Bad Experience With Freelancer.com: How I was Almost Scammed

my bad experience with Freelancer.com

my bad experience with Freelancer.comHow I was almost scammed: Read about my bad experience with Freelancer.com

We often hear writers complaining about the various platforms and freelancing sites that they find work through. Mainly these complaints relate to low pay, unrealistic demands or being scammed by the client. This happens a lot and I am constantly surprised by the low rates that some writers are offered. But the one thing we don’t hear about too often is clients being scammed.

In my case, I am the client, not the writer, and I was almost scammed by someone who I chose to write for me. The outcome actually ended well however what I found was that I couldn’t count on Freelancer.com support AT ALL. I have never seen such a SLOW response from a website. It took 10 days to receive a generic response and they offered no real help! This is why I will never use Freelancer.com again.

Here is the story of my bad experience with Freelancer.com:

I am always on the lookout for good writers.

I have a small list of regular ones and most of the time I am wise enough to only deal with those on my list. I have learned that dealing with new writers can be frustrating and a waste of time and quite depressing quality-wise as it varies so much. BUT from time to time I do try new writers so I can have a larger base to choose from. Plus, not every writer can produce quality work on certain topics so it is good to have a wide selection.

Instead of going to my usual platforms for sourcing a new writer (iWriter, oDesk and PPH mainly) I decided to try Freelancer.

I received a lot of bids on my project and ended up hiring a new writer. Maybe you think that I’m crazy for hiring someone with no feedback but my logic is that they have to start somewhere and I have found a lot of good writers that way on iWriter.

So, I picked this new writer because her profile pic was actually real (not a stolen one from Google, you know the Cosmopolitan model headshots you see everywhere) and her bio was well written.

Then upon hiring her I received a message thanking me and that she would start writing ASAP. English is not my first language but even I could tell that the message was badly written. I could see that it was poor and definitely not the same quality as her bio but I ignored the warning signs and proceeded with the job.

The article I received was actually very good. So I paid and moved on to other things.

2 weeks later I received a message from a lady through one of my sites basically telling me that the article I paid for was copyrighted and she was the original writer. She was hired to write it and was never paid.

I am not a naïve person and quite experienced with working online so I’m not easily fooled. I did a lot of digging on Google and found out that this lady was indeed a writer and she was who she claimed she was. I contacted her and asked her for more details and some proof that she wrote the article in question. She provided me with lots of email copies and screenshots.

The gig she was hired for had the exact same title and description as the one I posted. Enough proof for me to know that she was telling the truth. She wasn’t the person I hired but she was indeed the person who wrote the article.

Basically this is what happened.

I hired the girl through Freelancer. She herself is part of a larger group who works for a boss. The person who I hired is not even a writer; she is just one of the many people hired by the boss to bid on projects on various freelancing sites. She is just there, as many like her, to try and win as many gigs they can.

The boss then hires real writers to actually produce the work but for half or a third of what the original gig pays. Then the article gets delivered to the client through the fake writer.

In this case, the boss didn’t pay the original writer.

The lady told me she was hired to write a lot of articles for him, usually with very short deadlines, and then he didn’t want to pay her unless she wrote even more articles. So she set up a blog where she posted all the articles that she wrote. She also named and shamed the dishonest client. Pretty good thinking on her part.

So I knew the story was true and my only recourse was to contact Freelancer with the story (I had all the screen shots and email discussion with the original writer) and seek a refund. I was stuck with an article that I had paid for but with no rights to publish it.

This had actually happened to me about a year ago on iWriter. In that case, it was dealt with by iWriter support within a few hours. I received a refund, the writer was booted and his account closed and all was fine. I have continued to use iWriter since then and haven’t had any major problems since. Their feedback was great, resulted in a satisfied client (me) and they have made more money from me since.

On Freelancer, the outcome was NOT positive. They took 10 days to reply with a generic response that didn’t address any of the points that I raised. Sorry, but this is just not good enough from a site of this stature and they only replied once I threatened them with a credit card chargeback.

They had no real desire to deal with this issue and no doubt many other clients have, and will, fall victim to this type of scam. My advice is to be very wary of doing business on Freelancer as they are reluctant to acknowledge any problems or issues and do even less to resolve them.

So, I said it all ended well. How so?

A week after the first contact by the real writer, she emailed me back telling me that after a lot of threats she was paid for her work. She promised that she would keep writing for the guy that refused to pay her and he promptly released payment (he needs good writers so that he can continue the scam and win as many gigs as possible).

It all ended well however Freelancer were no help at all. In fact, the situation was resolved outside of the site before they even responded to my support ticket!

The moral of the story: be wary of who you deal with online and don’t expect Freelancer to be of much help if a problem arises.

How about you? Have you had a good or bad experience with Freelancer.com?

Photo credit: Marekuliasz on istockphoto.com

16 comments

  • I mostly used Elance until now (both as a freelancer and as a buyer), and I was quite happy so far with them. But I guess I never had to actually resort to contacting the customer support about an issue, so you never know.

    Sad to know this about Freelancer, it’s one that I’ll avoid from now on.

    Btw interesting about iWriter, never really gave them a try, but I’ll keep them in mind.

  • Thank you! I am facing hiring my first writer, and went to freelancer.com. Do you have any general do’s and dont’s and what to watch out for besides this? I will be needing articles in different languages, and decided to only hire native writers, not those generic indian bidders. But guess you can never be sure!

    • Yes you can’t never be sure. Once you find a few good writers, stick with them, treat them well too. BUT overall, in the last year, my experience hiring writers has been 99.5% positive and problem free. Not just on Freelancer, mainly because of the lack of customer support.

