What is oDesk, you might ask? oDesk (www.oDesk.com) is a place where people looking for freelance work and people looking to hire a freelancer can meet, arrange jobs, send and receive payments, and everything else that is required to work in the freelance realm.
They are similar in many ways to Elance, which we reviewed earlier.
So, how do you hire somebody through oDesk? Once you have an account (which is free), you can browse for someone to hire based on categories or skills, or you can use an advanced search to find providers, which is what oDesk calls their freelancers. Or, if you’d prefer, you can post a job and see which providers are interested in working for you. It’s fairly straightforward to find someone to hire.
Once you’ve chosen someone to potentially hire, you can interview them to make sure that they fit what you really want. You can also negotiate a few terms of the employment during this process. If you choose to hire them based on hourly pay (which is the most common method), you don’t have to just trust that they worked a certain number of hours, you will get a true confirmation of the hours they worked. It’s a part of their dual-sided guarantee: “an hour billed is an hour worked” and “an hour worked is an hour paid”.
How do they guarantee such a thing? Well, when a freelancer is doing work, they have to be logged in to a special program that will take screenshots at a rate 6 screenshots per hour. If, for a section of time, they claim to be working on your stuff but they are on YouTube or doing something else instead, you don’t have to pay them for that section of time. There are other things that will allow you to refuse to pay them for that time as well, as shown below:
This is honestly good for everybody. If a freelancer is doing the work that they say they are doing, it guarantees that they will get a payment. If they are not, it guarantees that they can’t rip off the person that is paying them.
The buyer is given the ability to pay whenever he or she chooses to pay. If a buyer refuses to pay (bad idea), the freelancer is allowed to give them a big, negative feedback, and it seems that those that don’t maintain a 100% feedback rating have a harder time doing much of anything through oDesk. However, since this is not directly regulated by oDesk, it means that the interview process is designed to go both ways. When you are interviewing a potential provider to see if they can do what you want them to, they are (in a sense) interviewing you right back to see if they are comfortable trusting that you’ll pay them. This is especially true when working in the realm of pay-per-project jobs, or really anything outside of hourly where the “payment guarantee” does not apply.
Once everything is done and everybody is or has paid, both sides give feedback ratings to the other side. It’s important to work well with others in order to keep a feedback rating that will continue to allow you to, well, work well with others.
Getting a freelance job through oDesk is somewhat similar. Freelancers can create a free account, update their profile with their abilities, and set an asking price. Then they can actively look for jobs that have been posted, or sit back and wait for a potential employer to find them. Since they are new, they will likely have to set a lower price in order to attract work. But, once they have some feedback, they can start asking for higher prices, as long as their skill level warrants it.
Once a potential job is found, both parties go through the same process that a buyer does when looking for a provider. Everything is very straightforward, and there are few special cases.
Keep in mind, though, that a new provider who wants to work hourly will have to download the oDesk application to keep track of the hours they are working.
How It Differs From Elance
There are a couple big differences between Elance and oDesk. In Elance, while a potential employer can get a free account, freelancers have to pay a monthly fee to be in the listing. At oDesk, both types of accounts are completely free to have and hold onto. For the freelancers, aka providers, oDesk offers a better deal since it won’t cost them anything if it doesn’t work out.
The other big difference lies in how an employer pays a freelancer. At Elance, the employer pays an amount to Elance and they act as an escrow service. So, the employer has to pay in advance. However, the employer is still protected because the freelancer never actually gets the money until they’ve completed the work. This is good for the freelancer, but it can hurt the chances that an employer will want to use the service, which, ironically, ends up hurting the freelancer if the number of employers drops too much. At oDesk, however, there is no upfront payment. Instead, people who manage to rip others off a couple of times will never be able to offer work again because nobody will accept work from someone who has ripped someone off in the past. But what about that one person that got ripped off? Through a conflict resolution center, oDesk does everything they can to prevent that from happening, but it can happen. This is definitely better for the potential employers, though it might not be as good for the freelancers, depending on how you look at it.
How oDesk Earns Money
But, wait, how does oDesk earn money if all accounts are free? It’s actually fairly simple. They take a 10% fee from every payment. It doesn’t actually cut into the freelancer’s earnings, though. Instead, when a freelancer sets a price, say $10 per hour, oDesk simply increases that amount by 10% before it shows it to potential employers. This is a fair and balanced system that only charges money when there is actual success.
oDesk seems like a great place for somebody to start doing freelancing. No monthly fees allows someone to experiment with the idea to see how it goes without investing much into the actual attempt. It seems to lead to freelancers getting paid a reasonable amount when they are good enough to deserve it, and it allows those looking to hire to see what they are hiring through the feedback provided from others that have hired the same person.
In short, it looks good to me!