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.

Constructive criticism for Freelancer.com

3 04 2012

No whinging or complaining here please, only constructive criticism and helpful suggestions

I’ve received many a comment on my blog posts, The Trouble with Freelancer Part 1 and Part 2, and it seems that a lot of people have a lot of say about the way that Freelancer.com is run. Fair dues – the reason I wrote that post in the first place was to have my own little rant about my experiences with the site.

Recently however, I’ve had a number of emails and comments from people who don;t just want a whinge and a moan – they want to help make the world of online freelancing a better place. From other, rival companies to Freelancer.com wanting to make their own sites better, to individuals wanting to set up their own sites, it seems that everyone loves the idea of being able to find work online, but the perfect business model has yet to be found.

So, I present this new blog post to you as a platform to post your constructive criticism of Freelancer.com (and other similar sites) and to make suggestions as to what you think could be done differently, done better, or even to applaud the things that you like about Freelancer. I’m hoping that one of our more technogically and entrepreneurially-minded friends will take these ideas on board and help to develop the online freelancing marketplace for the greater good.

I must absolutely stress that the comment space on this post is NOT for complaints about Freelancer – to do that, please comment on this post, or even better, take up your umbrage with the company concerned. I moderate all comments on this site, so please make sure that any comments here are only of the helpful kind.

Over to you…

I, Freelancer

27 03 2012
Image source: http://www.broadband-expert.co.uk/blog/broadband-news/internet-allows-people-to-work-in-their-pyjamas/7710678

Incidently, I rarely work in my pyjamas, and if she's not careful, she's gonna get backache...

I quite often receive emails from people asking me how I got into freelancing, so for my first blog post in almost 10 months (um, yeah…sorry about that but all will become clear!) I’ve decided to blog about my freelancing experience for all to read…

Freelancing for me started when I returned from a year of travelling the world in 2008. Though a qualified secondary school Biology teacher, I fancied trying my hand at something new and so packed my knapsack, Dick Whittington-styles, and set off for London to find those streets paved with gold. Unbeknownst to me, the dreaded ‘credit crunch’ had landed whilst I was busy sunning myself on a beach in Vietnam, so although I did eventually find an editorial job at a science publishing company, albeit a poorly paid one, I spent several months on Jobseeker’s allowance struggling to pay off the credit card debt from my gap year and the steep rent of my new London digs. Searching online for part time jobs to supplement my income, I stumbled across an advert for PeoplePerHour.com and I decided to try it…

I was fortunate in that I was awarded a really interesting project in my area of interest almost straight away, and once you start, get a little bit of feedback and develop your portfolio, it gets easier and easier to win new projects on sites like this. I didn’t make a fortune, but working around my day job, and a long-ish distance relationship, I made a few extra quid to help me make ends meet.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to move away from London and set up home with my boyfriend, who’s from the Midlands. Fortunately, my employer allowed me to continue in my publishing job, but working from home on a freelance contract. This was a godsend. During my time in London, I had developed a real love of science communication, and there is no way that I would have been able to find another position in the same industry in the middle of rural Warwickshire. It also meant that I had a steady and semi-secure income, and working from home gave me that extra time and flexibility to seek out other freelance projects. I started blogging about my experiences, which led to more work, and eventually I built up a fairly large client base. Success!

Sadly, the publishing house eventually made redundancies and let me go. I was fully prepared to take the plunge and try to make it on my own, without that safety net, but actually life had a different plan for me…One of my other freelance clients, a medical communications agency, heard that I was being made redundant and offered me a permanent, full time job! I was made redundant on a Friday and started the new job the next Monday – I have been very lucky!

My new job is pretty hectic and doesn’t give me much time to freelance (or blog!) any more, plus it’s much better paid so I don’t have the money worries I used to have. Nevertheless, I still can’t quite give up freelancing completely; there’s something really exciting about being your own boss, working on projects that you enjoy and that feeling that you have been chosen to work on a project because you are really good at what you do.

