Solavei Review: Scam or Great Deal?

Solavei ReviewThis Solavei review isn’t written to try to convert you or win you over, but just an objective overview of what Solavei is, cutting through the marketing gimmicks and giving you the bare facts. I came across Solavei through a friend and it seemed like an interesting concept, so I thought I should write a Solavei review and share with my readers.

What is Solavei?

Solavei is a Seattle based start-up backed by some heavy names, led by former former Congressman Rick White and former Motricity CEO Ryan Wuerch. It counts several tech names as investors, including the former CEO of AOL and vice president of Kindle at Amazon.

Essentially, Solavei is a way for you to get mobile service for cheap in the United States (sorry other readers!) and probably soon in Canada. For $49/month, you get unlimited text, calls and data on T-mobile phone service. The best feature? No contract! This is huge for people in the US who know how annoying a two year contract can be. Also, at $49/mo, this is cheaper than most other services. For instance, I pay around $75/mo for my Verizon service.

So far so good. However, this is available as a regular deal on T-mobile as well. You have to pay a one-time fee of $49 if you go through Solavei and not through T-mobile directly. So why would you want to do that? Earning potential.

Solavei works on a multi-level marketing basis which means if you refer friends or others and they join your network, you get paid. This can be great, or at the same time, awful. Personally for me, $49/mo is a great deal for unlimited voice and data, but I don’t want to go out and shout about this to all my friends just yet simply because multi-level marketing has such a shady reputation. I don’t know which category you fall under. However, I don’t want to bias my Solavei review with a multi-level marketing review, so I’ll leave that up for discussion in the comments.

Is Solavei a Pyramid Scheme?

It is actually hard to tell, because the company is so new. However, it has already raised $3.6 million, so I don’t think it is going to the ground anytime soon. The business model actually (and surprisingly) seems pretty legit. $49/month for unlimited talk, text and data is a good deal no matter what. Even if you strip away all the other ‘make money referring your friends’ part of the business, this is still a good deal. Period.

Up to now, it doesn’t seem that Solavei is a pyramid scheme. The main problem with real pyramid schemes is that it is usually very hard to tell until it is too late. However, in this case, your downside risk is very limited – the most you can lose is getting a $49/mo phone connection which isn’t shabby at all. At this point, my Solavei review research doesn’t give me a strong reason to believe that this is a pyramid scheme. There aren’t any ‘obvious red flags’ in my eyes yet.

The above being said, I am not sure how the money is coming into Solavei. If T-mobile offers essentially the same deal directly, then they cannot be making a ton of money off of each deal. They are promising a generous payout for the members which seems to exceed the economic success. I don’t know if they are using the money they got from venture funding to provide this payout – in that case, it is definitely a pyramid scheme and you should steer clear. If you have more information about this, I would love to hear.

Is Solavei Scam?

Solavei doesn’t appear to be a scam. They have raised money and have some good entrepreneurs backing their venture. If this catches up, it can be huge. There is good potential in cheap phones without contracts in the United States and Solavei fills a nice gap that consumers have always wanted. Again, I don’t know how the payout is going to be sustainable – if it is not, then it is a very bad deal but if it is, I think that’s a sweet deal (read the paragraph above).

In my view, if you are serious about MLM or just want to save some money and probably think about referring friends and family in the future, Solavei can actually be a good deal. Remember that this is a T-mobile reseller, so it doesn’t matter if the company fails tomorrow (I hope it doesn’t, but I am just stating your downside risk) because you still have your phone connection (sans the promises of becoming a thousandaire!)

Again, you don’t have to join Solavei for making money. You can just join it to get a good deal on your phone, and if things work out, you might just make some passive income on the side when you refer friends. If not, you got your great bargain anyway. I want to base my Solavei review on the fact that there is limited downside risk and very good upside potential, which is always something to consider as good.

