oDesk vs Elance: Comprehensive Guide

oDesk vs ElanceoDesk vs Elance is an important question to ask because they are two of the biggest freelance marketplaces online today. If you want to start your freelancing career, both oDesk and Elance are good places to start because they have a good supply of employers looking to hire you. In the long term, however, you would probably be better off searching for projects by yourself. However, when you are starting out, an established platform definitely helps.

Elance is older, but oDesk is faster growing. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses. As a freelancer, you should be able to choose the site that better suits your needs. Ultimately, you want to earn more money, in a consistent manner and get paid as high as possible for your skills. With this in mind, lets look at oDesk and Elance and evaluate them based on different aspects of a freelancing site.

I wouldn’t suggest joining all the freelancing sites at once simply because it can overwhelm you. I would suggest being active on one of them. Another important reason to concentrate on one of them is the feedback system – if you have excellent feedback on one of them, you will still need to start over at the other, which would be equivalent to underselling yourself.

Freelancing is growing fast. Quoting statistics from Elance research, CNN recently asked whether 2013 is the age of the freelancer. It’s not just the young, unemployed people looking to be freelancers. In fact, boomers are booming as freelancers! If you want to be part of the action, choosing the right freelance marketplace to get started can be a crucial decision.

oDesk vs Elance: Quality of Job Postings

Quality of job postings is a very important aspect of any freelancing marketplace. No one wants to work on crappy assignments with low pay. In terms of overall quality, Elance beats oDesk in almost all cases. oDesk has seen a drop in quality job openings and this decline has been consistent. Of course this is a very general trend I am talking about – there could be certain types of jobs where the quality is getting better. Unfortunately a criteria such as this one is hard to quantify.

If you look at major players and small businesses, they seem to prefer Elance. These bigger companies are more likely to look for better quality providers and also willing to pay more. If you own a small business generating a million dollars and looking to post freelance projects, chances are, you will go for Elance. I think the main reason is because it is old and has some good freelancers working on the site for a long time.

Of course on the flip side, if you are just getting started, I think it might be easier to break into oDesk. More on that later.

oDesk vs Elance: Fees

Freelancing sites like Elance or oDesk charge you money for using their services. These are usually not a one time charge but you need to give up a percentage of your income. This is unlike a jobs board, for example, where you pay a flat rate to get access to all the jobs. Fees can actually be a very significant part of what you earn, especially if you are looking to get into freelancing more seriously.

oDesk has a flat fee structure: you pay 10% of your gross income as fees. Thus if the employer pays you $100, you end up with $90. However, the good thing with oDesk is that there is no fees to join. There is no concept of premium memberships at the site. Therefore if all you are looking to do is play around and take a look at how things are, you might find this attractive.

Elance has a more complex fee structure. From their website,the per assignment fees are 8.75% for standard Service Fee for relationships less than $10,000 and 6.75% discounted Service Fee for relationships that exceed $10,000 and new relationships referred to Elance. Then there is membership fees. Individual membership is $10/month for premium membership. There are other levels for small and large businesses. There is also a free membership level but is very restrictive in terms of what you can do.

oDesk vs Elance: Payments and Protection

Of course at the end of the day you want to get paid. Both Elance and oDesk have systems in place which ensure that buyers pay freelancers. However, they go about it in very different ways.

At Elance, there is the concept of Escrow payments – the buyer puts aside money for the project with Elance and Elance releases it when the job is completed. If there is a dispute, Elance will not release the funds, so freelancers cannot ‘take the money and run’. This is quite a reasonable system and helps protect both buyers and sellers.

oDesk on the other hand has a payment guarantee for hourly assignments. oDesk monitors workers through screenshots, keystrokes and mouse clicks (more on this later) and above a minimum threshold of activity, oDesk will guarantee that the freelancer will be paid. However, on fixed price assignments, there is no system of escrow payments. Most buyers will not pay a percentage of assignment in advance. This means freelancers are at risk and if the buyer is dishonest, they lose out. Fixed price assignments inherently make more sense for many types of projects and it is a pity that they are not protected better.

oDesk vs Elance: Privacy

Elance wins hands-down. This is a no brainer. oDesk has the policy with hourly assignments where you have to install a software that takes screenshots of your screen at random intervals and sends it to the employer, making sure that you are working on the project at hand. In addition, the software collects keyboard strokes and mouse click information. This is an extremely intrusive method of monitoring workers and frankly doesn’t even make a lot of sense. Did anyone hear about “thinking” while doing a job? Needless to say, this is still a controversial thing.

