Guru.com Review

Does the Name Match the Quality?
Let’s be fair: if you’re going to have a name like “Guru,” I expect you to be good. If you’ve taken the time to acquire the domain of Guru.com, you’d better do the domain justice. Of course, many of you in the freelancing world have already heard of this job-hunting behemoth, so I’ll spare you the soliloquy on Guru’s brand-ambition and get down to the nitty-gritty: does Guru (www.guru.com) deliver the freelance goods?

It’s got some stiff competition. Elance is my own personal gold standard, if a little pricey. oDesk is functional, has plenty of work, and uncomplicated. Freelancer has plenty of jobs available for anyone who’s spent more than five minutes using the Internet before. There’s a lot of projects out there for someone who’s really looking to work. Why add Guru to the mix and just complicate your whole online freelancing enterprise?

Guru belongs in the upper echelon of freelance web sites.

Well, as it turns out, Guru’s got plenty of reasons to join. Heck, simply being a somewhat populated freelance site with reasonable fees should be enough for any freelancer to consider signing up. It’s always good to be diversified, even if you’re not talking about stocks: why put all of your eggs in the oDesk basket when there’s plenty of good, honest money to be made at Guru?

But in this Guru review, we’ll have to judge the site on its own merits. We can’t give it credit simply because it’s another freelancing site. So to do that, let’s tackle Guru’s own characteristics one by one and see how it stacks against the freelancing elite.

Simplicity and Functionality

One of the first things I personally look for in a freelancing site is how easy the site is to use. What’s the point of signing up for an excellent freelance service if their navigation is incomprehensible and it’s impossible to find all of the latest posted projects? That question’s rhetorical, but let’s answer it anyway: there is no point.

That’s why Guru had better deliver the goods here. The good news is that it does. Log in, click “Get work” and you’re off to the races. You can even make things simpler on yourself by setting project notifications that tell you when a project you’d be interested in – say, a project with a certain budget – has been posted. That’s reason enough to add Guru to your freelancing arsenal if you still work primarily somewhere else: letting Guru do your job searching for you is a great feature.

Navigation is easy upon logging in – all of the goods are put up front. You can edit your account profile, search for new jobs, check out project notifications and do a myriad of other things just a click or two away from your main navigation page. True, not many freelance sites out there are much more complicated than this, but it’s a good way to start.

Payment Systems

I’m a big fan of escrow payments. You know – you start a project with a client and they fund an “escrow” account that shows you that the money is there. But you don’t get paid until the client’s satisfied. It’s a generally reliable and safe way to push money across the web and if a freelance site doesn’t have it, I die a little bit inside.

Luckily, Guru.com has it. Having somewhere over $100 million in transactions go through its fingers over the years, Guru’s definitely made a system capable of both simplicity and security – the two big “s’s” when it comes to getting paid. You can also use Guru’s system to create invoices and manage your overall money situation. Simply tie in a bank account to Guru and you’re ready to get paid.

Pricing

Of course, none of this really matters if Guru charges you ten thousand dollars a month and demands 99% of all your project payments. So how does it stack up in the always-important pricing category?

First, Guru is free to sign up to. This is common across freelancing sites, so it’s not a particularly noteworthy achievement. Like Freelancer.com, Guru takes a fairly hefty project fee (5 to 10 per cent, depending on the scope of the project) that can be scaled down with the purchase of a regular membership, which includes a flat fee. This isn’t particular noteworthy for any reason. The prices aren’t exceptionally low (Freelancer takes only 3 per cent after you sign up for their membership), or exceptionally high (though 10 per cent is higher than Elance’s standard 8.75%).

To put that in vertical terms, here are the pricers freelancers pay explained:

  • Guru: 5-10% of project fees depending on scope of the project; less with regular membership
  • Elance: 8.75% standard, membership additional
  • Freelancer.com: 3% after signing up for membership

If Guru could change its pricing system to beat out its competition, it would become an even more attractive alternative to the other big-name freelancing sites.

Bells, Whistles, and Other Miscellanea

What about Guru’s other overall function? You’ll find it to be pretty similar to the comprehensiveness of an Elance. Employers can recommend your services, giving you the street cred needed to aim for those bigger projects. Managing your account and handling escrow payments are a snap, putting you in some pretty nice control over your money. Creating invoices is another good way to helpfully remind your clients that they need to pay up without sending goons after them.

