We all know that ex-offenders struggle to find work upon release. Employers are often reluctant to hire someone with a criminal background. If employment isn’t an option, perhaps success can be found in creating a your own job through self-employment. Prison literature seems to focus on low-skilled self-employment work, which is great for many.
However, other ex-prisoners have professional experience and in-demand skills to offer. How can these ex-prisoners leverage these skills in a low cost start-up business? The answer could be online freelancing.
Many small businesses around the world are overwhelmed with specialist tasks they don’t have the skills to do. One-off tasks such as graphic design, adding functionality to an app or data entry need to be done but they don’t want to hire a full-time employee to do them. Instead, businesses use freelancer job sites to find people to do one-off jobs. Anyone can bid for these jobs, offering their own prices and time scales. The business offering the work then choose the best offer and the worker does the work.
Payment is made via the freelancing site when the job is completed. In this way the freelancer doesn’t earn an hourly wage from one employer but instead bids for fixed-price jobs.
Freelancers can build up a loyal clientele based on their reputation for delivering value. All that is required for this work is a computer, internet connection, specific in-demand skills and the ability to market those skills. They may also need permission from Probation.
There are several websites dedicated to this type of self-employment: upwork.com is the largest. Fiverr.com and freelancer.com are also major players with their own slant on how work is offered and accepted.
To start, the worker creates a profile of their skills and expertise. They then trawl the current job lists where specific pieces of work are offered. The worker bids for jobs they think they can do with an offered price and timescale.
The person offering the work can look at the profiles of the person bidding to verify their rating for previous work completed. When the work is completed, the person offering the work is asked to rate the quality of the work done which is then listed on the workers profile.
The jobs are truly varied. Some jobs can be quite low pay which add up to less than minimum wage. However, it is common for people to take these jobs to build a positive reputation which can lead to higher paying jobs. There is a lot of competition: workers around the world are bidding for the work offered so you will have to price accordingly.
You will need to track your own taxes as a sole trader. An additional consideration is that Probation will not allow some ex-prisoners to do this kind of work.
For ex-prisoners with professional or administrative skills who are allowed internet access, online freelancing could be an easy way to break into self-employment. Do some research and speak to your Offender Manager.