As I said in the “About me” section, I am a freelance marketing consultant. I tried working on several freelance job boards. oDesk and Elance were the only ones that felt right for me.
Now, I have been working through oDesk for a few years. It opened a whole new world for me 😀 I have also been hiring other contractors on oDesk for my clients or other projects so I will share some insights about the platform from both contractors’ and clients’ perspective.
Why oDesk is the best freelance jobs website from freelancers’ perspective
Besides the variety of freelance jobs for different professionals (designers, programmers, marketing consultants, accountants, data entry staff, sales agents, virtual assistants, and many many more), here are a few other pros for freelancers:
- It has an excellent help section for newbie freelancers
There is a forum, a blog, a FAQ section – everything that you, as newbie freelancer, might need – it IS there and well explained. It may require a couple of days to get familiar with all the rules on the website but I have literally never seen something so well-organized and explained as oDesk help section. It is all you need to pass your oDesk readiness test.
- A lot of skill tests are available for self-assessment, and for free
When you are a starting freelancer, nobody knows you; you have no reputation whatsoever. So often skill tests are the only way for you to showcase your skills and expertise at least in theory. So oDesk skill tests come to the rescue – they are in various fields and even better – they are free of charge, unlike most other freelance jobs websites. From experience, I have to say that these skill tests are hard sometimes, at least in the marketing field. They are not easy and most of them truly show your knowledge and expertise, although a bit theoretical at times.
- There are no hidden fees
The registration is free of charge, there is also no paid membership levels. oDesk earn their money by taking 10% commission and that’s it. When applying for a job, you can see the fee being added for the client to pay. E.g. if you enter $10 per hour rate, you see the website calculating the amount due by the client to $11.11 per hour ($1.11 being 10% commission from the $11.11 so that you get your $10).
- Reviews and feedback system is in place
When you complete a certain task and your contract is ended, you have the option to leave a review and feedback to your client – as they have the option to leave review and feedback to you as a freelancer. There is 1 to 5 star rating (with 5 being the best) which assesses communication skills, deadlines, skills in your field, knowledge, etc. There is also a comment field – to leave your feedback in your own words if you want to.
- Great showcasing of freelancer’s profile, past work, reviews, etc.
I don’t know if this is because I am used to the website and its layout but I have not seen a freelance jobs website where freelancers can better showcase their profiles. In a glance, you clearly see a profile picture, first paragraph of profile objective, English language level, past jobs and feedbacks, current projects, work history and more.
- Hourly projects are with guaranteed payment
There is a oDesk application called team room which you need to install on your computer to use. When working on hourly paid project, you need to log in to the team room and track time to the corresponding team (client’s project). When you do that, the application captures your screen once in every 10 minutes and this way it builds your ‘work diary’. Based on that work diary, your earnings are automatically paid to you in the end of the work week. oDesk used to be the only website which has such application. Now Elance has its Work View tracker with similar functionality.
Why oDesk is the best freelance jobs website from clients’ perspective
Besides the variety of freelance consultants available for hire through oDesk (designers, programmers, marketing consultants, data entry personnel, VAs, and more), here are a few pros for clients who use oDesk to hire talent:
- Ability to require questions to be answered when applying
This one is relatively new. While before you as a client could ask whatever questions you want in your job post, the contractor may or may not answer them and you will still have to view their application to find out. Now, you can ask your questions and mark them as ‘required’ fields. This way, you will instantly see if the candidates have replied your questions and if they have not – well, you have different options to report them for spam, or for sending recycled cover letter, or just decline their application for not following your instructions.
- You pay based on work diary and can send bonus payments
We already mentioned the hourly payment is guaranteed by team room app on oDesk. You being the client, have a couple of days in the end of each work week to check your contractor’s work diary. If you see that they have been playing online games and chatting and not working while on the clock – you can file a dispute. Generally, not many contractors do this since it’s their reputation on the line. In any way, you pay for what the freelancer has worked – nothing more. And you have control over that through the work diary. The payment system is flexible as well – if you want, you can send bonus payments to the contractors you are happy with. Or you can preset a weekly payment to a contractor regardless his work – e.g. you know a contractor is running PPC campaign for you with $100 budget per week; you can set these $100 to be sent to this contractor every week, regardless what other work they have done through oDesk platform (if any).
- Reviews and feedback system in place
This is pretty much the same as with the freelancers – both contractors and freelancers have the option to leave review and feedback to the other party. The only difference is that while you can see freelancers’ feedback and reviews on their profile, there is no client profile where you can see everything about them. A client needs to have an open job so you can check their feedback and reviews as well as previous job history under that very same open job.
- You can add multiple users to hire freelancers through oDesk
If you are busy or don’t have the competence to interview and hire staff, you can easily appoint someone else to do that for you. Your hiring manager can be an outside person or you another oDesk contractor. You can give full administrative access to that person – to hire staff as well as manage payment methods, execute payments, etc. Or if you prefer, you can have just a staffing manager who can interview and hire but cannot add or remove payment methods from your account.
- There are added services available to small business owners
Additional services such as payroll help with taxes, quality control of writers’ team, etc. I have only heard of these but I have not used them so I cannot give you my 2 cents about these added services.
