Freelancer.com - Ethical Policies, Fairness and Integrity
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If Freelancer.com’s ethical policies are on the weak side, its enforcement of those limited policies is even worse. Simply put, Freelancer.com is near the bottom, among the big sites, when it comes to enforcing its own regulations, and ensuring that clients and contractors follow the rules and play fairly.
The biggest problem area in this regard is illegal and unethical projects, which are present on Freelancer.com in rather large numbers. This is a result of a combination of factors, including: the lack of pre-screening of non-trial projects; how easy Freelancer.com makes it to post a project; the lack of guidance during the project posting process; poor review of projects to find ones that need to be removed; and the general low-end emphasis of the site.
For example, Freelancer.com’s own list of “invalid projects” includes projects related to CAPTCHAs and Craigslist. The former are projects where people are paid to transcribe those little graphical boxes containing scrambled words; the latter are projects where users are paid to post projects on Craigslist. Both are almost entirely used by spammers. However, the day I wrote this up, I was able to find 60 currently active CAPTCHA projects on Freelancer.com and 75 Craigslist projects. Some of these had been up collecting bids for many weeks.
Another common problem area is clients and/or contractors trying to take work off the site. It is surprisingly common for one party or the other to ask to take the project off Freelancer.com, which is bad for the site and also greatly increases the chance of fraud or other problems. Clients who do this are put entirely in the driver’s seat, because they can simply refuse to pay for the work and the contractor can do nothing. Cheap contractors often suggest this as a way to not only avoid paying fees, but to also undercut the $30 project minimum. Those who try to play by the rules lose out, and many of them decide to stop even trying and just “join the crowd”.
The public message board is another area where abuse is rampant and doesn’t seem to ever be addressed. On popular projects it is very common to see contractors trying to promote themselves, advertise their services, or even post entire proposals, to get around the limitation on the number of bids per month. I was able to easily find a public message board with over a dozen spurious comments on it.
As implied earlier, the reporting of problems on the site appears to be low to non-existent. Most contractors simply do not care if clients violate the rules, and vice-versa, if it means they are more likely to get what they want. I have also read complaints from users who tried to help out in this way, but stopped because the site was not taking corrective action.
Despite all of this, the site is actually better now than it was a year or two ago. I think a big part of that improvement is due to the decision to start pre-screening trial projects. These were always heavily abused, and at least now Freelancer.com itself gets a chance to trash them before they get seen by users. That said, it is pretty clear that the company really should start regularly reviewing all projects, not just free trials. If pre-screening all projects is not practical, then at least someone from the company could do regular searches for projects that clearly violate rules, contractors who abuse site features, and so forth.
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Last Site Update: May 18, 2011
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