Freelancer.com — they take away more money than you make!
I would like to start by saying that freelancer.com and similar platforms have given me several projects and some very good long term relationships. I do not charge the lowest rates and still manage to win the few that are willing to pay a premium (compared to other bids atleast) for quality.
I have painstaking maintained an amazing profile with over a hundred testimonials and a perfect review score on all the parameters that they consider. This is what brings me new projects, new clients
Now that said, I come to my last few months with them and why I am suggesting killing a steady stream of revenue. Its not just due to the fraud but also a much stronger reason explained below.
I have realized that online fraud is probably ever growing and it is here to stay. Hundreds of projects asking to make a payment via Skrill (Moneybookers), in exchange for up to double the amount on freelancer, are being posted everyday. This means that a bunch of people have found that freelancer still accepts those stolen credit card numbers that they have in their hands and find ways to exploit people with the same.
I have reported this to freelancer before and got a standard canned response that there is nothing they would do about it. I just felt sad for those who were going to fall for this one but didn't realize I would be the one to be scammed very soon.
Over the last month I have had over 4 project payments reversed. One of them for a project that was completed some 2 months ago. There is not as much as a single email or notification regarding the same. (They do make it a point to send emails if your were not awarded a project and advice you to take one of their paid tests to improve your chances).
When I enquired, they refused to provide any details and asked me to handle it myself. Ofcourse, they choose to forget that their terms do not allow me from ever knowing who the other person is. There is no other modes of payment allowed and you have to take payments only through their platform and they specifically mentioned that they can at anytime and without giving any reason (like in my case) just take out the money. Money earned from genuine projects and hard work!
Now I report this again to freelancer calling on them for tighter security measures. For the charges they make us pay ( $50/month + 10-20% on an average), you would atleast expect them to have a better security system in place! All you get is a standard 'as a courtesy, we will refund your project fees'. Basically they will keep the money they just reversed and not tell you a damn thing about it.
When I planned to move out of it is when I realized a bigger problem. I had grown as a freelancer and earned a reputation that warranted paying the fees that I did. I had built a level of trust that does not come with portfolios of hundreds of projects or testimonials from people on your website. Because, well, there is no authenticity.
But by growing within freelancer, I had neglected forming my offline network. I did have a good client base I had got from there but not enough to sustain without new ones as the work was never regular. I had missed a very important step : creating a brand for myself outside of a third-party platform. Ensuring a good client base outside and ensuring that you use these platforms to only supplement you.
In the worst case, I make a lot of noise and freelancer digs deep enough to find some crazy rule that I had broken which justifies them deleting my account. In this scenario, I am left not only short of all the money I had in my account but also a profile that I had spent years to build.
This is the reason, you too should get out right now! Before its too late and you realize that you have grown so dependent on something that can never really be trusted and which you could loose at any time.
After posting this on social media, Senior Staff from freelancer contacted me and offered a resolution along with a compensation. For future projects, they ask me to contact the support team to ensure that the employers can be verified manually. They have also agreed to improve the transparency and give better insights about the employers.
Shockingly, immediately after that, they told me that I could not withdraw any money and needed to provide proof for projects completed 3 months ago! I gave them most of it including Files, docs, conversations and even live websites for which the payments had been reversed.
Almost a month after the last conversation and no communication from Mr. Michael Severino who had contacted me before and the support team just asks me to 'wait' while they sit on all my project earnings. Guess I learnt the hard way about exposing fraud and issues in companies like this!! Only do it when they have nothing they can take away from you!
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