Not Always Accurate Advice: Never Pay For an Online Job

Updated on: by Miranda Grimm

Red Flag!You have likely seen me say and have read many times by people trying to steer you away from Work from Home Online Scams to never pay for an online job. However, many of us have been guilty of doing just that.

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Heck, one of my first and best paying home based jobs required me to pay $150 up front!

They were and still are very legit and I made that money back within my first week. Therefore, the advice to never pay for work is not always accurate.

But it is difficult to explain the distinguishing factors between paying to start your own freelance business with the scams that want to charge you to teach you information or provide you with work. So, what are the identifiers that let you know when it is safe to fork over some money to work?

What are you paying for?

If you are paying for information then proceed with caution.

The internet is a world of vast information. Almost anything you want to learn can be self-taught for free! You might just be surprise and scared by the types of things you can learn online!

So why pay for it? Maybe to save time or you feel confident in it? Just be sure to accept the reality that the information you receive may lack any and all worth. So, never pay more than what you are fine losing. Just be sure to read whatever terms and agreements you will be required to agree to. You may just notice a recurring monthly fee that may be hard to remove and cancel!

If you are paying for skills or training then again proceed with caution.

Usually these types of scams are offered for things that do not need training. Data Entry, Mystery Shopping and so forth do not require training. You do not need to be certified and being certified will not give you a leg up.

Are the costs involving purchasing product that can be sold for more than you bought it for? Many companies are claiming you can make great money listing items on eBay. They offer to provide you with the product and you list it for them.

However, the way the company is making money is by selling the product to you and then you are stuck with something you bought and cannot sell.

When is it Okay to Pay?

Venturing into the work at home freelance world may require some initial costs. Things like your computer or internet access are the types of costs I am referring to. These costs are most likely already recurring and therefore often not considered.

Depending on the type of job you may have additional costs. Working for LiveOps would require a landline phone line, wired phone with a wired headset. These are hefty expenses but if things don’t work out, you can return your items and cancel your phone line.

However, some companies do require a background check or drug test. As freelance independent contractors those expenses can fall back to you.

Some companies may even require you to pay for you to incorporate your business. Those expenses can be very high in some cases. These are legit reasons to spend money to make money.

Some direct sales companies, like MaryKay, will require you to purchase a certain amount of product to sell. They often have starter kits but the cost can be quite high. Of course, we all know MaryKay is legit but are companies like BambooPink or Jordan Essentials? Keep Reading!

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How do you Know if Your Return On Investment Will be profitable?

Research! The best way to know if a company is worth the time, effort and investment is by researching. Don’t trust random websites where people often create articles talking praises for scam and affiliate companies. Go directly to the sources.

Visiting sites like and where you can find people who already have experience with the company you are considering investing your time and money with. There you can get an idea of how much money you can expect to make and if the company is even on the up and up.

Also, contact the company directly. If a company is hard to contact or to even find details about who they are and where they are, then be cautious. You can usually get a true vibe about a company and their business practices by simply contacting them.

Don’t fall for hype talk. Remember that no work at home company is desperate and eager to have you.

They have thousands of applicants a month. You are not special to them. It sounds awful to say, but it is reality. Only the scammers will treat you like they are desperate to get you into their business.

So, while in general it is a good rule of thumb to not pay for work from home. It is more accurate to QUESTION when you are being asked to pay for online work. Question the intent, reason and value.

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June 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Your article is just like the title, not quite accurate advice. In particular this comment, “If you are paying for skills or training then again proceed with caution. Usually these types of scams are offered for things that do not need training. Data Entry, Mystery Shopping and so forth do not require training. You do not need to be certified and being certified will not give you a leg up.”

People thinking this way is exactly why Mystery Shopping does not have the proper respect in the business world and why mystery shoppers are not respected as business associates. This job should not be taken lightly. Mystery shopping reports can have a serious impact on an employees job. Not to mention that the mystery shopping reports directly affect the customer service we all receive.

