2 days after posting this, Freelancer's support team has reached out and worked out the balance issue. Hopefully, in the future situations similar to mine will be handled better and Freelancer becomes about freelancers again.
I have been working as a freelance web developer since 2017. I have worked on many projects including financial auditing management, reservation and booking systems, e-commerce projects, and many more. All of these projects I have worked on locally with people from the same country.
However, I've always wanted to try Freelancer.com. It seemed like it would provide good opportunities, and frankly easier ways to make money as a freelancer. So, in December, I decided to expand my freelancing journey there.
If you don't know what Freelancer is, it's a platform that provides a connection between freelancers and job posters from all over the world. It's mostly used by developers or designers, but it can be used for any sector and industry. If you have a job that you want done, you just post a project with the descriptions and budget. If you're a freelancer, you can search through projects and bid on the ones you like, explaining why you'd be perfect for the job and what your fees are.
I had such high expectations going in. Not only does Freelancer have so many users, but if you check their profile summaries you'll see that these users might have done over hundreds of projects and made good amount of money through Freelancer. If it happened to others, why can't it happen to me?
After creating my account, Freelancer encouraged me to verify my identity. They first ask you for a pic of your ID or Passport or any identification you have. Next, you will be asked to write a code provided by Freelancer on a paper and take a picture with it. I did both of those things and passed their verification process.
However, I was then met by my first problem on Freelancer. The last step you have to do to verify your identity is to provide a proof of address. If you have done this on any website before, you are usually asked to provide any bill that proves your address. For Freelancer, it's more strict than this. You are asked to provide a utility bill, a contract or something official that not only has your full name, address, and phone number on, but also the company or other party's details as well.
For some people this is easy to do, however, if you're like me, a person that comes from a culture where living with your family is normal and having the bills in someone else's name, even governmental forms, it's not possible.
So, since Freelancer made it seem like identifying your identity is just an optional process that just gives you a boost, I decided to not finish the process. I can still bid and be assigned to projects, so it's not going to stop me.
I started then applying for projects, and that's when I faced more problems.
If you're not a Freelancer Plus member, you only get 6 bids when you create your account. After that, you get new bids only after 5 days. You get at most 6 bids, which means even if you leave your account for a while, it will not cross the 6 bids limit.
As a beginner, getting a project is not easy at all. Job posters will mostly look at the reviews you have or number of projects you worked. And it doesn't help that those with higher reviews or higher plans on Freelancer show up higher in the bids of a project than beginners who don't have any reviews. So, 6 bids a month will not be of any help to get your reviews higher and getting more jobs.
This is another issue that Freelancer has. It does not give a chance to new comers. Its system ensures that only those with high reviews or paid plans get a better chance at getting hired. Even if you do have a paid plan you still will not get as much of a chance as anyone with a 5 stars review.
So, I decided to start a free trial on the plus membership. You get a 100 bid a month, approximately 3 bids a day. This was helpful as I could bid on more projects and increase my chance of getting my first project on Freelancer.
Even when you bid on many projects, it's still not easy to get a project on Freelancer. Again, no review, no one will see you.
Another problem you'll notice when using Freelancer is that there are certain tags for projects that will get over 50 bids in a minute. For example, check any Wordpress job. You'll find that after 2 minutes or even less of it getting posted, it already has so many bids, and most of these bids are by companies and not individuals. You'll realize soon that companies who can take on different projects, and not individual freelancers, are the ones who can actually make money and get projects on Freelancer.
After bidding for a few days on so many projects, I finally got a project to develop a portfolio website for a company. Then, I got another small project just to add a google analytics link to a website and fix some email issues the poster had.
When taking jobs on Freelancer, your balance will immediately drop even before you start working on the project or getting paid. That is because Freelancer takes their share the minute you are assigned the project, regardless of how the project actually goes.
I finished the small project and started working on the portfolio website. Then, I found out something that was the main problem of working on Freelancer.
Freelancer has a few ways you can withdraw your money: Wire Transfer, Express Withdrawal, Paypal, and Skrill. Most of these methods are not available in all countries, which means Wire Transfer is the only method that's available for your country regardless of where you are.
However, Wire Transfer (and all payment methods) requires that you verify your identity. Then shouldn't this make verifying your identity mandatory, and not optional? Freelancer could point that out when it asks you to verify your identity, that you will need this to verify your identity. Instead, Freelancer just points out that it's good for the job poster and your profile to verify your identity.
I contacted their support, and when explaining my inability to provide a proof of address since it's asking for something that is not available for me, I was told it was because of Freelancer's strict policy and because they want to maintain "the security of the website."
Ok, so that's understandable in a sense. However, I did a project with a job poster, I finished the project, I received a 5-star review, and the job poster paid for the job. Shouldn't this provide as a source of guarantee that I'm doing my job properly and that I'm not misusing Freelancer or breaking its security? If not, then shouldn't I at least get paid for the work I've done?
I followed up with an email asking how can I withdraw my money, and I was simply told that it's not possible for me to withdraw my money in my location.
Was this information not available for Freelancer on my registration? If you do not provide a withdrawal method to my country, then shouldn't you remove my country from the list of countries on registration, or at least in your FAQs and help sections?
So, I decided to end my journey on Freelancer, but it wasn't that simple. After messaging the person from the first job posting that I'm unable to finish the project due to the inability of withdrawing the money, they labeled the project as incomplete. However, my balance on Freelancer remained in the negative value. They still want me to deposit their fee for the project that was not completed, even though I didn't technically get paid for the project that I did complete.
You may think this story does not apply to you because you wouldn't face similar problems regarding identity verification or money withdrawal, however, one thing is evident: Freelancer does not prioritize freelancers. You should know this when before you even get paid, they take their share of their money. They make sure that those who use their plans get their jobs. They gloss over some details and their customer support was not helpful in fixing the issues I was having. If you are not a Freelancer user, then honestly don't bother being a part of it.