5 ways to check if your Freelancer is fake

16 12 2013

When you sign up for a Freelancer.com account, you are required to agree to the site’s terms and conditions and a code of conduct, which includes:

  • I will not falsify my own or any other identity and I will provide true and correct information
  • I will not create multiple accounts
  • I will not use the Site to generate false feedback

But some people are abusing these terms of trust and falsify information to try and improve their chances of being awarded projects.

It’s not always easy to spot these scammers, but here are a few tips to help sort the wheat from the chaff.

If you’re thinking of using Freelancer to find a worker, please bear these tips in mind when selecting your provider!

1) Check feedback

A handy feature of the Freelancer profile page is that you can sort a user’s feedback ratings from low to high. Do this to quickly check if a person a) *has* negative feedback, and if so b) what the negative feedback says. Genuine misunderstandings do happen, but if I had the choice of hiring someone with a clean sheet versus someone with negative feedback, I’d pick clean sheets every time!

But negative feedback isn’t the whole story – you also need to check a user’s *positive* feedback! Why? Because scammers sometimes try to hide or dilute negative feedback by having multiple user accounts and using one account to leave positive feedback for the others.

Does a user’s positive feedback come from lots of different people, or do the same usernames crop up again and again? Do those usernames appear on my Watch List of fake profiles? Does this feedback relate to what seems like genuine projects, or are they ‘custom’ projects with very little visible information? Be suspicious!

2) Check a person’s nationality/hometown

To improve the chances of being picked for a particular project, users will sometimes falsify the country flag on their profile. I see this a lot on writing projects where the buyer will only hire people from the UK, US, Canada or Australia.

There are some tell-tale signs. One (surprisingly!) common error is that the user’s profile will give their correct city but the wrong country. Recently I have seen users claiming that Marbella and Lahore are in the UK (Marbella = Spain, Lahore = Pakistan), and Craiova, Brasilia and Mirpur are in the United States (Craiova = Romania, Brasilia = Brazil and Mirpur = Bangladesh).

Another word of warning: buyers can require users to pass an English test before they can bid on a project. In theory, this is supposed to ensure that only users with a certain level of English can bid on projects for which good spelling and grammar is important, and ‘certifies’ a user’s skills with a profile badge. In practice however, the answers to these tests are all over the internet!

3) Google the profile text

Go to a user’s profile page, highlight the first few lines of the description on their overview page, and copy it. Now paste into Google. Any hits?

Of course, you’ll find the various regional versions of that same Freelancer profile page, but check to see if the same text comes up anywhere else; on a LinkedIn profile, or another freelancing website perhaps? If so, do the profile pictures match? Is it the same person, or has the Freelancer user just stolen text from a real person? You can read about a particularly good expose of this scam here: https://lisaamartin.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/beware-the-fake-freelancers/.

4) Check the profile picture

It almost goes without saying that fake profiles often have fake profile pictures. Sometimes these will be generic logos, celebrities (I have recently found Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart loitering as awful writers on Freelancer!), and sometimes they will be stolen from other websites or online profiles.

One thing you can try is to copy the profile picture image URL and run it through a reverse image search such as TinEye or Google Images. Unfortunately, TinEye can’t check Facebook profiles, which is where I suspect a lot of images are stolen from, but it did help me prove that the account Rachel902 was fake and I successfully got it shut down (see here: https://lisaamartin.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/where-did-you-say-you-were-from/).

Another observation… I know there is a lot of global movement these days, but I didn’t realise how many young, pretty, blonde-haired white girls live in Bangladesh and Pakistan….! 😉

5) Check the English

Of course, even people genuinely living in English-speaking countries may not be able to write or speak English well, but if you are looking for an English writer or a proofreader, why on earth would you pick someone with poor skills?

Take this user as an example: writemedown. ‘She’ (is it really the girl in the picture??) claims to be a professional content writer and has all sorts of strings to her provierbial bow. In her resume, she proudly declares: “I won the contest of writing which were held under B.A.C. and holds the certification of excellence in writing.”

