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Elance Going Beyond a Job Bid Site

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Elance homepageAlthough I haven’t kept a close eye on Elance, my impression has been that it was a basic job “bid” site for freelancer programmers. The site description summarizes their main focus as “outsourcing to freelance programmers, web and logo designers, copywriters, illustrators and consultants.” People with the jobs are the employers or “buyers” and the Web workers with the skills are the “providers” on Elance.

Since launching in 1999, the company has worked to expand their offerings, integrating some features to create more than just a job site and more of a work tool. What interested me beyond the job marketplace is Elance’s concept of a Remote Work System with the goal of creating a remote workspace for freelance workers to provide them with additional incentive to continue using the site after the job match has been made. The features are meant to help service providers manage a part of their work through Elance and give buyer and service provider more ways to connect and transact business.

Elance Find Work pageThe areas Elance has been beefing up to create their “remote work system” include:

1. The Interview Process. Beyond matching up a buyer with a service provider with specific skills that meet their project needs, Elance offer an integrated chat function and a click-to-call function that allows the buyer to place a call to the provider anonymously and for free. Providers can also take “certification” tests via Elance to evaluate their level of expertise and ostensibly giving buyers more of an assurance of a provider’s skills.

2. The Payment System. Elance now offers an escrow account so that once a buyer and seller match up, the buyer can place the payment into an escrow account via Elance with the intent to assuage the provider’s mind that the money is there upon completion of the project. The payment still needs to be triggered by the buyer so even once a provider completes the job, there is no guarantee that they provider will be paid. However, Elance also offers dispute assistance for both buyers and providers.

3. Tracking Project Status. With a new status reporting system in place, buyers can set milestones for providers to meet, and providers can report on their status showing progress against milestones on a percentage basis. Elance recently implemented  a time tracking widget that a provider can apply to a deliverable or milestone, add notes for the buyer, and attach files. The time tracker can also cover units of work such as blog posts. Status reports can then be converted into invoices once work is complete.

The company says that while they are offering enhanced features to help the buyer and provider manage a portion of the project, their site is not necessarily a replacement for a more robust project management system like Basecamp. Like Basecamp, however, the new Elance features offer an archive of interactions and communications between buyer and provider which is especially invaluable for a provider who is working on multiple projects at once.

Elance search resultsOut of curiosity, I did several searches to see what freelance opportunities fit my skillset, experience and interest. There were a good number of web site and blog content development jobs open for bid, however, I found too many that didn’t seem to add up in terms of pay.

For example, one blogging job had a budget of $500 but were looking for someone to craft 5 blog posts per week. The duration of the project wasn’t visible but after just a few months time, the pay per post for that job would be embarrassingly low.

Another blogging job was paying an hourly rate which seemed a little unusual for work that is more commonly paid by the unit i.e. on a per post basis. Another wanted 20 articles for less than $500. Maybe a good job for an inexperienced writer working up some portfolio pieces, but there is no way to slice $500 by 20 and get anything resembling decent pay.

So while I’m not convinced Elance contains a wealth of well-paying, high-quality writing jobs for established Web content developers (I can’t comment on the programming jobs since I’m not a programmer), it could be a good place for a novice to find their first jobs. Plus the site provides some extras to help  manage those jobs.

What has been your experience with Elance or other “bid” job sites?

19 Responses to “Elance Going Beyond a Job Bid Site”

  1. Informative article and interesting perspective about Elance. However, I honestly must disagree with the basic premise that Elance is for newbies or those trying to establish myself. In my opinion, Elance is the best online marketplace for talented newbies and experienced professionals. I, for one, started on Elance over 10 years ago and to date, have successfully completed 700+ projects. I still use Elance as my primary marketing venue and find the site extremely user friendly.

    Although I agree that there are some buyers on Elance looking for a bargain, I think that if skilled Elance providers are selective, clearly differentiate themselves from their competitors and always put their best foot forward, they too can succeed.

    Looking around Elance, I am but one of many success stories. : )

  2. I’ve just started to use the site, so I can’t exactly speak to the process and experience that Elance provides. But in trying to understand how it works and using the Watercooler forums as encouraged I have been shocked by the snarky nature of the responses I’ve seen from other providers. I’m used to posting all sorts of questions in technical forums and getting helpful answers but all the Elance community seems to do is put down the questioner and post flaming, unrelated comments. It’s very strange and immature, often vindictive. So do what you will with the site, but steer clear of the Watercooler or you’ll be attacked!

