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 😀