Freelancer: Why get paid FOR work when you can pay TO work?

So I recently moved to Spain with my girlfriend. I don’t speak Spanish (although I am learning, just very slowly) and I have yet to find a job. I’ve only been here a week but I came to terms with the fact that without a basic understanding of the language, finding a job could be quite challenging. So my solution was to find a job online. I’d started looking before I moved out here and had discovered two freelance writing websites that basically allow you to do writing, data entry, proof-reading, etc for people and get paid to do it. Now, my writing ability is at an average level. It certainly isn’t the highest quality but I can manage the basics at least. So off I went and created my profiles on these websites. The first one, called UpWork, has repeatedly rejected my profile from being accepted onto their website. Apparently they have too many people who match my skills and experience level. So I moved onto the follow-up: Freelancer. I entered with optimism and I left wondering why I would ever have viewed it as anything but a waste of time and money. It all sounds perfect in theory but time and time again I learnt a valuable lesson: People are pieces of shit and controlled by either morons or scum…quite possibly both!

So let me admit that there are definitely some positive aspects to the site: For one thing, it seems to be very easy to use and navigate your way around, everything seems to work how it’s supposed to and their systems for finding work that match your skillset are pretty good. Of course, that doesn’t remotely begin to make up for the rest of the bullshit you have to wade through.

First of all, in order to get a job you have to “bid”. Now as a free user, you get something like 8 bids which slowly build up again over time. Every project you bid on will have anywhere between 15-120 other people bidding on it as well. If any of these people has a reputation then it is automatically seen as better than your lack of one. So automatically you start off at a disadvantage. Getting your foot in the door is nearly impossible and you end up having to take on huge workloads for practically nothing. Of course Freelancer offers the opportunity to take their tests in order to display your ability. For example, the most frequent one I saw was a ‘level 1 English (US) Test’ which, even as a UK native, I think I could pass. On UpWork you can take as many tests as you like, all of which are completely free. On Freelancer however, this is not the case. This absolutely basic test costs you £5. That might not seem a lot but just keep track of these small costs as we go along and you’ll begin to see why it’s an issue. Luckily for me (or unluckily) Freelancer were offering a 2 week free trial of their “premium membership” which gives you 300 bids. Considering I had used all 8 of mine up in one day, I figured I may as well agree to the free trial and just make the most of it for those two weeks. I mean if it works out then it might even be worth paying for: this premium membership usually costs £19.95 per month. You apparently receive a list of benefits with it but from what I could see, the only useful items were the extra bids and the shiny orange logo that appears on your profile to display your premium status!

So I got to work bidding on projects, contacting people and trying to make my profile a bit more sellable. I added examples of my writing from my blog, as well as some of my academic writing and I even cut down a research report to make it a bit more manageable and uploaded that as well. So as far as I could tell, I displayed my experience and ability for all to see. I didn’t get much of a response on the first day but on the second I thought I’d found the ideal job. An “employer” wanted me to write 5-6 500 word articles every day, 6 days a week. I mean the articles themselves were hardly riveting but it allowed me to work on my writing and research a little bit and get paid to do so; I wasn’t going to start complaining…yet. The issue with this first person was that they’d asked to take communications off Freelancer which I now realise is a major red flag. At the time, I figured that maybe people preferred to discuss things off Freelancer as the site’s chat function is incredibly annoying and tends to be more of a hassle than anything. So I completed my first article, sent it to the guy and got ready to start the second. This was when I received a job offer from another person. The pay was better, they were going to set up the payments through Freelancer and the articles seemed a hell of a lot more interesting. I figured why not do both? So I got to work on this new article, finished it quickly and sent it to the guy. This is where I started to realise how naïve I had been. I messaged the guy on Freelancer and soon discovered that his account had been closed. I had already received an email from Freelancer stating the amount of money I’d earned from that job so I figured that at least I was going to get paid…no. You see, despite the fact that Freelancer takes a percentage of any job from the employee, that money is taken BEFORE you get paid for the job. I mean if they don’t’ have the sense to see the very obvious solution to this then perhaps they are just a group of people who share one brain among 30 of them. So in essence, I had just paid Freelancer £5 so that I could write an article on headphones. I made my first contact with Freelancer via the live chat function and explained that I just didn’t understand: how could they take money from me if there was no guarantee? Obviously (I say obviously, but clearly you require significantly more brain power than those behind the curtain at Freelancer) the smart thing to do would be to take that “deposit” from both parties and in the event that one side bails or turns out to be a scam, then the innocent person gets their money back and Freelancer keeps the other. That doesn’t even cover the time and effort already wasted. I was in the unfortunate position of still having to do articles for the other guy but I wasn’t about to have my time wasted any further: I told him that unless we did it on an article to article basis, then I wasn’t about to complete any more for him. He started preaching about how he wasn’t a scammer and how I’d get all the payments at the end of the week but considering this was all off Freelancer, I decided not to bother. At least I hadn’t paid any moronic deposit for the opportunity to do his work. I mean if Freelancer can’t even provide any sort of guarantee then I wasn’t going to hold my breath for dealings going on outside the site.

So off I went again, searching for some more reliable sources of work. I quite quickly found a man who needed several pages of text proof-read and corrected. He didn’t have any ratings but he agreed to pay in milestones. So I figured that this time I had nothing to lose. I started sorting through the work, making all the corrections and I messaged him as each page was done. At the start, he had told me that he needed this work completed within 3 hours. I went by that deadline and within 3 hours I messaged him to await further instructions. No reply. I messaged again and again, getting more annoyed with every hour that went by until I just took a deep breath and moved on. So now I’d been scammed out of work but I’d also been scammed out of work without even sending it to the person. Who are these people that go on and just waste people’s time and money like that? I’d just lost another £5 to Freelancer for doing work that I didn’t get paid for. I messaged them via the live chat again to find a solution to this problem. The person I talked to didn’t seem to grasp the concept at all. I mentioned the 3 hour deadline and kept getting responses like “it’s only been 3 hours, they might be busy” and “give it more time”…what they couldn’t or wouldn’t admit was that I had been ripped off. Not so much by this employer but actually by Freelancer.