Overall, Guru.com is certainly a worthy addition to your freelancing tools. Since signing up is free, you should sign up right now if you haven’t already. Having three or four different freelance sites from which to choose can be a great thing because it takes your eggs out of one basket and moves them to several different baskets. Any wise freelancer should be aware of this strategy.

Guru’s prices aren’t exceptionally low, but since there’s no risk to sign up, there’s no reason you shouldn’t bookmark it and consider it a place to find some work. In today’s economy, any place to find work should be considered a must-bookmark. Freelancing success isn’t as easy as signing up to Guru or oDesk, but you won’t go very far if you can’t see the benefits to adding Guru to your list of sites to visit on a regular basis.

Or, heck, don’t sign up and leave more jobs to people like me.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating

Dan Kenitz

Dan Kenitz is a former professional Search Engine Optimization specialist and current freelance writer, commentator, and all-around entrepreneur.

35 comments

  1. Ken Durham

    I’ve used guru.com for years when my consulting work goes slow and have never needed any alternatives to them. Out of all of the years I have used them, I have never had any problems whatsoever. They have always responded to any of my queries in a timely fashion and have never once spammed my in-box. Guru.com is certainly worth a bookmark and an asset for any freelancer. Kudos to you for giving them credit where credit is due.

    • Emory Rowland

      Ken, that’s encouraging. I’ve used Elance pretty much forever and it’s worked well for me as a buyer but I’m always looking for alternatives. I gave guru.com a try once or twice and it never really took off for me. It’s probably time to revisit them.

  2. Jane Doe

    While I am sure some people have a positive experience with Guru.com, it’s safe and obvious that others do not. I, myself has a terrible experience in which they stole over $300 from me. They claim their escrow is safe and you don’t have to release the funds until you’re happy with your freelancer. Seeing this, I thought WOW< this is amazing! Well it's a pack of lies. I hired a freelancer with a "Satisfaction Guarantee". Long story short, he didn't complete the work and the work he did was terrible. We tried to close the project and went through Guru.com's Arbitration process, in which they just gave the freelancer the money. They didn't check the files to see that they were poor quality and full of errors. They didn't look at the fact that he missed every single deadline after guaranteeing us he would meet them. So tell me, how is their escrow safe? How is my satisfaction guaranteed when I paid over $300 and got absolutely nothing from it? STAY AWAY FROM GURU.COM. You are far better off using elance or even freelancer.com

  3. Emory Rowland

    “Stole” seems a little harsh. I had a similar issue with Rentacoder.com (they have since changed their name to vworker.com), where the freelancer wasn’t able to deliver and I had to go back and forth with the arbitration rep. It ended up wasting hours of my time and it was quite humiliating.

    After that experience, I came running back to the arms of Elance. I don’t even know if Elance has an arbitration process because I’ve never had to use it. Their escrow payment system seems to work well.

  4. Emory, this is a nice, balanced review. I recently closed my account with Guru.com, but only because I decided to focus on software development.

    I wrote a marketing tutorial, using Guru.com. It’s nice to see my points validated.

    @Jane Doe: escrow does seem to protect the freelancer (I benefited when an employer disappeared.) The contracts are heavily weighted in our favor. Not that this will help you any, but you need to make sure that you pull in the reins on ANY independent contract. We watch our backs, you gotta watch yours.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  5. Emory Rowland

    Thanks, Mitch. I signed up for Guru.com as a freelancer way back when it first launched, never really pursued it. Recently I went back and posted a job for a developer/writer to write web hosting articles. I ended up with about 10 bids but none that I felt were experts. The toughest thing is to find experts who can also write well.

  6. Mel

    I don’t find Guru to be very beneficial for the new member freelancer. Bidders are weighted according to the number of reviews and earnings when presented to an employer, which is fine; but for the new member, it is a real disadvantage and somewhat discouraging. Are employers really going to give a chance to a new member who as yet has no reviews or earnings? Because your bid will appear at the very bottom of the list. The exposure is also very limited unless you pay for a premium “guru” spot. I much prefer Artwanted.com and Freelanced.com as a Freelancer.

