Wwwebber's Blog

Elance vs Odesk – Comparison of Site Features

Posted in Uncategorized by wwwebber on February 5, 2012

I have spent almost $20,000 at Odesk and Elance , and I wanted to share my thoughts on the two sites. Most of my experience has come from the last year, so my reflections should be pretty relevant as of right now: 2012.

I have used both sites for hourly and fixed rate jobs. However, I have definitely used elance more–spending about 17 K there  over the last 12 months  as opposed to about 5K on  O-desk.

There are lots of different ways to look at these two sites, but this post will focus on the features that each site has–how it lets you pay for jobs, find contractors, set up milestones, use escrow services etc..  I’ll dedicate another post, later, to the quality and type of developers that I have encountered on Elance/odesk (Overall I have found some great people on both sites!)

Hourly Jobs:

The Time Tracker:

Overall, these sites have many of the same features –especially for hourly jobs. Both provide an hourly time tracker. Basically, it works like this. I hired someone to translate one of my sites to another language, and every 10 minutes or so the application takes a screenshoot of their computer and uploads to Elance/Odesk. This is great because it lets you see exactly what a freelancer was doing for given periods of time.  Odesk and Elance tied on this count–both had nice applications that did basically the same thing.

Fixed Price Jobs

-On Odesk:

You pay a certain amount of money upfront and then agree upon a deadline to pay the rest. There is no formal way to escrow payments or manage milestones. Nor is there any reminders from Odesk that your final deadline is approaching. This last point might seem like no big deal until you have 3-6 jobs going.

Below is a screen shot of the Odesk view for a fixed price job that has already been partially paid (ie most of the milestones had been paid for). I crossed out some personal information –like the picture of the developer etc

-On  Elance.

Both the client and the freelancer can edit and modify the milestones.  However, both parties (client and contractor) must agree to any changes in the agreement.  The client can escrow all of the money in advance (great for end of the year jobs when you want to withdraw money from your account before the tax year ends).  You can associate specific parts of the job to be done with specific milestones and either one of you can request that these milestones be modified. Also, the freelancer can formally request that you escrow a given milestone before he or she starts working on it.   As a specific example, consider a math homework help site (www.painfreehomework.com) that was made by a a company I found on Elance.  I am going to make up some fictional numbers, but it went something like this. The company said that they could do it $4000 by April 1st. I accepted that bid, then that company set up several milestones that went something like:

  • January 1st: Complete mock up of site  – $1000
  • February 1st: Create database scheme and coding back end  $1000
  • March 1st: Rough draft  of site live ($1000)
  • April 1st: Final deliverable of the site ($1000)

At this time, Elance sent me a mesage that the contractor has adjusted the terms of the agreement and showed me the dates describe above. I then have the choice to accept or refuse these changes in the terms and conditions (I”ve never refused so I can’t comment on that).

After you accept these terms, the freelance contractor gets notified. The contractor then generally ask you to put the first milestone’s worth of money into an escrow account.

Below is a screen shot of the Elance view for a fixed price job that has already been escrowed.

Communicating With Contractors

Both  Elance and Odesk have a private messaging system that sends copies of private messages to your inbox. There is one difference–with Elance you can actually reply to the email itself and your reply will get sent as a private message to the contractor.

In the end, if you are going for an hourly job, I think the site features for Elance/Odesk are equivalent. However, when it comes to fixed price jobs–Elance is the hands down winner! By the way, I am in no way associated/affiliated with either of these sites.


2 Responses

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  1. Jonathan said, on May 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

    An interesting review.

    From a providers (employers) perspective it highlights just how much of a lottery it is when trying to recruit professional,quality staff.

    On a number of these review sites there are adverse comments about Indian / Asian freelancers, and we are no exception to having been on the receiving end of some howlers, but, to put this into perspective we have had just the same experience of American and UK based freelancers, so, in conclusion,we see no distinction between gender,race, colour, religion or location of potential and actual freelancers.

    We simply want to employ the best freelancers we can afford, no other criteria applies. But, the main problem is, where do you find them?

    The following is an alternative view from the providers perspective; as a provider we have used O’ Desk for a number of years for our project and have always paid good rates in the belief that we will engage the more able contractor. We have spent many thousands of £ on various projects.

    The major complaint we have with O’Desk, is that there is NO protection for the provider for mistakes / damage a contractor inflicts on your project.

    Their dispute system is heavily weighted in favour of the contractor. We experienced a number of contractor incidents of incompetance; but the most recent destroyed our db and took our site off line for 4 days and cost us a lot of money to have the db reconstructed.

    O’ Desk simply state that they don’t care about the circumstances, and the contractors hours must be paid as they have been tracked. So to add insult to injury, not only did we have to pay to have the db reconstructed and any bugs resolve, but we had to pay the contractor for the hours she spent destroying the db.

    So, providers beware of O’Desk, they are NOT employer friendly.

    We have terminated our account with O’Desk.

    • wwwebber said, on May 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Ouch, what happened to your database is pretty much every supplier’s nightmare.

      It really is a lottery and I’ve found good and bad.

      A primary reason that I only hire companies (as opposed to individuals) is because I am always striving to find the best contractors that will be around for the long time and that I can count on –exactly so I can minimize the chance of your database destruction, but I hear you that it’s not easy. In fact, I just replaced two contractors for a lack of quality work/communication. In the end, like you said, I try to pay higher prices (and choose contractors with great ratings)…but even still it is really hard to find quality, reliable developers.

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