FAQ: What fees do Freelancer.com charge?

29 10 2010

In the next of my post in my series of Freelancer.com Frequently Asked Questions, this time I tackle the subject of Freelancer‘s fees.  What are they? How much do you have to pay? Why are they charged?

From a buyer’s perspective, that is, a person posting a project on the site in order to find freelancers, here’s the skinny:

  • It’s free to join Freelancer.
  • It’s free to post your first project.
  • Each subsequent project you post will be charged $5, but this is a deposit that will be refunded upon selection of a provider through the Freelancer dashboard. Requiring this deposit aims to stop people from posting an ad and then recruiting outside of the Freelancer system, thereby denying Freelancer their commission fees.
  • When you select a provider, you get your $5 back, but are then charged a commission fee which is $3, or 3% of the winning bid, whichever is greater. Freelancer charge these fees as their commission for putting you in touch with freelancers and providing the system for you to communicate. It’s only fair really, they are a business themselves, after all.
  • If you purchase a Gold membership, which costs $24.95 USD per month, you don’t pay any commission. I’d recommend that you do your sums and only purchase a membership if you post a lot of projects every month and the commission is likey to be greater than the cost of the subscription.
  • There are a number of upgrades that you can purchase to make your project more or less visible – details about these can be found on the Freelancer Articles page under Fees and Charges > How much does it cost for employers?
  • Aussies! Please note that Australians have to pay an extra 10% GST on all fees.

Fees for providers (freelancers) are slightly different. Here’s a run down:

  • It’s still free to join Freelancer.com as a provider.
  • It’s free to bid on projects (although you are only allowed to make a finite number of bids. This, I believe, starts at 15 bids per month for basic members and 150 for Gold members, and increases by 1 extra bid for every month that you remain a member “in good standing”.
  • If you win a project, you are charged a commission fee of $5, or %10 of the winning bid, whichever is greater.
  • You may purchase a Gold membership for $24.95 per month. Gold members pay only a 3% commission fee when they won a project. Just as for employers, I’d only recommend purchasing a membership if the amount of commission you are likely to be charged each month is greater than the cost of the membership. In my experience, being a Gold member doesn’t make you any more likely to win a project – it’s your feedback and bid proposal that makes the difference.
  • Aussies pay an extra 10% tax on all fees 😦
  • A sneaky little charge that Freelancer have disguised under “Other Miscellaneous Fees” is that if you receive money in your Freelancer account that is not directly related to a project (say for instance, you receive a tip or bonus, or you do more work for the client that the original bid amount), you will be charged an extra commission of $0.25 + 2.5% of the extra fees paid. The person sending you this money is not charged at all.

Withdrawal fees:

If at any time you wish to withdraw money from your Freelancer account, there are also fees involved here, as follows:

  • To withdraw funds from your Freelancer account to PayPal costs $1 per transaction. I have been unable to ascertain why Freelancer charges this fee or what it is for! (See my blog post on this! Helpful Sheila at her best again!)
  • To withdraw funds from Freelancer to a Moneybookers account is free, BUT Moneybookers then charge their own commission for withdrawing from them to your bank account.
  • PayPal and Moneybookers are not available in all countries, so for some freelancers, the Payoneer debit card may be your only option if you want to withdraw money from Freelancer. But be aware that there are many fees associated with this. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a rip off! You can see the fee structure here. Yes, you’ll notice that if you live in a number of African, Middle Eastern or Eastern Europen countries, it will cost you $24.95 USD to “activate” your card ($9.95 if you live elsewhere), plus it will cost another $2 each time you want to load funds onto your card, and an extra $1-3 “monthly maintenance fee” depending on how many transactions you make. If you’re unlucky enough to lose your card, it’s $12.95 for a replacement, and yet more fees if you use the card in an ATM (even if you just want to check your balance and don’t actually withdraw money from the ATM!).
  • Wire transfer – I’m a bit confused about this method of withdrawal, because when I click through it, it just tells me I can use PayPal or Payoneer. Perhaps this is for people who can’t use PayPal – anyone know?

So there you have it, Freelancer‘s fees. They can be pretty hefty, which is another reason why I urge everyone who wants to sign up for Freelancer to find out as much about it as possible first so that you can decide if it is right for you, before you discover that it’s not for you at all and complain all over the shop! If you have come across any other hidden fees and charges, please do leave a comment and let me know!

The Science Bit: Part 5 – Understanding Down’s Syndrome

26 10 2010

Down’s Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that affects approximately 1 in 700 live births. Normally, people have 23 pairs of chromosomes in almost every cell in their body, but in Down’s Syndrome, something goes wrong and the child is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. In this month’s Science Bit (a bit later in the month than usual, sorry!), I explore the causes of Down’s Syndrome and new research that could provide an answer to this unsolved problem.

Chromosomes are long lengths of DNA that contain hundreds or even thousands of genes, which in turn provide the genetic code for making the proteins that carry out thousands of different functions in our bodies. Normally, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes in almost every cell – 22 pairs of “autosomes”, plus the sex chromosomes; XX if you’re female, and XY if you’re male.