Would I recommend freelancing as a career move? Yes, but not for everyone. I will blog again soon about the benefits and drawbacks of being self-employed and working from home, but in short, freelancing will only work for you as a lucrative venture if you are prepared to put in plenty of hard work.

FAQ: Why can’t I withdraw my full £ GBP balance from Freelancer.com?

11 03 2011

Until recently, Freelancer.com only operated in US dollars, but with the company’s acquisition of various smaller freelancing sites around the world, it’s now possible to do business in other currencies including British pounds, Australian dollars and euros. This is great news for users of the site who don’t use US dollars in their home country, as it reduces the effect of fluctuating exchange rates and minimises conversion fees when withdrawing to PayPal or Moneybookers.

I recently completed my first project in British pounds, but hit a stumbling block when I tried to withdraw the funds from my Freelancer account to PayPal. I had £45 in my account, but when I requested to withdraw £45, an error message flashed up on screen saying, “ERRORS OCCURED – Withdrawal amount cannot be more than overall balance”. Huh?

Although Freelancer takes a £1 fee for PayPal withdrawals, this is usually deducted after you have requested the balance, i.e. you request to withdraw £45 and you receive £44 in your PayPal account. If I entered an amount of £44, this was accepted, but after the £1 fee, this would leave me with an amount of £1 in my account.That’s my pound! I want it!

I queried this situation with Freelancer Support and for once I received a straight answer! Helpful Shane said, “It appears that there is a bug in our system caused by the rounding of fees.” To remedy this situation, Helpful Shane deposited 1p into my account, making my balance £45.01, which has now allowed me to withdraw the full £45 that I earned. Hurrah!

I’m not sure if this happens if you try to request a withdrawal in other currencies, or if the same thing happens if you use Moneybookers or another withdrawal method, but if you’ve experienced the same thing, please leave a comment here to help and advise others. If this happens to you, contact Freelancer Support (customer-support@freelancer.com) and they will be able to help you. An engineering team are allegedly working to fix this problem so hopefully it won’t be an issue for too much longer.

FAQ: Public and private messages on Freelancer.com – what are they for?

9 02 2011

OK, so I’m not *loving* Freelancer.com right now, and I won’t be fully au fait with them until they have implemented the compulsory milestone payment feature they promised me in response to my last post so that freelancers don’t have to take a gamble every time they bid on and accept a project. But I am OK with them again, so it’s time for another FAQ session. This week, I’m talking about the public and private message boards on Freelancer.com, and what they are for. And what they definitely are NOT for.

First of all, the public message boards. Each project description page, say for instance, this one, has a link to a “project clarification board” – that’s the proper name for the public message board, and it’s an important name. This message board is where you’re supposed to ask questions to clarify details about the project before you place a bid. In theory, the buyer is supposed to read the comments on this message board and answer any questions that potential bidders might have so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to bid, and if so, how much to bid. That’s it. That’s all this board is for.

Here’s what the clarification board (public message board) is NOT for:

