site, a company, or a scheme you've come across recently, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment. Work at home is a legitimate job, regardless of whether you're looking to be there full-time or want a little extra each month to pay a bill or just save for Christmas. While it's true that you won't get rich and you still have to work, let me back all of this up with one statement: No one makes something for nothing. 

Unless you work through internet marketing, have an e-book, or rely purely on site traffic to get paid through click ads or other means, you will be doing something to set everything up. In fact, all of those scenarios require initial set-up and two of the three require a significant amount of money or time in investment.

Look for subsequent posts on work at home outlets - I have several. I get no type of referral kick backs or anything for providing this information and, if anything, a new person signing up and working for these sites is taking money away from me. I do it because I know what it's like when you're in panic mode, have no job, and/or no one has the desire or need for your skills. It sucks. The end.

25 July 2010

Early CVS Trip

I went to CVS on the first day of the new sale this week because I've been running into this problem where the things I want are sold out by Tuesday/Wednesday. I had heard that there was a 3-day sale again this week, but that is definitely not the case around here. My daily goal between CVS, Walgreens, and Target is usually about $20 - $30. Today, I spent about $12 at CVS and didn't get much, but I walked away with $10 in ECBs in the end - so for those of you that like to subtract that from the total (I don't because you can't literally spend it on the transaction it comes from), that means I spent $2. Here is the breakdown:

Bengay Pain Relief + Massage (Instead of Tylenol) - $5.99, $2.00 ECB
     -$2/1 Bengay Product (Coupon Exchange)
        = $3.99 OOP, $2.00 ECB

U by Kotex 18ct - $4.99, $4.99 ECB
     - $1/1 U by Kotex Printable
     - $2 ECB from previous transaction
        = $1.99 4.99 ECB

Photo Book $7.99, $7.99 ECB
     - $4.99 ECB from previous transaction
        = $3.00 OOP, $8 ECB

Aveeno - Spend $20, get $10 ECBs
(2) Aveeno Soothing Relief Moisture Cream $3.99
     Aveeno Positively Ageless Sunblock - $12.99   
     - (3) $2/1 Aveeno Positively Ageless Sunblock (Should have been $1 off, but the associate scanned my $2 coupon 3 times)
     - $8 ECB from previous transaction (should have been $7.99, but ended up being $8)
     - $4/20 Email sign up bonus from cvs.com/email
        = $2.97  OOP, $10 ECB for next trip!

This is also a scenario for beginners as I had no ECBs to begin with this time; I spent them all on my second CVS trip last week. However, not all of these coupons are printable and in fact, one of them came from a recent coupon exchange I had done - so you might not be able to find it at all right now. Good luck and feel free to share your experiences!

Make Money - You Data

Here is a make money post that will cost you virtually no investment of time. You Data is a service that provides advertisers with traffic through their "employees" (you). You Data is another one of those "Click this ad, make money" sites, but it's so much more different. Often times with ad-clicking you find yourself having to participate in surveys - or worse - purchase a membership to access data.

You Data is for people 13 years old and up - you heard me. 13 year old kids can make money off this site as long as there is a Paypal account to stuff it in. While You Data is literally only a few cents per ad you can make anywhere from $2 - $6 a week. Okay, so the income isn't blowing your mind, but here is another aspect to think of: you can have two accounts per household (one per Paypal account). What does that mean? Double the income. Again, I know it doesn't sound like much but it is generally invasive "work" - I don't even let the ads load and half the time they lead to a broken link and I still get paid for it. 

Like clockwork, You Data dumps your weekly earnings into your account every Friday without question or hesitation. I have just let it sit in my account and accumulate - you can choose to go the higher route and deposit your earnings into a high interest savings account and just not touch it. Any way you decide to go, you should definitely sign up for an account with them as it's probably the easiest gig I have run into thus far - virtually no work. I know what you're thinking - "For virtually no money." If you think you wouldn't like a few extra bucks for cigarettes or your daily coffee - think about You Data

Create two accounts for your household and develop two Paypal accounts and just let your money sit until you need it. It's a nice bonus to see your money accumulate without question week after week. Just click the links on the article or on the left bar and go for it - there is nothing but money to gain here. And remember - I don't recommend anything I haven't tried AND I haven't gotten paid for!

Find Work - at Home

My living and financial situation are explained here if you're interested. Now that you know a little more about me (if you haven't read it before) here is the deal - My current outcome in life wasn't what I had been expecting. I didn't expect to have kids, not be married, and not have a career at 27. In fact, I expected to have a house, a great car, and a great job and be married with no kids and living it up. Life throws funny curve balls at you sometimes and you just have to learn to deal with them. I believe in the saying that you're never given more than you can handle. I expected to be thin and gorgeous forever, but I'm constantly reminded of the gravity sketch in the movie "The Sweetest Thing." So you find yourself in a compromising situation, an unexpected outcome, or facing an uncertain future and you have to deal with it.

