Freelancer dot com is more interested in getting your dollars than it is in connecting employers with contractors.
Updated 12/20/2013

12DaysOfChristmasUpdate 12/20/2013  Well, Freelancer has improved my outlook of them by putting virtual stuff under my virtual Christmas Tree.  A promotion called “The 12 days of Freelancer” has enabled me to earn a badge and some credits, usable for some of the upgrades normally available for a cash fee.  Let’s see what the upcoming days of Freelancer brings.

Freelancer dot com is a website where employers can find people operating as freelancers to do work for them.   Employer posts a task with a brief description, a budget range, and a time frame, and contractors place bids.  Freelancer will charge a portion of the project payment to finance the costs of their operation.

But, they also have many other ways to collect money from the contractors.  And they utilize some strong-arm techniques to get contractors to pay.

Take Exam, get a BadgeGetCertified

The most prevalent of the revenue generating items is the Exams.  They have a slew of exams, each costing $5 to complete.  Passing an exam will add a special badge to your profile.  It is tempting to go spend the money because the badges should attract employers to your bid as being more qualified than others in the area of interest.  Freelancer even presents the increase in probability of winning a bid based on what badges can be displayed.

A problem is, I have no idea about how effective these exams are in evaluating skills, as I haven’t even taken the US English exam.  And, when looking for income, spending $5 here and there, just to find out, is not an attractive option.

MembershipLevelsOther gimmicks

Membership Levels  There are 5 membership levels ranging from free to USD 49.95 per month.  Without researching what each of the benefits are, here is a short list of features gained by paying more:

    • Per project and hourly fees are less with the more expensive levels.
    • Number of bids per month range from 10 to 500
    • Number of skills in your profile range from 20 to 250
    • Express Withdrawals – Something to do with transferring funds to / from financial institutions.
    • Rewards – I don’t know, it must be the same concept as a credit card company “giving” you something in return for the opportunity for them to charge you more.
    • Bookmarks, Employer Following, External Invoicing – Features I’m sure you can live without.
  •  Ads – I don’t know much about this, but there is a form where you can inquire, and use a slider control to indicate that your advertising budget is anywhere from $1 to $100,000.
  • HireMe2Profile Promotion – Well, surprise, surprise, this one doesn’t cost anything.  They have an html code generator you can use to generate a link to your profile on Freelancer.    You can stick the html on a website, blog, or email.  No surprise that it’s free, because you are advertising freelancer dot com, and you are providing the media (web site, blog, email).

Strong-arm techniques

Today, I wanted to bid on an Android App project.  I clicked the button to place a bid, and (darn, I wish I grabbed a screenshot), I was presented with a notice that I need to do one of 3 tasks before I can bid on a project:

  • Take the English Exam – Job opportunities that require you to pay up front just for the chance to get a job are not good business, from what everyone says.  And, I figure if a paragraph in my bid does not demonstrate my ability to speak my native language, there’s a problem here.  Also, will this trend continue, effectively causing me to spend $5 for another exam just to place a bid?  
  • Invite Friends – This turned out to be the least intrusive and the one I selected.   Freelancer tried to make it intrusive.    They had a mechanism to provide your mail provider and your email credentials, so they could reach into your address book and spam everyone in it.  Fortunately, they also provided a manual method, where you can enter specific recipients.  So, don’t be surprised if you get an email from freelancer on my behalf that goes like this:  “Hi, freelancer dot com is forcing me to  choose a revenue generating action in order to bid on a project.  One of these actions is “Invite friends”.  So, consider yourself invited!
  • Verify Payment Accounts – I had done this with another site, usertesting dot com.  Usertesting is a site where you can do some short web site testing tasks for about $15 per job.  I connected a paypal account with them, because it was clear that money transfer was a one-way road:  from them to me.  With the Freelancer account, the language of the paypal account linkage makes it clear that freelancer can use the paypal account to deposit or withdraw.  I didn’t want them to start charging my paypal account for unauthorized withdrawals, so I didn’t do that.

So, there you have it.  I’m not happy as a freelancer with freelancer dot com.  That is probably because I haven’t managed to win any bids, and that may be because I don’t play along and buy badges and ads  and raise my membership level.