The pen is mightier than the sword. Or not
An old English adage says The Pen is mightier than the Sword. While searching for a good cover picture for this post, we found a post that looked interesting. It said - Write without fear, edit without mercy. We realized that we should modify it to say - Write with fear and edit with mercy.
Why? Because not a day passes by before another content writer is scammed. How does a content writer write without being fearful of not getting paid? How does one edit without fear of not getting paid for the editorial work? Effort goes into writing, editing and not to mention the research that goes into the work behind the piece of content produced.
Scammed by a verified business on Freelancer.com
Today, we came across the story of Ankur Suri which is telling. Ankur Suri loves to write and enjoys the process of writing. Ankur has experienced a tale or two of unpaid or delayed payments in his content writing work. Having set up his profile on upwork.com and a few other online sites, he created a profile on freelancer.com.
He received an offer for work within no time from a client who accepted his hourly rate. Ankur was surprised as he expected a negotiation to take place about the rate. Nevertheless, he took it as a pleasant surprise since it was a verified business and went ahead. He also received a flood of emails about how the payment was guaranteed by Freelancer.com.
After a week of work and completion of a few assignments, Ankur saw no payment from the business. Upon following up with Freelancer.com customer service, he was informed that the business was not responding and he should not expect his payment. He had to resort to several extreme measures such as writing to the Prime Ministers of India and Australia. This step started cracking the edifice of Freelancer.com and they agreed to pay the fee.
The worst, however, was yet to come as he was forced to provide elaborate documentation and was yet again bullied by advocates and law officers. After a 2 year prolonged and harrowing battle, he was paid. He had won his fee but had suffered from anxiety, bullying, loss of time, and huge opportunity cost where he could have used this time gainfully.
Ankur Suri shared this tale on Pulse on LinkedIn. While the post has received a few views and comments, this should go wide and help others. More importantly, no one should go thru an experience similar to this.
Why Freelancers get scammed?
Freelancers get scammed for a variety of reasons.
1. Freelancers are independent
Being independent offers one the choice of working when they want, working with who they want, and working with what they want. With this also comes the risks of not knowing who they are dealing with
2. Freelancers lack of systems
Being an independent freelancer means that most of the time, there is no standard process for agreements, communication, time-lines, payments
3. Freelancers place over-reliance on marketplaces
This sometimes leads to over-reliance on marketplaces that are too eager to take huge chunks of commission yet fall woefully short of providing the necessary safe environment for freelancers and their clients to deal with each other
4. Freelancers desire to take it off the platform
Many times hefty fees charged by the platforms mean freelancers come to the platform for the lead and go off the platform once they have the lead. This ends up creating an uncertain environment for both the freelancer and the client. While finding the lead is important, working in a certain environment is equally important. It is important to find out and work with platforms that provide the right trade-off between the commission, safety, and the toolset to work with peace. When they work off the platform, they should work with a digital escrow platform that protects their payment.
In the case of Ankur Suri, he was in need of leads and new business. This forced him to create accounts with several online marketplaces. Freelancers are constantly searching high and low for various sources for leads and new business. The global independent and participatory economy with its various tools of social media, creator tools and flexible ways to get paid has done wonders for gig workers and freelancers. However, this has not given them the right tools to free them from the tyranny of unsafe payments. Even when payment systems exist, they don't offer the convenience and protection that is required. A digital escrow system with a few key aspects would greatly change this scenario.
What can someone like Ankur to avoid such situations?
Contrary to his own advice of raising complaints with various parties, the advice would be to prevent it than suffering thru them. Here is how it would pan out:
1. Get a clear agreement on terms and conditions including payment
2. Collect an advance thru a digital escrow product such as Vouch
3. Maintain constant communication thru the contract
4. Create and nurture your own network for leads
5. Use the right tools that offer exposure, payment, and discovery of one's work. Vouch offers this too thru its profiles, messaging, trust score etc.
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This is Fraud Story #30. Check back here for more fraud chronicles and scams that you can protect yourself from.
Safety in online payments is not just about protecting your credit or debit card number. It's about having control of your money till you've received the product or service you bought online!
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Note: This is a good-faith initiative to educate the world about how to avoid frauds like these. Do you have a fraud that you would like to report? Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org