I’ve been testing out Elance lately for writing jobs. While there is plenty of work there, the majority of the jobs are low paying. Unfortunately, there are a number of scam jobs, as well. A recent scam left many writers reeling from the deception, most were owed hundreds of dollars.
Over my 9+ years of writing, I’ve been scammed a few times. I’ve learned from those experiences, though and this one took me by surprise because the scam artists didn’t follow usual protocol. So, what should you watch for? Here are a few ways to avoid scams on Elance.
1. Check the client’s history. I don’t work for anyone that is not payment verified, but some people prefer to work only with someone who has already paid at least one freelancer.
2. Don’t do free samples. This seems obvious, but people still fall for it. I did in the early days of my freelance writing career, too. Basically, if someone asks you to create a sample to see if you are right for the job, let them know that you would be happy to, but at your usual rate. They should be able to tell from the samples you have provided whether or not you are a good fit for the job.
3. Work for a set fee and use Escrow. Sadly, hourly jobs have no real protection on Elance. They do have a WorkView program that is supposed to guarantee you get paid, but in this recent scam, that did not work. I only work on set rates because of this and also due to the fact that I am up and down all day while I’m working.
4. Check how many jobs the client has posted. You can look at the client’s profile and see if they have posted other jobs, as well as their award rate, or how many jobs they have chosen a writer for. This recent scam had over 50 jobs posted with only a couple awarded. Avoid those who never award or who have more than a handful of jobs posted recently.
5. Do a quick search. If you know the company’s name, do a fast search on Google. In the case of this recent scam, I Googled “Star Outsourcing scam” and came up with several reports.
6. Always send files through Elance. Even if you send files through email or Skype, they should always be sent via Elance’s workroom message feature, too. This will give you a record on Elance that can be checked. It’s also best to make sure that the terms and conditions of the deal are all laid out on Elance.
7. Listen to your gut. If your gut tells you something isn’t right, listen to it. It’s not worth losing days of real work and having the emotional and financial strain of being scammed. Many people said they didn’t feel right about this recent scam, but they were enticed by the money to go with it anyway.
While sites like Elance are great for finding lots of work in one place, they are also replete with scammers. Though Elance tries to get rid of these “clients,” that isn’t always possible, so it’s up to the freelancers to do their due diligence.
Do you have any tips for avoiding scams?