Kolabtree Review – Freelancing for Scientists, Researchers, Academics

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I was delighted to commission this review of Kolabtree, an interesting freelance platform for scientists, researchers and other academics. I get plenty of emails from people like this asking for home working options, so I hope this provides an interesting new avenue.


It sometimes seems as though the growing gig economy is mainly tailored to people who specialise as writers, virtual assistants, microtaskers and so forth. There are plenty of platforms for them such as Upwork, TaskRabbit and PeoplePerHour.

However, technical specialists are also turning more and more to freelancing as a career option—or as in my case, a lifestyle option.

In February this year, I finally made the jump from being a full-time senior scientist to being a full-time freelance scientific consultant. I had often thought of doing this, but the birth of my son and the need for improved life/work balance gave me the final push I needed. One of the many surprising ways scientists can earn a living freelancing is the relatively new Kolabtree platform.

What is Kolabtree?

Anyone anywhere in the world can post a project on Kolabtree. The subjects there require experts in fields including data analysis, machine learning, IT, agriculture, food science, statistics, engineering, medical science, social science, economics and so many more.

The Kolabtree platform is therefore not strictly for bench scientists such as myself, but for a broad range of technical experts, typically with a postgraduate degree in their discipline.

Kolabtree was only founded in 2015 but is reported to already have over 4,000 experts on its database. It is free to submit your profile online to Kolabtree to register as an expert, and the process is pretty painless if your CV is up to date.

Kolabtree review

Since uploading my portfolio onto Kolabtree in February this year, I’ve pitched many times on a variety of projects and been fortunate to be awarded 8 projects totalling US$3220. I’ve worked on projects involving scientific writing, editing, statistical analysis, research project scoping and in-depth literature review. My clients have included other independent contractors, government organisations, academics and contract research organisations. The two Kolabtree projects I am working on currently are 1000-word articles commissioned by a science and technology website.

How does Kolabtree work?

Clients post projects with associated information and a bidding price range. You can then bid based on your level of experience, your fit to the project and the amount of time you think it will take. You can describe why you think the client should hire you as well as your approach to the project.

Here, it’s best to specifically outline your approach step-by-step in a project-tailored fashion, rather than copying and pasting a universal response. Clients then choose their preferred bidder/s and contact them for further negotiation or information.

Once the project is awarded, the client pays the funds into a holding account with Kolabtree, so you have peace of mind that you will get paid once the project is complete. You can then share files and discuss the project online via the platform or Skype.

As soon as both parties are happy with the end product, the funds are released (minus the 20% commission to Kolabtree). I have never had any problems receiving money from Kolabtree, and all payments have been within five business days. Whenever there have been technical issues on the platform, the Kolabtree team have been very quick to assist.

Kolabtree invoicing

The one downside (although to be fair I have not yet broached this topic with the platform managers), is the absence of an option to withhold release of payment until you have a target amount of your choosing in your Kolabtree ‘wallet’. Where I live, the same flat fee is charged for incoming foreign currency transfers irrespective of the amount. This charge can really eat into smaller project income.

As with any kind of independent contracting, you get great projects and ones that give you a bit of a headache. Overall though, my experience has been very positive. I have enjoyed the variety of subject areas and types of work required. Kolabtree is the only global platform of its kind that I am aware of, and it truly bridges geographic and political boundaries in bringing people from across the world to collaborate on complex projects.

Kolabtree: The Pros and Cons

We conclude this Kolabtree review with some pros and cons of the service.

Pros

  • Free and easy to register.
  • Broad variety of projects and clients.
  • Peace of mind that you will get paid promptly when the project is complete.
  • Easy-to-use online platform for viewing projects, bidding, communicating with clients and sharing files.
  • New projects regularly posted.
  • Any issues are quickly resolved by the Kolabtree team.

Cons

  • You must budget for the 20% Kolabtree fee when you bid, which may push your fee out of bidding range for some projects. In fairness, this is true for most platforms.
  • There is currently no option to withhold payments until a target amount is reached, which can result in foreign transfer charges eating into your income.

Find Kolabtree here.

Further Reading: Check out “The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want.” 