Finally, I found a job with someone who had high ratings. Was this about to be the moment my Freelancer experience finally turned around? No, no it was not! This individual was going to pay me $2.50 per article (about 250 words each) which is about £1.91, meaning I’d have to do at least 6 of these just to cover the losses I’d made so far on the site. Since only geniuses such as them would charge you a percentage of what you’ll get paid before you do get paid. Anyway, I would have 9 articles to do in total which would at least bring me back up to breaking even. I got to work writing the articles but as experience had taught me, I wasn’t about to do all this work without some sort of guarantee. I messaged this new employer and explained that I’d send him one article at a time and he could release the funds as we go. No reply. I figured I’d write a few more articles while I wait on a response just so I can be ready. He’d given me a deadline of 20 hours and since I’d been busy for most of that, I didn’t have a huge amount of time left. No reply. I messaged him again explaining that I would even send two articles at a time if he released $5 afterwards. When he did eventually reply, it was to complain about the fact that he didn’t want to release the money that way. I explained that I’d already lost money on this site and that I wasn’t prepared to do so again. He just kept telling me to send the rest of the articles and then I’d get paid. A whole day went by of me explaining to him that I’d only send more if he paid me for the ones I’d already sent him. After a day or so, he finally told me that he would find someone else to do the work if I didn’t send it. The most annoying aspect of this wasn’t even doing the work without getting paid: it was that I couldn’t even leave the guy a bad review as he could just respond with an equally as negative one and it would make my profile look horrific.

In the end I did finally get a genuine job. I was hired to proof-read and correct a website and the dude paid me in the end. So you would think that I’d be ending this article on a happy note? Not even slightly. I end this post with a warning: Stay as far away from as you possibly can! Use UpWork or any other freelance website but NOT My only successful job paid $30 and while most of this would just cover the losses I’d made trying to find one genuine job on this site, I still viewed it as a moment of success. I wasn’t any more optimistic in relation to the sites functionality and I certainly wasn’t any more trusting of the staff behind it or the employers hiring on it but still, one tiny moment of sunshine breaking through the grey. To avoid any possibility of losing these funds, I immediately went on to withdraw them. Keep in mind that Freelancer had had absolutely no issue whatsoever in taking funds from my account without actually warning me about it (apparently it’s hidden away in a section of their website) yet when I went to withdraw money, my Paypal account suddenly “wasn’t verified”. So they had been trigger happy in draining some Paypal account that hadn’t been verified but when it came to putting money into that account there is suddenly an issue. Once again, I sought the wisdom of the single brained staff (although maybe I’m being generous in assuming that they have one brain between them) of Freelancer’s live chat support. Over and over again I was told that I’d have to contact Paypal. Now, I had been on Paypal over and over again and hadn’t seen a single issue with my verification. I told a little white lie to this barely functional zombie typing on the other end of the chat and suggested that I’d already been in contact with Paypal. I remarked on how confused Paypal had been that Freelancer would be able to take funds from an unverified account but not deposit them. This swiftly led the cave-dweller to send me a link that allowed me to withdraw me funds. Of course, for security reasons, I was required to wait 15 days before said funds would leave Freelancer. This is yet to happen and I can’t say I’m holding my breath. What I expect to happen is that my account will get blocked or suspended for some ridiculously moronic reason and my funds will be lost to limbo *cough* Freelancer’s wallet *cough*.

To my shock yet not necessarily to my surprise, I ended up being unable to withdraw this $30. What happened? Well, I received a job that would pay me $200. Somehow, God knows why, despite all the failings so far and all the scams, hoodwinks, bamboozles, high jinks, etc that I’d already been dragged through, my brain lit up with excitement. Do I even need to tell you what happened? I guess I sort of do as this was once again a whole new situation that cements just how useless I had received the payment, it was right there on my account and just as I went to withdraw it, it vanished. Gone! Poof! Up in smoke! What happened? The transaction was reversed…not because of anything I’d done (other than fucking hard work) but because apparently the user who had sent me the money had violated the site’s terms and conditions in some way and since his account was now blocked, they had to reverse the transaction. A transaction that cost me $20 to accept in a non-refundable deposit that helps pay the wage of money-hungry troglodytes who have been soulless since agreeing to work for Satan’s website:

So why is so popular? I’ll tell you why: You get people going on to rip off others who are looking for work. Freelancer have little reason to try and solve any of the problems because they make money from people like me. If they don’t even have the common sense to take deposits from both sides in order to cover the losses when one party bails then perhaps they are just a group of people who share a single brain cell among 30 of them. It really isn’t that difficult to organise. I mean you could have both parties put forward say 50% of payment which gets held in limbo. In the event that the work isn’t completed, then the employee loses their deposit. In the event the employer vanishes or runs off with the work, at least the employee gets something to cover the costs of the retarded fee system that Freelancer runs; At the absolute very least, they should wait until payment has been sent and a job has been successfully completed before they start charging people money. Especially since that is what all their information implies as you go through the process. may sound (at first) like the ideal situation for any writers but it’s a black hole full of sick and evil people who only exist there to rip you off for everything that they can. If you want to get some people to write articles for free for you, then by all means, visit the website as the staff there will be more than willing to assist you in your schemes and scams. I’d even recommend you message them via the live chat and explain your plans to them. They’ll probably offer you a VIP membership or pay you to act like a genuine employer just so they can make even more money from the sorry sods such as myself…


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