Solavei for Marketers

Like it or not, Solavei is an MLM which means if you are a member, you join under someone. Hopefully, that someone is co-operative and honest with you about the income potential of referring people. I won’t go into the details of the Solavei compensation plan, but you can get the details here. As they advertise, if you refer 3 members, you earn $20/month (this isn’t too hard if you think about the utility of cheap phones without contracts); if you refer 12, you earn $60/month (enough to cover your phone bill and save more). You don’t have to refer them all directly – your referrals can refer their friends and you still get full credit for them. This is just from your immediate network – you earn from your extended network as well. And there are bonuses for signing up people within 90 days.

I don’t want to dilute the Solavei review with details of Solavei compensation plan (May be I’ll it later on) but suffice to say that it is interesting because you get paid every month – it isn’t a one time payment.

Success in making money with Solavei should be interesting as the company grows because it genuinely addresses a problem that people have, which is getting rid of contracts on their phones and getting good deals for their talk, text and data. I think it is well positioned to capture a good segment of the market and seems promising. It is too early in the company’s history to tell, but for marketers, this is actually a perfect time to get started because the market is so open and far from saturated.

What are your thoughts about this? What do you think about this Solavei review and what do you think about Solavei as a company? Do you think it addresses real problems or do you think it is just another scam? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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Comprehensive PeoplePerHour Review

PeoplePerHour ReviewThis PeoplePerHour review is from a freelancer who has seen and worked on a lot of freelancing sites online. Is this legit or scam? Is it worth my time? Is it better than the other freelancing sites? I’ll attempt to answer these and many other questions about the site, so you can make an informed decision about whether to join PeoplePerHour or not.

What is PeoplePerHour?

PeoplePerHour is an online freelancing portal. This is very similar in concept to oDesk and Elance, the more popular freelance marketplaces. An online marketplace brings together buyers and sellers. The buyers propose projects and the sellers bid on these projects. The sellers of course are almost always freelancers.

PeoplePerHour isn’t the first online marketplace for freelancers. There have been several in the past, some having a strong hold on the industry. Elance is one of the oldest, still popular marketplace. oDesk is newer but has grown at a really good rate over the years. For freelancers looking for work or for employers (usually start-ups and small businesses), there are plenty of options. When evaluating this site, therefore, you need to look at it from the larger perspective and compare it to existing businesses. This is what I will base my PeoplePerHour review on.

Check out my oDesk review and oDesk vs Elance to get a better idea of online marketplaces.

Quality/Quantity of Jobs Posted

The number of jobs at PeoplePerHour is definitely less than those of its bigger competitors like oDesk and Elance. However, I found the quality of jobs to be surprisingly high. I don’t have the statistics (yet) but the average pay on PeoplePerHour is far higher than either oDesk or Elance. I think I can safely say that the quality of jobs is the highest I have seen.

As a result, it is only natural that the freelancers are high quality too, which is great news for the buyers.

One of the major complaints about online marketplaces is the quality of jobs is really bad. This affects both sides of the equation. The freelancers are unhappy because of a downward pressure on their wages due to increasing competition from low quality providers. This drives the good workers away to other avenues which now affects the buyers because they cannot find enough quality people to do the job they want. As a result, the serious buyers look elsewhere. Thus what is left is a deteriorating marketplace. This is particularly stark in oDesk but present very well in Elance.

Surprisingly, this hasn’t yet happened with PeoplePerHour. The wages are decent and appropriate for the skills required for the jobs. I am not sure how they pulled it off and if this can be sustainable. Only time will tell. As of this moment, however, if you are a quality freelancer, this is certainly a site to check out. In addition, if you are a buyer looking for some good quality freelancers, it is definitely worth taking a look.

The obvious drawback however is that there are not enough jobs posted here. Besides, new freelancers might have a hard time competing against high quality and established workers.

Bottom Line: The quality of jobs posted is very high as compared to other marketplaces. The number of jobs is modest. If you have the right skills for the job, definitely worth checking out and being a part of. At the same time, accomplished freelancers might still find that they are better off on their own. The wages are good, but not extraordinary either. If you are looking for highly qualified workers, this is the place to look.