  3. Thomas Larson

    Feedback provided: Elance has a big problem, you need to pay for everything and their Memberships are not helpful because they are expensive and don’t offer much advantages. A friend suggested me to try GetACoder .com and since then I always get projects there. The fees are not high like in other freelance sites and their Membership offers nice benefits moreover you don’t have a limit of bids to post like on Elance.

  4. I have been a elance member for about two weeks now. My first bid got me the job at a low but ok price. Since then i have been trying to get more work but looks like buyer trend is changing now. Buyers seem to be using elance to get an estimate of cost for work by getting the lowest possible bid for the job. I have seen 9 random listings ending without a pick from the buyer even after i went ahead and offered the lowest possible price for the job $50.00 (to create a website with cms).

  5. I’m in top 100 on Elance and have to say that sice they changed their subscription plans (and got expensive) I also doubled my income in there.

    Just imagine you don’t have to assume the other 80% of the offers at a 10k projects aren’t anymore templated and they buyer gains confidence in your bid.

    They are the most professional market, I live from online business and can tell you I haven’t found anything better,


  6. Rajat Dasgupta

    I come across a very good site which provided me a very good result to one of my friend.

    He directly hired his own virtual employee from company name MarketRaise Corp.

    He was provided to Monitor and track your worker and project with our daily tracking and reporting system. Moreover here you get a company which takes responsibility for both parties where as in freelance sites they are just acting as a middle man sites.

    I hope that this concept can change the freelance scenario. Hope this helps you in getting your work done.


  7. I couldn’t disagree more with the article above. I just had my first test project completed by a developer in Eastern Europe and the quality of work, professionalism, speed and billing rate are all top notch. I have worked extensivey with out sourced workforces around the world and would encourage anyone looking to get high quality work done to take a serious look at A friend of mine had a similarly positive experience with design work I will be back for more. To me this is the eBay of service work and a serious alternative to the old outsourcing model. However, I can see how US resources don’t like it though. I got my work for done for $15 per hour and had a positive experience in every aspect – with the platform as well as the resources

  8. Brad from Elance here.

    At first glance it’s easy to overlook the smaller projects that don’t have high dollar amounts — however, what we see repeatedly on Elance is that many employers generally start small, and often much more meaningful longer term relationships evolve out of these smaller “try-me” projects.

    Our advice for professionals looking to build their client base on Elance is to ask questions of the employer during the selection process to get a feel for whether the listing is a one-off project, or maybe the tip of an iceberg for longer term and more lucrative ongoing work.

    We also ran into this blog post this week from an elancer that offered, we think, some nice tips about how to “win a project on Elance”:

  9. I haven’t listed on Elance for many of the reasons you cite, and the sealed bids have a lot of cons IMO. I find, though, that, no matter where you go, online paid work is ridiculously underpaying most of the time.

    Any comment nets a, “Well lots of people do it for free!”

    Thereby revealing the underlying misunderstanding and misconception about the difference between hobby and freelancing. Hobby writing for free (such as on a blog) is doing what I want, how I want, when I want, for myself. Freelancing is doing what someone else wants, the way they want it, when they want it…and it deserves fair compensation like any work.

    I am starting to run into editors who are realizing the unsung cost of hiring the people who will accept that low pay: increased editorial time and other issues.

    I’m starting to have some people who said no to my “high prices” come back and say “hmm maybe you get what you pay for, and maybe sometimes it’s right to open up to new people at low wages, and maybe sometimes the job needs experience.”

    Yes, it’s a spectrum, like any work. There’s a time for entry level and a time for professionals with experience.

    So now that my comment is longer than your post (LOL, sorry) I’ll sum up by saying I have hired extremely qualified and fantastic freelancers from Elance.

  10. Elance is really good for outsourcing coding work. You can easily set up an ‘auction’ for your project and you get bids from software companies (from India for example). They also provide ‘remote legal agreements’, payment processing, invoicing and so on. So it’s a prete comprehensive outsourcing solution I would say.