  7. Mel

    Guru is definitely NOT the best site for a visual artist! Portfolio space is limited to “work samples” and not a great venue for visual art. It is a definite disadvantage to be a new member with no earnings or reviews yet. Maybe if you’ve been with them a long time……I much prefer Freelancer and Ifreelance for visual artists.

  8. craig

    GURU.com SAFEPAY is NOT SAFE. I agree completely with a comment above, so it is not harsh. Not only did they pay the freelancer the funds, despite not doing the work, they then stop you from leaving coments about the freelancer or about your experience of SAFEPAY. They act in their own interests to take commissions, and disregard any obvious contractual facts, and do not even answer these. I feel there must be a lot of customers experiencing the same problem, but Guru.com work on the fact that they will get away with it. I feel this is fraud.

  9. Kevin

    I’ve been looking over Guru.com after hearing about it for the first time. I’m not sure what I think.

    One of their featured testimonials is from a freelance writer. But, from the work samples I’ve downloaded, this “writer” doesn’t have the language skills she claims. She can’t tell the difference between “verbal” and “oral”, or “affect” and “effect”, and apparently doesn’t know when to use “a” and when to use “an”. That’s a red flag for me.

    As for freelance jobs they have listed, the vast majority seem to be posted by folks who are either hoping to lowball their budgets, or have no idea of the work that might be involved in bringing their project to fruition. In that sense, Guru.com appears to be a half-step up from a crowdsourcing site—another red flag.

  10. Monica

    TERRIBLE!!!

    The freelancer used ASP.net and my job title was clearly stated PHP! Guru ignored my money going to escrow and they paid the freelancer without my permission, probably to get the commission. They didn’t give me my money back although not work was done as you couldn’t even log in. Terrible work from the freelancer in India.

    I do not recommend Guru. Terrible!!!

  11. Monica

    guru.com allows the coders to block negative feedback. I think if you are going to do reviews allowing participants to block bad reviews defeats the purpose. Guru.com is more afraid of the freelancers as they can do anything to guru’s website. I will not be spending any more money with guru.com. I prefer vworker, where i can see all reviews and disputes, that way I can make a much more informed decision.

  12. Kim

    The Guru website itself is fine, and there are plenty of jobs posted. What I’m noticing though, is that most of the jobs are never, ever awarded – at least not the ones I’ve bid on, and that’s quite a few. They all just wither away and are not officially awarded to anybody via the Guru system. Either these are fake listings, posted to entice freelancers to PAY and join thinking they’ll get all this work, or I’m just really, really unlucky in the jobs I’m picking!

  13. Jim

    I signed up for Guru a while back and immediately landed a $1500.00 contract to write a Bankruptcy book for a law firm, which I did and was paid for. So that was a really great start. I use other sites, all of them, and am constantly landing small jobs and some big ones. Since that first ebook, I have bid on nearly 50 jobs. I ask questions, even without bidding sometimes, send messages, create custom samples that are actually what the project is related to, and I have not gotten a single email, a single response, a single bid accepted, and yes I have checked all of my bids are showing up. I found that I am not alone in this. There is only one possibility, there are tons of fake, bs jobs. I do great work, and have no negative reviews on any site, so it is obvious to me. On all other sites, even low traffic ones, I get emails, responses, questions, answers, bid negotiations, and all kinds of other activity. On Guru.com, I get zero activity. I just had a proposal where I asked the guy 3 or 4 questions each time I responded to his proposal inquiry. Which did he want to do, print or ebook, or both? If both, how about Kindle and Createspace? All questions were crucial to the project, and we could not start unless I knew the answers. He would write me each time and ask me to “list my service [sic] and give my best price” which I would always reply “Why won’t you answer my questions?” to which he would always say “What questions?” So obviously the project is bs, has over 40 bids on it, and now it is closed out without any further activity. That happens a lot, an awful lot, and these scammers should be arrested for screwing with working people who need to support a family, just so they can feed theirs without having to do anything real.

    • @Jim, During that period, I lost out on some contract work due to not replying to messages that I didn’t know were there. It wasn’t BS – Guru had an annoying glitch in their system.

      I still use Guru.com, but the real action is on PeoplePerHour.com and, if you can stomach the garbage, Freelancer.com. the key to any freelance site is to learn its pulse. (Guru is a no-nonsense type place. PeoplePerHour is a more laid back place, while Freelancer is a frantic bazaar.)