I know a lot of freelancers don’t like to be monitored like lab rats every waking hour of their life when they are working. After all, as long as they get the job done, they are entitled to some time off while working too. No company in the world monitors workers in this fashion anyway.

oDesk vs Elance: Feedback System

Feedback is an integral part of any freelancing marketplace because it distinguishes the good workers from the bad. It is also a good way to establish trust with future potential employers.

oDesk feedback seems a little more transparent and truer. Most good workers at Elance seem to have a 5 or near 5 rating. Even though many at oDesk do that too, there is a better differential. This differential is important, after all, if you want to distinguish yourself, which is the very purpose of feedback to begin with. If everyone is a 5 star, there is nothing you gain by being one yourself.

oDesk vs Elance: Customer Service

Both Elance and oDesk have good customer service. This is an important aspect because the sites handle all the administrative tasks for freelancers, like getting paid, invoicing, money transfers, etc. I tend to like oDesk customer service more than Elance. I think they are more prompt with their replies and provide good solutions to your problems. both sites have a good amount of information in their help pages, so you can find most answers there. Again, I tend to like oDesk help pages more.

In addition, oDesk has a whole Community – forums, which can be immensely useful for freelancers and employers looking for solutions or voicing their complaints or ideas. This is a great feature to have and can be very helpful especially to the people new to the site.

Learn More
There is a great book on Amazon about freelancing on Elance that is equally applicable to oDesk. It’s called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance
Check it out, and may be you’ll learn something new!

Know more about these by visiting Elance and oDesk and comparing them yourself. I hope this review was useful. Feel free to drop a line in the comments and share your experience with others, so we can all benefit.

Photo Credit: Ionics

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Handling Negative oDesk Feedback

Negative oDesk FeedbackHandling negative oDesk feedback is a very important aspect of being a successful freelancer at oDesk. A very important part of the oDesk Marketplace is the presence of a feedback system. Much like eBay, this feedback system provides a great system of trust which is used by both freelancers and employers. In an ideal world, the feedback would tell you everything about the freelancer and the employer will do a cost-benefit analysis to hire the right candidate for the job. Similarly, the employers with a negative oDesk feedback would be in the ‘high-risk’ category and thus need to provide a better pay for this increased risk.

However, nothing is ideal and even though the oDesk feedback system is a great one, it is not always accurate. After all, the feedback system is highly subjective and you may not always agree with the assessment. However, it is a prominent part of your profile and perhaps the very first thing that a potential employer is going to look at. This means a negative oDesk feedback can ruin a potentially great job opportunity. Obviously you would like to avoid it.

In addition, having a negative oDesk feedback at the very initial stage of your freelancing career isn’t a great way to start it off. You can find it difficult to get hold of good jobs and assignments even if you are otherwise qualified for them. This is why it is important to handle negative feedback right away. That is the purpose of this article – to help you get ahead of the game.

Understanding How oDesk Feedback System Works

The oDesk feedback system can be a little different from what you are used to seeing at sites like eBay or even other freelancing sites like Elance. Here are some important aspects of the system:

  • You cannot remove a negative oDesk feedback. It is on your record forever.
  • You can hide the comments written for you along with the feedback. It would show up as ‘private’ on your profile. However, the star feedback will still be visible.
  • You can enable an employer to change the feedback left for you. Make sure you have communicated before doing this because they can obviously leave a worse feedback if you are not professional about it. It is up to them whether to change it or not, though.
  • A project should have a payout of at least $1 for the feedback to show on your profile.
  • You cannot see the feedback of the other party before submitting your own feedback. After 14 days, you can no longer leave a feedback, at which stage this becomes available to view to you and the public. In the interim, it shows as ‘feedback awaited’.
  • It is possible to dispute a feedback with oDesk but it only removes negative feedback under exceptional circumstances, which means it is not very common.

Now that you understand how the oDesk feedback system works, lets work our way through to solving the problem of a negative oDesk feedback.

