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Freelancers without Borders : The Dark Side

Freelancers without Borders : The Dark Side

This article discusses problems with freelancing platforms, issues created by freelancers, ethics and value of the freelancing work.

Freelancing on one hand promises and indeed provides great outcomes, as an outsourcing platform using online freelancing websites can help you solve difficult tasks at a reasonably affordable prices and timing, and of course there is the possibility of being able to hire talents and skills from all around the world. In this sense the freelancing platforms provide great merits. Yet, in this article, I will not talk about any of the merits rather I will focus on issues and problems, and list several freelancing jobs that I sincerely do not like.
Freelancers without Borders : The Dark Side
Academic Article Outsourcing: First of all, freelancing platforms let people create job postings that are perhaps not illegal, but could never be legal either; i.e. the gray zone tasks. One particular task group that makes me reflect is the outsourcing of academic articles. Basically, you could hire a Ph.D. from an underdeveloped country, and occasionally from developed ones as well, to write your academic articles. This way, you can climb the academic ladders without actually creating any academic outcome yourself. This is wrong in so many levels, yet there are so many requests in the freelancing platforms therefore I believe the fact that freelancing platforms are utilized to hire doctors to write your academic articles is a good example to highlight the academic issues.
Ph.D. Thesis Outsourcing: Taking the gray-zone task of writing academic articles further, you could commission your whole Ph.D. thesis online. Freelancing systems make it easy to hide your motives and identity; as long as you could pay, you could get any service such as this one, which I think the possibility of having your Ph.D. thesis outsourced is not only not ethical but also illegal. By allowing people the ability to post such jobs, I would dare to say that the freelancing platforms are indeed providing a way for crime. But of course, any service which is non-moderated could be easily abused, yet, given their profits I must urge freelance platform owners to have a no gray-zone tasks policy.
University Application Outsourcing: Continuing with the academy oriented issues; writing university applications is a tough task. Thus, there exists many freelancers who would write it for you; simply post your announcement and dozens will bid. This also shows the dark nature of veteran freelancers; as long as you give them money and as long as they know how to do it, there is literally nothing that could stop them; ethics will not stop them, laws will not stop them, the freelancing platform will not stop freelancers to undertake such tasks either; because each illegal task undertaken is more profitable; i.e. to post a NDA enabled job, you pay more.
Buying Votes: Another gray-zone task (a task that looks illegal, but not necessary so due to the gaps in the law; but definitely not ethical), is the purchasing of votes, likes and scores. Basically, you can buy votes; Imagine you take part in a design competition open to public voting. Buy 10.000 votes, and you could be the best designer (also this explains why I am against public-voting design competitions). The price is affordable. Do you need to show off with twitter fans? Buy fans. Need Facebook likes? Buy likes. Most of the gray-zone tasks offered require freelancers to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreements), so nobody will know that you did so. The reason I mention the vote-buying is because it is indeed a very common practice, with so many vendors offering the service through the freelancing platforms.
Freelancers without Borders : The Dark Side
Outsourcing Books: This is a case where you would hire a ghostwriter; i.e. someone, more likely to be an underpaid freelancer will write a book for you, and you will publish it under own name without any attribution or thanks to the freelancer, afterwards you will be attending parties as a proud writer, enjoying drinks and discuss your latest successful book. Well, this is indeed a common practice in the book industry but still, it feels wrong to me, especially when you outsource the whole book writing without any attention or involvement in the matter. There are many freelancers to whom you can outsource books, or at least book chapters, however the problem mainly is for academic book outsourcing; because for some fiction, it is not an issue to hire a ghostwriter; you input your thoughts, and ask someone to fill in the gaps. When you outsource academic writing, someone else is doing the whole job for you; and you would gain academic credits for the publication, and you would not make the research required to write the book so it defeats the purpose of academic writing.
