PeoplePerHour Seems Like They Need a Few More People Themselves!


When did our world turn so uber-chic that venture capital dollars flow to hipster companies that only list a person’s first name on the company bio page? What’s so "rah" about the “sharing economy” that basic contact info such as phone numbers doesn’t exist? And please don’t try and convince me that eating 4 raspberries from an espresso cup justifies the $8 price tag because it has been presented to me to enjoy as part of some “experience.”

Puh-lease! The “experience economy,” the “sharing economy”… I’m over it.

Recently, Team MetalMiner (a sister publication to this one) decided to revamp its regular monthly sourcing and pricing forecast report on the basis of discussions with large metal buying organizations.

Several Spend Matters and MetalMiner team members (our parent company is called Azul Partners) suggested I try a freelance website such as PeoplePerHour (PHP).

Done. Here’s what happened and what I observed initially:

  • After a basic registration process, the platform and workflow (workflow is a generous term – it’s really hosted email) matches buyers (me, in this case) with sellers of a range of skills and services.
  • I was specifically seeking a graphic designer with B2B experience.
  • After posting a small proposal to create a mock 1-page template, I selected a designer.
  • From a B2B marketplace perspective, it’s brilliant, I will give them that.
  • And all worked perfectly well – my designer was quick, high quality and I got back a design that we ended up baking into a larger design. The designer raised a $180 invoice that I promptly paid via credit card all through the site.

So far, so good.

But Not So Fast…

Now I needed to create the entire report template. In this case, I created a proposal but awarded the proposal straight to that first designer. We collaborated a bunch of times and I received a great report. The designer then went to create an invoice and I clicked on it, paid a new agreed-upon dollar amount (over $1k) and saw the green “your payment is being processed button.”

That was May 11.

Here is a brief synopsis of what happened next:

  1. May 15 – I receive a note stating payment did not go through. The note said, “See what went wrong,” with a link. Here is a screen shot of the request of what they needed:

rant 1

(Please note that the third check-mark didn’t apply to our situation) and I misinterpreted the second item as being an "or" and not an "and."


  1. May 18 – I received no more communication from PPH, but my seller sent me an email stating that my driver’s license was not legible.
  2. May 18 – I send First Annoyed Notification to PPH asking why I wasn’t notified that my documents were not legible and why my seller was the only one notified (especially since the seller could not possibly fix the situation).
  3. May 18 – I receive a reply with a pretty vague instruction as to the problem:rant 2
  4. May 18 – I submit a clear photo copy of my license on the document payments page (please note: I still miss that a piece of mail is still required – I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been asked to prove residence with a piece of mail for at least 20 years when I got my first apartment in Washington, D.C.!) Seriously, I’m CEO of a business. This is nuts. We’ve processed $75K credit card transactions ourselves before over our virtual terminals. This is not necessary. Alas, I then submit a reply to the help ticket asking when the payment will be processed.
  5. May 18 – I get a reply back stating that I need to re-review the documents page and resubmit a clearly visible license (e.g. the “standard customer service reply template is what came back to me”). Please note: nobody said, “Lisa, you are missing the utility bill or piece of mail to prove you aren’t an imposter!”
  6. May 21 – I receive another reply from the Help Desk (remember, there is not a phone number or a last name to be found. No address, corporate office ­– nothing) restating the same chain letter from the customer service rep: “I also checked and saw that you have sent us some of the documentation required, yet at a rather illegible and poor quality. Could I ask that you re-scan, in color, and resend the documents as required, so we can process your payment swiftly and without any more delays?”


  1. May 21 – I send a nasty email to the CEO of the company whom I tracked down via social media (he does have a last name).
  2. May 22 ­­– I received a reply from his henchman as follows:

“Hello Lisa,

My name is Michael and i[sic] am the Customer Support Manager here at Peopleperhour. My CEO Xenios has forwarded your message to me in order to better assist you.

I am sorry to hear that you have had a bad experience using our platform. Our goal is to have all users happy with the services that we offer and to provide the best available support.