Identify the Reason for Negative oDesk Feedback

This is the very first step and also perhaps the most important, because the course of action you take later on depends on the reason for this negative oDesk feedback. The reasons can be several and it is important that you identify them. Once you have this figured, we can move on to how you should resolve the issue and possible solutions. Here are some possible reasons for this negative feedback:

  • Genuine Miscommunication: The project was a good experience for both you and the employer and he was happy with your work. There was constant communication throughout. However, there was some miscommunication – perhaps you didn’t get an email update or a resource which they thought they had given you. As a result, the final product was good but not completely as was required. This does happen, so you need to clarify with your employer.
  • Very high standards: The employer has very high standards for whatever reason. This means they will leave a very good feedback only if they are blown off their feet by your work. They don’t leave a negative review but not a very good one either – remember that even a ‘neutral’ 3 star review is going to hurt you a lot when everyone else gets a 4.5-5 star feedback.
  • There was a Conflict: This happens at times when the employer doesn’t have a clear idea or what he wants or when the freelancer is unable to provide the service he promised. This is a real conflict situation and cannot be resolved just by talking over because both parties have different expectations about the project. As a result, the employer leaves you with a negative oDesk feedback.
  • Pay Conflicts: This is a fairly common situation where the employer is happy with the quality of your work but wants you to work at an incredibly cheap price and this wasn’t made clear during the start of the assignment.
  • Feedback Hostage: We are now entering the shady areas: some employers hold a freelancer hostage to a feedback, getting more work out of them and threatening to lower the feedback if not delivered. This is a serious issue and should be reported to oDesk.
  • Shady Employers: Some employers are just shady and don’t leave a good feedback no matter what. All their previous assignments end badly too. It can be a tough situation to handle.
  • You are Just Bad: You can just be bad. May be the pay you ask for is reserved for experts and you don’t know the ABC of the trade. Or you might claim to be an expert and clearly lack the knowledge and authority. It is hard to resolve this issue except maybe talking to your employer and explaining your situation or if you have any genuine excuse.

These are but a few of the reasons why an employer might leave a negative oDesk feedback for you. Remember that every situation is unique, so you need to look for the best resolution method.

Next, let me present you some possible solutions

Solutions to Negative oDesk Feedback

You can use one or more of these strategies to reduce and revert your negative feedback. These are just pointers and you might want to use many of them at once. Sometimes the stakes are quite high and you need to ensure that your feedback isn’t tarnished. These should help you deal with the problem.

  • Talk to the employer: This is always the first step in the process. Be professional and don’t be rude. Never ever use profanity or other unwelcome behavior. Never threaten. Ask politely what the problem was. Also tell him how much a positive feedback means to you and how important it is for your freelancing career. Try to resolve the issue through emails. Most employers are nice people and they will only want to help you. However, if you are genuinely very bad, there is nothing they can do. For slight adjustments to the feedback, this system works the best.
  • Offer Something Extra: If the employer feels that you are not up to the mark and that the price you demand doesn’t reflect the quality of the work produced, offer to do something extra so you can earn ‘bonus points’ and thus enter into his good books. I am not suggesting you give away freebies especially to someone holding your feedback as a hostage. However, if you feel that you didn’t do as good a job as to deserve a 5 star rating, you might consider this option.
  • Refund the Money: This is an extreme situation but shows how important the feedback system can become. I personally had to do this once. Some employers are just outright mean and have no intention of leaving a good feedback no matter how well the work was done. In this case, you might want to consider just refunding the whole project amount. Remember that if the amount drops below $1, the feedback is removed from the profile. Obviously this is not an ideal situation since you work to get paid but is necessary at times.
  • Dispute with oDesk: If you think you have a good case against the employer, you can take the issue up with oDesk. This is especially so if the employer was threatening, blackmailing, being profane and other unacceptable behavior. You should show all the proof and evidence to oDesk and let them take appropriate action, including removing it from your profile page.

In the end, I would like to mention that negative oDesk feedback is also a learning experience. It tells you about your shortcomings and the scope for future improvements. Always take the feedback seriously and think about how you can improve and grow as a freelancer. Take a long term view. Also remember that oDesk isn’t the end of the world and for talented freelancers, there is no holding back and one site doesn’t make or break a freelancing career. Take the negative feedback as a learning experience and move on. And remember not to repeat your mistakes!

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Is Freelance Economy the Future Economy?

