Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leapforce FAQ's

I get a lot of the same questions from readers and often the comments are on different posts so it’s hard for everyone to find what they need.  So I thought I’d organize the most often asked questions into one post, hopefully this will be helpful for everyone.

First I want to talk a little about what this blog will do and what it won’t do.  Because of the non-disclosure agreement I signed when I started working for Leapforce, I can’t discuss the specifics about the guidelines or how to rate a webpage.  If a comment asks for this kind of detail, I just don’t post it.  Also sometimes readers will ask me to answer specific questions just for them, I don’t want to start doing that.  The purpose of this blog is to share general information about working for Leapforce and taking the qualification exam.  I hope and believe that this information is helpful for a lot of readers.

How much work will be available when I start working for Leapforce?

This is the most frequently asked question.  Unfortunately, it is also impossible to answer.  When you first start working you will probably not get as much work as you would like, there is a probation period where they evaluate your work and they expect you to improve as you go.  If you are getting good evaluations of your work you will keep getting more work, if you receive poor evaluations the amount of work will be restricted.

The amount of work available also depends on how much work and how many projects the company has going.  There will be times when there just isn’t that much work to do, this often happens in the summer and around the holidays.  There will be other times when Leapforce has an abundance of work, when that happens they often encourage us to work more by offering a bonus for working more hours.  Occasionally Leapforce will announce the start of a new project and offer the opportunity to qualify for and work on those projects.  To keep your rater queue full, it’s a good idea to take advantage of these opportunities.

No matter how much work is available, Leapforce won’t pay you for more than 40 hours per week.

What if I have technical problems while taking the Leapforce Qualification Exam?

From reading numerous comments I can see that Leapforce is not very responsive when people report issues with the exam.  I don’t know why this is, once you are working for Leapforce they are very responsive to questions and technical issues, but I suspect that they believe that if you have problems doing the test you will also have problems when doing the work.  It is a test after all, they are testing you that you can understand and follow instructions and apply the guidelines, but they are also testing that your equipment (mobile phone, PC, router, internet service) all works well with their system.

If you do have technical issues I would suggest emailing them anyway, it may affect their decision whether or not to offer you a chance to retake the exam.  You should also try to solve the problem yourself.  Re-read all the instructions and make sure you are following them to the letter. Also, as one reader commented, keep trying, it’s possible that either your system or theirs was having temporary issues.

Will I get a chance to take the Exam again, and will I have to re-take all three parts or just the one I failed?

Yes, often people report that they are offered the chance to re-take the exam, even up to three times.  If they are going to give you a second chance you will get an email sometime after the exam deadline has passed.  And yes, according to readers, when you take the exam again you will have to repeat all the parts.

What is the best advice you can give to help me pass the Leapforce Qualification Exam?

Prepare yourself.  Read the guidelines and study all the examples they give.

Start the exam early.  In case there are any technical issues you want to have time to resolve them before the deadline.  You don’t want to feel rushed, you will think more clearly when you aren’t stressed.

Read everything carefully.  One of the things they are testing you on is your ability to understand instructions and follow them.

Take your time.  Especially with part 1, the questions in part 1 are tricky, read them carefully several times if you have to and be sure you understand them before you answer.  I don’t think the exam is timed, however, if you don’t hit the submit button for 30 minutes it may sign you out of the server. This may be the cause of some technical problems that people encounter.

Keep the pdf version of the guidelines open while taking the exam.  The pdf version is keyword searchable, it is allowed and advisable to refer to the guidelines while taking the exam, so take advantage of it.

How do you keep track of your time on each task and for the purposes of your invoice?

I don’t think it helps to keep track of your time on each individual task.  You don’t have to be under their expected time on every task, instead the average time of all of each type of task you do has to meet their expected time.  So you should just occasionally check that you are within a minute or two of the expected time.

As far as the invoice goes you just need to keep track of the total time you work each day.  There are numerous online timers you can use to keep track, or you can be low-tech like me and just note the time you start working and when you stop.

How are you paid when you work for Leapforce?

You are paid monthly via direct deposit.  (This is for US workers, I’m not sure about other countries)  You will submit your invoice on the first day of the month for the previous month’s work. If there are no problems with the times you reported, you will be paid within 30 days.  I usually receive my pay around the 21st of the month.

Thanks for reading my blog!  Keep asking questions and sharing information so we can help each other succeed! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Develop These Mental Qualities to Increase Your Success with Leapforce

People ask all the time for tips on how to pass the entrance exam.  I can’t tell you the answers or give you a formula to follow that will help you pass, but I can give you some ideas of the way Leapforce wants you to think about webpages.  They are looking for people who can follow detailed instructions, turn off their own biases and analyze webpages based on the guidelines you are given.