This makes absolutely no sense! I certainly wouldn’t trust this so-called award-winning writer to do any work for me! (Or I would seriously question the validity of the award!)

Sometimes the English looks good on the overview page (often because it is stolen from elsewhere), but don’t forget to check other areas of a user’s profile. Good places to look are: any samples uploaded to the user’s resume, any responses they may have given to feedback (especially negative), and the resume section.

Any other handy tips from my fellow Freelancers?





Where did you say you were from?

16 07 2013

My name is Rachel. I’m a reeeeally good writer from India. Honest!

Although I haven’t actually used the site for a long time, I am still signed up to receive Freelancer.com’s project notification emails, which contain a summary of all jobs recently posted in my categories (writing and editing). I don’t often get time to sift through these project alerts (99% of the projects are a load of crap and I have better things to do with my time, quite frankly!) but sometimes, particularly when I am in need of a good laugh to cheer me up, I will have a look at who is posting what, and in particular, who is actually bidding on these ridiculous projects.

In checking out the profiles of my ‘rival’ freelancers, I started to notice a few patterns forming. I should have known really…on a site where pretty much every writing project listed is badly written, under paid, an outright scam or a  complete joke, it appears that some of Freelancer’s 8 million members are not what they seem either…Here are some examples:

Writingpool

‘Writingpool’ is allegedly from London, UK. She has been a member of Freelancer.com for over a year and in that time, to date, has amassed 59 reviews and an impressive reputation score of 4.8. She is a ‘verified’ member in that she has deposited money in her Freelancer account, her email address and phone number are all valid. However…

…I checked out Writingpool’s feedback – most of it is very good, but there are a few less than satisfied customers who seem to share my concerns that this profile is fake:

Writer is incapable of handling the project and have cancelled the project.

Seller claims to be from the UK but is blatantly not. Provided low quality work which I would assume was written with article spinning software, content scraped from wikipedia. Hire at your peril!

Really disappointing. The first batch were clearly just outsourced to other freelancers as the content style was very mixed, the content was terrible, full of very basic grammatical errors and completely unusable. This freelancer provided revised versions, but again the style of content was very varied so clearly these were not produced by the freelancer, but outsourced elsewhere. The content is still of a poor quality, full of poor grammar and not something I can readily use. Not sure who this freelancer actually is, but the quality of work definitely does not match the profile!! Would never use this freelancer again.

Furthermore, the language that Writingpool uses is not consistent with what I would expect from a 20-something Londonite with an MBA – her profile is riddled with grammatical errors that, to me, seem highly indicative of an Asian nationality, for example:

I am writing articles for last 16 years in local UK company and my goal is to provide excellent work to my clients.

Hang on a minute…did you say you’ve been working for 16 years?! Either Writingpool has found the secret to eternal youth (her profile picture suggests she is a young, blonde, white girl who can’t be more than 20-21 years old) or that is not a picture of her! Of course, it may be that Writingpool is based in London, but I have my doubts that she is not who she says she is!

elizabethouse

‘elizabethouse’ has provided Writingpool (above) with no less than 7 glowing reviews, all celebrating her as an excellent writer who delivers high quality articles on deadline (contrary to what some of the more negative reviews have said!). Yet despite Elizabeth Ouse’s very English-sounding name, and her (again) young, pretty, blonde, white girl profile picture, I’m pretty sure that she too is an imposter.

Those tell-tales are here again:

  • a handful of negative reviews expressing displeasure with the quality of Elizabeth’s work, and multiple very positive reviews from a few individuals (fake projects to bump up her ratings?)
  • she addresses herself as ‘Professor Dr Elizabeth’, something that a British person would never say
  • Her spelling and grammar are awful and again, littered with the kind of mistakes that an Asian English-speaker would make

Elizabeth is ‘honest’ about the fact that she is from Pakistan, but that’s probably the only true thing on her profile.

hotline69

Apparently based in London, hotline69 is yet another pretty young white girl (brunette this time, for a change!) who seems to have picked up a decidedly Asian accent in her writing…She has amassed hundreds of reviews and somehow has a rating of 4.7 which isn’t too bad, but if you sort her feedback reviews from low to high rating, you will find that the first 3 pages of reviews are all incomplete project disputes, and the next few pages seem to confirm my suspicion that she’s not British at all. Hotline69 has provided several glowing reviews for elizabethouse (above).