Subscription and Fees

PeoplePerHour subscription model is a layered one which I personally don’t particularly like. Elance has one too. I like oDesk the best in this sense – no membership upgrades; the fee structure, although high, is very straightforward (You pay a 10% project fee flat, no exceptions, no membership upgrades). However, this isn’t the case with PeoplePerHour.

PeoplePerHour Membership

As a free member, you have several restrictions and you can buy credits. As you can see from the chart above, basic free members pay a high fees of 10% as opposed to just 4.50% paid by Platinum members. The concept of freelancers picking up the tab for all the site’s workings too is a little weird for me (oDesk, on the other hand, is more uniform in this sense because everyone pays the same service fee and thus can be negotiated). I am not a fan of membership upgrades in general, but perhaps my fellow freelancers have a more favorable view of this.

Bottom Line: The service fees depends on your membership type, and so do limits on how many projects you can bid on. I am no fan of this model.

Transparency

PeoplePerHour can be very open as compared to the other online marketplaces. For example, you can find the team and know about them. Some client testimonials are also refreshingly open. In addition, the profiles look more professional, with a photograph, portfolio, feedback, etc. The earnings are open too, unlike oDesk (but like Elance). All this provides added credibility.

At the same time, I don’t like that they are not very transparent with some things especially those related to the fee/membership structure. The chart I displayed above is accessible only to members after joining the site. I would like to access this information before joining the site.

The PeoplePerHour Economy is another great feature to check out. You can get some really interesting statistics here about the freelancers and clients who use the site, the size of projects and other information that would interest both freelancers and buyers.

Bottom Line: Some great steps towards a more transparent experience benefiting both freelancers and businesses. However, the sites need to be more transparent about its fee/subscription structure.

Hourlies

This is a new addition, and I thought I should add to the existing PeoplePerHour review. Hourlies is a great concept that this site started. Instead of the traditional way where employers post projects and freelancers bid on it, hourlies reverse this process, i.e., the freelancers post what they can do and the cost of doing it and the employers can ‘buy’ that hourlie and the freelancer delivers. This is a great concept, although it seems a little crowded. The concept is new but promising. I would like to see more statistics though – it shouldn’t become of those features that becomes incredibly hard to navigate because it is cluttered with low quality posting.

Bottom Line: Some innovation finally from PeoplePerHour in terms of bringing a new feature to the freelancing marketplace that more established sites like oDesk and Elance lack. It’s still too early in the game to define them successful, but hourlies are definitely promising.

Update: As promised, I need to revise my review of hourlies at PeoplePerHour. In a nutshell, they absolute, terribly suck. The whole approval process is ad-hoc and random and frankly too frustrating to deal with. When I made an extremely minor correction to an already published hourlie, it was rejected. Recently, they rejected another of my hourlie that was just about publishing an article about a business on EzineArticles. Obviously it makes no sense (their argument is without the slightest merit. I’ll publish their whole ‘explanation’ for those who are interested).

Conclusion

PeoplePerHour is a relatively new online marketplace and this PeoplePerHour review might not capture all aspects of the site. It is still growing and faces several challenges. The most distinguishing feature of the site so far is its ability to maintain quality. This can degrade very soon if the site aims only for growth without regard to quality. It seems to be at a critical stage in that sense. Both freelancers and workers know the better quality the site offers and it should stick to it. PeoplePerHour is still a great site to join and every freelancer should at least check it out to see if they want to be a part of the site. Definitely worth considering.

Hourlies is a great idea with terrible terrible implementation. Hopefully other sites can take the model and improve it.

Photo Credit: laverrue

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PubSlush Review: Crowdsource Publishing

PubSlush ReviewPubSlush is a new crowdsourced publishing platform for writers. Crowdsourcing is the decentralization of the authority structure which derives its strength from numbers rather than specialization alone (think Wikipedia vs. Brittanica Encyclopedia). Crowds, it is argued, can do things better and more efficiently than individuals. Whichever side of the fence you stand on such a controversial stand is up to you, but there is no denying that there are certain aspects which are indeed best done by crowdsourcing.

