Elance Blog

Advice from an Elancer (Volume 10)

Welcome to Advice From An Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.

Question #1:

I did some work for a client almost 3 months ago and he still has an outstanding balance with me. He recently asked for a quote for a new project. I refused until he pays what he owes and when he said he couldn’t, I filed a dispute. One member from this group thinks I should post his name so others won’t take jobs from him. What do I do?

Advice from an Elancer:

You may be too late to file a dispute. It should have been done within the Timesheet Review Period. If you used the Tracker, Elance automatically charges the Client’s payment method if the Client has not rejected any time.  Any client asking for more work when he hasn’t paid for the work already done is not a client you want to continue working with. If you go through the dispute process that is described here for Fixed Jobs http://help.elance.com/entries/34320-Dispute-Assistance-for-Fixed-Price-Jobs or here for hourly jobs http://help.elance.com/entries/302872-Dispute-Assistance-for-Hourly-Jobs. Always use the Tracker and Elance Escrow for your protection.

As far as the thought of posting his name on LinkedIn or anywhere else: don’t do it. Don’t private message it. Don’t write it anywhere. If your dispute progresses to arbitration, any and all documentation pertaining to your case will be collected. If you have posted his name, it may be found and used in this case. Based on the content here ,and the context in which his name would be mentioned, it could be considered libel - the –use of false, defamatory claims about someone in written or printed form (via grammarist.com). This may have legal implications for you. Talk to Elance, try to resolve the issue, and move on.


Question #2:

Do clients use Elance to get freelancers completing academic coursework? Is this ethical at all?

Advice from an Elancer:

Yes they do and no it isn’t. But let’s define academic coursework. If a teacher or student teacher or education website is looking for lessons or content, then it is perfectly acceptable to hire an Elance freelancer. A student, whether in grade school, college, or postgraduate studies, asking for someone to write any piece of their work is a violation of Elance’s terms of service. There are some providers who split hairs and offer proofreading or editing to these students. Personally, I do not do any of these. I feel that a student’s work should be their own so that their teachers and/or professors can see exactly what they are capable of, grammar and all. It is usually easy to determine the difference between a student posting and a teacher posting. If you think a posting is inappropriate (violates the integrity of academic and professional organizations),  click on the link and report it.


Question #3:

I have bid on several jobs and still have not have any awarded to me. I know you have talked about profiles. What is wrong with mine?

Advice from an Elancer:

I am willing to review profiles for members of this group. Do not post your request here. Join the Elance Professional Network on LinkedIn and message me there. I will add you to the list and offer my comments on that forum – using your name or initials if you prefer.


That’s enough for today. If you have questions or want to follow the conversation of other Elancers, visit the Discussion page of our LinkedIn page.



This is sidd


I would like to add a bit more context and information regarding part of Dorothy's response to Question #2, since my particular field is proofreading and editing academic texts, and a large number of my clients are graduate students.

I agree with the first half of Dorothy's response completely. Jobs that seek freelancers to perform any kind of original writing or research for students seeking academic credit are, of course, against both Elance's TOS and the academic integrity policies of any college or university. In addition, plagiarism can come in the form of students using "essay factories" where they purchase previously written documents that fit the assignment they need to fulfill. If there is any reason to suspect that an Elance client is seeking freelancers to provide such essays, then that job, as well, would constitute a breach of academic ethics and should be avoided and flagged.

However, proofreading and editing, particularly for graduate theses and dissertations, are not regarded as fringe practices within academic institutions. Most colleges and universities have Writing Centers that often include proofreading among their services. As freelancers who are not necessarily affiliated with such an institution or center, though, we have an additional responsibility to work within certain guidelines.

One good source for such guidelines comes from the Editors' Association of Canada, which offers a downloadable set of "Guidelines for Ethical Editing of Theses/Dissertations." The guidelines are excellent and are not specific to the Canadian context. Some of these guidelines include:

  • Getting a written statement of approval from the student's advisor, professor, supervisor, etc., indicating that s/he has permission to hire an editor. Graduate students seeking help with theses and dissertations are -- more often than not -- doing so at their advisors' prompting. When I began this work, my first two clients were referred to me by my own then-doctoral advisor: they were her other advisees. Asking for such a statement of approval can allow the freelancer and the student to protect themselves. The guide includes a sample request for approval, including a detailed checklist for the advisor to fill out concerning approved and non-approved editing tasks.
  • Understanding and clearly spelling out the limits of the job. The guide explains: "Editors fill the role described by one graduate program director: 'The editor's job is not to produce a defensible thesis; it is to produce a thesis that [flows] and is at least clean.'" The guide elaborates on this with examples.
  • Being clear from the beginning where direct edits are acceptable and where queries for the author are more appropriate. If you can strengthen the student's style by rearranging his/her own words, such as in fixing overuse of the passive voice, then it is not usually considered too much. Any deeper editing would necessitate queries/comments in question form to lead the student to his/her own rewording.

When it comes to other graduate work or assignments at younger levels of education (undergraduate or below), the above could probably be adapted, but freelancers may find that the students' instructors allow a narrower range of editing at those levels, often limiting assistance to the most straightforward of proofreading. If the student-client cannot produce a statement of approval at all, then it would not be uncalled for to remove oneself from the project.

Ultimately, if a freelancer isn't comfortable taking such jobs even within those guidelines, there is certainly no need for him/her to do so. But I must emphasize that there is also no need to avoid the entire scope of work wholesale if one is comfortable with establishing and adhering to firm guidelines.