Freelance Economy Future EconomyIs freelance economy the future economy of the world economy? Is the nature of work undergoing a fundamental shift away from traditional “stable” jobs and more towards a “plug-and-play” economic system where each worker provides his services for a project rather than a company? Well, it is hard to predict the future, but it looks like such a shift is indeed happening. I just read an interesting article on the freelance economy and its future on MSN which got me thinking more about this. It seems that the future economy can be significantly different from what we know today.

Why Small Businesses Like the Freelance Economy?

It looks like more and more small businesses are hiring freelancers as and when they need. This does make sense – small businesses need to be smart about their decisions. They will choose the best possible way out which will increase their chances of success and survival. From a small business point of view,  the freelance economy is a huge boon. Why is that?

Consider that you are a small business. In order to reach your target audience, you want a website and a blog so you can connect with your customers. How would you solve this problem? If you tap into the freelance economy, you hire the best professional web-designer for a fixed price. If you hire a full-time employer for this job, it is just going to cost so much more.

In addition, the freelance economy can provide several projects down the line. Need some articles and blog posts? Hire a freelance writer to write an article a day. Need to collect some leads online? Hire a virtual assistant. Need a new logo? Hire a graphic designer. The freelance economy gives a lot of freedom to small businesses.

Access to Specialized Skills

Many people have a very wrong concept that freelancing is about outsourcing. It is not. Even if all the jobs are within a country, it provides great flexibility. It is not that businesses profit from cheap labor. In fact, in the freelance economy, talent everywhere demands similar price. However, as a concept, the plug and play system is very powerful.

The reason is that small businesses now have access to one of the best people in an industry without ever needing to hire them at a ridiculous price. This gives them a great competitive edge as well. For example, a small business can hire a very good graphic designer for a few hundred dollars to design their company logo. Even they spend a thousand dollars for the logo, it could be well worth it in the long term. In the traditional economy, they will perhaps have to find an agency, post a contract or advertise for a temporary position. In the freelance economy, they have access to great skill directly without involving middle men.

Freedom to Expand

In the freelance economy, businesses have the power to expand beyond their core expertise. They can take on a risky idea with a high chance of failure but a highly lucrative result in case of success. Such ideas can be explored more easily because they have access to a very diverse pool of specialized talent ready at their disposal that will work on a specific project.

In the freelance economy, it is easier to take on risk and explore new options. That this comes at a lower cost is an added benefit which should help small businesses enter new areas.

Free Market Access to Talent

The freelance economy more accurately represents the future economy or rather the free economy as it can be. Freelance work for hire doesn’t come with additional baggage that usual full time jobs come with. They are not restricted by geographical boundaries – a company in the United States can hire a freelancer in Australia.

It is also free because it is a bidding process in most cases – freelancers bid on projects depending on their skill sets and small businesses choose between skills and price as it should be in a truly free economy. This bidding process is what is followed at well known freelancing sites like oDesk and Elance.

So what do you think about the future economy? Do you think the freelance economy can last and redefine the way we understand work and employment?

You can also read my posts about 5 freelancing ideas for dummies and 5 creative ways to make money as a freelance writer.

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5 Freelancing Ideas for Dummies

Here are my freelancing ideas for everyone. I have deliberately left out the more specialized skills. I’ll include a more detailed post for the more professional among my readers. Here, I discuss freelancing ideas that everyone can use – without the need of specialized skill set. For this reason, you shouldn’t expect to earn a very high income from these ideas. Instead, use them as a good passive income stream that you can tap into when you need more money or want to supplement your income. In due course of time, you can earn a full-time wage with these methods.

Freelancing Idea – 1: Simple Data Entry

Data entry is one of the least specialized skills on the internet that sure still is in demand. You don’t need any special skills, except the very basic ones. However, it helps a lot to have a good work ethic. The downside should be obvious – since a lot of people can do the job, it drives the wages down. Data entry is well suited for people in countries where the cost of living isn’t as high as the Western world. Otherwise, you would have to spend a ton of hours to make livable wages with data entry.

The good thing of course is that there are plenty of data entry jobs. And yes, please don’t go for the scam advertisements that promise you $40/hour for data entry. Read more about internet scams.

Freelancing Idea – 2: Content Writing

The real problem with writing is everyone who has studied English in high-school (or not) thinks he is a writer. Not so. Words are the backbone of the internet and most companies are looking for quality content in the end, no matter how much they spend on social media or PPC advertising. The real problem is, the range of skills and prices that a writer demands is mind-bogglingly huge.

