Internet Labor: 5 Reasons Why People Will Work for Next to Nothing

What is your value in the online marketplace and are you working for far less than you should? Many people earn income by performing web-based jobs, but often accept wages well below what their time and energy is truly worth–just check out the pay scale currently being offered for writing, blogging, information technology, customer care and other jobs on the internet.

You’d think that many job seekers would stomp off and refuse to accept wages that are dramatically low, but that’s not so. Why might you provide internet labor for pay that keeps you living paycheck-to-paycheck?

1. You don’t have the skills…yet.

In this tough economy, it’s difficult enough to secure a job when you do have experience in the field. But try to squeak in with few tangible skills and impressive references and your resume will get tossed into the virtual trash bin.

To get your foot in the door, you may be willing to toil for far less than what others are making in the same position. Careful when doing this–while it can increase your odds of getting hired, you could also harm your chances of being paid what you deserve in the future. Most companies offer raises based on percentages, so if you’re making very little now, there’s a good chance you’ll continue to stagnate on the bottom rung.

Also, if you want to move on, a new company will ask what you’ve been making; that very low salary can haunt you.

2. You want exposure.

Just today I was offered the “amazing” opportunity to write for a website. For free. Here’s a clip from the e-mail: “your articles would be byline only and you would not be paid, however you would receive great exposure to our more than 25,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, reach nearly 6,000 e-mail newsletter subscribers as well thousands more who scour the pages of ____ Magazine.”

In some fields, you have to market yourself to the widest possible audience, so something like this can make sense if it means a paid position later. Weigh the future  possibilities. No one but you will know you’re just working to build a following.

How Low are Workers Willing to Go?

Newsweek illustrates how employees are willing to be paid much less than the federal minimum wage.

minimum wage

3. You’re desperate.

Any money is good money, even when it’s paid in pennies, right? Not always.

Working online from home can allow you to avoid paying a babysitter for the kids or spend money on gas for the car. Take a job that does not meet your most basic of expenses, however, and you’re treading water–or worse, falling behind.

Your time and energy is valuable! If you haven’t read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath lately (or ever) pick up a copy. It makes quite a case for reasonable minimum wage laws. Yes, avoid feelings of economic entitlement, but don’t accept blatant exploitation either.

4. You don’t know your real worth.

Plenty of people take positions that pay too little because they simply do not know any better. Therefore, before conducting any job search, log onto or a similar website that provides income data for a wide variety of occupations, including those online.

As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. If the hiring manager makes an offer that’s markedly below what others in your field are getting, feel free to explain that you would love come on board, but for the going rate. Some disreputable businesses rely on ignorance to cut corners.

5. You’re competing with other countries.

And then there’s the problem of internet outsourcing, when companies send jobs to places with a large, hungry and highly-skilled workforce.

When China, India, the Philippines and other foreign countries have billions of people willing to learn English and answer client service calls or perform tech duties, the pay for U.S. workers naturally declines. Because of this, you may also accept a position that is in direct competition with someone earning pennies on the dollar. What can you do about it? Other than try to find a company that hires locally, not much right now. You can get involved politically, though, and support laws that encourage companies to employ from within.