The sex cells, eggs (or oocytes) and sperm (short for spermatozoa), normally have half the number of chromosomes of other cell types. Through a special kind of cell division called meiosis, each egg and sperm only contains one of each chromosome pair so that when one of each of these sex cells combine, the resulting zygote (fertilised egg) has the correct number of chromosomes, neatly arranged into their pairs again. This single fertilised egg cell then undergoes another type of cell division called mitosis in which the chromosomes and cell contents are duplicated, the cell grows and divides over and over again, and packages 23 pairs of chromosomes – identical to the first cell – into every new cell produced.

As miraculous as the cellular mechanisms that give rise to new life are, the process is not flawless, and there are a number of genetic conditions that can arise from faulty chromosomes. One of the best known chromosomal disorders is Down’s Syndrome, in which each cell has an extra copy of chromosome 21. People affected by Down’s Syndrome have the characteristic Down’s features including short stature, a long tongue and sloping eyes; they are also more prone to suffering from respiratory disorders, heart defects, learning difficulties and a much reduced life expectancy.

It has been known for some time that babies born to mothers in their 30s and 40s have an increased risk of Down’s Syndrome compared to younger mothers, and we also know that having the extra chromosome, called “trisomy”, is because the chromosomes don’t split properly during cell division from the fertilised egg cell. So far however, the reason why this “non-disjunction” of chromosomes occurs in older mothers has remained unclear.

New research from the University of Newcastle however, recently published in Current Biology (boo, paywall alert!), may have the answer. Working with mouse eggs, researchers from the University’s Institute for Ageing and Health have identified a group of proteins called “cohesins”, which seem to be important in holding chromosomes together during cell division. They have discovered that, in mice at least, a female’s level of cohesin declines with age, which in turn prevents chromosomes from moving normally such that they become “trapped”. Low levels of cohesin may be responsible for a number of chromosome disorders including not only Down’s Syndrome, but others such as Klinefelter’s Syndrome and Turner Syndrome (intersex conditions both associated with non-disjunction of the sex chromosomes).

It’s far too early to suggest that these findings may lead to a “cure” for chromosomal disorders like Down’s Syndrome, or that they will help to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place, but knowledge of the mechanisms by which cohesin decreases with age could lead to the discovery of ways to prevent this loss. Consequently, this may one day provide reassurance for an ageing population and a generation of families who now tend to have children much later in life.

Outsourcing: a light in the dark

22 10 2010

I was recently commissioned to write this article and have been given kind permission to publish it on my blog, so here it is!

Though we’re slowly pulling out of the recent global economic crisis, small business owners have it tough at the moment. Because customers are making cutbacks, demand for products and services is low, and because suppliers are making cutbacks too, manufacturing costs are high. All this creates something of a downward spiral situation for the small business owner struggling to keep his or her head above water. Increased production costs and reduced demand means that to operate at a profit, a company’s wares must be sold at a higher price, which reduces demand, which increases manufacturing costs…You get the idea.

To avoid increasing the price to customers, another route the small business owner could take is to cut costs in house. This might involve finding cheaper source materials, making redundancies or salary cuts, moving to cheaper premises or switching off all the lights to save electricity. Producing a lower quality product, providing a service less well, and having less capable staff to work with can in itself be damaging to a company’s coffers and its reputation. If only there was a way to reduce overheads, without damaging product production or service provision…

It turns out that actually, there is a way for businesses of all sizes to save money, and the best part is, it involves no loss of company skills, production can be maintained at the same level and quality it always was, and you can switch the lights off in your building without a single employee complaint. The answer is outsourcing.

Outsourcing has long been the preserve of large corporations, for instance the high street clothing retailer who hires factory workers in Thailand, or the electricity company who has a call centre in India (to answer all those complaints about the lights being switched off).  Now, thanks to the power of the internet, small to medium enterprises are now catching onto the idea of outsourcing as a means to reduce staffing costs without losing people numbers, quality or aptitude.

For a smaller business, moving the entire production outfit to a developing country probably isn’t a viable option, but outsourcing individuals or small teams to work for you on a freelance basis certainly is, and the range of niches that they can fill is enormous. Everything from website design and software development, to accounting, legal support, research assistants, data entry, secretaries and, famously on one freelance jobsite, even lion taming, can be outsourced to highly skilled, well qualified people who may be on the other side of your town, or the other side of the world.

Freelancers in low wage countries can certainly offer competitive skill sets at much lower prices than in the developed world, but even within your own country or even your town, the cost advantages of outsourcing are huge. Because freelance workers are self-employed, they are responsible for their own tax and social security payments, and you’re not obliged to provide employee benefits such as annual leave, sick pay or a pension plan. Freelancers are flexible; because they’re contractors rather than full or part time staff, you can hire them as and when you need them, rather than throwing money down the drain on retaining permanent staff when there’s nothing for them to do.