Some serious cons I see on oDesk the last year or so
I used to give rating 10 out of 10 to oDesk but in the last year or so, I starting seeing some bad things happening on oDesk. As if they have outgrown their system in place and they are struggling with managing the whole thing. While it is still pretty good platform, I do need to share some cons:
- A lot of spam
This is a huge problem the last few months. There are a lot of low quality contractors who don’t bother reading the job posts but auto-apply to anything that even slightly resembles a suitable job. They often underbid and clutter the clients’ administration panel. It is similar with spam clients who post a scam job post or a regular job post but without any intention to hire anyone through oDesk. The quality control must be improved significantly. I like how Elance has somewhat handled this problem – they allow a free membership contractor to apply to job posts in a single category. If they want to apply to jobs in multiple categories, they need to upgrade to the corresponding paid membership plan. Naturally, spam contractors won’t pay $15 per month to bulk send their application simply because their success ratio is very low and they know it.
- Bad customer service and support
oDesk customer support used to be very prompt. It is just the last year or so when their reps take days before they reply to your message. Sometimes they even don’t finish a request follow-up. They usually copy-paste a preset answers from the help section even when your questions have nothing to do with that… Basically, the customer reps now are NOT knowledgeable and in most cases – waste your time and do NOT solve your problem. Now, I have not had a serious problem with my account though – so maybe their reaction then is different, don’t know. In any case, the quality of the customer service has went from 10 to maybe 4, 5 at best.
- No escrow for fixed price jobs
This is a downside of the platform altogether, always been. With time, I learnt to not take fixed price jobs or when I do – I always ask for 50% upfront to filter quality clients and to avoid working for free. Usually, if a client refuses to pay a portion of the budget in advance, they may not be serious. Also, I always look at the client’s history – if they have hundreds or thousands of dollars paid in fixed price jobs – well, there’s a good chance it’s an honest client who will pay you if you do your job right. In any case, it is not good that there’s no escrow for fixed price jobs and I am looking forward to the day that’ll change.
oDesk IS the best freelance jobs site for me by far. I am currently trying to get some gigs on Elance so I will share my experience with it down the road, too 😉
If you are exploring your options as a freelancer or looking for talent as a small business owner, give it a shot; actually – try both oDesk and Elance and tell me in the comments what your experience was 😀
Thanks for the link. I will be sure to check it out.
thanks for stopping by, Jeri! Be sure to share your thoughts if you really go through with it 😉
ShapeDaily (@ShapeDaily) says
While it sounds like this site has a ton of great features and reasons to use it, the cons you mention here seem like they would make big problems. I guess you’d have to use it yourself to see how it works and determine if the pros outweigh the major cons.
Thanks for your comment… may i ask you again to use your name rather than a corporate twitter account name? thanks!
As for your comment – yes, if you really need customer service because your account has been suspended for some reason; or the platform isn’t working properly on your machine, or something else which seriously prevents you from actually working and/or managing your contractors – then yes, it IS a possible cause for disaster. But i have never had such problems – hence, the low quality of customer service has not affected my workflow.
People are different, and so are businesses – so indeed one should try and see for themselves if it is or it isn’t working 😉 Thanks for stopping by!
Amanda Cripps says
Thanks for sharing–I had no idea such sites existed!
yes, they do – and they are a lot. There is a lot of trash on them (spam, i mean) but there are some pearls, too. Some of the best clients and people, actually, that i know, i have found through such sites… but again, that may be because i am overseas from you, guys 😉
Kate Slagel says
I have been considering free lance writing but I never knew where to look. Thank you for sharing this and making it a lot easier for me to get good information on a site. I will look into it.
thanks for stopping by, Kate! By the way, if you are trying to write freelance – there are many other opportunities out there – websites which are ONLY about freelance writing gigs; there are also some which are open only to US residents… oDesk is a great platform – but i am sure you can find even better opportunities on websites dedicated to writing gigs only. Too bad i cannot help you there since i am more into marketing rather than pure writing 😀
Thanks for the information on oDesk, there are so many resources out there it’s nice to get a review from someone who is willing to share the pros and cons.
yes, i have always found practical tips from personal experience to be the best advice, ever! So i am glad i could help.
On a side note, i not’ mind you inserting a link – but would you mind using your real name? it’s way better if we have a community of people helping each other rather than a bunch of websites building links, right? Thanks!
Debra Yearwood says
My real name? I put in my full name and g-mail account in again and turned off the WordPress component, so hopefully this will show up that way, but you should know that if a WordPress user comments on your blog when their account is open, it automatically grabs that account ID. Also, your blog like most, asks for my website, so not sure if that’s issue. I appreciate your perspective on sign offs and no offense was intended. 🙂
Hm, i see – i did NOT know what you just told me, Debra, about auto-fetching your wordpress existing account details. It’s probably the same when someone is commenting when logging in with Twitter. I thought i have disabled that log-in thingy and that commenters should add manually their name, email and website address and if there’s a gravatar account associated with that specific email, that;s what will be shown – at least that was what i wanted to do, apparently i have nto succeeded LOL
Entering your website isn’t an issue, to the contrary – i added your to your last comment as well 😀 Thanks for understanding!!!