  • Placing a bid. Bids MUST be placed via the proper bid form (the blue button on the other side of the page, where it says “Bid on this project”). If you place a bid on this message board, you’re breaking terms and conditions and could be suspended. Regular freelancer members have a finite number of bids that they can make per month, so this rule is to stop people who have spent their bids from trying to get an extra chance or ten (TIP: if you find yourself running out of bids each month, upgrade to Gold membership – you’ll get unlimited bids for a monthly fee). Also please note that there is a minimum bid amount of $30. You cannot bid lower than that, so bidding on the public message board is not a good way to get around this!
  • Uploading your samples. I actually don’t really know why there is the facility to upload files to the public message board – I don’t see any need for it and it can actually be damaging for freelancers to do so. People who post samples here should realise that because the board is public, ANYONE can access and download those files. ANYONE. Even people who are not registered Freelancer users. Even people who might collect samples and republish them elsewhere without your permission. Even (*gasp!*) buyers who might take your work without asking and not pay for it!
  • Uploading your CV (résumé). As above, remember that ANYONE can view files that are posted to the public message boards, so if your résumé contains your email address, your date or birth, your home address, etc etc, these all have the potential to be collected and abused by less scrupulous folk. This also breaks the next rule about…
  • Posting your contact details. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it is against Freelancer’s rules to post your contact information ANYWHERE on the site, other than when you first register for an account. Contact information includes your email address, phone number, home address, instant messenger ID or any other way that someone might be able to contact you other than through the Freelancer site. It even includes not-so-cunningly disguised email addresses such as “name at domain dot com”. The reason? Freelancer have been clever enough and kind enough to provide the infrastructure for you to find work by hooking you up with employers. If you contact them outside of Freelancer, you dodge having to pay Freelancer’s commission fees if you win a project. Like it or not, Freelancer, as a business, are entitled to make money, just like you, so pay the darn commission fees and bid/accept bids properly! If you don’t, well then don’t be surprised if your account is suspended, much like the idiot featured in this Freelancer blog post.
  • Posting a project or advertising another website. I’ve seen this quite a lot lately. Buyers who don’t want to play by the rules or pay Freelancer’s fees, instead try advertising a project on the public message board. This not is not only a deliberate attempt to dodge fees, but these users usually have to leave a contact email address or IM ID to get people to respond, so that’s two counts of Freelancer felony! I’ve also seen people advertising their companies, their affiliate schemes or other freelance websites here. It’s not allowed!

Each project also has an associated private message board. This is ONLY available to people who have placed a bid using the designated bid form – you cannot send a private message to a buyer until you have placed a bid. On the bid form, right at the bottom, you will find a little check box that says “Also send a private message to the project seller”. Check this, and a message box will appear and you can tap out your message to the buyer. The message will only be sent when you confirm your bid. If you chose not to send a private message at the time of bidding, you can still do so later by accessing the project from your project table (Projects > My Projects). Thereafter, you can message the buyer in private to your heart’s content.

As with the public clarification board, you are NOT allowed to post your contact details on the private message board! The private message board is “private” in the sense that the message cannot be viewed by Freelancer users other than yourself and the buyer, but it does not mean that Freelancer staff cannot see it! If you post your contact details here, or try to bypass any other rules and regulations, Freelancer have access to all this information – they can and will use it as evidence to suspend your account, just like the guy in the Freelancer blog post I mentioned earlier.

By all means, if you trust the buyer, feel free to post your samples and your résumés on the private message board (but be careful to remove any contact information first) and continue to discuss the project. Remember that even if a buyer replies to your private message, even if they show interest in hiring you, hell even if they SAY they want to hire you – the project is not yours until you have received that all-important congratulations email from Freelancer.com asking you to accept or reject the project AND until you have actually accepted it!

As the saying goes, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”. I’ve told you everything you need to know about the Freelancer message boards – now make sure you get it right!


A fundamental Freelancer.com flaw

4 02 2011

As regular readers of this blog will be well aware, I’m a fairly big fan of Freelancer.com. The site gets a lot of bad press and most people seem to find this blog after searching for the terms “Is Freelancer.com a scam?”. My answer to this is, and always has been “No”. The trouble with Freelancer, or rather the trouble with Freelancer users, is that they don’t read, understand and abide by the terms and conditions. Many people sign up for an account without having read what they are signing up for, and muddle their way along, thinking that this is the next get-rich-quick scheme.  Unsurprisingly for me, but apparently surprising to a lot of people, users who breach the terms -whether they realised it or not – quickly have their account(s) shut down. These people find their way here, or onto one of a number of complaints boards, and rant and rave about how unfair Freelancer.com is, when actually, it was their fault all along.