What’s more, many outsourced jobs can be done remotely with just a computer and an internet connection. Your freelancers could be scattered around the world and yet make an essential contribution to your business without ever needing to step onto your premises. So go ahead, switch off all the lights – but leave the internet on.

Research Assistant position advertised on Freelancer.com (Ageing Biology)

12 10 2010

Well, this is a first. Freelancer.com actually being used for a really great job opportunity!

Looking for a research assistant: biotechnology/medicine

Only US/Canada/UK-based proposals will be considered.

Looking for a research assistant for a book. Need a graduate/post-graduate biotechnology/biology/gerontology/biogerontology/biology of aging at one of the top universities

I am looking for a research assistant a non-fiction book on retirement economics and changing demographics. The author is a European expert in the biology of aging and the collaborator has a PhD in English literature from JHU with over 40 years of experience.

The RA will assist the author and the collaborator with the research and provide summaries of scientific articles, analyze clinical studies, provide factoids, statistics, charts & graphs. The research assistant will perform research, provide summaries and extracts from books and scientific papers, conduct interviews, receive, process and integrate data coming from several other collaborators.

– The RA will receive a monthly compensation (Freelancer bid divided in eight equal installments). In the case that the project runs over 8 months, the agreement may be extended.

– The RA will be acknowledged in the Acknowledgments section of the book
– A letter of recommendation will be provided upon successful completion of the project

– PhD, post-doc or post med school student focusing on biology, biotechnology, biology of aging, gerontology, biogerontology and related disciplines top-ranked universities will also be considered
– Physically based in the US or UK
– Ability to contribute ~20 hours a week to research
– Creativity, energy, enthusiasm
– Intimate familiarity with PubMed, Google Books, Census, NIH reporting, ClinicalTrials.gov, etc.
– Access to full-text medical journals
– Familiarity with sources of population survey data (public, non-profit and commercial)
– Knowledge of survey design surveys (inc. estimating the sample size and error) and ability to analyze survey data

Other benefits:
– The author will buy and ship several books and articles related to the subject to the RA that the RA will retain after the project is completed
– The RA will be introduced and will be able to interview some of the leading experts in aging research
– There is a possibility that the RA will be invited to attend high-level conferences that will be paid for by the author
– Some of the ideas that will be presented in the book will require surveys/interviews to be performed. The results of these surveys/interviews may be published in separate papers

This project may be advertised on other resources for graduate students and some proposals may not be visible.

Familiarity with the most recent literature on the biology of aging is a definite plus.

I’ve actually worked with the project owner before – he’s a really nice guy called Alex Zhavaronkov who works on The Aging Portfolio, a database of research projects related to the biology of ageing. I recently copyedited a bioinformatics manuscript that he’s submitting to PNAS (and received glowing praise too! See his recommendation for me on LinkedIn!). I wish I could bid on this project myself – it sounds like a fantastic opportunity and could be done remotely too – but I don’t have 20 hours a week to spare. However, I’d really like to spare Alex from the dross who usually bid on any and every Freelancer project and give him some real contenders to choose from for his project so bioscientists, step up! If you’d like to bid on his project and you haven’t got a Freelancer account yet, be nice and use my affiliate link! 🙂

Freeklancer 2: How not to become a teacher

11 10 2010

A while ago I blogged about a Freelancer.com post that made me chuckle (see “Freelancer, fo’ shizzle“), and today I find another example that made me Laugh Out Loud…and immediately reach for the Report Violation button…

Lesson Plans Assignment

I need someone to help me complete my assignment in my Training and Assesment course. This project will be best suited to someone from an Education background or someone who is also studying in the Education field.

I require Tasks 1 to 4 of the attached Learning Plan to be completed. Please refer to the attached files for details.

For Task 4 you will be required to write a Lesson Plan of your own choice. I wish this Lesson Plan to be written as an ‘Introduction to Photoshop’. As a guide you can use this website for Task 4: http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/photoshop/ig/The-Photoshop-CS2-Workspace/Photoshop-CS2-Workspace.htm

This subject has a online portal which has details to help you complete Tasks 1 to 3. I will give the log on details to the winning bidder.

If you have any questions please ask.

As a former teacher and someone that works in academic publishing, I absolutely abhor this type of so-called “academic project” whereby students request someone to complete a college or university assignment for them, in exchange for money. Alternatively, sometimes people request academics to write college-level essays that are then submitted to an “essay bank” from which students can pay for and download an assignment to “use for research purposes” (i.e., copy and submit as their own). It’s not right or fair, and it completely devalues the whole academic system if someone can pass a degree or a diploma simply by handing over cash to get someone else to write the project for them. While you might escape plagiarism charges on a technicality, it’s still cheating – something that universities and colleges take very seriously. Lots of people work hard for the qualifications – I know I damn well did – so it really angers me to see this kind of project on Freelancer.com, and what’s worse is that people actually bid on these projects!!

With this post though, I really had to laugh at the irony of it: the student in question is taking a “Training and Assessment” course, and the project is to complete lesson plans in teaching computer skills. In other words, this person is studying to become a teacher. What a great role model for his students, eh?!

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