Is Freelancer.com Legit?
Freelancer.com is a freelance auction site. What that means is that employers post jobs or projects on the site and contractors then bid on the projects. Money flows from the employer to the freelancers and the website receives a commission on that money.
On the face of it, this is a legit business model, however you really need to go beneath the surface and look at their hidden costs and dodgy behavior to understand freelancer.com.
I have used the site as an employer for more than 3 years. I would periodically contract freelancers to write medium quality articles. The projects where small and I had no problem finding writers on freelancer.com. At no point did I feel comfortable enough with freelancer.com to do larger projects with them, that would require trusting them with larger sums of my money. About 3 months ago I decided that freelancer.com was just not the kind of site I was willing to work with.
In this article I will share my personal experience with freelancer.com, I will look at their pricing and compare it with similar sites and I will link you to some articles that give a freelancer’s perspective on freelancer.com.
To who can I complain to about freelancer.com
Freelancer.com is an Australian business. If you have a serious complaint or plan legal action against them visit the ACCC. You will be able to get advice there.
Extract from bid
Freelancer.com uses a star rating, out of 5, to indicate how good freelancers and employers are. The rating however is useless, no one ever has less than 4 stars. If you aren't happy with a freelancer and you don't pay them the full amount, you can't rate them.
Because you don't want a contractor to rate you as a bad employer you end up giving everyone 5 stars. What you want to look at is the completion rate. If a freelancer completes less than 50% of their awarded projects, you should avoid them.
Which freelancing site would you recommend?
One of freelancer.com's major competitors Elance charges a flat rate of 8.75% on each job. Freelancer.com has a more complex fee structure. If both the employer and the contractor is on a free account they charge 13%.
Freelancers can only post 10 bids a month, on a free account. Any freelancer that uses the site seriously, would need the $5 a month account (50 bids) or the $10 account (100 bids). If a freelancer has a $25 a month account the percentage commission goes down to 8% and if they have a $50 a month account, it goes down to 6%.
All in all I would consider Freelancer a pretty high cost option. I have also come up against some unexpected fees, when I had a dispute with a freelancer and when I tried to use a different currency, than dollar.
How they got me
Whenever you perform and action like posting a new project or paying a contractor, freelancer.com tries to get you to spend more. So when you post a project there will be a tick box, that is already ticked, to try to get you to pay to get your project more prominently displayed. I am sure a lot of employers miss this and accidentally pay more.
They got me with a tick box like that, which changed my account type to a $5 a month account. I only realised that they scammed me when they tried to draw money out of my Paypal account. That only cost me $25 dollars, but that's how they get most people. By overcharging them with small amounts that aren't worth disputing.
Locking your account
I transferred money to freelancer.com from Paypal. Now as you might know if a merchant gets too many transfer disputes, Paypal may lock their account. Once when I made a transfer to freelancer.com there was an error and I got double charged and then automatically one of the transfers was canceled. Freelancer.com responded by freezing my account. After several emails to freelancer.com and Paypal I was able to get my account unlocked.
If you are an employer and using Paypal you can threaten to dispute a payment to get a refund from freelancer.com. If that payment was made in the last 75 days.
Looking at internet articles, forum posts and videos about freelancer.com there are many freelancers and employers who have had their accounts frozen with a lot of money in them. It took some of them months to get the funds released, if it was released at all.
This is the feeling I got with freelancer.com
So ultimately freelancer.com isn’t a complete scam, in the sense that they steal your money outright. They do however have hidden costs and freelancer.com will take every opportunity to squeeze money out of you. There are many sites that deliver a similar service to freelancer.com and I recommend that you check them out before you consider using freelancer.com. If you do use freelancer.com, you need to monitor your account with them very closely.
If you have had an experience with freelancer.com, why not share it in the comments.