Outsourcing Your Own Job: You have perhaps read it in the news , a guy was getting paid 300 k per year, and he outsourced all his job to an Indian company for 85k. He was caught thanks to his unusual workplace behavior; checking funny videos of cats and dogs the whole day without doing anything useful to the company. With so many freelancing platforms available you too can do the same, and hope to get fired one day. The only thing you get / improve by outsourcing your own job, is outsourcing jobs. If you are a manager, that is a great skill, however if you are a worker, you are simply wasting resources of those who hired you to get good results.
Altering Search Engine Results: The very best SEO experts, say that the best way to get better rankings is through good content, freelancers disagree; they could help you spam the search engines with duplicate content, real but irrelevant thus fake links, do some blasting with their proprietary software. My belief is that not only it would not work, but it would be more likely to harm the actual rankings, especially if they are caught, yet the SEO tasks are very common in the freelancing market-space where anyone is an expert ready to take your money.
Using Machine Translation: Happened to me, can happen to others; one good think about freelancer platforms is you find people from all around the world, and thus they are indeed native speakers, and if you are searching for a translator, you could find a native speaking bilingual translator. That is great for people who want to have their webpages translated but who do not have access to affordable translators, however in a certain percentage of cases, you would not receive what you are hoping for; instead of getting a well-made, proof-read native translation, you could be served by machine translation, and it could be really hard to tell the difference from natural translation, especially if you do not have any clue how the other language is constructed or read. In this case, the money you pay is just a big waste, but if you would also consider other costs, such as potential legal issues, loss of marketing, the issue is more than serious.
No Invoice: Companies now the importance of getting an invoice for what they do, the invoice amount and the potential tax are discounted from the amount to be paid to the state. However, there is no single freelancer that will issue you an invoice; their job is black, in sense the income freelancers generate is not registered anywhere, thus all the payments you do to freelancers shall be done from your personal account, and thus when compared to regular companies they cost more because their costs cannot be deducted from the expenses nor included in the balance sheet.
Abandonment: Imagine you ask someone to do a task for you, you pay the escrow and the guy disappears. This is how working with freelancers sound like; they disappear. Especially, if you pay the money in advance, they surely disappear. The reason they disappear is simple; in most cases they do not read what they are bidding for; i.e. you carefully post your task details with all requirements, but in the end you receive bids from freelancers who do not read your brief but make their bids based on your payment-range, afterwards freelancers who won your bids have a quick look and if the project is going to take a lot of time or relatively difficult for them, instead of apologizing and saying that they cannot do the task, the freelancers would simply decide to cease contact. Reliability is really low since there is not any fees for costs for this bad behavior and the freelance platforms do not care, indeed it is better for them if the freelancer disappears without completing the task, this way you are required to pay arbitrage fees and any payment you did to post the project is foregone.
Copyrights and Legal Issues: I am not talking about the rights to the works done, you got them. The important issue is the blatant copyright infringements done by the freelancers themselves. Most freelancers will make use of copyright-infringing material as a daily basis; this happens especially for web pages, copywriting and similar situations where third party content could be implanted or used within the designs or projects. The reason why the freelancers steal content is simple; it is faster and easier, and furthermore any costs incurred due to legal cases do not affect the freelancers; people will sue you not some freelancer you do not know the name of, therefore the cost of stealing is zero for the freelancer and any design or project that could potentially include others’ images is a potential legal thread to companies who are considering to have their creative works outsourced. Also, it is a common thing to see that the freelancers themselves steal ideas from each-other especially during creative contests.
No Commitment: In most cases, except a few trustworthy ones, most of the freelancers do not care about your cause, your business or your reputation. For the freelancer, the only thing important is the money at stake at that moment. Repeat business is not important, since experienced freelancers usually do not expect someone to hire them twice because of the low-quality work done that is almost below expectations. It is also important that since there is no commitment, you could expect the project you ordered to be sold to other parties at one tenth the fee you paid it for; i.e. imagine you ordered a unique software from a freelancer to make your business unique and efficient, paid 10k. The same freelancer will sell the same software to your competitors for less than 1k, likewise for any similar project, since the initial investment is paid by you, expect your competitors to have the same solution cheaper if you work with freelancers.