      Cheers,

      Mitch

  14. Kara

    I hired some company on Guru to work on my project, paid $6000. They had 4.5 stars reviews. But soon after I paid, all the bugs started coming out, contractor will not contact us regarding problems. Guru was not on our side, they look at who will make them more money. Now I had to hire someone to rewrite the code. It was a nightmare working with Guru. Beware.

  15. Mike

    My experience with Guru is, you’re better with Craig’s list. I had two “Guru’s”. The first one billed me, never did any work and refunded the money two weeks later. The second one billed me and did nothing. I never got the money back.

    Unless you’re a Guru expert, be careful. The “guru’s” know how to game you. Mine basically take any job that’s offered, take the money and then determine what work they’ll do.

    My experience with Guru is they are a Vinneyboombatzt used car dealer.

  16. Jason

    I’ve been on both sides. Being the employer was more negative than being the freelancer. I guess that supports some of the earlier comments about getting the commission $.

    As the freelancer we get few jobs on Guru compared to our other freelancing site. The last job we did get the client said “Jason, you were the last chance I was going to give Guru…I’d had it with that site, I’m shocked to finally find a professional”. Flattering, but not too good in terms of future job prospects….

    When I hired a freelancer to create a simple portfolio website- no selling anything- I didn’t find out until after the job was complete they used a free plug in for ALL the galleries….a plug in with no manual, no idea how to use it, so of course while trying to upload all our work the format was ruined- basically the site became unusable-unless I wanted to fork over more money of course. Guru completely ignored my side of the story and gave the freelancer the remaining 20% left in escrow. After 2 months of trying to get that going and all that $$$, I spent the weekend throwing together a website builder for $120.00- and that included hosting.

  17. Aoneassistant

    I registered on Guru.com to make some extra money providing Administrative Support Services as a freelancer. This is a site who’s sole purpose is to make huge profits for Guru. If you register for free and don’t pay the minimum $59.00 yearly membership, you cannot apply for jobs. I tried to apply for a job just to see how it worked and it asked me for a $25.00 fee just so I could apply without any guarantee of getting the job. I want to make some extra money not give money away without any hopes of a return. I would be better off spending $5.00 a month in advertising in a newspaper or free on-line method. If you do get a job you have to pay Guru a fee on top of the membership fee and I do believe there are other fees. This company takes advantage of the unemployed or under employed for their own profit. SHAME ON THEM!

  18. Aoneassistant

    Dan, did you actually try the web-site? Your review is not very accurate and is misleading. I would never recommend this web-site. People who want to use a web-site like Guru are unemployed or under-employed and want to make money not give money away. Did you look at all the fees? How would someone who is unemployed even have the money to pay all their fees with no guarantee of re-cooping those fees? I know Guru needs to make money too but they should only be charging a reasonable percentage fee to a freelancer after the job is completed and pay for by the client. The upfront charges are just taking advantage of people who cannot afford to be taken advantage of.

  19. Art

    Most of the writing jobs are posted by bottom-feeders. And the site is crawling with vendors who will work for incredibly low fees. However, in my 2 1/2 years of membership, I have hooked up with some great companies who value quality work. I generally meet them on Guru and then work with them outside the Guru system.

    It has worked for me. I look at it as another channel for finding clients and projects.

    But quality employers have become really scarce as the recession drags on…

  20. Taj

    This is the worst site and people work there are big cheaters.They will not do any work and will pull the work for several months full of mistakes and bugs.They will not return the money and will keep the money as free lancers after several months with broken pieces in your hand.I am consulting my lawyers to deal with this FRAUD.