As the President of the Independent Mystery Shoppers’ Coalition, I can tell you without question that people need to be trained how to do this work. There are some out there who can wing it, learn it on their own and be successful. But, overall anyone interested in performing this type of work needs to be taught how to correctly perform the tasks asked of them. And even if they are already successful, being a participant in a well managed educational program will still help them to be more successful.

The flake rate, poor grammar, lack of correctly completed reports, shoddy narratives, lack of proper communication skills with schedulers and editors, lack of ICA understanding, lack of performing the job correctly and fulfilling the needs of the client are directly related to a lack of training.

Being certified by the MSPA or Undercover Essentials does give people a leg up. I have been Gold certified by the MSPA since 2003 and it opened doors for me that might have never been opened. Being certified by Undercover Essentials is paramount to the success of Video mystery shoppers.

I would like to invite you to personally join us at the upcoming IMSC (Independent Mystery Shoppers’ Coalition) at our next conference in Las Vegas this October, as my guest and revisit this topic. I am quite confident your mindset will change. You will get to meet hundreds of mystery shoppers, over 50 mystery shopping company representatives and both MSPA reps and the owner of Undercover Essentials. This will give you an opportunity to correctly report on the subject.

You can contact me at [email protected] to take me up on the offer or ask me any questions you might have.

Miranda Grimm

June 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Thank you for your input, it is much respected. The mystery shopping companies I have worked for provide training. Not only a general training but job specific. As of now I have not been hindered any because I am not MSPA certified. But I also do not do Mystery Shopping full time. I will look further into the IMSC.

Also, I appreciate the offer to join you in Las Vegas! Just not possible with my current obligations. Sounds like it would be a lot of fun though!

Thanks again for your input and broadening our horizons in the Mystery Shopping Field.


June 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

It is fun but it is also a lot of work. We have over 30 speakers and start classes at 8:00 AM and end at 5:00 PM. I really hope you can attend. ๐Ÿ™‚

Katie Jones

June 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm

This post will end up helping a lot of people who are in the their beginning stages of looking for work at home.
I guess for me, I take my “common sense” for granted – I tend to think duh! I am not paying for that! Totally a scam! But then I obviously know when a company is legit and asking you to pay for your own background check, then you have to consider that as a cost to you and also a potential risk of not getting a job.

It’s nice to see this post because it is a refresher for those who are new and for those are veterans. I personally do not want to spend more than I am comfortable with so in my search I will be looking for companies that do not require so much out of pocket expense. However it is going to be different with every single person and with sites like these available, they will step into the right path in looking for legitimate work at home positions.

Great job Miranda! ๐Ÿ™‚


June 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Excellent post! Eddy from Work at Home No Scams often talks about the difference between an online job and online business, and how paying for a job isn’t generally the norm but that there are almost always expenses when starting your own business from home, just like there’s an overhead when you start a business outside the home. And with some things, like direct sales, you’re essentially starting your own business so of course there will be costs upfront. Some call center companies like Arise and I think VIP Desk it’s kind of the same because you incorporate yourself. But then like with Live Ops and other home customer service jobs, you do have to fork over the money for that background check and a lot of people don’t want to do it because they think they might be getting ripped off, when that’s not the case. It can all be confusing for some people, but in most cases I do think you just sort of tell when something is a scam and if you pay you’re clearly not going to come out on the winning end. Someone posted an opportunity on my Facebook the other day about some company that wanted you to fork over $47 just to become a successful Ebay seller, and then there was also a recurring $99 yearly fee plus a $250 termination fee if you cancelled your contract with them, and all of these fees would be deducted automatically from a debit card number that you would provide them. The company reeked of “scam” in absolutely every way … But as you said in another post some of these scammers are getting smarter and it’s getting harder to differentiate between the bad guys and the good guys! We always have to try to stay ahead of the game.


June 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

This is excellent advice. The only thing I’ve paid for in the past with work from home jobs, is $25 to run a background check when I started working for Babytobee a few years ago. Another important thing to remember, is that if you do end up working for the company for the long term, these expenses can be written off on your taxes, so save you receipts!!

Miranda Grimm

June 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Yes! Great tip about saving your receipts!