I have read through the entire issue and at this point i[sic] will have to say that i[sic] am not sure why there is a claim that we are unresponsive as i[sic] can see that our agent Sriram answered on Monday and Tuesday to your requests for ticket #[sic] #419349 and that Dimitris has also responded on #420190. 

The reason for the payment not being authorized is that we are waiting for some specific documentation from you as has been specified in the emails that the above agents have sent. These documents are essential for us to process security measure for the safety of all users and they must be provided under PPH Terms and Conditions. I am sorry if you feel that this should be made into some kind of a documented version of your experience through an analyst, but i[sic] do see every effort to explain what is required and prompt responses on our side.

Please feel free to contact me should your need any further questions answered. 

Kind regards….”

  1. May 22 – please note: though the henchman cleverly blamed me for all of this, he still signed his email without a phone number. At least he figured out that the customer may have forgotten a document. So on May 22, I now see what the confusion was.

Lesson Learned For Me. But for Them…?

If services like PPH expect to ever make it big in the corporate world, they’ll have to make some substantial changes, including the following:

  1. They will need customer service staff empowered to think critically and solve problems, even problems that don’t fit a pre-answered FAQ template response.
  2. They need to respond quickly and comprehensively and not miss communications – remember, PPH failed to send me any notification that my document was rejected until after I contacted them.
  3. They will have to make their lists and communication of what they require crystal-clear – go in the help community and you can see others have struggled as well.
  4. Services like PPH say that the money you put down goes into “escrow,” but it’s not clear if that actually happens. There should be clear policies and procedures for how escrow accounts work so that sellers can at least receive partial payment.
  5. Though first-name bios may be totally hipster, as a procurement professional from a tier-1 automotive firm told me last night, “That reeks of lack of traceability.” And without traceability, there is no accountability and without accountability, well, I wouldn’t waste time going after B2B markets.
  6. There has to be some more efficient payment gateway that these services companies can use. We at MetalMiner have NEVER required a piece of mail to process payment.

It’s a shame that this experience has left such a bad taste in my mouth. Like I said, from a B2B marketplace perspective, these folks are onto something – I loved the services I received, but from an experiential point of view, this is more than a nascent industry. It’s embryonic and not ready for prime time. But at least it’s focusing on the fundamentals as compared with Blur Group and capital markets hype as my colleagues pointed out. Still, I would have hoped for more from an HBS grad launching a venture like this.


Note from Jason Busch, founder and managing director of Spend Matters: I read this piece and had to laugh. Neither I, nor Andrew Karpie, Peter Smith or Pierre Mitchell, who all cover services procurement, including VMS providers and now freelancer management systems (FMS) for Spend Matters, had anything to do with Lisa’s selection of PeoplePerHour (Peter, in fact, wrote a book on the topic: Buying Professional Services, published by the Economist).

We dropped Lisa a few names to check out initially (as she notes), but we did not make any final recommendations or work on the evaluation side. The deeper irony is our CEO did not go through the proper “procurement channels” in our firm, nor follow the mandatory 5-step sourcing process … she is a maverick spender. What can I say?

More important, Lisa’s experience is a bit of a shame because knowing how alternatives work, including UpWork,,, and Lionbridge, I think what happened was atypical of many of these services. Moreover, MBO Partners has made a name for itself serving the interest of suppliers (first) – perhaps PeoplePerHour could learn the supplier-side of customer service from them.

The analyst team here looks forward to digging into PeoplePerHour (if they’ll let us) after this “incident.” We don’t want to cloud our entire audience on them or this market in general. There will be growing pains, but hopefully PeoplePerHour can address them. After all, the final design deliverable Lisa got looks great. The matching part worked, at least!

But I agree – at least provide a phone number to call in all communications as a starting point.

