Work in progress!

19 03 2011

Dear visitors and subscribers,

I’m planning some changes here on my blog and I’m just writing to let you know that you might experience some disruption while visiting over the next week or so.

Thanks to the huge success of my posts about and freelancing in general, the focus of my blog has diverged somewhat. It originally started as a place for me to showcase my freelance portfolio, and as a place where people who wanted to hire me could find me online. I still want to maintain both my general freelancing and portfolio posts, but I think the time has come to separate these two quite different aims into two blogs.

Because the URL to this blog is on all my business cards, stationery and contracts, will become my portfolio blog. It’s kind of annoying to have to do it that way around, since a lot of my traffic comes from the general freelancing posts, but since the majority of that traffic comes from random searches, I hope that the new blog will quickly build it’s own traffic. The new blog, by the way, will eventually be at There’s not much to see there yet, but if you’re a subscriber to this site for my posts about freelancing, I suggest you head over there and sign up for emails to make sure you’re kept in loop about the forthcoming changes and eventual switchover!

If anyone has an idea for a better name for my new freelancing blog, please comment with your ideas!

A fundamental flaw

4 02 2011

As regular readers of this blog will be well aware, I’m a fairly big fan of The site gets a lot of bad press and most people seem to find this blog after searching for the terms “Is 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 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 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 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’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.

Research Assistant position advertised on (Ageing Biology)

12 10 2010

Well, this is a first. 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,, 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! 🙂

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