Subtitle: Why has my Freelancer.com account been suspended?
Thanks to this post: “The Trouble with Freelancer.com“, written back in February (and to lesser extent its follow up: The Trouble with Freelancer.com II), I’ve received a lot of site traffic from people trying to find out information about Freelancer.com, so much so, that I’ve decided to dedicate a short series of blog posts to answering some of the FAQs that, according to my site stats, bring people to this blog.
But first, for the uninitiated, what is Freelancer.com? Freelancer is one of a number of freelance jobsites that work a bit like eBay, but are for freelancers to find work. Others include People Per Hour, oDesk and Elance, but Freelancer is the one that I’ve found the easiest to use, the most flexible, and the most profitable. People who need workers to carry out a project (called “buyers” in the Freelancer world) can post an advert on the site, and freelancers – or “providers”, full or part-time self-employed people who are looking for work – make a proposal and place a monetary bid for completing that project within a given time frame. Once a buyer has received a number of bids, or after a designated amount of time, they can select a provider to complete that project based on their skills, experience, portfolio of past work, and of course on the price that was bid. Freelancer then provides a framewok for organising payments and, like eBay, gives both buyers and providers a chance to leave feedback at the end of a project. For someone like me, who stumbled upon Freelancer when I moved to London and found that the streets were not paved with gold (certainly not in the publishing world anyway!), it sounded like the perfect opportunity to make some extra cash. Hundreds of employers were almost begging for freelance staff and posting hundreds of jobs, large and small, that I was well qualified for! What a great site!
Unfortunately, like any large community site – including eBay that Freelancer is so often compared to – Freelancer has it’s problems and may even be considered by some to have a bad reputation. But – and here’s the thing – I believe that most of Freelancer‘s problems originate from the people who use the site, not the people who run the site. Just as you get rogue traders on eBay, email hackers on Hotmail and GMail, spammers and malware spreaders on Facebook and Twitter, surprise surprise, so too does Freelancer get its fair share of bad apples, and it’s these people, in my humble opinion, who give Freelancer a bad name and cause its more genuine users to question its worth and legitimacy.
Personally, I think Freelancer is a great site. It is through this platform that I have won the majority of my clients, and many of them now come back to me for repeat business. That said, Freelancer is a great site as long as you’re careful.
I’ve blogged before about the kinds of user-generated scams that abound on Freelancer, and not just scams either, but projects asking people to post spam, and those that I call “sham” projects (it rhymed, ok?) – those people who post poor quality projects aimed at non-skilled, unqualified people who will work for ridiculously low sums of money. You can read what I had to say here: Freelancer.com: How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams. I hope you find it interesting and can use this information to make good choices when bidding on projects.
What I would like to talk about in more detail in the next few posts however, is the other side of the coin: the scams that are perceived by some to originate from Freelancer itself. Note the emphasis on “perceived”, as I hope that I’m able to convince you that these problems are in fact nothing (or little) to do with Freelancer as a company at all.
How many times have you downloaded an update to your iTunes software, Flash player, Abode Reader or hardware drivers? How many times have you bought something online, entered a competition or signed up for a mailing list? Put together, we’ve probably done these things hundreds of times, and yet how many times have you read the software or website’s Terms & Conditions? I’ll put my hands up and say that actually, I rarely take the time to read through the small print. I get the odd bit of spam and the occasional third party marketing email, but nothing too bad ever seems to come of my innattention to the legalese, and I guess many people could say the same. However, this is precisely the mistake that many people seem to make when signing up for Freelancer.
I cannot stress it enough – if you are going to sign up for Freelancer, 1) read the Terms and Conditions, 2) read the Freelancer Code of Conduct, 3) make sure you understand what you are agreeing to and 4) stick to the rules! (And #5, if you want to sign up for Freelancer, use my affiliate link ;)
Almost every single time someone complains that Freelancer is trying to scam them, it can be traced back to a breach of the Terms or the Code of Conduct on the user’s part. I’ve yet to hear a case that can’t be explained in this way. It’s worth noting at this point that sometimes, mistakes do happen. Freelancer might get it wrong sometimes (don’t we all?) but in these rare cases, polite communication can calmly and simply resolve the problem. The most common accusation is:
- “Freelancer have suspended my account for no reason!”
I have yet to hear of a case where Freelancer have, in fact, suspended a user for no reason. Most of the time, an account is suspended because you have failed to adhere to the Freelancer rules, and however petty those rules might seem to you, rules are rules; break them, and you can expect punishment! Here’s a run down of the most common reasons for account suspension and the reasons why that activity is forbidden:
- Posting contact details on the site before a project is awarded. This is forbidden so that people are encouraged to do business within the safe confines of the Freelancer platform. If you contact someone and award or accept a project outside of Freelancer, you’re on your own if something goes wrong. Furthermore, Freelancer itself is a business – you can’t begrudge it trying to make some money for itself. So, by making introductions between buyer and provider and for providing a safe area for this to happen, Freelancer is entitled to its commission fee. If projects are awarded outside of the Freelancer bid system, Freelancer loses out on that commission, so it’s understandable why they have this rule.
- Placing a bid or project on the public message board rather than making a proper bid/advert in the right place. Like the reason above, this helps to ensure that projects are awarded within the Freelancer system. It also attempts to deter spam bids (people who will just bid on anything regardless of their skill, experience or what the job actually is) and stops people from placing free ads. Each freelancer has a finite number of bids per month (which again, helps to prevent bid overload. The number of bids you are allowed increases the longer you are a member), so enforcing bids within the system makes sure that people don’t abuse the number of bids that they make each month.
- Having more than one Freelancer account. It’s not allowed for an individual to have more than one Freelancer account for two reasons (that I am aware of). Firstly, it helps to prevent people setting up projects under different names, then “bidding” on their own projects and leaving positive feedback for themselves. It’s petty, but it happens, and it’s not fair to those who have genuinely earned their feedback rewards. Secondly, it helps to prevent people who have been banned from the site from creating multiple accounts in order to spread their dubious activity and reduce the likelihood of being caught.
- Posting or accepting a project that breaches Freelancer‘s terms and conditions. The most obvious example of this is the “money transfer” project; perfect example here (check the message board too – how rude was this guy to me?!) These “projects” are ALWAYS scams and are strictly not allowed on Freelancer. Certain other projects may also be banned, for example those that advocate something illegal. Posting a project like this will likely get your account suspended, bidding on a project like this will likely get your account suspended. And if you’re stupid enough to bid on a project like this, don’t come crying to me when – shock horror! – the money never arrives in your account, or it is refunded back to the buyer before you can withdraw it!
There may be other reasons why an account is suspended so before you go blaming Freelancer for allegedly scamming you – check very carefully to see what you might have done wrong. If it was a genuine mistake, you should be able to resolve things amicably with Freelancer. Remember, getting angry and writing rude emails never solved anything – clear, calm communications and a little patience go a long way. Remember that Freelancer has almost 2 million users, so I think it’s fair to wait a few days before your query is dealt with!