Avoiding Elance Scams: A Practitioner’s Guide
Elance can be exceptionally helpful for getting work done. However, websites like Elance are filled with scam artists looking to take advantage of newer users or folks who don’t know much about writing code. There are a lot of SEO optimized sites explaining how to avoid getting scammed and there are sites offering to advise you on avoiding getting scammed if you pay them money (smells like a scam about a scam). This post is practitioner’s guide to avoiding those scams – I have hired dozens of individuals and firms on Elance and I’ve included a running DO NOT HIRE list of providers that perpetuate those scams. So if you have been scammed, please send me an email describing the situation at newtomefeedback at gmail.com and I’ll add them to the blacklist on this post.
Here are six simple things that you can do to avoid getting scammed. Just do these and I think you’ll have a great experience on Elance:
1) Ask Questions – Once you have received bids based on your initial specification, send a list of questions to all of the bids you receive. Have a list of “how would you do…” questions regarding your project. Don’t worry if these questions show that you are naive and don’t know what you are talking about – frame it is a simple query to screen providers. Cap it off with a question asking for feedback on the specification that you laid out and how it might be accomplished more efficiently/at a lower cost. This makes it easy to weed out the coders who know what they are talking about and those that don’t. It also makes it easy to see which firms are just marketing organizations and which ones. In my experience, this simple set reduces the chance you get scammed by 90%.
2) Hire Individuals – This sounds counterintuitive and I have had to learn it the hard way. There seems safety in the large firms on Elance with great ratings, but these firms manipulate these rating aggressively and will outsource your work to individuals anyway. That’s right these large firms are really marketing organizations that hand off the work to coders who may or may not be good and are certainly not of your choosing.
3) Don’t Believe Elance Feedback – Firms and individuals on Elance can manipulate the feedback in a myriad of ways – including getting Elance to delete bad feedback. So use it as a guide, but not as a decision-making tool.
4) Don’t Hire in India/Pakistan – This is a soft rule for me. I bend it every once in a while if #1 and #2 check out. I’ve only been scammed by Indian/Pakistani firms.
5) Bad Communication is a Red Flag – If you have to have conversation after conversation and email chain after email chain explaining the specification with multiple people – ABORT. The opposite is also true – if someone wants to get hired with no questions about the job and can do it all perfectly immediately – ABORT.
6) Google the People You Hiring – This is so obvious, but it took me a long time to start doing it. It is a no-cost background check.
So with that, I’ll get to what you have been waiting for – the Elance Blacklist. The firms and individuals below may have done good work for some people, but they have documented evidence that they have scammed trusting employers.
Xicom – I have been scammed by them personally, but examples abound.
SynapseIndia – Click here for one example.