  21. KK

    I think you might want to revisit the site. First off, their escrow system is no longer referred to as escrow and is clearly stated not to be an escrow account. The fees for paying members are 7.45%. They have completely redone the freelancer side of the site and changed most of the navigation and functionality. Nothing works. What hasn’t been deleted completely (spell check, employer stats, location requirements, # of invited freelancers, etc.) is either partially deleted (budget sorting, watchlist, etc.) or probably about to be deleted because it doesn’t seem that the site is holding together very well. The site has been broken since last December. And, instead of fixing it, they are now preparing an entire redo of the employer side of the site as well. This will no doubt scare away whatever decent employers were there and all the jobs will be for 2 cents per hour. Last, but not least, they have refused to keep their FAQ updated and have redirected their help and contact links to the answers forum, where nothing gets answered. Bugs are reported constantly, because, as I can only guess, the team that screwed up the site in December is now trying to fix things. Suggestions are being made. Really good ones. And people even post their private information (passwords, billing codes, phone numbers, etc.) there thinking it’s some sort of help desk. This is a public forum. Most seasoned users question what the heck is guru doing and why aren’t things fixed or replied to, yet still told “it’s not high priority right now,” valid questions are quickly bumped to page 2 with a few “how do I edit my profile” questions, and the rest is left up for the whole world to view. This is how they run their site. Go check it out.

  22. Gojo

    I’m in total agreement with KK. Having just glanced at their site (for some reason that escapes me), it’s obvious that they’ve redone the user facing side, but all the crap that was underneath is still there. The interface now mimicks github / bitbucket, et cetera — but, really, who are they fooling?

    I’m a software developer, so cannot speak for the other areas of the site.

    The good:

    - If you can afford to spend time looking for work instead of actually working, there are some gems out there to be found. Two of my current clients were found via guru.com (way back in 2006, though).
    - It is indeed a good way to obtain experience in professional, global scale freelancing, especially if you’re very young and/or residing somewhere where the cost of living is low (not in the US or UK unless you’re a student living at home).

    The bad and the ugly:

    - Even in the cases above, as was stated earlier, the competition for jobs is so ferocious that the chances of finding consistent work are quite low. Guru.com is definitely a buyer’s market (the seller being, of course, the freelancer) and for almost all intents and purposes, job acquisition can boil down to a roll of the dice.

    - Most of the freelancers who obtain the few really good software contracts are freelancers who have been with guru.com from the start. They are, more times than not, companies who in turn outsource those contracts to lower paying developers / freelancers, and since they’ve been with guru.com for a while, they have very high earnings and feedback scores.

    - The majority of the remaining jobs are…incredulous; at best. Several people / companies simply post in order to see what kinds of budgets they can expect — a complete waste of time and money when sending out bids, considering that the few good clients I’ve found were done so while searching 6 to 8 hours per day, weeding out the junk that clogs that site. Other job posts offer outrageously low rates, because they know that someone will jump on it for the reasons stated above. I’ve seen jobs that would be estimated at 160 hours worth of work, offering $500, $250, or less to complete. Really, that’s just insulting.

    My advice — check it out just to see what to avoid.

  23. Yes, Guru has messaging issues, but I primarily use the site to get jobs and deal with payment. Thankfully, I do not have to upload everything “prior to a dispute being filed” (Elance’s policy) in order for it to be considered as part of a dispute. I have gotten plenty of business through Guru and have not needed to consider other websites. I am also happy with the customer service. They are really accommodating. Yes, it can be confusing for new employers who aren’t used to the system. And, yes, it tends to take the freelancer’s side – but you have to choose wisely. I have also hired freelancers on Guru and found you tend to get what you pay for. In general, samples can tell you a lot.

  24. Jenny

    Jennifer is wrong. This site is unfriendly, one sided, does not communicate with people that write to them, and have recently changed their prices, raising them 4x starting in January 2014!

    Most projects do not get awarded. It’s a total ripoff.

  25. John Hayes

    I’ve used fiverr, lance and guru and will never use guru again based on a recent job. I hired a freelancer out of India to generate visits to my web site. After two months of spotty work I figured out, with the help of some Search experts, that of the thousands of folks that visited my site the majority were “fakes”. They were generated from the same ISPs and when I went and investigated on my own the ISPs were “SoftPopAds”. Unfortunately I just didn’t know enough and the freelancer assured me, to the bitter end, that she would not generate “fake” leads . . . but that’s what she did. I objected to paying a $450 fee and went to guru arbitration and lost. They said I provided no proof that the visitors were fake. Huh? I gave them the specific page addresses. At any rate, hard lesson learned. I made the mistake of not making the freelancer post a list of what she would do for me on the guru site — I had asked for this list numerous times and got it in pieces mostly via Skype messages (her English is so poor that I could not always understand what she was telling me). I will never use guru.com again and would not advise anyone else to do so, either.