PubSlush seems to have found a sweet spot. Collecting money can be very efficient when done in small contributions. Obama knows this. And now, so does PubSlush. I find the concept really interesting, and hence this early PubSlush review, early because it is yet to prove it is a good model for authors.

What is PubSlush

In a nutshell, PubSlush allows writers to become published authors … if enough people support it. This is the crucial crowdsourcing aspect of the site. They will get you published but you need to get 1000 people to support your work. The way it works is simple – if I wish to support the book A Sweeter Stride for example, written by a friend, I can “buy” the book right now, but it will only be published if the author gets 1000 people to support it. At this stage, the book is published and I’ll get my copy. Only then will my credit card ever be charged. If the book isn’t published, I am never charged.

For people who like books and like to support upcoming authors, they can browse through a good collection of books and support books that they like. This is a great way for people to discover some interesting content online written by non-professional writers. After all, everyone has a story to tell.

Who Should use PubSlush

Writers who are looking to get published should keep an eye out for the site. It looks like a promising concept. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to get published, it is always good to know such a site exists. In addition, it greatly helps your credibility if you are a published author. It should help you in all walks of life. If you are a freelance writer, wouldn’t it be good to tell your clients, “Oh and by the way, I am a published author too” so you can really prove your point?

Ask James Altucher, the author of 7 books who wrote about it in a recent post.

Where is PubSlush Headed?

Unfortunately, at this point of time, I will need to base my PubSlush review on the limited information that I have simply because the site is new. As of now, they haven’t published anyone. The maximum support for a book is at 362. However, it looks promising enough.

One important thing to notice is the inherent viral nature of the website. If you are a writer, you would like to get published and this seems like an easier way than to chase down traditional publishers (provided of course you aren’t already famous). However, to get published, they will need at least 1000 supporters, each of whom will come to know about the site. Chances are, a few of them are writers themselves. This creates a great opportunity for PubSlush to promote itself because most of the promotion is through the authors. I like such business strategies.

Agonizing Inception Stage

As great a model as it seems, it is going to take time. The site doesn’t have tens of thousands of active users yet, which means it is up to the authors to really promote their book through their limited means. Also, there is a high probability of failure at this stage – it is hard to get 1000 people to buy your book before it comes out.

As the site progresses, I suspect the number of users will increase and authors will have a higher probability of success from more active users. This is a risk that authors are taking right now. 1000 doesn’t seem like too huge a number, but for a new website, it sure is.

PubSlush Challenge: Supply and Demand

For the future, it would be an interesting dynamic between the number of authors and number of supporters. As the site grows, it will need to maintain a healthy supply-demand dynamic in terms of attracting quality authors and interested buyers. If there are too many authors, they will never all get published because there aren’t enough people to support the project and the site will be left in a ghost-shell. If there are too few authors to choose from, the supporters will not have enough choice and probably will not find books of their interest and will never return.

In any marketplace, this dynamic is really important. It is hard to know beforehand how the site will pan out in the future. It needs quality authors and quality supporters who are interested to buy books from upcoming authors.

Since the site is new, I will update my PubSlush review from time to time. Getting the first book published should be a good milestone for the site. Once it reaches a critical mass, I suspect it would be a really good endeavor to consider.

Edit: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated “If this target isn’t met, then the site will simply refund me the money.” with regards to a book not being published. In reality, you are only charged if the book is published, so really, there is no “refund” if a book isn’t published – you don’t get charged in the first place. Thanks to Erin for pointing it out. And thanks to PubSlush for keeping an eye out for their reviews, including this blog!