To be successful as a Leapforce agent you can’t look at the internet the same way as a casual user; you have to try to understand what the user wants to see when they issue a query, you then have to try to understand what the creator of the webpage intended to convey, then analyze how well the webpage served the user.  To do that well you have to dig deeper and think more critically than the casual user.

Here are some of what I believe to be the most important mental qualities for a Leapforce agent:

Understanding – ability to get inside the head of the user.  Probably the hardest part of evaluating search results is figuring out what the user wants when they type in a query.  Some queries are straightforward and easy to understand; others are vague or outright impossible to grasp.  How do you interpret something like this (a query I actually had to rate): “Knuckles when I was young”?  How about: “je”?  Or: “anchors tow”?  Your job is to figure out the most likely interpretation of these queries.  Sometimes it’s an individual thing and you can’t figure it out, sometimes if you play around with words a little you can find something online that is similar and may be what the user meant.  You have to use your imagination and understanding of people to try to work out these puzzles.

Skepticism. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet.  You have to be skeptical about every website you visit.  Does it really have the authority to make its claims?  For instance, I was rating a page by a “Dr” about uses of an herbal supplement.  I tried to find out what kind of doctor he is, there was nothing on the site stating his qualifications or even if he really is a doctor.  If you can’t find that information, what does it say about him?  To me it says he’s not the kind of doctor we would want to take advice from.

Attention to detail.  Does the page give the user the latest information or is it outdated?  Is it about the latest version of the software or device the user is asking about? Is there something else with a similar name that is not showing up on the search results, but may be what the user wants? If the user gave very specific details in the query, do the results match exactly?

Curiosity – willingness to dig deeper to understand the query, willingness to go beyond the search results that are given to see if there is something even better.  What would happen if you search for it a slightly different way?

I hope this will help those of you about to take the exam, or those thinking about applying.  This is the way Leapforce hopes you will be thinking when you work for them.  Good luck in your efforts.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Explaining the Leapforce Qualification Exam

Updated Information on the Leapforce Qualification Exam

I’ve been working for Leapforce for 3 years now, but recently I was unable to work for a couple of months.  Leapforce really is serious about the requirement that agents work at least 200 tasks per month or they may remove your authorization to work.  

That is what happened to me; however, they did give me the opportunity to re-qualify and get back to work.  This is great for my blog readers because now I can give an update on the way the current qualification exam is conducted.

The exam is given in 3 separate parts; you must pass each part in order before you are allowed to go on to the next part.  You will receive an email outlining basic information about each part, however I can tell you some things that the email doesn’t.

Note: As needs change, Leapforce changes the methods of evaluation and when that happens the Qualification Exam will also change.  So the information in this post is only true of the exam that exists at the time of this writing.  It will change some day in the future. The exam today is VERY different from what it was like when I originally took it three years ago. 

The main thing that has changed in the last year is that you must begin rating pages from a mobile device user's perspective by rating pages on your own smartphone.  If you don't have a smartphone and don't want to get one, you can't work for Leapforce.

Part 1 Theoretical

The email you receive says that the Theoretical part consists of (one email says 32 but its really) 33 questions.  This is misleading, each question has 4 parts and you must answer each part so it is in effect 132 questions. 

They aren’t trick questions, but some can be tricky, so take your time and read them carefully.  You are allowed to refer to the guidelines while taking the exam and I recommend that you do.  