Surprising though it may be to regular readers of this blog, today I’m going to break with tradition and make my own complaint about Freelancer.com. I have found a chink in their armour; a situation where I find them to be completely accountable for the injustice that befell me today.

So the story goes like this. Yesterday afternoon, I spotted a project on Freelancer.com in which a chap requested editorial assistance with a document that appeared to be some kind of literary academic assignment. He’d posted the document to be edited online, so I could see that it was only very short, and placed a bid for $30. I specified in my bid proposal that I could copyedit the document and return it to him within 24 hours, and also requested a milestone payment of the full balance.

My bid was accepted – hurray! I clicked “accept” and received the official notification from Freelancer telling me that the project had begun. Having received the buyer’s email address, I immediately emailed the buyer, thanking him kindly for awarding the project to me, and requesting again (just in case he missed it in my bid) that he set up a milestone payment for $30.

Then nothing. OK, so it was late afternoon by then, perhaps the guy was busy.

When I sat down at my computer first thing this morning and checked my emails, there was still nothing from the buyer, so I logged into my Freelancer account and checked the project page. To my surprise, I saw that another freelancer was now the selected provider! How could this be?

Of course, my first instinct was to email the buyer, which I did, but I have still not heard from him. I guess he’s well and truly changed his mind, though the other provider he selected placed exactly the same bid and turnaround time, so I’m baffled by his indecision. Anyway, then, for the first time, I used Freelancer.com’s live help chat facility and spoke to a chap called Jeremy. He asked me for the project number and my Freelancer username, then went quiet for about 10 minutes while he checked my story. When he came back, he simply said, “The project was cancelled yesterday”. Well actually no, Helpful Jeremy, as you can see from the link to the project page I just gave you, the project is still open – you can see my bid there – but a different provider has been selected. How can this be?

Helpful Jeremy helpfully said, “I suggest you try contacting your buyer”. Yes Jeremy, I have done that, but he’s not going to refund me the $5 fee I paid to Freelancer now, is he?

Says Helpful Jeremy, “No. Please be aware that we do not refund commission fees. My best advice would be next time for you to request a milestone payment in advance”.

*Head -> Wall x 10*

But Helpful Jeremy, I DID REQUEST A MILESTONE PAYMENT. I specified this in my bid, and that bid was accepted. The buyer cannot physically set up a milestone payment until I have accepted the project, right?

“Yes”. I imagine if Helpful Jeremy had been speaking, not typing, he would have said this in a very quiet voice. Then, helpfully, “I understand your frustration Lisa, is there anything else I can help you with today?”


I fail to see that I have done anything wrong in this situation, and as a result, I fail to see why I should forfeit the $5 fee for being a victim of the buyer’s indecision. The fundamental flaws in Freelancer’s system, as I see them, are as follows:

1) I was somehow “deselected” as the winning bidder, but was not informed by Freelancer.

While I was speedily informed by email that I was the winning bidder of the project, there was no email or notice from Freelancer to tell me that I had been “bumped” as the winning provider. Surely, when a buyer awards a project, and the freelancer accepts it, an agreement of sorts has taken place, and it should not be the case that the buyer can simply change their mind and select someone else at all, let alone without the deselected provider being notified. If I had been less careful and not looked at the project page this morning, I could have carried on with the editing work I believed I had been given to do, and been none the wiser. As well as losing my $5, I could have also wasted my valuable time on work that I didn’t have to do.

2) Freelancer does not refund project fees – even if the provider is bumped.

I get it. I get why Freelancer doesn’t usually refund project fees. They say that they are acting as an introduction agency between buyer and freelancer, and once they have done their job and connected the two, what happens next is up to the buyer and freelancer. This would be fine if work ensued, but in this case, the buyer backed out and chose someone else. Surely the buyer should pay the forfeit here, not the innocent freelancer?  What’s more, presumably the newly selected provider has now also paid a $5 fee, so Freelancer has earned an extra $5 here, at my expense, for doing absolutely nothing.