Photo Credit: Jenn Fishman

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oDesk Review: Good and Bad

oDesk ReviewThis is my oDesk review. oDesk is a site where you can get a ton of freelancing jobs. It is one of the largest freelancing marketplace on the internet. The total value of contracts at oDesk was $16 million for the month of April 2011, so you can imagine that it is a really huge business. Huge doesn’t always mean good, so here in my oDesk review I’ll discuss both the good and bad aspects of oDesk. If you are an employer, also read my oDesk Review from employer’s perspective.

I have been a freelance writer at oDesk since March 2009, at which time it wasn’t half as big as it is now. I have seen it grow rapidly and have seen the number of jobs being posted steadily increase in almost all areas. Since I am a freelance writer, I follow the jobs in the writing section very closely and have some insights that I wish to share with you on oDesk review with respect to these jobs.

The first thing I would like to mention here before going into the detailed oDesk review is that the site takes a 10% fees for what you are paid. For example, if you are paid $50 for a task, oDesk will get $5. This is similar to the industry standard. oDesk doesn’t have any membership fees and is completely free to join. There are no paid memberships either, which is very good, in my opinion.

Also to those wondering, oDesk is not a scam. If oDesk was scam, it wouldn’t be the place of choice for millions of members. oDesk is just a platform to bring employees and employers together. Some people who talk of the oDesk scam were duped by some employer there – this happens sometimes. However, if you are careful, e.g. by asking for an upfront payment or working with high-feedback employers, you can avoid these oDesk scammers.

After reading this oDesk review, if you decide to join the site, do read my 7 oDesk Tips which will help you land your first job with ease. You may also be interested in how I make money from my blog. These are tough economic times and employers have ridiculous requirements for hiring. Freelancing is one way out of this mess and oDesk is definitely an option to consider.

Looking for work at oDesk?

oDesk Review: Quality and Quantity of Jobs Posted

Good: There are plenty of jobs at oDesk for almost all the categories that you can think of. Personally, I know about writing jobs – they have more than doubled in the last year itself and perhaps will keep increasing. Since there are so many jobs to choose from, you can find the jobs where your skills are in demand and apply for those with your expertise. For example, some writers are better at creative writing while some are good at writing sales copies. Since there are many jobs, you can always find some that are tailored to suit your skills.

Bad: Even though there are many jobs at oDesk, their quality isn’t the best. For example, there are only a few jobs with reputable businesses. In writing, there are almost no jobs posted from magazines or even local newspapers or other famous businesses. I am not sure how bad this is – it is similar in most similar sites like Elance or Guru, but Elance tends to get a few of the better quality jobs just because it is older than oDesk. Hopefully, things will change in the future.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for small to medium jobs with small businesses, oDesk is great! If you are looking to be hired as the next NY Times columnist, you will be disappointed. Take this into consideration when you present your oDesk review to others.

oDesk Review: Getting Paid

Good: In terms of getting paid, oDesk perhaps has the best system in place. There are two kinds of jobs – hourly and fixed price. If you are working on an hourly job, you can post the hours you work at oDesk. You will need to install their special software which allows it to track your activity: keywords and mouse clicks. If the activity is above a certain threshold and the random screenshots taken by this software show that you are working and not browsing the internet unrelated to the job, you are guaranteed to get paid. This is a very good safeguard in place which new freelancers especially like (those who are skeptical about the whole system!) Since freelancers are guaranteed to get paid, it is certainly a positive aspect of oDesk review that no other site can beat.

Bad: The software is too intrusive. Plus, working is not the same as typing and mouse-clicks. For example, the software cannot know that I am thinking when I am not typing. Many clients do understand this but you can never be sure. Another thing that I don’t like is it gives the feel of big-brother watching you at all times. That is not how any work is done – you cannot oversee every aspect. I do like to browse the internet and check my mail while I am working too.

If you do end up choosing the fixed price assignments instead of the hourly ones to avoid this trouble, there is no guarantee you’ll get paid. This happens much less with serious clients but there are a few who post small jobs and will not pay you. In those cases, it is better to demand an upfront payment. oDesk doesn’t have an escrow system, which is really bad.

