Plagiarism is usually associated with pirated movies, music, software, and in the context of freelance – copyrighted content such as written text, design, code, images, and more. I’d like to draw your attention to another type of freelancer-plagiarist though. Read on.
The backstory how I became aware of this “other” freelancer-plagiarist type, why I care and how I resolved the situation
Back in 2011 a reader of my Bulgarian blog left an alarming comment. She had come across a freelance profile on oDesk which had my profile objective word for word. I was surprised and flattered, and very disappointed in the same time. People say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I strongly disagree that plagiarism is a compliment.
I was very disappointed because I was blogging in my free time with the sole purpose of helping young people in my home country to find career opportunities in a tough economy, and for free.
The whole idea of my blog was to share my thoughts and experience with people who want to succeed; to help fellow freelancers build their profiles; find their strengths; formulate and stand by their own principles… My goal never was to give my readers some kind of a formula to succeed; my goal was to help them find their own way.
And it hurt me when I saw this woman not only didn’t appreciate my advice; she straight forward stole my work. By copying my description, she gave a reason to prospective clients to question my integrity.
I put my heart and soul in my profile objective. It took me days to carefully craft every single word in my description. It was a good description for the time being and it was working well for me – my success ratio in getting invited to interviews and landings jobs was higher than 50% at the time.
The moment this freelancer-plagiarist put the exact same description on her profile – it was no longer customized and personal on my profile. It looked like a cheap readily available template everyone can snatch online and use. Should a client check the originality of my profile objective, they would have seen it as duplicate content and would have had a reason to question my integrity altogether.
I could hear a client thinking: “She is a marketing consultant and she uses a template for her profile description. I wonder, what kind of services she really offers if she cannot write her own presentation?” I would be dismissed as a candidate before even starting…
Long story short, I got in touch with that freelancer-plagiarist. She didn’t do anything about it and acted as if it’s not a big deal and I am crazy to spend time worrying over such things and chasing after people who allegedly (she said) stole my copy.
So I contacted oDesk support team and explained the situation. I was pleased to find out they take plagiarism reports very seriously. After collecting the needed information and proof that it is my copy on this freelancer-plagiarist profile, they sent her an official warning to remove the plagiarized copy. After she failed to comply within the next 24 hours, they pulled her profile down until she did.
Since then, I have filed over 30 such freelancers-plagiarists reports on oDesk alone and a few more on other freelance websites and LinkedIn. All of them were resolved by the platform as described above.
How to protect yourself from such freelancers-plagiarists if you are a freelancer
Firstly, please don’t be tempted to go down the plagiarism road if you are a freelancer. Research other freelancers’ profiles, take notes of things you like, borrow ideas if it will help you, but never ever copy exact words, phrases or profile objectives. Even if it helps you once or twice, it will definitely hurt you more in the long-term.
If you are serious about being a freelancer, spend some time crafting your own profile objective. If you are not good with words, pay someone to do it for you. Don’t steal.
And if you are proud of your profile objective, check it for plagiarism once in a while. I try to do it once per month. And remember that someone can copy your full description or only parts of it. Here are a few steps you can follow if you don’t have access to plagiarism checking tools.
Step 1: select the first sentence of your profile (e.g. ”Joining the oDesk family of providers was a decision which I embraced at once.”)
Step 2: open google.com, open quotation marks, paste the selected text and close the quotation marks (this way you search Google for the specific phrase between the quotation marks)
Step 3: start the search – all pages which contain your profile objective’s first sentence will be listed in the SERPs
Step 4: click the link “repeat the search with the omitted results included” – just to be sure you see all pages.
Step 5: repeat the process with your second sentence, third sentence and every other piece of your profile objective.
If you come across a freelancer-plagiarist who has fully or partially copied your profile description, report them to the corresponding site support. Remember to provide them with as much details as possible – for example:
- What copy has been plagiarized
- Where is the original copy (direct link to it is preferable)
- Include a screenshot, if needed.
Make sure you get acquainted with the website’s plagiarism report requirements (if any) and comply with them when filing your report. If you use the same copy to present yourself on multiple websites, give those links in your report as well for credibility
How to protect yourself from such freelancers-plagiarists if you are a client
If you follow my tips for writing a good freelance job post and choosing the right candidate afterwards, you most probably won’t cross paths with freelancers-plagiarists of this kind.
Not for some other reason but because you would filter them out early in your recruiting process. Freelancers-plagiarists usually don’t have work ethics or principles, don’t communicate well, slack from work and wait others to do their job, don’t take responsibility or initiative… They simply don’t fit the profile of the freelancer whom you’d hire if you follow my tips.
If for some reason you do e-meet such freelancer-plagiarist who is a specialist in his non-writing and non-marketing related niche of expertise, ask them straight-forward: “Why did you copy your fellow freelancer’s work?”
Decide whether to give them a chance (or not) based on their answer to this question. Will they deny? Will they try to avoid the question? Will they admit and give the true reason for their actions? What will they do?
Whatever the case, always be careful with such freelancers… If they lied in their profile objective (by plagiarizing other people’s content), chances are they regularly lie in their work, too.
Ashley F says
Nice. People will steal anything. I have found a few cases where people have stolen my content, and then I asked them to remove it. Of course they plead ignorance, but I think they are referring to their own ignorance of politeness and fair play, not much else.
It can and always will happen unfortunately. Shortcuts are great for these people and they will always take them.
Glad the platform supports you (us) in resolving such things.
