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!


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.

FAQ: How do I place a bid on a Freelancer.com project?

25 11 2010

I was recently asked this question in a comment on this post, so rather than simply replying to the comment, I’ve decided to give it’s own blog post. Perhaps others will also find it useful!

So, to place a bid on a Freelancer.com project, it goes without saying that you need to register for a Freelancer.com account. You can find out how to do this by reading Freelancer‘s own FAQS, under “About Freelancer.com > How do I sign up?” Please please PLEASE READ the Terms and Conditions, and also the Code of Conduct to make sure that you understand what you are signing up for, and the rules and regulations you must abide by. If you don’t follow these rules, don’t be surprised if your account is suspended!

To bid on a project, you first need to find a project that you want to bid on. When you signed up for an account, you specified which project categories you were interested in – you can only bid on projects in these categories. Visit the “browse projects” page and click on the categories you are interested in to search for appropriate jobs. Alternatively, you can sign up to have emails containing brief details of the projects in your categories sent to your inbox every day, often multiple times a day. This ensures you never miss out on that really great project.

When you have found a project you think that you are qualified for and would like to do, click on the “bid on this project” button to be taken to the bid form. Here, you will need to enter your bid amount, either in US dollars, or the currency specified by the buyer (the person who has posted the project). Your bid must be what you would like to be paid for the entire project – you are not allowed to submit a “placeholder bid” (an approximate or estimated bid). If the buyer hasn’t provided enough information to allow you to judge this properly, you’ll need to ask for more information on the public message board (click “Post message on project clarification board” on the project’s main page). Annoyingly though, you’ll have to check this message board at regular intervals to see if the buyer has replied to you – there is currently no way of being notified of replies. Also worth bearing in mind is that Freelancer does not allow you to place a bid for an hourly rate.

Next, enter the number of days that you would expect to complete the project in, from the day that the project is awarded. You are not duty-bound to meet this deadline, although your buyer may be annoyed if you run over schedule and you haven’t cleared it with them first, but you should try to be as accurate as possible. There is no point saying you can do something in 1 day if you also have other deadlines to meet or the project will clearly take much longer.

The next piece of information to enter is the initial milestone percentage required. This is like a security deposit, except that you don’t get the money in your account straight away. If you are awarded a project with a total value of, say, $100, and you request an initial milestone of 50%, then the buyer should set up a milestone payment of $50 for you, after they have accepted your bid but before you start work. This money leaves the buyer’s account, and is held securely by Freelancer until you have completed an agreed amount of work and the buyer releases it to you.

Underneath the milestone percentage box, there is a check-box that you should tick if you want your bid to be “highlighted”. Personally, I think this is a waste of time and money. All that happens for your extra $1 USD is that your bid appears with a different coloured background and a box around it to make it stand out from the rest. For me, the best way to make your bid stand out from the rest is to write a well-written bid proposal that convinces the buyer that you’re the best person for the job! Please note, if you do use this option, you must have sufficient funds in your Freelancer account to pay for it upfront – you will not be able to use this option if your account balance is negative or zero.

Next is the really important bit: your bid proposal. Actually, what I usually do in the “details of your bid” box is write something like “Please see the private message board for further details of my bid”, and then I put my proposal in a private message to the buyer (check the “Also send a private message to the project seller” box). It’s up to you whether you choose to make your bid private like this, but I do it this way because a) I don’t want other people to copy my bids and b) I post links to my portfolio and I’d prefer not to broadcast these to the world and his wife. Whichever way you choose, your bid proposal is CRUCIAL. The price and turnaround time are of course important, but what will really sell you services to the buyer is what you write here. You need to convince the buyer that you have the best skills and experience to do the project better than any of the others. There are many tips I could give, but my top 3 would be:

  1. Be as descriptive as possible – a one sentence bid just won’t cut it. You need to give details about why you’re the best person for the job.
  2. Write in good English (or another language if this is specifically asked for) – many buyers will be put off by poor spelling and grammar.
  3. Post links to relevant examples in your portfolio, if you have them. If a buyer can see that you have completed similar projects before, this gives you a definite advantage over other people who have less experience. (But be careful if uploading samples of your samples of your work. If you own the copyright, make it clear to the buyer that the samples are not for reuse, and if you don’t own the copyright (i.e. it is something that you have produced for someone else), make sure you have the copyright holder’s permission.)

The last check box on the bid form is the “Notify me by e-mail if someone bids lower than me on this project” box. I never use this as I’m not interested in being the cheapest bidder – I want to be the best bidder – but if you are concerned with price, then check this box.

I hope this helps some of you new Freelancers out there, but please do ask if you have any further questions and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can!

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