Bottom Line: Look what suits you – if you are fine with your employer monitoring every minute of your work, you are guaranteed to get paid for every hour of work. If not, just look for fixed price assignments and work with clients who have a good feedback so you are not scammed.

oDesk Review: Feedback System

Good: The feedback system is wonderful at oDesk and is much more revealing about both employees and employers than at similar sites like Elance or Guru. After the assignment is done, oDesk will ask both the parties involved to give a feedback on a scale of 5 for different parameters like quality of work, communication, deadlines, etc. In addition, both parties should leave a comment that appears on the profile page. This is a very good resource for both employees and employers to work with long-term oDesk members only so that there is little or no chance of getting scammed.

Bad: There is nothing very bad about the feedback system that oDesk uses. However, there are times when an employer can give an unjust feedback and it will affect your overall score and profile. A bad feedback, even if given unjustly, is hard to get rid of. Worst case, you can refund the whole amount of the project to the employer and your feedback will not count.

Another aspect of oDesk feedback is that you can make any comment that you get private (but the score will remain). This sometimes makes it hard to really know why the particular employer or employee was not recommended.

Bottom Line: oDesk feedback is excellent but be careful of unjustly given low feedback.

oDesk Review: oDesk Tests

Good: oDesk tests are actually wonderful. They allow workers to give online tests and these scores are displayed on the homepage. This helps employers weed out people who lie in their profile (e.g. people saying they have perfect English skills when they don’t know the basics of grammar). Apart from the actual score, the percentile is also shown which makes a lot of sense. If you are first place, top 10% or top 20%, it shows again with your test scores and is a nice achievement to have. oDesk tests are also extremely useful for people totally new to oDesk who don’t have any prior feedback, to show they are good. If you want to do well on your oDesk tests, read my oDesk test tips post for more details.

Bad: oDesk tests don’t seem to figure in the overall scheme of things, while determining the best employers of the month or calculating an overall score. I would like to see the test scores given more importance. Also, few employers seem to care much about these scores in their job requirements, which is a pity.

Bottom Line: oDesk tests are great to improve your overall profile and show that you know what you are doing.

oDesk Review: Support Provided

Good: No good site is complete without good support. oDesk has a very good help and support system. There is live chat available most of the times and even otherwise you can always send a ticket. Apart from these, there is an active forum where you can get advice, voice your complaints and give feedback and suggestions.

Bad: Compared to the number of people using oDesk, the forum is not that active. I think oDesk should do more to provide a more vibrant community.

Bottom Line: oDesk has a very good support system, from their staff to your peers. oDesk review for support has overall been good.

oDesk Review: Data and Statistics

Good: My oDesk review is going to be incomplete without this point. Data and statistics are very important to know how the site is doing and where the business is coming from. The oConomy, for example, provides a good idea of the value of all the jobs at oDesk. You can get many other estimates as well.

Bad: Some of the statistics are highly outdated. If you look at trends, you can find the data is from March 2008. That’s an eternity in a fast growing business! Who cares about statistics four years old? Worse, it is highly misleading to prospective employers and also freelancers. You can see the average wages are almost always above $15/hour for a writer even in the developing countries. I am sure it is far from the truth now, but oDesk refuses to publish the statistics or make them up to date. I am sure they have the data, so if they have nothing to hide, I don’t see any reason why they don’t want to publish the latest figures.

Bottom Line: Some statistics are good, but others are not updated in ages, and can be very misleading. Make sure the statistics that you see on oDesk make sense in terms of when it was last updated. Figures from half a decade are completely meaningless when the industry and the website are growing at the rate that it did.

So I hope you liked my oDesk review. If you have any thoughts on this subject, don’t forget to share it in the comments. I would also love to know your experience in using oDesk.

You should also read my post on oDesk Cover Letter Tips and 5 Freelancing Ideas to know more about freelancing and working with oDesk so you can have a successful freelancing career. Also, to know more about how oDesk compares with competitors, read my posts on oDesk vs Elance and PeoplePerHour Review.

 

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