If you think that Elance rules over the world of online freelancing with an iron fist, well, you’re kind of right. As of the writing of this sentence, Elance reports that freelancers have earned nearly $300,000,000 as they web designed, copy wrote, and virtual assisted their way to glory and riches.
But is Elance really the best freelancing solution out there? Consider today’s challenger: oDesk.com, another Clickfire.com review alumnus and one of the favorite platforms for businesses who need quick work without any hassle.
While the two sites have similar goals, it’s really the differences that separate them and give us the subject of today’s topic: which freelance web site delivers the goods and which gets outshined? Let’s tackle this bit-by-bit.
Pricing, Pricing, Pricing
Like the judge of Iron Chef considering “taste,” our first attention needs to turn to price: how expensive is it to work (and hire) at each of these respective sites?
For, let’s consider Elance. Elance uses a relatively simple system for work providers: you can purchase a certain amount of project “bids” each month. These bids are your marketing currency. The larger a project is, the more bids it will take require simply to send your potential client an introduction and project proposal.
In Elance ancient times, these bids were month-to-month, but recent ugprades allow you to roll unused bids from the previous month over to the current month. And while it used to be that the big-budget projects required astronomical amounts of bids, Elance has tamed their demands.
One note: expect to pay regular 8% fees to Elance for the projects you win, too. As for those doing the hiring: Elance is cheap and easy, with a minimum project fee of $50 – or less if you pay hourly.
What about oDesk? The pricing news is more cheerful. You can be listed for free on oDesk (not so on Elance, which requires the subscription to really get noticed), but there are other issues – for example, you won’t receive upfront payment from the people who hire you. By comparison, Elance’s Escrow service is a nearly-bulletproof way to ensure you get paid.
In comparison to Elance’s pay-for-bids system, oDesk gives you a “quota” of job applications, based on issues like your job performance (and client feedback) and whether you’ve taken the oDesk test yet.
Conclusion: oDesk wins in the battle for price, although building up a “quota” can be a little more frustrating than simply paying for a higher amount of job applications. Keep in mind that both sites take substantial (think 5-15%) fees out of the money you earn.
Usability and Interface
As a regular Elancer myself – who also maintains an account at oDesk, if you question my objectivity – I’ve had a number of clients who have told me that the Elance interface can be confusing.
But, really, it’s not too bad, especially after you give that first project bid or work posting a try. Elance is also constantly updating their interface while oDesk’s has remained relatively unchanged for some time.
If you’re a freelancer using Elance, it’s not hard to search for jobs in your category and narrow down job postings based on your criteria. You can browse by project size, niche categories, and other features like whether or not the client wants to use “Escrow” payment or not. New project acquisition is relatively easy if you can put together a good proposal and a good portfolio.
As for oDesk, you won’t find things get more complicated. Just click over to “Find Jobs” (if only it were that easy in the off-web world) and you can search through jobs with relative ease. Just click “Apply” and you’re ready to use some of your hard-earned quote to generate some new business.
Conclusion: About even. oDesk boasts many of the same browsing features as Elance, so it will be up to you to decide which site has the higher-quality projects to sift through.
Payment Systems and Transactions
We’ve established that both sites will take fees out of what you earn. So which site gives you a little something for the trouble: a better payment and transaction system?
The big shift in momentum here: Elance offers escrow payments; oDesk does not. That’s not to say that you’ll never earn anything off of oDesk, but you’ll often have to work out your own payment deals with the client. Freelancers on Elance can easily enter new projects with new clients with a higher degree of confidence because they know when the money is already waiting for them.
If you’re an employer who doesn’t like paying in escrow, you can opt not to do so, though you may run into some trouble if you have problems finding proposals from people who would rather make sure their money is waiting for them.
Both sites handle the basics: depositing money into your bank accounts is not a major challenge on either site.
Advantage: Elance. You have to love the escrow service.
So Who Wins the Battle?
Throughout this article, we’ve employed three criteria for judging the two freelance sites:
- Transactions and Processing
While there are other elements to consider, these three criteria can at least be applied to both work providers and people looking to hire.
So which site reigns supreme?
In my opinion, Elance gets it. Though you’ll find more cost for the membership and the bids, it’s not hard to earn your investment back. You’ll also find that the Escrow and relatively lower transaction fees more than make up for what you’re losing on the front end.
Both sites, however, should be in every freelancer’s arsenal. I know I have accounts at both sites. And if you’re ever going to become a professional freelancer, both sites could be considered great ways to make contacts with clients – and you can always transfer them to your own payment system if you want to avoid being stuck with the fees.
oDesk is not a bad introduction to the world of freelancing for the beginners who want to find work without bringing out the credit card, but in our opinion, Elance is where you want to be.