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About Author

Natasha Beeton-Kempen, PhD

Natasha worked as an ‘employed’ scientist for 12 years before the birth of her son gave her the kick she needed to dive into the gig economy (she had long yearned to become a digital nomad). She now freelances full-time as a scientific editor, writer and consultant.

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hello,

    I’m wondering if a client have the right to refuse to pay a freelancer if he/her judges the work negatively.

    Regards

  2. Avatar

    I’ve been using Kolabtree since June. I can honestly say, this is the WORST freelancing platform out there. Their payment system is a joke and the client can only release payment where as the owners of the site cannot. How can you let a client take full control on your platform? It’s ridiculous! Customer service told me that once you fund milestones, you will have guaranteed payment. Lies. Don’t get into a dispute as you will never win or get paid. They take the side of the client and don’t have a real dispute process. At least Upwork has an organized and cohesive dispute process. As I thought I’ve found a decent platform for long-term use, I stayed for two months until I recently got into a dispute. Customer service ONLY read and took the side of the client. They kept posting what the client said and disregarded what I’ve said. If you work on this platform, let the client approve the funds BEFORE you submit work. Once you submit work and the client lies on their reasons not to pay, you’ll lose. The dispute is longer than using that time to fix the project. I’ve lost thousands of dollars due to the incompetence of customer service of Kolabtree.

    Clients can close contracts on you without warning and Kolabtree doesn’t make you aware of this. If you as a freelancer, want to close a contract, they let the client know and it takes them a million years to tell you that they will not be closing the contract. So, they don’t respect a freelancer’s decision to close a contract but will respect the wishes of a client to close a contract without telling a freelancer. How unprofessional and this is not a good example of a great business relationship. I have two open contracts of unresponsive clients that Kolabtree refuses to close. The platform is a mess and frustrating to work with! I hate Kolabtree.

    The clients are of low quality. Out of millions of proposals sent and phone calls made I’ve only found two great clients and they sadly where not long-term. They gave me a project, paid on time, and that was the end of it. They need to vet their clients better.

    Clients can rate you but you cannot rate clients. Another example of one-sidedness.

    Today, I’ve decided to leave and not look back. It was the worst experience of my life. They do not value their freelancers so I refuse to use a platform where I’m treated like garbage and not listened to. I advise any professional freelancers with PhDs and advanced degrees to STAY AWAY FROM KOLABTREE!

    • Avatar

      Dear Krystal,

      We are sorry to hear you have had such a negative experience on Kolabtree. It is our intent to provide an exemplary level of service and offer a fair, transparent and safe environment for both our freelance experts and our clients to collaborate. We handle hundreds of successful projects every month where both freelancers and clients have a very positive experience, and so are disappointed to hear that yours has been so unsatisfactory.

      To address each of your main points individually:
      – “the client can only release payment where as the owners of the site cannot.” – Our process is for the Kolabtree team to ask the client to release the payment. However in cases of unresponsive clients, we are able to release the payment to the freelancer.\

      – “…once you fund milestones, you will have guaranteed payment” – We do not guarantee payment and sorry if you were told otherwise. Payment is dependent on whether the deliverable matches the requirement as outlined by the client. It is the freelancer and the clients responsibility to ensure there is sufficient clarity in these that both parties are satisfied with the exchange. Where this does not happen, Kolabtree will act to facilitate an outcome which is fair on both parties. We have a dispute resolution process which you can view here: https://www.kolabtree.com/user-agreement#disputes
      \
      – “Clients can close contracts on you without warning and Kolabtree doesn’t make you aware of this” – If a client aborts a project without warning, we get a notification and we immediately get in contact with the client in order to open up a dispute. Although this happens rarely, the client reserves the right to close projects.
      \
      – “If you as a freelancer, want to close a contract, they let the client know and it takes them a million years to tell you that they will not be closing the contract” – When freelancers bid on and are selected to work on a project, they are agreeing to finish the project and deliver the scope of work to the client. When the freelancer closes the contract, it’s necessary for the Kolabtree team to get in contact with the client to find out whether they want Kolabtree to find them another expert, and if they are willing to make a partial payment. In such instances we try to be fair to the freelancer as well as the client.

      Our mission is to make scientific expertise accessible, affordable and available to all. As such we have taken on board all of your points and are working every day to ensure we are able to provide the best experience for our freelance experts and those seeking their help.

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