3) You cannot raise a dispute unless a milestone has been created, but what if a dispute arises before the milestone has been created as asked for?

In this case, if the buyer had set up a milestone and then changed his mind, I would be able to raise a dispute. The buyer would then be found to be clearly at fault, and I would be awarded the milestone payment. But, even though I requested one in the bid that he accepted, the buyer didn’t set up a milestone and I am left powerless (and $5 out of pocket).

Freelancer, to eliminate this loophole, I propose that if a provider has requested a milestone payment in their bid, it should be compulsory to set up that milestone at the time the buyer awards the project. Then, if the freelancer chooses to reject the project, the milestone can be returned to the buyer, and if the freelancer accepts the project, the milestone is created and held. If the buyer *then* decides to change their mind, the freelancer can raise a dispute. This seems to me to be a sensible and workable solution to a problem that discriminates against the powerless provider.

Freelancer.com: Why employers should always stay on-site

23 01 2011


Why employers should always stay on-site.

Finally, Freelancer.com have written a blog post (see link above) that addresses the issue of why freelance transactions that use the site should be kept within the confines of the Freelancer.com payment system! It’s something I’ve been banging on about for ages now, and I’m pleased that Matt Barrie (Freelancer CEO) has now addressed the issue.

In his blog post, Barrie highlights an email that he received from one of the many disgruntled Freelancer buyers who had released funds to his provider before receiving the completed work. Unsurprisingly, that was the last he ever saw of his money, and surprise surprise, he never received the articles he had asked for. In his email, the buyer ranted and raved about how he felt cheated by Freelancer.com, upset that they had done nothing to help, and even threatened to help blacklist their name by sending anti-Freelancer propaganda materials to 130,000 contacts!

But Freelancer have this guy by the balls – and I’m pleased that this case has been highlighted. As with 100% of the people  who similarly rant and rave about how terrible Freelancer is right here on this blog, the fault lay with the user, not with Freelancer.com at all. For one thing, the buyer was downright stupid to release funds before receiving any work. Though it’s not unusual to pay a deposit upfront for product creation services, freelancers and their clients in the “real world” will never do so without some form of protection, such as a legally binding contract. What’s more, in this case, Freelancer staff uncovered messages between the buyer and his provider in which he gave his Skype ID and email address (Freelancer felony #1) and revealed “I prefer to deal without Freelancer because there is no point paying them money” (Freelancer felony #2).

If you don’t want to pay Freelancer‘s fees, don’t use Freelancer. Simple. Freelancer.com is a business, just like you, as a freelance sole trader or SME, are a business. They want to make money, you want to make money. For providing the infrastructure to allow buyers and freelancers to connect, and to conduct payments, and leave feedback and develop portfolios, I feel that Freelancer.com are entitled to their commission fee. It’s only $5 or 10% of the winning bid (less if you are a Gold member), and if you trust the buyer/freelancer and want to work with them again, there is nothing to stop you then conducting business outside of the system.

Though Freelancer provide the option to send and receive funds externally of Freelancer, I would strongly recommend that you use milestone payments, at least for the first time you work with someone. By placing a milestone payment, the freelancer can see that the buyer has the means to pay them, and the buyer has that assurance that the freelancer has no reason not to complete the work. If a dispute arises, Freelancer.com can only intervene if you have processed the work through their site.

In summary, the two key messages I would want all Freelancer buyers (and freelancers!) to take home from this blog post are:

  1. READ, UNDERSTAND AND ABIDE BY THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND THE CODE OF CONDUCT! Contravening any of Freelancer‘s terms can result in account suspension – be warned!
  2. USE MILESTONE PAYMENTS (see Service Buyer – Milestone payments on the Freelancer FAQ page) – at least the first time you work with someone, or until you have developed a trusting working relationship. Remember, there is no protection for you or the freelancer if you choose to conduct business outside of the Freelancer.com system.

No place for racism here!