You should plan on taking at least an hour to complete this portion of the exam. Once you have submitted the last page of questions the evaluation platform will display the following message:
No tasks are currently available. Please try again later.
In my case, within about 10 minutes of submitting the last page of questions I received email notice that I passed Part 1 of the exam.  The next batch of tasks will take a few hours to show up on your evaluation platform, so take a break while you are waiting.
Part 2 Page Quality
In this section you will evaluate a webpage, fill out the online form that is only mentioned in the guidelines, and give your rating of the page. 
As with Part 1, you are allowed to refer to the Guidelines while doing the evaluation.  It is advisable that you use this resource.  Take your time and think about what you are doing.  How well does this page achieve its purpose?
Note: the email about Part 2 that you receive says: Comments within the tasks are not required for the exam and will not be read. However, if you don’t put anything in the comments box when you submit the task you may get an error asking you to comment. So if this happens just put something in the comments box and hit Submit again.
You do not have to complete this part of the exam all in one sitting.  You can take a break by hitting the "Submit and Stop Rating" button when you are ready to submit your rating.  The rest of the tasks will be there when you sign in again.
When I took the exam there were fewer than 10 pages that I was required to evaluate.  After submitting my last rating, I received an email within about 10 minutes stating that I had passed Part 2.
Part 3 Send to Device  
This is a relatively new way of evaluating pages for Leapforce.  When Google decided that webpages should be mobile friendly if they want to be ranked highly on search engine results, Leapforce began evaluating webpages based on how mobile users see them.  The most recent change has been that agents are now evaluating pages directly on their smartphones.  So now in order to be a Leapforce agent you must have an internet enabled smartphone.
To complete this part of the exam you must follow the instructions carefully, there will be a link to a video in your email notice that you passed part 2.  Watch it, do what it says and you should have no technical problems with the tasks.
Note: Here’s a trick if the User Location map doesn’t display properly on the task page (this is a glitch that has always been there and hasn’t been fixed).  If you have a blank map at the top of the task page, hit the back arrow button at the top next to the page address:
This will pop you out of the task, but you will still be on the Evaluation Platform.  There it will say: "Incomplete Tasks" and next to that will be a Continue button.  Click on Continue and your task will come back along with a usable user location map.
Again, you don’t have to complete all of Part 3 in one sitting.  You can use the "Submit and Stop Rating" button to take a break and complete the other tasks later.
You can also refer to the Guidelines while completing Part 3, and you would be wise to do so.
When you have submitted the last task on your exam the only notice you will have is the message:
No tasks are currently available. Please try again later.
This time you will have to wait longer to learn whether you have passed the exam depending on when you finish the last task. For some reason Leapforce waits until after the due date and time before they will let you know whether you have passed.  I got my notice on the morning after the due date.  You won’t be able to start work immediately, once they have all your paperwork and permissions in order you will receive another email letting you know when you can start working.
Much of what is in my older post Leapforce Qualification Exam Advice is still valid, so take a look at it too. You may also like my original post on Leapforce and my 2nd Year Update. Also my latest post on the mental qualities that Leapforce is looking for may help you when taking the exam.

Good luck on your exam!

Monday, September 8, 2014

53 million Americans are working as freelancers!

Join the club, a new report from the Freelancer’sUnion states that approximately 53 million Americans are working as freelancers.  That’s 1/3 of the American workforce and 10 million more than were doing freelance work when the last study was done 10 years ago.  For the purposes of the study a freelancer could be either full-time or part-time and with or without another job or other source of income.

Most freelancers reported that they started freelancing to make additional income.  For some they began freelancing because they lost their jobs in the recent recession and couldn’t find another job.  Some people freelance for more freedom and flexibility.  Millennials (those under 35 years old) were more likely to be freelancing than older individuals.

The internet has made it easier for people to find freelance work.  There are online marketplaces offering jobs ranging from large scale, like Elance and oDesk, to tiny task-based jobs like fiverr, mturk and Clickworker.  Although these jobs are low paying at first many freelancers found clients who contracted their services repeatedly and thus found consistent work and the ability to demand more for their services.  Others just found that small contract jobs were easier to find than a traditional job which  required sending out dozens of resumes and going through the interview process.

Whatever the reason, the statistics show that the way we work is changing. Change brings with it new opportunities and new challenges.  Those who want to be successful must learn how to navigate this new landscape.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How to improve your rating performance with Leapforce tools

Leapforce has several new tools to help agents improve their rating performance.  Every month the agent’s work is evaluated and a score ranging from unacceptable to perfect is assigned.  If the agent has too many unacceptable ratings they may be restricted from performing those tasks they are doing poorly on or their contract may be terminated.  It is in the company’s benefit to retain trained workers so they provide detailed feedback and tools to help raters improve their performance.  It is always in the raters best interest to go over the monthly feedback of their performance and make note of the kinds of tasks or categories they are getting wrong, and alter their future ratings accordingly.

On the agent’s Rater Home Page are visual tools that provide a quick way to monitor performance.  A rater can easily see which categories he might be misunderstanding.  With that knowledge the agent can review the guidelines for just the problem categories.  Another chart also shows whether the rater has a tendency to either over-rate or under-rate the webpage’s quality, so the rater can make adjustments accordingly.

Leapforce hosts a weekly webchat, giving agents the opportunity to ask questions about specific issues.  I haven’t been able to attend one of these sessions as they are held on weekday mornings when I am at my full-time job, but they do make transcripts available and allow agents to ask questions or suggest topics in advance of the chat session.