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Voices (13)

  1. Anonymous:

    I’m a freelancer who works via People Per Hour as it seems to be the most relevant site for UK freelancers. But I have to agree the support service is sadly lacking. I’ve encountered many problems with the site, and it’s especially frustrating when a problem is urgent but there is no quick way to get a response – no phone number or live chat option. It takes days to get an e-mail response, and the template replies are really not helpful. A phone number and 24/7 support are basic requirements for a freelancing website where people work around the clock and often rely on this service for their income.

  2. Mack Poone:

    It is 5.26.2016 and we were looking for a platform now that Elance is gone and decided to try PeoplePerHour. I had a simple question but could not find any number, chat link, etc on the site and I spent about 20 minutes looking only to be sent in circles clicking and typing and searching. I finally found an email address and sent them an email asking if they indeed were a professional organization because it sure didn’t seem like it and I explained how hard it was to contact them.

    After reading the ordeal above that Lisa experienced, I can only imagine how angry I would be if I had actually hired an person and went to pay only to have to submit all that documentation! That is CRAZY!!!!! I have used,,, and and none of them required anything more than standard credit card info like number, expiration date,etc.

    What a joke!!!! I won’t be using these goobers.

  3. I S M Habibullah:

    I’ve been working as a Freelance Writer since 2011 and I’m doing a delightful job from the last 3 years. I’ve tried out a number of Freelancing platforms. PPH has one of the lowest standards of customer service support. Besides, they don’t do any kind of transactions on Saturday & Sunday. But I’ve found out that they will incur your money on Saturday & Sunday but they will not pay you on these days as these are their holiday! It was a pathetic experience and I wonder why generous buyers are leaving PPH.

    Is doing direct Payoneer Payment a solution here?

  4. Monu Jain:

    Hi Lisa,

    PPH has been solved the issue or still remain. My one client is also saying the same thing that she has been submitted the documents many times and i am also continue taking followup to PPH team. I really don’t understand why they are not releasing freelancer payment.

    A freelancer also don’t know a client has been submitted documents or not.

    I also request to PPH team for change the policy otherwise people willn’t work on PPH platform.

  5. marjorie:

    I recently began using PPH again after a gap of some 12 months. My experience this time has been VERY DIFFERENT, ‘Frustrating’ isn’t even close!!!!

    I paid extra to have the job marked ‘URGENT’ as I wanted a flyer designed within 24 hours, so I could deliver them over the bank holiday weekend.

    I accepted a freelancers bid. The message thread with the freelancer ‘froze’ after I had accepted the bid and paid the full fee into the escrow account.

    When I tried to reply to the freelancers message, a drop down menu said ‘There has been an error, if the problem continues, please contact one of our awesome customer service representatives’. It actually said ‘awesome’. What a misnomer!

    I raised a ticket and eventually got a message from ‘SAI’, who appeared NOT to have read my message as what he said bore no relation to my problem!

    I sent an irate email pointing out that it would help if he actually read my email! He replied that he had to ‘upscale the problem’. That was on March 26th. Today is March 30Th and I am STILL waiting to hear, in spite of having sent several emails to AND sending two further requests for help via the PPH website.

    My money is STILL in the escrow account. I will NEVER use PPH again. When I first began using them, their customer service was very good. I could phone them on 020 7952 1480 and always got through to someone who was usually helpful and polite.

    What a shame that what USED to be a good company has done a volte face as far as ‘customer service’ is concerned. ‘our AWESOME customer service representatives’. Ha!!!!

    The platform idea of matching freelancers with people who need to have work done is clearly brilliant. Does anyone know of a company that does the same as PPH, but DOES IT WELL AND CAN BE CONTACTED BY PHONE??


    Marjorie Green

  6. rose james:

    Very dodgy platform – have tried to get an answer on how to verify my account with them so I can award someone a project – but evidently Xenios no longer needs new members. I would be loathe to give out the sort of sensitive data they require because they farm out their support/admin/payments dept to third world countries!