    • John, I have occasionally had to dispute services from providers (not on Guru specifically). I’ve won some, lost others. It seems to be that many of the arbiters don’t have enough expertise in the field to make a sound judgment. They may be good people, but just not understand there is no value at all to traffic like this. Yes, technically it’s traffic but worthless.

  26. sammi

    I had a terrible experience at guru.com. Vendor was very slow, did not follow guidelines, wanted more money. Then wouldn’t return payment when I cancelled.

  27. pam

    I have serviced this market for over 9 years, and I have called it quits with all the predominant freelance services, because clearly they are here to serve all but the USA work that populates their services. Because of the crap they stand behind. None should be surprised, when each of these freelance services have heads that are from India.

    Many of you complain about the designers that you have chosen, but stop right now. As each of you! Especially the native born Americans are complaining for nothing. You come on these crap services and want the highest of design for pennies.

    You then make a CONSCIOUS choice to screw your fellow american designers by going with these thieves overseas that have nothing legally binding them. All to save a few bucks. And now you complain.

    Mark my words, in the near future the entire spirit of entrepreneurship will collapse, because the only way you will be able to get anything done digitally will have to be sought after via an agency that will charge you 80-100 per hour. So suck it up when that comes about!

    So thank you, you cheap Axx fellow american’s, for contributing to the fail of a good idea of commerce. All to save a few bucks.

    And as for the service providers. Obviously, also it is their actions that are also encouraging people like your spineless selves to go with. Because they are within their own hands diminishing the value of a designer.

    Those crap designers overseas that have no design ability, charge just pennies less than us Americans over here that have to spend 40-100 thousand dollars to be educated.

    All in all, this is a clear example of how the human spirit itself has became dark. No loyalty, no ethic, and for sure no direction.

    I can’t wait till I can read articles of you same sell outs complaining of how hard it is to find a quality designer. And I will happily take triple of what I was willing to while servicing those crap services such as guru and elance. For I will never service these arenas ever again.

    Cheers! You traitors!

  28. VanS

    As a freelance writer looking for work, I heard about Guru. The above review sounds positive, but most of the comments quite negative.

    I realize human nature being what it is, people with a negative experience will more likely comment than those with a positive. I say this not to minimize anyone’s sincere pain. But also knowing how business in our shark tank culture works, I can imagine other competing sites may choose to put up some negative feedback.

    My question is more of a request: that if anyone has had a positive experience with guru, would you also please comment and bring some balance. Thanks!

  29. jeff

    I just got through another round as an employer with Guru.
    I have no problems with the people I’ve hired on Guru, it’s Guru itself, that is the problem.
    They are one of the most frustrating companies to deal with.
    If you have a question they generally offer email suggestions that are insufficient. They seem to have an aversion to the telephone so explanations are short and not helpful.
    I chose not to trust them with my bank account information so I pay by check.
    It takes forever for them to post that they have the money so my vender waits. They offer loyality dollars that are useless and you can never redeem them.
    Now I have 3 late payment marks against me because they offer little help.
    I’m glad I found a few other sites to look for help in the future.
    Thanks for listening

  30. J. Dixon

    I’ve used Guru.com for several software development projects over the past few years with mixed results. However, the overall quality of Guru contractors has definitely declined. The escrow system is marginally useful. The arbitration system is totally worthless. Until you develop a good working relationship with a given contractor on Guru, be sure to break the job down into very small pieces to keep your escrow exposure to a manageable level. Do not, under any circumstances, ever put more money into Guru’s escrow account than you are willing to lose. I’ve found that Elance and oDesk are now much better sources for offshore contractors. I no longer use Guru.

  31. I hired a freelancer on guru for the first and last time recently. The freelancer was top recommended. The quality of the work was absolutely awful (this is an understatement). I requested a refund and didn’t get it. To top it off, I find out that freelancers can “block” feedback. This is pretty unprofessional and unethical to me. Will never use this site again.

  32. RY33

    Guru.com is nothing but junk jobs. People that want you to design 10 characters, they don’t want to share copyrights with you, then they want a stack of color illustrations in two days time and the budget is less than $250. And the worst part is they all get 27 proposals. This is the kind of stuff that has ruined the industry for freelance illustrators.

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