I had a job I adored, but we still had to move to a place that was 30 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart, Target, or shopping mall - so I had to learn to deal with it. No one in the area was interested in my expertise as a Retail Manager and if they were, once they found out I was only 27, they tossed me over for some one who was older (I'm not kidding either). So I find myself here: no job, my fiance is on unemployment, and with only one talent which I've had almost my entire life: writing. I spent an entire night on the internet - not the whole night, maybe just about 8 hours total - in order to find money making resources.

Freelancing is a great source of income - if you have the talent that someone is looking for. Start-up businesses, however, are a risky business unless you know there is a demand out there for your goods or services. While the general consensus is saying now is a great time (better than "normal" even) to start a business, I would advise against it if it is your first time. My fiance and I own a General Contracting business that is very difficult to maintain. Home based businesses are also a bad idea if you don't have any time to dedicate to them.

That being said, you can also understand it when I say that if you just don't have the time, don't begin undertaking freelance work at home either. While some companies will allow you to work at your own pace. many more will have deadlines like any "real world" job that you should adhere to. There are several freelance resources for writing, editing, and graphic and web design. Also, SEO is a hot commodity in which you can start your own consulting business, but being organized is a big requirement if you want to make your clients a guarantee.

Aside from this, there are many different outlets for making money at home, but there is one thing you should always remember: There is no "set it and forget it" money making scheme. You can't get money for doing nothing - even setting up Ad Sense requires a little time and effort. Now that that's clear, you should also keep in mind that you shouldn't be paying anyone, anything for anything. Seriously. Unless you are looking at Avon, Mark, or other reputable companies with legitimate testimonies, you shouldn't be paying outrageous amounts (or even small, recurring amounts) for any kind of "start up kit" or "ebook" that promises you riches beyond your wildest dreams. Finding legitimate work at home is a trial-and-error type process which is why I won't post any links or reference any sites that I have not gotten paid for myself. Check subsequent posts for places to go in order to make money working at home online or consult the bar to your left for work at home resources. Approach with caution and you will be fine. Good luck and be sure to check out future posts for more information - this isn't just another site about coupons, you know!


23 July 2010

Clean and... Bandaged?

Normally, I don't go for Target deals because (and even though I love Target), I don't ever seem to find great match ups. I honestly have better luck at CVS with rolling ECBs than anything else. It's sad because the people at Target (or the one where I am, anyway) are so nice and the lady I always see at CVS seems - annoyed by my presence for lack of a better phrase.

Aside from that, I actually went to Target today to see what I could do about the free First Aid bag from Johnson and Johnson. There's been a lot of speculation about this ad and whether the bag was available or not, sold out or not, or just plain not happening in some stores. Well, imagine my pleasant surprise when I found that it was perfectly valid at the store I normally go to. In addition, it was prominently displayed on an end-cap with a sign stating, "buy any 3 items from this display, get a J&J First Aid Bag free," my items just had to add up to the price of the bag and I was golden.

After shopping around - and yes, Target has a plethora of clearance right now - I wound up with several things in my basket. While I was there for practical matters - my 4 year old needed a lunch box for her first year of school and padding for her first official big girl bike - I actually found some decent deals and wound up paying less than $10 for everything pictured below (which does not include said pads or lunch box):

Please excuse the shady look of the picture, our Digital Camera is low on life. Anyhow, here is the break down:

(1) Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Gel - $3.94
(1) Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets - $3.99
(1) Clean & Clear Morning Burst Oxygen Cleanser - $4.99
(1) Biore Steam-Activated Cleanser - $6.49
(1) Johnson & Johnson First Aid Bag - FREE
(2) Johnson & Johnson Hospital Grade Gauze - $3.14
(1) Band-Aid Brand Mickey Mouse Adult Band-Aids - $2.29

I used several coupons and the only one that wasn't printable was the Scrubbing Bubbles one, which I got from a swap a couple weeks ago. This scenario is very do-able for a first timer looking to spend no more than $10 (like our last scenario). Here is the final prices of everything before tax:

(1) Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Gel - $2.94
(1) Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets - $.99
(1) Clean & Clear Morning Burst Oxygen Cleanser - $1.99 (Should have been $.99, but a coupon was skipped)
(1) Biore Steam-Activated Cleanser - $2.49
(1) Johnson & Johnson First Aid Bag - FREE
(2) Johnson & Johnson Hospital Grade Gauze  - $.14
(1) Band-Aid Brand Mickey Mouse Adult Band-Aids - $.29

If you are wondering whether or not you are doing "good" think about your savings. Even with my bike pads and lunch box, I saved $21.18... Only $.99 of that was from those other two items. When compared to what I purchased and how much I paid OOP (only for my coupon items) I saved 60%!

Aside from this, I had a little mishap with the First Aid bag and had to go back to Guest Services in order to get it off my bill. At my store it's only Benadryl and Neosporin that count towards the free bag, however, some faulty signage scored me a free bag, so make sure that you have a way to document what's going on if you need an adjustment. Finally, it pays to be nice. I was a Retail Manager for over 12 years and it's no picnic. It's okay to get a little frustrated, but don't take your frustration out on the wrong people - it's only thanks to them that you get anything free or cheap anyway. Happy shopping!