These relatively new tools that augment the quizzes and examples available on the rater’s home page and the detailed feedback provided as part of the monthly evaluation.  Using these tools, agents should have no problem keeping their performance in acceptable ranges.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Crush It – a review

Crush It: Why now is the time to cash in on your passion,  by Gary Vaynerchuk

With the recent economic downturn and so many people out of work there has been an upsurge in self-employment.  Many people want to start their own business but don’t know what sort of business to get in to.  Gary Vaynerchuk shows us how to cash in on what we are most passionate about in this business classic.

As Vayerchuk warns it will take a lot of work to make that dream come true, but if you are doing something you love it won’t seem like work.

There is a lot of emphasis in the business world right now on Branding; how to make your product or service stand out among the rest.  Whether you are an individual or have a small to medium sized business creating a memorable brand and using it to market your business across all the social media and internet is the new wave of marketing.  Crush It discusses numerous ways to develop a brand and disseminate it across the internet.

The main message of the book is to be true to yourself when creating a brand and deciding how to promote your business.  For example, I’m a writer so blogging is my medium, but folks with great oral communication skills would be great at podcasting.  The key is to find what you are most comfortable with, and that is most likely what you will excel at.

Building a community of followers and customers is what you are trying to achieve.  Your community helps get the word out about your business by sharing your information through social media.

Bottom line, whatever your interest or specialty, there are people out there looking for the information, products or service you can provide.   Thanks to the internet and mobile devices we are no longer restricted to marketing only in our local area.  The whole world is open to us so we have no excuse to not get out there and Crush It.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to be a successful Leapforce Agent

That’s great, you’ve been given a 6 month contract to begin working as a Leapforce Agent, now what happens?   After all your online “paperwork” is completed you can start working and earning money.

Much of the work you will do will be just like the applied part of the qualification exam.  Occasionally when there isn’t much work available, you will see some odd tasks in your Evaluation platform.  These tasks will have their own instructions to follow.  If the task is not very complicated the instructions will appear above the task itself.  If it is a complex task there will be a link to a pdf document that you can read to learn how to complete the task.  I recommend leaving the pdf open on your computer while you do the task, that way you can quickly refer to it when needed.

How to get good review scores

Leapforce reviews its agents’ performance monthly.  Most novice agents worry about getting good reviews.  There is a good chance that your first reviews won’t be very good.  Leapforce is aware of this and they will give you time to improve, but they do expect to see improvement in the first few months.  Leapforce will provide detailed explanations of their reviews of your evaluations.  When you get your review read the explanations carefully and learn from them.  There are also simulations on your rater home page that you can do to improve your skills.

You may occasionally disagree with the reviewer on how they interpreted the intent of the query, but you can’t argue about it so just learn from it and move on.  To be successful you have to learn how to think the way Leapforce thinks.  In order to get consistent ratings from all their workers they need us to all be thinking the same way, they aren’t looking for individuality.

How to monitor your speed

Another issue of concern to new workers is how to be sure that you are working fast enough.  Leapforce will have you change the time on your invoice if you work slower than their average time estimate.  But they don’t measure the time spent on each task individually, rather it is an average of all the tasks you’ve done in a month divided by the estimated time that should have been spent on all of those tasks.  So if you go too slow on some tasks it will even out as long as you work fast on others. 

It is difficult to keep track of your time while also trying to research and rate the webpages in your task. So it is best to not try to keep track of your time, but just be sure you are working efficiently. 

Some tips for working efficiently

  •   Have everything you need nearby before you login to start work
  •  Minimize distractions, turn off the phone, make sure everyone else in the house knows you are not to be disturbed when you are working
  • If you find a fascinating website or video that you must spend more time on – bookmark it and come back later when you are not working
  •  If something happens and you have to stop working for more than a few minutes, log out and log back in later
  • If a particular type of task takes you consistently longer to do than their estimate, don’t do that type of task unless there is no other choice, or at least don’t do those very often

What to do if there isn’t enough work for you on Leapforce

Leapforce does have slow periods when there isn’t much work available.  We agents have no control over that, but there are things you can do to maximize the amount of work you are offered.

  • Keep your review scores above average
  •  Always try to qualify for any new project they announce.  Leapforce will often give agents the opportunity to qualify for new projects.  Qualifying means learning new instructions and guidelines and doing some tasks that are evaluated to see if you can follow the guidelines.  Although this can result in time spent reading the guidelines without pay, if you qualify you will have more work available to you than if you didn’t try to qualify.  The more tasks you are qualified to do, the more work will be offered to you.
  •  Have a back-up plan like Mechanical Turk, Clickworker or freelancing to supplement your income when Leapforce work is not available.

Keeping in mind that I can’t discuss the specifics of how to complete particular tasks, is there anything that you would like me to discuss on the blog?

Thanks for reading Leaving Low Wages!