Expensive: You might be lured by the low-costs of freelancing, but in reality freelancers are the most expensive workers out there. How come, you might ask, the answer is simple; in many cases jobs completed by the freelancers are so low quality such that you need to re-do the task once again to fix it, in summary you are paying money for nothing, plus you lose time since now you need to fix something that does not work, so you will be most likely to do the job yourself or find a professional, in any case you lose time and money and thus freelancing is expensive.
Dummy Bids: As I told earlier, a significant portion of expert freelancers will bid on your project without reading the very brief you have spent hours to write to be clear about what you want, how you want etc. Of course afterwards placing dummy bids, if they win the bid the freelancers will start arguing with you or start bargaining for money or they might just disappear and cease communication. When this happens, you lose money since it costs a lot to post a bid, and it also costs to go to arbitrage or dispute when someone does not deliver what is promised.
Fake Ratings: Do never believe to the freelancers’ ratings; expert freelance outsources know the concept of retaliation, feedback retaliation is giving negative feedback and scoring people low who gave them initially negative feedbacks and low scores, so expert freelance outsourcers give five-star ratings to all freelancers regardless of how the job is done, and it makes sense: if you give a freelancer low score because he does not deliver results or simply disappear, regardless of the consequences, she will give you a low score, and thus your chances of hiring better freelancers decreases. Since the rating system does not work, it is best to not to believe in them at all.
Deadline Failures: Freelancers do not care your deadlines and will often make sure that you miss them, they will always need more time, and will always have problems; no internet, no electricity, illness or any other cause you could imagine that results a force majeure that you cannot control. Given this, never hire a freelancer for a job that really needs to be completed on time, you will not only loose time, but also money, your actual clients or managers will also consider you as unprofessional as well. Since I had told earlier, freelancers cannot be motivated and cannot be made to work fast; for most cases they will get tons of jobs for cheap prices so that they will always be busy to do your work.
Platform fees: You might consider hiring a freelancer is easy, but it is more often not, you will spent a lot of time learning the poorly built freelance platforms, the etiquette and the street language to work with them. But the most important costs are the platform fees that you are expected to pay for simple things such as posting the brief, highlighting brief, arbitrage, dispute, enabling NDA, and similar functionality. While posting the brief should be paid for, requesting money for arbitrage and disputes, and further requesting a percentage from the job budget are shady work models that the freelancers already accept.
Freelancers without Borders : The Dark Side
Unpleasant: Working with a random freelancer is usually an unpleasant experience since most of the freelancers do not have proper education and lacks common principles including ethics. If you are not a street vendor yourself, you will have hard time communicating with freelancers; they will not respect you, your work, your budget, your deadlines and will not do the work completely or they will not read your brief. Seems harsh but true in most cases, but sometimes you will get harassment and worse you will get blackmailed, so beware. To be frank and sincere, working with some freelancers could on the other hand be a good experience, especially in cases where the freelancer is enthusiastic about the work; expect outstanding job deliveries at a great price, but this is a rare case.
I have already talked about many negative factors about freelancers, their ethics, and the way they do business. However, there exist a lot of good freelancers with superior skills, ethics, high intelligence and good knowledge of what they are doing, and these people are the bright sight of freelancing; they make the whole system work by delivering what they promised within a timely manner and with great professionalism. To find them, you need to pass from the dark rainy streets of freelancing, but once you find them you can expect return jobs with great results. I think most of the issues regarding freelancing could be fixed by improving the freelancing platforms themselves, and hope a better future of easier, reliable and trustable freelancing for all.

This article was added on Monday, 27th of January, 2014 at 05.26 am by author Frank Scott Tags: freelancer, freelancing, freelancers, problems with freelancers. Read our copyright policy here.


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