Freelancer.com is a site that has a lot of jobs, a lot of people, and a lot of potential. However, the interface and overly complex payment and fee systems are dragging it down like a bag of bricks in a river. This is not a recommended site for beginners, as it is very unfriendly to any user who is writing to try and make income. The site gets 2/5 from me.
Thanks, at least in part, to a popular name, Freelancer.com is one of the most well-known sites for freelance writers. They have an almost dizzying array of categories, no shortage of available projects, and in general offer a lot of opportunities. The first freelance site I joined, it isn’t a bad place to supplement one’s freelance income, but it is definitely not at the top of my list. Here’s my review of Freelancer.com, as a writer.
Pro: You sign up as you would on any other site, no filter to “prove” you are a writer.
Con: Other people also don’t have to prove they’re writers.
This is one area that Freelancer is unique in, as the entirety of the site is based on a bid system. A requester will post the job they’d like to hire for, along with a budget. The budget will be expressed on the bid screen as “$30-$250”, or something similar. The freelancer can then browse through not only bids left by other freelancers, but their specified time period as well. If the lowest bid is $100 to be completed in 10 days, you can try to outbid by placing a bid for $90 to be completed in 9 days, and so on.
One perplexing (or perhaps not so perplexing, when one considers the cut freelancer.com takes) thing is that no bid under $30 can be placed. Frequently, and maddeningly, you’ll see small projects where the requester passionately explains that they can pay no more than $20 or $25 for a very small project (sometimes this is reasonable, other times not so much) and can’t accept bids for more than that amount. With a bidding system in place that literally won’t allow that, you have an inherent problem.
Additionally, bidding over the amount you’ll actually accept poses a problem to the freelancer, as the fee taken out reflects the larger amount, not the amount in private agreement between you and the requester.
As an aside here, the bidding process on freelancer.com is much like getting bodily hurled into a tank of angry, toothless sharks. You’ll see the majority of bids come from (and this is being kind!) illiterate “writers” – most of whom are foreign – that cut and paste completely irrelevant information or very poorly spelled text in their bids. I’ve seen excerpts from a dating ad, acai diet drink, and even a list of skills utterly useless for writing, such as a fondness for astronomy and violin music. They will put a vague sentiment, such as “I am ready to work project 4 u. I am Rameesh and I write very good sentences so fast. Please to choosing me4 ths projct” – complete with text-speak and bad spelling intact. Additionally, there are writing “houses”…literary sweatshops, a term I often reference..competing, with hundreds of feedbacks that the individual writer couldn’t hope to go toe-to-toe with. You see, the more feedbacks a writer has, the higher he or she is shown in the bidding list, regardless of what they bid.
Pro: Budget and competing bids are clearly visible.
Con: Can’t bid over $30, Absolute mess of fellow bidders, Heavily skewed towards those with feedback.
This is easily the worst feature of Freelancer.com . For anyone using this site as a first foray into the world of freelancing, don’t be surprised if you get so disgusted you consider just walking away. Writers doing these freelance industry gigs make little enough, but Freelancer.com holds up a multitude of flaming hoops to jump through before you even see what little of your money there is left.
1.) They take your money. Freelancer.com skims 10% off the top of YOUR money, in addition to what they take from employers. If you win and are awarded a bid for a $100 project, they take $10 right away out of your “Freelancer Account” – an in-site tally of what you have. Don’t have anything in there yet because it’s your first job? Well, then you’re looking at an ugly red -$10 before you even write your first word. After you write your piece, give it to the requester, and they approve it, they’ll pay you through the freelancer site. Then, using our example above, your account will show up as a nice green +$90.
2.) They won’t give you your money. Okay, so we have $90, great! The cable bill’s due next week, lets take that sucker out. Uh-oh, what’s this?
After consultation with our users, we’ve moved the cutoff time for weekly withdrawals from 10th June 2009 onwards to 5pm Sundays EDT (New York), corresponding with 7am AEST (Sydney). For your payment to be processed on Mondays/Tuesdays, please ensure your withdrawal request is lodged before then.
The very first withdrawal is delayed for security reasons. First withdrawal by any method is delayed for 15 days since the day, when funds were added to account. Next withdrawals are sent without delays.
Leaving off the fact that it looks like they hired one of the incoherent toothless sharks from the bidding wars to write the thing, from what I can gather this says that the first time you want any of your money, you have to wait for over two weeks. After that, it looks like they have restrictions on what day you can even request your money to get it in any sort of orderly fashion.
Oh, but what’s this? A page to sign up for a pre-paid debit card I can use to take my money out? Well that’s fantastic! Wait, no it isn’t. It’s a scam that charges fees for everything under the sun and takes upwards of a week or two to even give you your money.
Oh, and to add insult to injury? Freelancer.com charges YOU a DOLLAR every time you transfer money to your paypal account, a process that will still take more than 2 weeks, at least initially.
Pro: There…really isn’t any.
Con: Ridiculous wait times, alliances with strange scammy “credit card”, their fees are taken out before you are even paid, fee to transfer your own money to paypal.
This is another real downside to Freelancer.com. Oh, sure, there’s tons of jobs, but if you didn’t have the foresight to select the category that job is in, a minimum of 48 hours beforehand, you can’t bid. Sign up after? Still can’t bid. When you’re signing up, you have to literally click everything you can possibly imagine that relates to your skills – and with a restriction on how many you can select or change (unless, of course, you shell out $20 / month to be a “gold member”) this can be tricky. Say you write marketing copy for the IT industry. Well, if the requester wants copy written, he or she may put it in an IT section because they think, “Hey, this has to do with IT, it must go here!”; obviously, you wouldn’t have signed up for IT work, and you have no chance at that job now.
On the bidding page, there is a “project clarification board” where people post writing samples sometimes, and a way to contact the requester via private messages. I was on the site and had done several jobs over two months or so, and bid on about three times the ones I actually won, and I had no earthly idea how to send these private messages. Eventually, I got hold of support, who guided me to the “Inbox 0/0” beside the requester’s name and I figured it out. However, it shouldn’t take a reasonably intelligent and adept woman that long to find something she was looking for – how about a “send a private message to this requester” hotlink, guys? Don’t you think that’d be slightly more intuitive?
In addition, despite recent posts claiming they are fixing the problem, scam requests like “Need 50 high quality credit card numbers” and countless “jobs” for people to post on craigslist, list on eBay, transfer funds through Western Union, etc abound, making it an unfriendly and dangerous place indeed for the naive newcomer to the site. As a rule of thumb, no requester should EVER ask for your real name, address, phone number, login codes or “act on my behalf ” requests to ANY site, or essentially anything personal about you. If they do, it is a scam to steal your identity.
Pro: Again, not really any to speak of.
Con: Hard to navigate, Have to choose your available skills very carefully, no way to add a skill in order to bid on a job you find, lots of illegal/hacker type jobs listed.