ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Trouble with

Updated on March 19, 2014

I have been seriously trying to get into freelance writing and translating for a couple of months now. says it is currently the largest website bringing together employers and freelance workers, it boasts almost 10 million verified users, and says that 5 million projects, worth $1.3 billion since 2001 have been posted on the site. Although the rumoured merger of O'Desk and Elance might knock it off from its position as the biggest site, if you are trying to get into freelancing, chances are that you will have come across it.

Below are my impressions about using the site. To get one thing straight right away, is not a scam! It is possible to earn money writing content, software, designing logos or translating. This does not mean that you won't get scammed, if you don't use the site properly.

In addition, there are some problems with the site design. As with most such marketplaces, the employer is king, and the system gives him or her a multitude of advantages. After all they are the people who put the money on the table, and there is no lack of desperate freelancers trying to make a few pennies, no matter how skewed the system is against them.

Milestones offer important protection on Freelancer
Milestones offer important protection on Freelancer | Source

Milestones, Your Basic Protection Against Being Scammed

The greatest fear people have when approaching a site like, is that they will work hard at a project, submit high quality work, only for the "employer" to disappear and never pay up.

There are many stories of people to whom this has happened. Appeals to the site's staff are useless, there is nothing they can really do about this. You can, of course, leave the employer negative feedback, but that doesn't quite make up for doing a lot of work for free.

However, if you use the milestones system properly, you can protect yourself to a certain degree. The employer pays in a certain percentage of the price you agreed on, into the system. You carry out part of the project and submit it, after which the employer releases the milestone, if he is happy with what have you done.

This doesn't offer complete protection, but it does ensure that you don't do the whole project for nothing.

Feedback for Employers and Freelancers, Another Safeguard

Another system that aims to protect both employers and freelancers is the feedback system. Maintaining a good reputation is essential if you are to win projects, of course. However, it is also wise to only bid for projects where the employer has a good reputation.

I certainly would never bid for a project before checking out the employer. If somebody had submitted a number of projects previously, and nobody had complained about them not paying up, then the chances that you will get your money if you do the work well are pretty high.

One aspect of the feedback system that I think is done well, is that the feedback about you is not released until you've provided feedback about the employer. This ensures honesty, people will not give undeservedly good feedback in the hope that it will be reciprocated.

Have you ever used

See results
You can lose money and reputation through no fault of your own if the employer bails on you.
You can lose money and reputation through no fault of your own if the employer bails on you. | Source

Abandoned Projects Aways Hurt the Freelancer

One of the worst aspects of is that if a project is not completed, it always appears as if it is the fault of the freelancer.

Yes, sometimes projects don't go anywhere because of employers. Lets say you win a bid for a project. You accept it and ask the person who submitted the project to set up a milestone payment, but receive no reply. The employer simply goes radio silent, and doesn't respond to any messages.

You are completely correct in not doing the work, and certainly in not submitting it. However, this will affect your completion rate, which is shown on your profile every time you bid for a project.

This is not so terrible if you've already completed many projects, nobody who's been on the site for a while has a 100% completion rate, so you don't look too bad relative to other people. But if you are unlucky, and the employer disappears on your second project, your completion rate drops to 50%, which makes you look unreliable.

An even more serious aspect of the system, is that Freelancer's cut of the project payment comes from the freelancer's money. And it comes out as soon as you accept the bid. You pay 10% of the "earnings" before you start working, if the project goes to plan, you're ok, you will get the full payment for the project when the employer pays. But if the employer disappears after you take the project, you lose money and reputation.

Withdrawing Money from Freelancer

Withdrawing money from is quite easy. If you are in Australia, New Zealand or India, you have the option of a transfer to your account. Otherwise you can use Paypal or Moneybookers. There is also the option of having the money wired to you, although this does involve a fee, whereas the other methods are free.

The first withdrawal does present some problems, because it is delayed by 2 weeks. Apparently this is for your security. The problems arise, because during this time you could need to spend some of the money, if you win a bid for a project, for example. If the money in your balance falls below that which you've asked to withdraw, the transfer will be cancelled.

At any rate, you should always have some money in your account, to pay for bids. You might also require a positive balance if you've opted for an upgraded membership, or if you plan on taking freelancer tests.

The Depressing Ocean of Spam

The most depressing aspect of is that you will be flooded with terrible projects. There are two very different types of employers (and freelancers), and unfortunately the site has found no way of filtering them.

The majority of employers expect to pay peanuts, presumably for fairly low quality work. Writing projects offering $1 per 500 words are fairly common. For the life of me I cannot understand why anybody would agree to work for so little money. Admittedly, in countries with low cost of living, that money might not seem so bad, but you can definitely earn more writing on bubblews, or probably here on Hubpages.

Most of these projects are written in fairly bad English. Those employers also give feedback that indicates a fairly casual relationship with the English language. Presumably they cannot really tell a well written piece from semi-gibberish, and they are looking for cheap content that will pass copyscape (almost all the project descriptions make a big deal of the fact that the text must pass copyscape, presumably copying content from the internet is rife).

Luckily these are not the only projects on the site, there are some people who are willing to pay ok (although still relatively low) money for good content. But having to wade through all the rubbish to find something worthy of bidding on is soul destroying.

The Terrible Problem of Subcontractors on Freelancer

Sometimes it seems to me that the whole site is made up of what I call "subcontractors". These are people who pose as freelancers, but they don't do any of the work themselves.

Instead they have a whole stable of freelancers working for them. Their job is bidding on any project that comes up, they then pass the work to the real writers. The majority of bids on projects comes from these people. You can spot them because they've completed hundreds of projects, and are usually working on about 30 projects at any one time. No person could handle as much work as these people do routinely.

Because of the number of projects they've done, they dominate the bids. Individual people, especially beginners, are usually listed at the bottom, underneath all the subcontractors. They do generally have good feedback, but I really don't think it takes that much to receive good feedback on the site, especially if you take the projects from the "as long as it passes copyscape" employers.

Conclusions is not a scam. It is possible to earn money on the site. However, the overall impression, is of a site where most of the projects posted are extremely low paying, many of the employers have problems posting intelligible project descriptions, and the most active people are the ones who earn from passing the work to other writers.

Decent projects can be found, but you will have to wade through an enormous amount of rubbish to find them.

In addition the site's practice of taking their cut of the payment from the freelancer's balance, as soon as a project is accepted rather than when it is completed, can cause problems.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)