So what’s going on here? I strongly suspect that:

  • The profiles are deliberately written and designed to mislead genuine employers into thinking that these are native English speakers when in fact they all seem to be from Pakistan – the pretty young women in the photos, the Anglicised names,  the boasts of British university educations, etc.
  • The profiles are probably all operated by the same person or small group of people. To give the impression of a good feedback history, these fake profiles are all awarding each other projects – no work or money is changing hands, but they have instead left positive feedback for each other to bump up their ratings.
  • A combination of fake profile information and good feedback scores serves to dupe buyers into thinking that they are safe working with that person. However, when jobs are awarded, they are outsourced to other workers – accounting for the variability in quality that many of the feedback reviews mention. Because of the good feedback, the profile owner(s) can probably get away with selling articles for a few more dollars apiece than they paid for them, thus, given the volume of projects they are being awarded, this seems to be quite a profitable scam!

If I am right, this person or people is/are in direct contravention of at least 3 points in Freelancer’s code of conduct:

  • I will not falsify my own or any other identity and I will provide true and correct information
  • I will not create multiple accounts
  • I will not use the Site to generate false feedback

I’d hazard a guess to say that some of these fake profiles have probably earned a significant income through fake affiliate programme referrals too! I’m stunned that they have been members for so long – I’ve definitely reported these three profiles in the past and yet Freelancer doesn’t seem to have done anything about them.

This practice really bothers me because I pride myself on being honest, open and transparent. When a client asks me to work for them, they expect to pay ME to do the work – they don’t expect me to sub-let and claim that the work was mine. I’m the one with the skills, I’m the one with the reputation, and I’m the one that they want to do the work. If I need to outsource, for example if the client requires a service that I cannot offer myself, I ALWAYS tell the client and check that they are happy before proceeding – it’s just good manners!

Here are a few more profiles I found of freelancers whom I suspect are not quite what they seem. I’ve no doubt there are others!

  • Consultingfirm – Another pretty blonde from ‘London, Pakistan’, according to her profile picture, yet the photo on her Portfolio page is a completely different person…
  • sarasmith – Yet another pretty blonde from ‘London, Pakistan’!
  • Writingspirit – feedback suggests this user is not from the UK as profile says
  • Silverhope – feedback suggests this user is not from the UK as profile says
  • Universalwriter8 – feedback suggests this user is not from the UK as profile says
  • Rachel902 – “i am doing my best for all project..” says brunette “Rachel”. I ran her profile picture through Tin Eye and it turned up 4 results – this picture is apparently of an American college student named Nyla Patterson who entered a beauty contest in 2005. Wonder if she knows she is also a really bad writer living in Mumbai?
  • Contentwriting87 – quick! Someone get Hello! Magazine on the phone! Kristin Stewart is moonlighting as a really bad writer on Freelancer.com!

Please comment below if you have come across any other ‘fake’ freelancers! A member of staff at Freelancer.com now follows this blog and has been looking into some of your complaints – hopefully he will investigate these profiles too!





Does Spelling and Grammar Matter?

8 06 2013
From fangsandclause.wordpress.com

Does spelling and grammar matter? I think so!

It truly baffles me that so many employers on freelance bidding sites such as Freelancer, Elance and People Per Hour are willing to accept substandard writing for their website projects. The number of people paying a paltry few pounds or dollars for article rewriting, article spinning, or even original articles for, at most, $4 per 500 words, is – to me – unbelievable.

Of course, I know what’s going on here: pay-per-click advertising on the cheap. Done well, niche websites and article bases provide a very useful service to people who are genuinely looking for quality information on a certain topic – in fact, I’m writing some health articles for an article base-style website right now. Often however, niche sites are dumped full of cheap, badly written, keyword-rich content that serves little or no use to the poor visitor who has been duped into accessing the site because of a high pagerank. If even a very few of these visitors click an ad from time to time, it can make the site profitable, which is all the owners care about.

