12 06 2012

Recently, I have started to receive a barrage of comments on my posts about Freelancer.com from people accusing me of working for them or being in cahoots with them, so (at some risk of being further accused of protesting too much!) I thought it was time to address this issue in a dedicated post.

Let it be known, categorically, unequivocally, undoubtably that I DO NOT WORK FOR FREELANCER.COM!

To be honest and upfront, I will tell you what I have done for Freelancer.com in the past:

1) I was once paid by Freelancer staff to write a Wikipedia page. This page is still online, but has had the hell edited out of it by Wiki-geeks such that it is barely recognisable from the article I originally wrote. I also now know that it’s very much frowned upon to be paid to write Wikipedia articles so I haven’t done any similar work for a very long time!

2) I was once paid by Freelancer to copyedit an eBook entitled, ‘How to Boost Your Business with Online Freelancers’.

3) I once wrote two SEO articles about online freelancing – neither of these directly referenced Freelancer.com, although I suppose they were used in some way to promote the site.

Apart from the Wiki page, which I do feel a bit guilty about from the point of view that I hadn’t realised it was improper to be paid to complete such articles, I have no qualms about the other pieces and hope that my readers will agree that this was all legitimate work. I write and edit all day long, and have written many, many SEO articles for other companies, so don’t see why these should be any different. This work was completed on a freelance basis – I did the work, was paid, and that was that. The last thing I was paid for by Freelancer was in October 2010 and I have not done anything for them since.

Moving on….

When I started this blog a few years ago, I was completely new to the world of freelancing. I’d given up my well-paid job to go travelling for a year – by the time I returned to the UK, the credit crunch had hit and, even as a well qualified, experienced university graduate, it took me much longer than I had expected to find a new job, and when I eventually did, it wasn’t particularly well paid. To help pay off my credit card debts and cover the rent, I stumbled across Freelancer.com and decided to give freelancing a go. As many people have found, it seemed to me to be an excellent way to connect with people who required the services that I could provide, that is, writing and editing.

I enjoyed reasonable success via Freelancer, as you can see from the links to the many examples of my work that you will find in the portfolio sections of this blog. After a while however, I began to see some cracks in Freelancer’s shiny veneer. For one thing, the site was awash with people trying to rip others off by posting scams and illegal activities, and many of the genuine buyers seemed to be unwilling to pay more than a few paltry dollars for lengthy or complex projects. I had a few disappointing experiences. For example, one buyer, who paid me very handsomely, asked me to write a report on different types of medical device. I duly completed this, and it was only when he offered me further work that I realised I had unwittingly been writing his university assignments for him! Another guy asked me to edit some articles that had been translated into English from German, and I soon realised that he was simply stealing these articles from a German website, putting them through Google Translate and getting me to polish them so that he could republish them on Articlebase under his own name. Smart plagiarism, but plagiarism none the less!! I put a stop to these projects and made sure I was very careful about who I worked with in future. I also discovered the hard way that Freelancer offers no protection to providers who accept a project and then never hear from the buyer again – your ‘finder fee’ is taken by Freelancer and deemed, somewhat unfairly I feel, to be unrefundable. Above all – and I know there are many who will empathise with me – I had endless battles with Freelancer’s completely useless so-called customer support team!

Despite all this, I still hold to the idea that many of the problems on Freelancer – at least in my experience – are user-generated. Whichever website you use, whether it is ebaY, Facebook, Twitter or whatever, there are always unsavoury types who will try to exploit innocent people. You get people selling fakes on ebaY, spammers on Twitter, and viruses spread through Facebook. Although people complain that more should be done to stop this behaviour, it happens nevertheless, and with scammers becoming evermore devious and creative, it can be difficult to police. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Freelancer shouldn’t try to prevent scammers from posting on the site, but there is a lot that the user can do to protect themselves from falling into common traps (for examples, see my post ‘How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams’).

The other major thing that Freelancer users can do to protect themselves, if indeed they choose to use the site (other freelancing sites are available!) is to absolutely 100% make sure that they understand the Terms and Conditions of use of the site, the rights and responsibilities that come with having and using a Freelancer account, how to avoid account suspension, and what fees are payable when. Many people are quick to cry ‘SCAM!’ because their account has been suspended, when in actual fact this has been a consequence of them knowingly or unknowingly breaking one or more of the rules.

Now to the crux of the matter; my allegiance. Please be aware that some of the posts I have written on this blog, particularly ‘The Trouble With Freelancer’, which remains my most popular and most-commented-on post, are more than two years old, and clearly there have been some changes to Freelancer in that time. From the increasing number of complaint comments I receive, it appears that not all of the changes to Freelancer have been popular or for the better. However, I cannot currently comment or pass judgment on Freelancer simply because I have not used it in over a year. I will give credit where credit is due and say that, thanks to Freelancer and sites like it, I was able to build up enough of a portfolio and contacts database to go it alone. I no longer needed to connect with people through Freelancer, because word of mouth recommendations came flooding in, and people found me through my blog, my business cards, and my self-marketing efforts instead. In fact, I am actually now employed full time by a company for which I originally did some freelance work after connecting with the MD on People Per Hour! I no longer have the time, inclination or financial need to trawl through the hundreds of Freelancer projects sent to my inbox every day to find the very few that are worth me bidding on.

And that’s it. I’m not sticking up for Freelancer, I am not receiving any money or incentives from them, I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not, and I hope by now that I have established once and for all that I am not employed by them. I simply have no recent experience of having used the site and that is why, at present, I am choosing not to agree or disagree with claims that I have no experience of myself. If I had the time, I would happily investigate some of your claims further, but for now, I am quite happy to allow others to use my Freelancer posts as a sounding board and debate forum.

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