11 12 2010

I am quivering with rage as I write this, but I feel I have to share.

I have just trashed a comment that was left on my blog (on this post) that contained some of the most disgusting, racist filth I have ever read. I’m not going to re-post the entire comment (which is now safely marked as spam and permanently deleted anyway) because the terms and language used were extraordinarily offensive, but the gist of “HindusOutOfUSA’s” comment was that we shouldn’t outsource to Indians, “and if Obama had any sense” – India would be destroyed, “along with Pakistan and Afghanistan”.

Please, please, forgive me for using the F-word on what is otherwise a well-written and professional blog, but WHO THE FUCK DOES THIS IDIOT THINK HE IS?

I honestly and sincerely hope that no reader of this blog thinks that I am racist, or that at any point in any of my posts about Freelancer.com or freelancing in general I have ever insinuated that I am anti-India or incited such disturbed opinion. I’m completely aghast and very much saddened at the thought that someone felt that my blog was the right platform to air their hateful views.

What I have done on this blog is express my frustration, as a Western freelancer, of competing with low-wage workers on platforms such as Freelancer.com, but c’est la vie. The job marketplace is global, especially for remote freelance work, and it’s a fact of life that companies will outsource to where they can get equivalent quality for a cheaper price. My strategy, therefore, is not to sell myself short and compete with my rivals on price – to do so would be unsustainable. Instead, I hope to persuade potential clients that I’m worth paying more for in terms of quality.

I have also expressed disdain for Western companies that are unprepared to pay a fair wage to any freelancer, let alone those in already low-wage countries. Somewhere along the line the emphasis has been put on the “free” in “freelancer” and employers seem to think that we should be grateful to receive a pitiful few dollars for lengthy pieces of work. I am mindful of the fact that people in India and other Asian countries do have lower costs of living and therefore the average wage is remarkably lower than here in the UK, but I would urge all companies who outsource or are thinking of outsourcing to reward high quality with just wages and find the best people for the job, regardless of where they are located. The cost benefits of employing freelancers should come from the fact that you are not responsible for paying employee’s tax, that you do not need to provide them with any equipment, office space or facilities, that you’re not obliged to stump up for holiday pay, sick pay or social security, and that you can employ us for only as long as you need us – not from the fact that we will put up with paltry hourly rates. We won’t.

I digress. “HindusOutOfUSA”, by the way, attempted to justify his xenophobia by giving the example of poor customer service when contacting outsourced call centres; “Have you ever suffered when calling Bellsouth’s customer service and some Hindu girl with heavy accent was just repeating sentences from a script and couldn’t help you with your actual problem?” he asked. Dude, if you can’t understand the accent, try opening your goddamn ears and listening for a change, and if indeed Bellsouth’s customer services team are unable to help you with your queries (which, of course, I am sure you presented in a polite and respectful manner…), the fault lies not with the individual Indian staff, but with the poor quality of training provided by your blessed American company.

Of course, “HindusOutOfUSA” was too cowardly to provide a real email address when he posted his comment (my expletive-filled personal reply to him immediately bounced back),but if anyone cleverer than me with regard to things like this can tell me how to find out who this cretin is so that he can be reported and prosecuted for inciting racial hatred, I’d be very interested to know. For anyone else thinking of plastering my site with racial hatred – don’t. All such comments will be deleted and reported.

FAQ: I’ve been awarded a project via Freelancer.com. Now what?

9 12 2010

So that email has plopped into your inbox telling you that you’ve been selected to complete a project. Congratulations! You’ve clicked “accept” and received your buyer’s contact details. Great. But now what?

Hopefully, if you’ve accepted the project, it means that you’re happy to work for this person. You’ve discussed, via the private and/or public message board, what you are expected to do, in what timeframe and for how much. You’ve been sensible and checked out your buyer’s feedback and Googled their company website just to make sure they’re legit. You haven’t bid on a project that is likely to get your account suspended and, of course, you’re going to play by the rules. In short, this is a genuine project and you are a genuine freelancer, working with a genuine buyer.

