It was less than a decade ago (in 2009 to be precise) that this website which has it’s headquarters in Australia got launched. The intention behind Freelancer.com was to create a unique platform for freelancing. Where employers/companies posting work could come in contact with professional freelancers who could get these jobs done. A freelancing marketplace if you may.
Yet over the years several users of Freelancer.com have had such bitter experiences that it is a wonder these guys have lasted so long. And not just that, they have thrived and today they claim to have a user network in over 200 countries thus making them a global phenomenon of sorts. In addition they have been winning ‘Best Employment Site’ awards year after year. Does this mean that they have actually fixed all the glaring loopholes? Hardly. The more things have changed the more they have remained the same.
The modus operandi at Freelancer.com is fairly simple. Or at least seems like. If you are an employer looking to get work done (content writing, website design, graphic art, data entry, marketing) you can sign up with Freelancer.com and immediately start off by posting details of the project including skillsets required, sharing work files, payment options (which could be on hourly basis or a fixed budget) and time frame for completion (Featured, urgent, private or even NDA required) Do bear in mind that the more specific your requirements the higher is the fee that Freelancer.com will levy for the service. As soon as the project is posted you will start receiving multiple bids from freelancers evincing interest to work with you.
Even as you are sifting through the portfolios of the various bidders you realise that Freelancer has already charged you for work that has not even begun. But wait. What if you do not find the kind of skilled professional that you need for the project? Or if you did not complete the bidding process for any other reason? Strangely enough you will get charged nevertheless.
What recourse does an employer have in such a scenario? For starters you could get in touch with the customer service team at Freelancer.com but it will be a futile task as these guys are at best evasive and will keep quoting terms & conditions that make little sense. In most such cases settlement of payment disputes will take forever. Perhaps the folks at Freelancer.com hope to wear you out so that you get very frustrated, give up all hopes and let them keep the money. And this is only the beginning. Of your woes that is.
A large part of the problem lies with the fact that Freelancer.com does not provide any guarantee to either those offering work or those looking for it. Though they do make tall claims that Freelancer.com is the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace with up to 8 million verified users, truth is that once you are on the site nobody is watching your back but you. As an employer it is your sole responsibility to look closely at the bids before selecting the freelancer who you want for the work. Clearly all of this is fraught with risk as there are enough people out there on the site looking to make a fast buck. Freelancer.com suggests that you adopt a method which they like to call Milestone payments where you release payments in parts. Like you could decide to release half the payment only after at least half the work is done and so on. But there is a catch there too.
There have been instances on Freelancer.com where freelancers who have bagged a project have turned around and offered the same work (for obviously lesser money) posing as employers to other unsuspecting freelancers. Another problem is that many freelancers on this site might complete a job by blatantly copying from existing sources on the internet and the employer does not realise this until much later. Now if you thought it is tough being an employer looking to get work done on Freelancer.com it is really nothing compared to what you might have to go through as a freelancer. For those wanting work Freelancer.com has a varied choice of membership options. From Free to Basic, Standard and finally Premium (where you pay 50 bucks a month to the site) What is the difference between them? If you opt for a Premium membership you can make more bids, quote more money as your service fee and build a generally impressive portfolio for yourself.
But all that is of little consequence when the payment itself is not forthcoming. Yes, you read that right. The common grouse that most freelancers have with Freelancer.com is that they do not make payments on time. Even if the assigned task (read project) is completed well within the time frame allotted and in certain instances where the employer has released the funds due but Freelancer.com (for reasons best known to them) refuses to credit the same to the freelancer’s account. Again the freelancer gets in touch with the customer service team at Freelancer.com only to be given vague answers like ‘The employer did not verify their account’ whatever that means. Surely the folks at Freelancer.com had enough time to do all this.
But the truth perhaps is that they really did not bother to do so. Well they surely did not waste much time before they charged you, did they not? But when it came down to having checks and balances in place on the site, precious little was done. Suddenly it dawns on you (the freelancer) that all those weeks of backbreaking work was for nothing. Starting out on Freelancer.com is indeed a steep learning curve. And an unkind one too. Scratch beneath the surface, dig deeper and you will find that there are other bigger issues with Freelancer.com.
Like the whole bidding process which is messy to say the least. And devoid of logic too. Otherwise how is it that for the very same project, bids can range from as low as $10 to as high as $200? Especially if the work that is done has to confirm to a certain quality. As a result of which it is possible that someone new to Freelancer.com can end up getting completely baffled and might not come back to the portal anytime soon.
In conclusion it must be said that Freelancer.com is not really the global freelancing marketplace that it is made out to be. Far from. And regardless of how many languages they operate in, (which is 34) different currencies that they accept, (21) dozens of high profile acquisitions or even the large number of investors backing Freelancer.com truth is that there is a lot that is fundamentally wrong with it.
Be it the way in which the site decides to charge you for the services they offer, lack of clarity when it comes to the bidding process or the lackadaisical way in which the credibility of users is verified, nothing quite inspires confidence. And once you get the basics wrong there is not much that can be done to salvage the situation. No matter if you are a freelancer or an employer, a chance visit to Freelancer.com is likely leave you with a terrible feeling. Of being taken for a ride. Best to avoid Freelancer.com for your own good.
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