Escrow Services, Work Tracking Systems and Payment Guarantees
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Work Tracking Systems
Some sites offer special features that allow clients to keep track of how much work is being done by freelancers on their projects. This information is then used to automatically generate billings from the client to the contractor so payment can be made.
These systems, such as oDesk’s Time Tracker and Elance’s Work View, are designed mainly for those doing hourly work. They vary in terms of exact features, but generally involve the freelancer installing software on their computers, which then keeps tabs on what work is being done by the contractor. This data is collected and sent back to the site, where it can be reviewed by the client. The software may take screenshots of the contractor’s computer and even record keystrokes, in an effort to help prove that the contractor has been doing the amount of work for which they are requesting payment.
Needless to say, the use of these systems is quite controversial, and they have been heavily criticized in a number of areas. Freelancers, especially professionals, feel resentment at the idea of having “Big Brother looking over their shoulder”—as I personally have said many times, “if I wanted the boss watching my every move, I’d get a full-time job”. These tracking systems are often considered to be a form of spyware, and they raise concerns over confidentiality for those working on multiple projects simultaneously. There is also much debate over whether it is appropriate to measure work solely by how many minutes a window is active or how many keystrokes are entered.
On the other hand, some contractors like using these systems. They find them a time-saver, and like the fact that sites will sometimes guarantee payment for work if a tracking system is used.
Some sites try to go a step beyond escrow or time tracking to help assuage the concerns of freelancers who use their services. They will actually guarantee payment for work performed as long as freelancers meet certain requirements. This means that even in the event of a problem such as a chargeback against a credit card used to fund a project, the site will pay you anyway.
Payment guarantees may apply to flat rate work, hourly work, or both. Again, though, it’s important to carefully check the conditions carefully, to ensure that you meet all the prerequisites for the guarantee. Some companies, as mentioned above, will use the offer of guaranteed payment to get contractors to use their work tracking software.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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