Funny enough, i never check if the posts from THIS blog have been plagiarized… What tool do you use for checking if your content has been stolen, Ashley?
Oren Simon says
I suggest taking a key phrase and creating a Google alert [http://www.google.com/alerts] on it – this way you will get an email when the phrase pops up… at least you will know about it
Hi, Oren – i have done that. For some reason, i never received an alert for any copy on my profile; not even once! And when i check, i always find someone who has plagiarized my profile description. Not sure why Google alerts doesn’t work in this case as it is supposed to…
Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) says
As far as I know, none of my blog posts have been plagiarized, but it’s not like I have ever really checked. Your post serves as a good reminder to be diligent. When I taught research to high school students, a handful always turned in plagiarized material. Same with college students. Too many people act like it’s not a big deal. What really gets me are the lengths some will go to in order to plagiarize when just writing their own material just might actually be the easier and less-time consuming route.
Oh, i so much agree with your last note, Jeri… I have never been a teacher but i have met a fair share of colleagues in the university whose only purpose in life during those years was to find a decent paper to copy and submit as their own. It was funny because they wasted days searching for that paper to “steal” while in reality, they could have written it themselves for twice less time if only they tried…
Lorraine Marie Reguly says
Unfortunately, thieves are everywhere, and there are a lot on the internet. It’s good that you were able to resolve your issue, and that oDesk was helpful to you in doing so.
It’s a compliment to a degree, but more of a burden, as it takes so much extra effort trying to “reverse” the problem. That time would be better spent doing other things!
I don’t know if any of my content has been plagiarized. I do know that I often tell people that they can use what’s on my site, as long as they give me credit and a link back to my blog. They do, too.
What a pain in the butt dealing with jerks like that is!
Yes, it’s real pain, Lorraine – wish you would never have to deal with it 😀
Not only oDesk but also Elance, Freelancer com, VWorker and a bunch of other freelance job boards took my complaints seriously and pulled down those contractors’ profiles when they failed to comply.
It was peculiar that LinkedIn failed to help me in a timely manner. It took me 1 year (this is ONE YEAR) and more than 5 messages and citing various copyright infringement documents and instances where i plan to submit a complain… I expected more from LinkedIn, to be honest. Let’s hope they do get better when it comes to protecting the rights of their users 🙂
Lorraine Marie Reguly says
I doubt that they will. LinkedIn is so massive that I can now basically compare them to Facebook. They don’t care about their users. They just care about their money. It’s sad, really.
It is unfathomable that it took ONE YEAR (UGHHHH) for them to resolve the issue. WOW. 🙁
I feel like writing about a hundred frown-y faces. 🙁 🙁 🙁 It’s sickening that you have had to put up with such crap!
P V Ariel says
Your experiences with such people brought out this informative and educative piece.
This is indeed a valuable guide to the writers who face such nasty situation in their writing career. I am glad I found this and re-shared it here, of course this post will not come in that category since this is a content curation site and it is posted with all due credits to the original author Diana 🙂
It is really a good thing to know how to do search for finding out our hard made contents present situation, or to find out anybody posted it as their-own!
Thank you so much for providing this educative post for our readers here at kingged.
Thanks for sharing my post on Knigged, Phillip – first time i hear about this site but i am glad you spread the word and help fellow freelancers stay protected from plagiarists 🙂
This is a very helpful article. Plagiarism is something we all need to avoid – as freelancers and as clients. It erodes the integrity of the blogger and the credibility of the blog!
It may look easy plagiarizing the work of others for now, but in the long term, it will definitely cost more. So, why even take the risk?
I have had my own fair share of Plagiarism and it is never a good experience to share.
So, for any blogger who wants to maintain his reputation,Plagiarism should be avoided like plague!
In kingged.com, this article was shared for Internet marketers, and I have left the above comment after reading the post.
Sunday – kingged.com contributor
Thanks for your comment, Sunday – i am glad you found my post useful. Plagiarism is an issue not only for bloggers; as i say in the article – even profile objectives and descriptions are being plagiarized and that’s especially hurtful for marketing specialists whose integrity is being questioned as a result.Thanks for spreading the word 😀
Debra Yearwood says
Wow, I can’t believe how ridiculous people are. Even if you were too lazy to come up with your own text, you have to think that a client is going to question your ability if you can’t be original with your own profile. What’s more, what client would want to risk their own creative content to be a copy of someone elses?
I’m always amazed at how often people will take cheap shortcuts. I have to think its desperation rather than laziness.
Right, imaybe I am naive but, Debra, I like to believe it’s because they don’t know better… And when someone tells them it’s not OK to use other people’s content – they will know better and will stop.
What amazes me, or better say shocks me, is how many of these freelancers don’t see anything wrong with it. They find it perfectly normal to take it and use it and I am the crazy lady for chasing after them and wanting my copy removed from their property. Go figure 😀
This just happened to me. I’m highly active on oDesk, with excellent client feedback and take my work very seriously. I am less active on eLance but still maintain a profile there. Just discovered another contractor who word-for-word plagiarized my profile in BOTH websites (perhaps more). I feel horribly violated to learn of this and can’t believe how slimy some people can be. I’ve reported to violation to both websites and now I’m hoping they step in and do something, or I’ll need to take other measures :/
Diana Marinova says
Hi, Alfred – I am sorry you had to go through this. If it’s any consolation, both oDesk and Elance have always taken my complains seriously and have helped out in a timely manner… so I hope your issue has been resolved already. 😀