You need to know sort of how Elance works -- a company (or individual) posts a job detailing what they need, how long it needs to be, and when they need it. Then the freelance writers submit a proposal for what they would charge. The job poster then contacts the freelancer saying that they have accepted their bid, and sends payment into a sort of escrow account. As soon as the funds are in the escrow account, the writer sees that the job has been funded and gets to work. As soon as the work is completed, the client releases the funds and the writer can collect. Sounds pretty easy right?
Yeah, I screwed it all up (though not without help from my client) -- and I learned some valuable lessons in the process.
The proposal that I submitted was for five 500 word articles. I got to work immediately since the deadline was 24 hours (I did not realize that I should have waited until the job was funded before starting). The client sent me a list of article topics and they were weird -- IRS Marriage Penalty, Allergic to Histamine, Marriage Tax Penalty (almost the same as the first article), Cost of iPads, and Advanced Pilates DVD. I wondered what kind of company this could possibly be, but whatever, they were paying me to write not question the topics. She also sent me a template to follow. I had to research the topics on my own and compile an article. This was very similar to what I do with my regular client, so it is not like I was flying blind.
When I opened her template, I should have known that something was wrong. The format was for an introduction, 6 paragraphs of text, a conclusion, and a final paragraph containing statistical data. The template specified that the paragraphs were to be 4-8 sentences long. That is a about 48 sentences per article on average. Unless I was going to write sentences like "The dog died," this was going to be way longer than 500 words.
And it was -- the first article was 924 words. I sent it, along with a message that said in part:
7 paragraphs plus an introduction and conclusion, all 4-8 sentences each, is considerably more than 500 words. I understand that this is a trial, and that we have an agreed upon price for these 5 articles, and I will honor that. However, should we continue our work relationship, we will need to discuss content and pricing in more detail and find a happy medium that we can both live with.I didn't hear from her for six hours. Then, at about 9 PM, I got an email saying yes -- continue with the other articles. Not knowing exactly what the rules were about the deadline, I stayed up and finished 2 more of the 5 articles thinking that I would finish the rest after church on Sunday. So, 3 out of 5 articles done, a total of 2,569 words written and submitted, I go to Elance to check my inbox and see that she has funded the project. At less than half of what I bid and that she had accepted. I am pissed.
Let me know if you want me to continue with the other topics
(I know what you are thinking -- why didn't I just tell her to forget it. Well, this was my first job on Elance. Clients can rate you and your work after the project is completed and I did not want a bad review right out of the gate).
I send her a message, along with the 4th article (because in my mind, we have an agreement that I plan to honor), and I wait while I work on the final article. And I wait. And I wait. Sunday night, I get a message from her. She did not address the discrepancy in funds, but instead sent me a different template for the final article. At this point, I want to be done with her, so I finish the final article (in the now new template) and send it along with a message:
She responded with a message saying basically "Tough." She said that I started before the project was funded and therefore she paid the amount of the lowest bid that she had received.
This was easily twice the amount of work that you advertised for, and you only funded for half the price that I had bid. You asked for 5 - 500 word articles but the parameters that you set via your template made that impossible. You also provided no guidelines as to what the articles were to accomplish or involve, (despite me asking), leaving me to complete, compile, and interpret research on my own before attempting to determine tone and voice.
I hope that you are happy with the result, but if you want me to do any further work, please know that the $0.01 per word is nowhere near acceptable. My normal rate for articles of this sort would be a minimum of $0.06 per word. I hope that you understand why the money that I will walk away with (less than 20% of my normal rate) leaves me feeling a bit taken advantage of.
Lesson One: do not begin work until funds are in escrow.
She claimed that the work was late because I accepted the job around noon on Saturday and the work should have been completed by noon on Sunday (she also said "I don't care if it was Easter, you agreed to 24 hours."). It also did not matter to her that she did not provide me with the templates or respond as to whether or not she wanted me to continue when I raised questions until hours later.
Lesson Two: be sure that you know exactly when the deadline is and do not start the work until you have all of the information necessary to complete it.
Then she basically called me naive (a fair assessment, apparently) saying that "I would learn about how things work in the freelance world" and that she rarely ever uses the same writer twice (probably because no one would ever work for her twice).
Lesson Three: Know that the ethics of people most likely do not match your own -- be wary of accepting jobs from strangers.
I was appalled. I had no idea that people who claimed to be professional were such conniving sneaks (I had a few more colorful words for her, but *I* have some sense of decorum). I relayed these events to a good friend of mine and she said "Google her and see what comes up."
So I did.
She is a freelance writer.
Apparently, she takes on jobs, contracts them out on Elance and then sells them on her site at a profit. And she doesn't have to work at all. I thought, this woman is the most dishonest person I have ever worked with. So I sent an email to the Elance customer support people notifying them of what had transpired. I told them "I do not know if this violates your policies, but I definitely felt violated by the experience." Apparently it doesn't violate anything since I have not heard back from them.
Now, my long-term client and I do not always agree, but she is honest and fair. I rarely have to wonder about what is going on, I know that she will pay me, and I feel that we have a relationship. I have spent hours researching SEO and marketing techniques for her -- things that I don't get paid for -- because I want her business to succeed. Her success means more work for me, so I am willing to go that extra mile. Not to mention that all that research ultimately helps me in writing for her because I learn about trends, keywords, etc. that I work into the articles I write to hopefully boost her SEO. I do not have to worry about her cheating me, and I don't think that she ever worries about me cheating her.
I hope that there are more clients like that out there.
I hope that I do not become too cynical and jaded to recognize them.
And I hope that karma smacks down the sneaky cheat that took advantage of me on Elance.