The absolute KEY to successful working relationships, especially via a platform like Freelancer.com, in which you might never meet your boss or even speak to him or her in person, is good communication. The internet is brilliant for making good communication possible – email, Skype, instant messenger etc. – but all too often it can fall by the wayside. Impatience gets the better of us, or perhaps we think we know what we’re meant to do without having had it confirmed. The old saying, “to assume makes an ass out of “u” and “me”” rings particularly true for remote working.

As soon as you’ve received that email from Freelancer.com that lets you know your buyer’s email address, use it. Drop the buyer a quick line to let them know that you’ve accepted the project, and send them your contract (and I HIGHLY recommend that you have one. If you haven’t got one yet, try amending this one for your own needs). Tell them that you’re looking forward to starting the project, but you won’t start until you have heard back from them just in case they want to negotiate some points of your contract or give you additional information to help you complete it.

Once the buyer has given you the go-ahead to start the project, and you’re absolutely sure that you know what you’re supposed to do, then go for it, but stay in regular communication with the buyer. Depending on the project size and your specified turnaround time, you might want to send updates every day, every couple of days, or for larger projects every week. Not only does this reassure the buyer that you’re working on the project and making progress, but it gives the buyer an opportunity to review your work, to advise, make suggestions and give feedback as you go along.

Your Freelancer account won’t be suspended if you don’t stick to the turnaround time you specified, but do try to stick to it as closely as possible – if anything it’s good PR for your career and it also makes it easier to organise your own time. If there’s a genuine reason why you will not be able to make the deadline, don’t rush the job or simply abandon it – talk to the buyer and mutually agree an alternative.  You can’t help it if you are ill, if your broadband company is planning line repairs or if there is an emergency that you need to attend to, and as long as you’re open and honest, there’s no real shame in simply being a bit behind schedule, but most disputes and conflicts can be avoided or resolved through good communication. As a last resort, if you have agreed to be paid via Freelancer, you can always fall back on the Freelancer dispute system, recently clarified and improved, but I stress again that this should be used as a last resort.

The final stage of any project is of course the payment part. If you’ve been sensible, you will have agreed how, how much and when you will be paid before you start the project; it’s important to be crystal clear when talking money so that you get what you were expecting to be paid, and the buyer is under no illusions about how much they will be forking out. I mostly work on writing and editing projects, so I will always state in my contract the price that was agreed for the project AND my price per word and/or per hour. That way, if the client decides that they want more copy than they originally asked for, or the project takes significantly longer than we both thought, the client knows exactly how much extra they will be asked to pay. of course, I never write more copy than is asked for without mutually agreeing this with the buyer first!

At the end of the project, I always send my clients an invoice that breaks down the final fee so that they can see exactly where their money has been spent. I ask for payment within 14 days, but am amenable to negotiate this if, for example, the client has a policy of paying invoices at the end of the month, or needs time for clearance from their company’s financial department. Lastly, when payment has been made, I always thank the buyer and send a receipt.

Good communication and a professional approach are two of the most important rules of business. Many users of Freelancer have a lot to learn, and I’m on a learning curve myself, but I hope this will help some of you to make good choices and be successful in your venture as a freelancer.

Freeklancer 4: Urine-denial

1 12 2010

...but is it real?

If you’re a urologist or synthetic body fluids expert, you’ll know how hard it is to win freelance projects. Worry no more! Today’s Freaklancer needs someone to create artificial urine for them – could you be  the person they are looking for?

synthetic urine formultion

looking to create an artificial urine product that looks and smells real and has at least a 2 year shelf life. This product must pass laboratory testing and can not be detected artificial. I am also looking for a detailed way to manufactor this product on a large scale.This project will take time for testing and to assure the shelf life, payment will only be made after i am totaly satisfed with the results. I will provide who ever wins the bid all my research.

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