Thanks for sharing! This is definitely a site to keep in mind.
thanks for stopping by, Cole – i am glad i could help 😀
Johnny Bravo says
Great post Diana. Thanks for sharing. I’ve used both eLance and oDesk. I definitely agree with you that oDesk is the best. I first started using Fiverr but that just wasn’t cutting it for me. You get what you pay for. oDesk has been great though.
thanks for stopping by, Johnny! I’ve been on oDesk for the last 3 or 4 years and just recently decided to diversify – trying Elance now. Will see if oDesk will keep the #1 position for me 😉 Stay tuned!
I have used odesk for some writing projects with great sucess, but when I needed some basic website design help I ran into huge problems with people saying they could get the job done – had one almost trash my site beyond repair, but I guess it’s my own fault for trusting someone with only a few feedbacks!
Hey, Lisa – i hear ya! have had bad experience with SEO experts (or so they called themselves). During the years, i learn that tough filtering process on sites like oDesk is the only way to save time, money and frustration in the long run; and it helps weed out those so called experts who don;t really know what they are doing. Ask questions in the job post, don’t tolerate generic application letters, even ask a friend to help you with specific niche questions, if needed – e.g. you needed a designer bu you are not one yourself; so ask a friend-designer to help you draft some specific questions to ask the freelancers you are interviewing – it will become clear real quick who is good and who is just a pretend-designer 😀
I’ve heard only good things about oDesk. I was taught that the best way to get a freelancer you are happy with is to give three of them the same assignment, pay all three and pick the one you like best. it turned out to be a very good interviewing technique when I found a cartoonist on fiverr.com recently.
Hey, Carol! This is an excellent tactic – as long as you have the budget for it, of course 😀 Although, if we look deeper – such approach would save time and money we would spent on searching and filtering freelancers a second time for the same job – because we have made the wrong choice the first time. Thanks for sharing this with us – much appreciated!
Thanks for sharing this post link on Bloggers Helping Bloggers. I will check out Odesk although my freelance skill would be writing and editing with some special expertise in legal writing.
I think the best way to find reputable contractors for projects (i.e. web design and development) is to ask in any appropriate “groups” to which you belong.
I have a feeling that WP.com is not going to post with my real name. Just in case that happens, I am Suzanne Fluhr.
Hey, Suzanne, thanks for stopping by! Yes, word of mouth and fellow group members’ recommendations do count and could be VERY helpful. But yet again – i, personally, wouldn’t just trust a stranger; i would still want to see some kind of “proof of expertise” if there’s such thing 😀 That’s why i favor oDesk so much, and recently Elance as well – they have a great reviews and feedback system in place 🙂
Thanks for the in depth review! Very thorough information!
thanks for stopping by! Hope it helps you somehow in the future, too 🙂
I have heard of Odesk and Elance but have never tried them out because I don’t have much experience. I will try to assess my skills using the free tools on Odesk. Thanks for the info…very helpful!
cool, thanks for your feedback, Damayanti! Good luck with the tests and be sure to drop me a line if you have any questions – i love to turning my readers’ comments and questions into blog posts 😉
Hey Diana, good information here. My two cents: I have been using Elance for a couple of years and have never found the time or need to branch out to oDesk, Guru, or others. From your post, I don’t see anything that oDesk has that Elance doesn’t have. Elance’s fees are only 8.75% as opposed to 10% as well. As you wrote this a few months ago and mentioned you would be exploring Elance, I wonder if you have found any other differences worth sharing?
Hey, Wallyp (is this your name, by the way? :D)
thanks for your comment. The fee isn’t quite right as on oDesk it is deducted from the clients’ pay and on Elance, it is added to the freelancer’s earning. For example, on oDesk, the client pays $11.11, 10% fee deducted leaves $10 for the freelancer. On Elance, the freelancer gets $10, 8.75% fee is added and client pays $10.88- so end of the day, the amount of money that goes as fee is pretty much the same 😀
Apart from that, i too never needed to branch out to Elance – have been happy with oDesk. It is just recently when they started “improving” their site, user experience, etc. and their customer service has been awful – so i decided to branch out just in case, while i still don’t need to.
I have had a little experience on Elance so it’s early to draw some major conclusions which site is better and why. But Elance review is coming for sure, sooner or later. Stay tuned! 😀
🙂 Happy to read this article & Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome, Maksud – glad I could help! Thank you as well – for reading and commenting 😉
Wadimeh Rahmdel says
Hello Diana! I’m reading this post in 2018, exactly 5 years after you’ve posted it. I recently had a similar issue with my account, I have to say their customer service and support have increased drastically (at least when I compare your points to what I experienced). It’s really wonderful to see the difference. Thank you!
Diana Marinova says
Hi Wadimeh, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. I’m glad to hear that Upwork’s customer support has improved drastically. I haven’t had to use their help in a long time. 🙂 Reading through this post, there is a LOT to update on this post, quite a few of the points are no longer valid… so thanks for bringing this to my attention.