    • Be mindful of writers’ language outside their profile descriptions (e.g. chats), a very good/native writer can speak proper English at any time, and to anyone. I don’t mean to be racist, but many bidders from third world countries are hiding behind stolen profile pics because they can’t accept their English level doesn’t qualify them for anything else but cheap work and try to push things too far. I feel sorry for them and have worked with quite a few before I got fed up, but this is not what freelancing is all about.

      • True, communication is a good telltale sign. Easy to make up fake profil, with a cute picture and paid for bio.

  • Hello Nathalie,

    My name is Eleanor and I am from Freelancer.com.

    I have come across your blog, and I am appalled by the experience that you’ve had on our site, as well as how your first project has resulted in a disaster of events. I’d love to hear more about this experience that you’ve had with us and we value your feedback for us to improve our customer experience. I urge that you send me an email – eleanorl@freelancer.com with your username and I’ll be looking after this and ensure that such behavior is addressed accordingly, so as to prevent things like this from happening again. Thank you and I look forward to your email.

  • Making the most of getting everything resolved to the best that we can. Thanks Nathalie. Working on it.

  • Well, well, well, what a story. This isn’t a very good feedback for this site and doesn’t make me want to hire writers from there. What do you plan do to in the future? Keep working with them or not? That is something I don’t remember having read in this post ;)

    As for me, I mostly use The Content Authority when I order articles and never had any problem. First I check the article and if it doesn’t meet my requirements, I reject it and the writer rewrites it – or another writer takes the job to rewrite it. Since I can check the articles before acceptance, I can also check if they aren’t stolen from else where.

    • I’ll keep working with the writers I know, as long as most are available…. I was looking into adding a few more to my base, but that can wait. I don’t need the stress right now. I am not familiar with the Content Authority, I need to check it out. Sounds like it work pretty much like iWriter (which I kinda love).

      As for stolen content, this article (that started my rant and the blog post) wasn’t stolen in the first place. It was 100% original and this can happen on any site unless you know who you are dealing with.

  • Hello Nathalie,

    Interesting post – I just found it via a Google search – and can confirm this sort of behaviour continues to prevail on the website concerned, now in late December. I registered there only a week ago as a writer, editor and proofreader and, as with PPH and Elance, started to bid for work sometimes at fairly low rates just to try and get my foot in the door. I was undercut on a particular piece of article-writing work which went to someone else for $100, and was then amazed when the successful bidder sent me an invitation to complete some similar-sounding work for $25. She must have seen my name on the list of bidders and decided to try it on.

    Anyway, I’ve seen loads of similar ‘projects’ advertised there in this way and have now realised that it must be a major industry which is clearly permitted to continue despite the experience you reported – clients are effectively lied to, being led to believe that they have entered into a contract with a trusted individual who will deliver quality work for them; and people like the lady you mention in your post are working for peanuts while the ‘middle-men’ pocket the difference. It’s a frustrating thing to observe and I’m not sure if I’ll bother with Freelancer much longer. I won’t be taking it up with them though as it sounds like they’re fine with it happening, and it’s a battle I don’t feel like fighting as a fledgling freelancer trying to make a go of things.

    I’ve made a note to check out iWriter and The Content Authority though, so your post and everyone’s comments have been helpful to me in this regard – thank you.

  • My first history with freelancer started with great hopefully ! i was worked with “workana web site” and i did a lot of project and NEVER had any kind of problem.

    Freelancer.com is a new hope of new project and more money. and when a i receive the first payment, freelancer notice me wait 15 days to Pay, i dont understand … but i wait.

    1 Day before Freelancer finally pay me, they send email saying that will close my account if dont fill the account with information, BUT I HAD FILLED AND LINK WITH FACEBOOK AND LINKEDIN, what more i need do them ?!?!?!?

    i find on google a lot people claiming that was stolen by freelancer, and i started to be afraid ..

    Then, next day, they send a message saying that will not pay me (the money from contrator is in my account) but they not pay me because the work (software) is not legal … wtf ! what is it ????

    I wasted more 1 month working in it.

    Them .. i lost US$ 800,00 without understand nothing ! the money simply was gone …

    The support aways say the same thing .. and it´s all.

  • I am very negative on Freelancer after two tries. In the first try my account was automatically upgraded to a paid account without my consent, I started getting a monthly bill for services I wasn’t even using. In the second try I could not manage to reset my password so I started a new account. This triggered a review where I had to verify my identity. I explained to the freelancer folks that I am in China and all my utility bills are under my wife’s Chinese name. I have no mail with my address on it, everything I do is under my company name: bank, credit cards and so on. As a result I have $240 sitting in a locked freelancer account which my freelancer cannot access. The worst part is the freelancer’s account is also locked up, all his carefully built up reputation is wasted.

  • iWriter is a scam too. If you check the highest rated users, they have been given fictitious 5 star ratings by the same people. For example, I can create two accounts in iWriter, and using one account I give 5 star ratings to the other account for fictitious projects – it’s all a fake!

    And you’re promoting iWriter site because you are an affiliate of them!

    • I am promoting iWriter because I have bought over 100 articles from them (mostly from the same 2 or 3 writers) and the only time I had any issue with them, their CS was fast and helpful. So yes I do recommend them and I also recommend PPH and Odesk and HireWriter based on personal experience. And the point of being an affiliate is to promote products/services we like/enjoy isn’t it?

  • Re iWriter, I’m surprised they don’t have a system for detecting sockpuppets. Then again, they’re not the only site I know lacking in basic housekeeping standards.

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