  7. Lisa Reisman:

    I refer to the accurate timeline above – I paid on May 11. I received notification that payment was not accepted on May 15. I submitted a copy of a license on May 15. Then heard nothing from PPH. Absolutely nothing.

    Then, I reached out to PPH. Not the other way around. I’m not asking for perfection here. I’m asking for courteous customer service – for creative problem solving on the part of your staff, not a template response. An “I’m sorry” and a “based on your experience, we’ll be looking at our processes to see where we can shore up our gaps.” I wasn’t expecting a “it’s your fault for not following our automated messages that you should have been able to fully comprehend.” That’s what I feel like I got.

  8. Michael:

    Hello Lisa and Spendmatters team.

    My name is Michael and i am the support manager who sent the last email out to you Lisa that you have posted here. I am sorry again for the bad experience you have had with our platform. The documents are to secure both the buyer and the seller as well as PPH in cases of possible fraudulent activity. We only ask for the documents once and usually when you first have a transaction on the site, all information is kept secure and we have never had any results of information stolen or distributed. While i understand your concerns, Our support team never received a reply from you in regards to the issue. 2 agents as well as myself have emailed you and there has been limited communication. As such, the only response in our attempts to assist you have been this article. Instead we received only this: ”
    I so give up on this site. I’m going to make sure we do a multi-part story on my horrible experience trying to pay my vendor through your site for the largest procurement site in the world, Is there a reason why you aren’t empowered to actually solve anything?”

    We are not perfect and we try our best to assist our customers with the resources we have and we must follow our company policies to do so and as such, these documents were and are a requirement. My apologize again for the frustration we may have caused you and i do hope we can better assist you in the future. Thank you.

    1. David McManus:

      Michael, I have the exact same problem as the above person. I paid a $15 fee which you had no problem accepting in order to have my job listing given priority placement. It’s a rush job, which is why I paid this fee. At no point in the registration process or when I paid the fee did your site inform me that I would have to send this ridiculous level of documentation in order to make payments pay for a simple $250 job.

      Even better, when trying to pay for the job your site doesn’t even inform users that they need to send in these docs, instead it said that payment was refused by my bank!!! I called the bank and they said this was not so and it was only after I emailed your customer service (no customer support phone number or live online support of course) that I was told that I need to send in these docs. Why are you keeping this information secret?

      I have now sent in the docs (against my better judgement given the amount of online identity theft these days) and I have heard NOTHING back from you. Consequently my vendor can’t do the job and I will not meet the deadline that I paid you the priority placement fee for. This is absolutely pathetic and if I don’t get a good resolution today I will be leaving an extremely critical review of your service on and other such sites.

      – David McManus

      1. rosy james:

        @ David McManus,

        If Peopleperhour informed new members they would have to supply all this personal, private and confidential information in the first instance, – NOBODY would join their platform!!!!!

        This is the reason they dump this “required data” AFTER you have posted a job and awarded the job to someone!!!

        The site is to say the least ripping a lot of people off – they need to be stopped!

  9. Lisa Reisman:

    I did receive guidance from an executive team member at our company who shall remain nameless as to where to go for freelance services. BTW, we have lots of maverick spend in our little company. In fact, two people recommended this firm to me (both internal)
    But as you know, this category is not yet “under management”. Next time, I’ll consult with the internal peanut gallery!

  10. Barbara Ardell:

    I would be VERY reluctant to provide the documentation they requested. Sounds like a great opportunity for identity theft. What’s wrong with the credit card number, CCV# and possibly a zip code. Seems very suspicious to me. I would not provide that information.

  11. Pierre Mitchell:

    What jumps out to me is that the transactional P2P process ultimately destroyed the otherwise excellent service experience. Now flip it around and consider how many suppliers a big company has that think that the buyer’s P2P experience presented to them just plain sucks, especially with payment terms at >90 days. Will it keep the supplier from doing business with you? Probably not. Having something good to say about you? Maybe not. Being a ‘customer of choice’? hopefully not.

    My point is why let transactional processes poison an otherwise good commercial experience.

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