Stealing others’ bid proposals: The truth about freelancing

Let’s admit it – some people are just not original. Or creative. Or scrupulous. And when I see such people in artistic professions, it makes me mad. I mean, if the best you can do is submit generic designs, stock art and plagiarized articles, don’t you think you should try another profession?

But I digress.

Seeing as I’ve already wasted one paragraph on a rant (which I want to keep), let’s jump right into it. Most freelancing websites work on a ‘bidding’ system. That is, jobs or projects are posted by service seekers, and freelancers bid on the project, essentially trying to outbid each other in delivering better quality at a lower price.

These bids mention the bidder’s fees, the timeframe in which they’ll complete the task (on most sites), and a short proposal to go with it, where they tell you why you should choose them. And some people can’t be arsed to write their own bid proposals, so they steal from others.

Imagine how much could go wrong there. Many people provide links to work samples in their proposals, many list their educational qualifications or work experience. Someone could be rattling off your experience and using links to your work, to find work themselves. Imagine the soup it could get you in!

Many people start their bids off with a bid hook – a carefully written line or two that summarises their proposal, while also subtly showing off their abilities. Imagine a scammer using it with a bunch of glaring typos (“your satisfaction is mah prioritty Sir”) to lure people in!

Posting a fake project is easy, because most websites provide a template for clients to use. And on sites where that option’s not available, they could use a short description, like “I need three articles quickly”. But some go further. When you’re breaking a rule you might as well break a whole bunch, I guess.

I recently came across a project where the client claimed he was the owner of a company based in California, USA. The project poster was Indian. So, I did a little background check, and soon enough, I found the real project. Mr. Fake had simply copied the entire description and pasted it into a new project. That’s a rather good idea, if you think about it.

Funny thing is, I managed to track down the person who posted the original project, briefly described the problem (someone was claiming to be them), and asked them to get in touch with me. They never did. This goes to show that reporting a problem to the ‘authorities’ isn’t always going to work.

Now, to the solution. Unfortunately, as of yet, I haven’t found a way to solve this problem. In order to find all the people who use stolen bid proposals, I’d need to post an awful lot of fake projects, or do undercover work – which sounds like a huge hassle, as well as an invitation for major trouble.

So, this problem can only be prevented. As with profile bio plagiarization, the best way to avoid this is by carefully vetting which jobs or projects you bid on, and avoiding ones from sketchy users. Signs to look out for include: recently created account, location, lack of reviews, and payment method not verified.

I need to go slightly off-track now, to discuss something which I think is important.

The fact that instances of plagiarization have, in my notice, almost always come from people in the Indian subcontinent makes me wonder: might it be because they don’t know what plagiarization is? Many of these people speak very poor English. And in today’s digital age, everything is accessible with just a click. On social media, people copy posts without retribution. So, it’s possible that they simply don’t know about, or understand, copyright.

However, after giving the matter some thought, I’ve decided that I feel no sympathy for such people, because they knowingly stole. If they had the cunning to post a fake job with the intention to steal someone’s carefully-crafted proposal because they couldn’t write one themselves, they likely are the sort to not care about copyright even if they were informed.

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