In talking with one of my fellow freelancers, I discovered the name of another employer whom I feel should be avoided at all costs. His name is Ankur Shah, and it seems that he has a number of different websites and projects. Judging by the complaints, it seems that he tends to get his writers on bid sites.
My freelancing friend won a bid to work with Ankur Shah at the beginning of August. She was to write 20 dating site reviews for his website, singlesrated.com, at $5 per article. Below is part of his first email to her:
There are24 [sic] sites that need reviews. Each article can be from 300 - 400 words. They have to follow the outline structure found on the links that I sent to you in the previous email.
These guidlines include sections for grade (out of 5) review pros cons
Price of membership (if you can find it)
We would like to get articles in batches of 5. Can you give me a SERIOUS timeline as to how long it would take for this project? We don’t have much time for this small project. We have many bigger projects to concentrate and we hope to work together for many more projects if you will continue seriously in this beginning project.
My friend finished the work in less than a week, and submitted the completed articles and invoices to Ankur Shah. Along with the next-to-last batch of articles, she included this note:
I was researching True.com and when I visited your site I realized an article has been added to the site already. I also noted that there was another article added that I had already submitted to on the topic, however, the article on the site was not mine. Due to this new development I am holding other articles until I hear further from you, your intentions. 1. Are you collecting from various bidders and only paying for the articles you choose? 2. Were you satisfied with the articles you have received from me? Basically, I need clear communication from you of your intentions with this project. If I am to continue submitting articles with no compensation in return then there is no profit for my services. As I have stated before, I am willing to rework the articles to your satisfaction. If you have chosen another bidder - the professional thing to do is to inform me of those intentions so that I can pursue services for other clients. I do hope that your services received from me have been professional, reliable, and curteous. Please notify me promptly of your intentions so that all services can be met as desired.
It's important to notice here that according to her email, Ankur Shah was already publishing her work to his site, and he hadn't even paid her yet! Not that he ever would... When my friend completed the 20 articles as requested, he sent the following email:
I have send your articles to my client for verification and will contact you as soon as I recieve response from client.
About a week later, he sent her the following excuses:
My paypal account is not working fine because they have blocked my account due to credit card problem. They restricted my access to my account and I cannot transfer the money to you raccount but I will request my one friend to send money to your account. Will it be fine?
Also I have lost the articles which you sent please send once more the articles you did for me. I will be waiting for your response.
Of course, my friend never received payment or heard from him again. This was her final email to him (edited for brevity):
I hope this is merely an over site [sic] and that you have full intention of resolving this situation. I have made several attempts to resolve your invoice for the service I have provided you. I have patiently waited for payment on my services to you. I have graciously given you 2 free articles and have provided you with professional service. I have given you discounted articles at $5.00 per article, where as others would have charged between $20.00 - $30.00 per article. As per our initial agreement, I was to provide you with articles for you to review, if you were satisfied with my work, you were to pay $5.00 per article. As well as, in return, for use of the first free article, you would provide a professional reference with use of articles in my portfolio. I have not received payment, nor have I received your professional reference. You have published 9 of my articles on your site. ... Please contact me immediately to resolve this matter. Your business is important to me, however, a professional relationship is hindered when commitments are broken. Thank you for your time.
I suggested to my friend that she check out Writers Weekly as a possible course of action, and there she found another complaint about Ankur Shah. This one has to do with a completely different site, allpilots.com. However, it is clearly the same guy; even some of the emails are nearly identical. And he did the same thing to this writer: accepted the work, and then simply failed to respond to the writer's requests for payment.
In my opinion this "publisher" is a dirt bag of the worst kind. These two projects were run around the same time, so I wouldn't be surprised if he never intended to pay these writers at all. Be warned - stay far, far away from Ankur Shah and any of his projects!