Have you had the email yet, or perhaps realistically, how many emails do you get, telling you – yes you personally – about the wonderful opportunities awaiting you, to earn pots of money sitting at home on your computer. Probably only working a few hours a day or a week.

Of course for expats in Spain facing rising prices and financial insecurity in many cases, proposals like this can seem like a dream come true. Lucrative location-independent work, no set hours, no commute, and no boss to be accountable too – stay living the dream in Spain and ‘set yourself financially free’.

Unfortunately, pretty much all such ‘opportunities’ as might land in your inbox of this nature are unscrupulous scams, designed to make money for no one but the initiator. If you were hiring someone for a very attractive job, would you go about it by sending high volumes of generic spam email? Nearly all these things are not only obviously too good be true, any sane person would normally spot this. The trouble is when people are under intense pressure to find a financial solution they are vulnerable to being sucked in by scammers, who are one of a few groups doing very nicely out of the global economic crisis.

So, let’s just clarify something shall we?

You cannot buy any kit or package or training course from a website that will offer you a ‘business’ or an ‘opportunity’ or any kind of system that will enable you to suddenly earn a good living by doing part time work of any kind on your computer. Such a product might make good money for the seller, but never for the purchaser.

Of course, you can earn a living working from home (hint: I am not writing this in someone else’s office) – however you need to be able to offer a skilled service that is of sufficient value to someone else that they are prepared to pay for it. You then need to market that offering successfully to people who need it, and then deliver it well and build your reputation and reach. Just like any other consulting/service delivery work you can develop a good set of niche skills and products and make a career this way if you have the aptitude, but the well-rounded small business skillset needed doesn’t disappear just because you do it on a computer (not least because that’s how everyone does it). And whilst you can learn a lot of these necessary skills, nobody can sell you them in an ebook or training package.

Furthermore, that skills market is global these days. This is positive in the sense of scope – your market is as big as the world – but makes it harder for those of us with European costs of living to support, to compete effectively against providers from other parts of the world who can afford to work for well below what we can. If you have skills and credentials as a programmer, designer etc, you are probably going to earn a lot more offering those skills in your local market than trying to compete against some whizzkid in the Philippines where the typical monthly professional salary is a few hundred dollars.

Lots of people do of course make a good living from internet marketing, blogging, and creating websites that people want to read and even pay for – and doing so without the need to mislead or rip anybody off. But learning these skills takes serious time, a fair bit of trial and error, and sometimes a bit of luck too. Yes you can learn the skills, but I would say a huge amount of the information required to do so is available in the public domain. Some good programmes and products are available to help with the learning curve, and the better ones are those which are completely realistic about the hard work and commitment required to see it through to the point of actually making any kind of residual income from it.

Of course there are plenty of schemes and sites around that do pay, generally very small amounts, for things like filling in surveys or reviewing products. Because these are real and verifiable, other people have created ‘packages’ and ‘systems’ they will sell you, which are often little more than a list of survey companies or competition platforms, that you could easily compile yourself with a little light googling. Who’s making money here – not you! Others offer fractional payments for clicking links or pages – again, why would someone pay you for this, often it’s part of something fraudulent such as trying to trick search engines that a site has more views, or forcing payouts on pay-per-click ads, and very often if you actually do the arithmetic you prove you will develop crippling RSI long before you pay for that month’s internet connection..!

If you are serious about working online and making some money – any money – have a look at what skills are in demand and what is being offered. Unskilled work offers very little pay, anywhere in the world, ever. But perhaps what you can offer has a market somewhere? Check out Fiverr – http://www.fiverr.com – and see what people around the world are offering to do for $5. Yes, that’s about €3 and won’t change your life, but you can get started. Or bid on Elance http://www.elance.com or Freelancer http://www.freelancer.com (or newly, .es), for contracts that match your skillset. Sites like Elance offer free online portfolios for designers and creatives to showcase your work, which you can also send local/offline referrals to…

Building a business in any climate is hard work, your computer and the internet offer a wide range of tools you can use to help you do so, but sadly no business comes in a box ready to unpack and start making a living. However desperate you are, don’t get ripped off, and never part with money for any kind of ‘job’ or ‘opportunity’ on or offline.

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