Making Money With Your PC
Can you get rich quick on the Internet? Sure you can, if you believe the flood of e-mail messages sent by “entrepreneurs” hoping you’ll invest in their enterprises.
Don’t believe them.
Those sending this growing torrent of come-ons are almost always tricksters. They often lie from the get-go. “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REQUESTED FROM ROBERT ALLEN,” shouted one message I received recently. I never requested any information in the first place.
Typically, the appeal is to greed. “Earn $50,000 in only 90 days!! It really works!”
Sometimes these misguided opportunists go for your emotions, such as guilt. “Why haven’t you contacted me?” pleaded one. But soon greed dominated the message, which described a program where you can “earn millions of dollars.” In scam-speak, the message righteously proclaimed, “This is NOT a get-rich-quick scam.”
Here’s one that tried appealing to a noble ideal. “The GOLDEN rule,” it began. What’s the golden rule it advocated? Making money by pitching the same con to millions of others.
Sometimes the cluelessness boggles the mind. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” I was cheerfully greeted by one come-on, trying to entice me to read the message. Only the chances of my birthday falling that week were one in 52 — terrible odds.
“If someone e-mails solicitations indiscriminately, delete them without reading,” says Paul Edwards, lawyer and lecturer, co-author of the book Working From Home, and perhaps the country’s leading expert on home-based
The reason is that unsolicited, untargeted bulk e-mail, called spam, has long been a violation of Internet norms. Spam uses Internet resources paid for not by the sender but by the recipient. This is why it’s illegal to send junk faxes and why legislation is pending to restrict unsolicited commercial e-mail as well.
Bona fide businesses don’t send spam, or if they do, it only takes one time for them to realize their mistake. Scam artists, on the other hand, send spam over and over. Don’t bother asking them to take you off their list. They typically just use your e-mail response as verification that you have a working e-mail address, often selling your address to other spammers.
Unfortunately, some companies make the mistaken assumption that if you buy a product from them, they have created a “relationship” with you and are therefore entitled to e-mail you unsolicited ads. Smart companies know this angers too many customers.
The best way to build an e-mail list is to ask people if they’re interested in receiving e-mail from you or to buy a list of people who have already agreed to receive commercial e-mail about a particular type of product.
Many spam come-ons are for illegal pyramid schemes or similarly structured but legal multilevel marketing (MLM) companies. The difference between the two is that MLM, sometimes called network marketing, involves legitimate products.
Even so, MLM participants, called
“distributors,” typically make money less by selling products than by enticing other
people to sell products. Distributors earn commission on the sales of their recruits, and their recruits’ recruits, and so on, with everybody scrambling to work their way up the pyramid where the big money supposedly is.
MLM has a bad reputation for good reason. The hype surrounding MLM is in direct proportion to its penchant for taking people for a ride. Most people wind up losing money on the cost of inventory, “educational” products and travel, says Edwards.
On the other hand, you can indeed use your personal computer and the Internet to help you make money from home, either full time or on the side, and many people do. Various statistics indicate that about one-third of Americans have a home office and that about one-quarter of these offices are used to support home-business activities.
Some do succeed at MLM, and if you want to explore it as a money-making opportunity, recommendations from friends or colleagues are best, says Edwards. Find a company selling products you find useful. Check out the company with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.
But your best bets for making money with the help of your PC are more mainstream pursuits, such as Web site creation, computer consulting, computer repair and technical writing, says Edwards, who provides more tips on his Web site <www.homeworks.com>. Another good site, which offers particularly good advice about technology for those working in either home or small offices, is Smalloffice.com <www.smalloffice
.com>.You may not get rich quick doing it the right way, but you won’t lose your shirt either.
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