Sigh.

What is even more incomprehensible to me is the number of people wanting copy-editors or proofreaders, who choose providers who clearly, from their bids, have a substandard level of English. But again, cost wins over quality: experienced and qualified proofreaders are relatively expensive – the UK’s Society for Editors and Proofreaders recommends a minimum hourly rate of £21.40, whereas non-native English speakers, and even unqualified, inexperienced native English speakers, offer their ‘services’ for well, well below the going rate.

I just don’t get it. If you want someone to write a high quality, error-free article, or to check and correct work for spelling, grammar and punctuation, then WHY ON EARTH would you hire someone who was clearly incapable just because they were cheap!? It’s like asking a chef to build you a house, or going to see a hairdresser for a health check – sure, they could have a go, but would they do a good job? Not likely. If you open a project asking for a copywriter, for example, and you get a very cheap bid from someone who says, “I am experiencing about WRITING task. In your Pm, I give some document which I worked in the past…. If, you think I am the right person for this please assign me now. You won’t be looser” (an example of a GENUINE bid, by the way!), for god’s sake don’t hire them! No offence is intended to anyone from any nationality, it’s simply a case of choosing the right person for the job and getting what you pay for.

Just because someone has a British, American or Canadian (etc.) flag next to their Freelancer profile, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have the skills to do a good job – and the tell-tale sign of inexperience or poor quality is often, though not always, the low price that they are willing to be paid. Equally, if someone is from a non-native English speaking country, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good editor, but for goodness sake employers, you need to do a background check! (As an aside, just because someone has a flag of any nationality on their Freelancer profile doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually from that country, but that’s a blog post for another time…)

So, before I started tearing my hair out and wondering why on earth I bother even being a member of these freelance bidding sites (the jury’s still out…), I was pleased to find encouragement and reassurance from two sources this week. Firstly, I remembered that  I’d posted a poll on survey website Panelbase in which I posed the question, “Does spelling and grammar matter in this day and age?”. Logging into my account for the first time in ages, I was pleased to note that almost 500 people have now responded to this poll, with a staggering 80% agreeing that yes, spelling and grammar always matters. In addition, a further 17% felt that spelling and grammar matters, but it depends on the situation. Phew, it’s not just me then!

The second thing that encouraged me was this YouTube video from Google, which I found whilst browsing the Editorial Training blog. Although Google do not currently include spelling and grammar as a parameter for calculating pagerank, there is a clear trend for lower quality writing on lower ranked pages. In other words, poorly written websites, regardless of keywords or content, don’t do as well in Google rankings as good quality, well written websites, so if you want your website to succeed, you would do well to invest in a good quality writer and/or editor to improve your prospects.

If you are interested in hiring an experienced, high quality writer and/or an exceptional copy-editor and proofreader, click this way…





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.





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 lisaamartin.wordpress.com over the next week or so.

Thanks to the huge success of my posts about Freelancer.com 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, lisaamartin.wordpress.com 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 freelancerlisa.wordpress.com. 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!





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.





method5 software development

8 03 2011

method5 software developmentmethod5 is a Toronto-based software development company with a knack for creating web applications and iPhone apps. They came to me after posting an ad on Freelancer.com and were impressed with the experience I’ve had of copywriting in this field (see the copy I’ve written for similar web design and development firms Moorhead Marketing, Pixel Designer, Kaus Design Studio and Org50.com).

method5 wanted fresh copy for their clean, new site and to “get the message across” simply, without too much jargon, and in a cool, quirky style. I’ve mixed bold type and catchy headers with friendly-sounding, informative text that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet still shows that method5 know what they’re talking about. Since I couldn’t get the phrase, “there’s method in our madness” out of my head while writing this site, I’ve thrown in a few Madness song titles too. I’m not sure if Canadians are that big into two-tone, but method5 seemed to like it!





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?”

ARGH!!

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.








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