If you are a really high quality writer, you can write for magazines or perhaps even publish a book. You will be paid by the word. However, for those without a writing background, a good way to start is by writing content. It always helps to learn more about SEO. With this knowledge, an average writer can provide a unique value to the employer that otherwise good writers (aka creative writing majors) cannot.

Freelancing Idea – 3: Create Sales Pitches

Again, creating sales pitches isn’t as hard as it sounds. The opportunity, however, exists everywhere. If you are a top-notch online copywriter, you need to belong to an elite group. However, everyone of us can get started. Just look around, you see ample ideas for sales pitches that you can create.

Think of a Adwords ad that is horribly written. It is not hard to find and you don’t even need to go out of your way to spot them. Offer the company your services as a creative sales pitch writer and do a better job. You would be surprised how many companies don’t bother to make their online advertisements better.

Freelancing Idea – 4: Sell Your Skills

People tend to think of freelancing as requiring specialized skills. Not so. You can just be a casual freelancer. All you need to do is to promote yourself. There are plenty of places where you can sell your skills, from specialized freelancing sites like oDesk to very broad and general job boards like craigslist.

In addition to getting online, you can always consider looking around your neighborhood and placing flyers which sell your skills. Ideas are plenty – always look for an opportunity.

Freelancing Idea – 5: Learn a Professional Skill

Yes, the easiest way to get started is simply to learn! The internet today has rendered traditional degrees almost moot – you can get the best and highest quality education online on any topic that you want. MIT’s OpenCourseWare is an excellent example of this. You don’t need to go back to school and earn a degree. You can simply learn a skill online, practice by taking on some real assignments with small projects, learn and perfect this skill and you can start earning your livelihood online!

What skills should you learn? This of course depends on you and your interests. You should look for skills that are in demand and for which people are ready to pay a good amount of money, like web-designing or programming. These are not for everyone but if you can pick these up, you can get a great head-start in your freelancing career.

If you are completely new to freelancing, don’t go out and quit your job yet! Learn the skills, learn the ups and downs of the process and then decide if you can live off what you make freelancing. There are many factors to consider, so make an informed decision.

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5 Creative Ways to Make Money as a Writer

Make Money as WriterThere are many ways to make money as a writer. The simplest of course is by simply working as a freelance writer. However, there are several creative things that you can do which help you to make some extra cash. You don’t even need to do these to make a living – these take little time but can help you make money as a writer online. So what are the creatives ways that writers can exploit to make money? Here are some –

1. Copywriting Redefined

Copywriting is a unique skill that not many possess, but if you are a writer and can pack a punch with your words, then this skill is certainly in high demand. It is not surprising that copywriting is increasingly becoming a coveted skill to posses. As more and more information moves online, it is important to get a point across in the minimum number of words, from an advertising point of view. The attention span of the online reader is very limited. Thus if an advertisement is to catch the attention of the reader, it must be perfect in its wording. That’s where you come into the picture.

Look for opportunities for writing good copy. There are everywhere if you look closely. Just Google for your favorite topic and see the Adwords advertising copy. I am sure you will find at least one that is very badly written. Simply contact the advertiser, offer him your services as a copywriter and tell him you can get far better conversions. How do you charge them? Just charge them some money for every ad that you write. Say $20? Of course it should depend on how big the company is. If you can improve the copy and hence conversions of a million dollar company, you might as well demand $1000 for every ad you produce.

It is not just with Google that you see copies. Look for people trying to sell their affiliate products. Look for people putting up auctions on eBay. Look for internet marketers with poor copywriting skills. You can find those everywhere.

2. Creative Domain Names

Website flipping was quite popular a few years ago and still is. People would create a website and make a very basic design and then sell it for a profit. For the seller, he does hundreds of such transactions a day and a small profit margin is great. For the buyer, he has a ready-made site which he can start using immediately.

However, writers are not exactly web-developers, so here is what you can do – flipping domain names. There is a huge market for domains and if you can come up with catchy domain names, people will be willing to pay you. You just register the domain in your name and then sell it to interested buyers at a profit.

Of course this is slightly risky because you might be stuck with a domain name if you fail to find a buyer for it. Thus, if you think you are very good at picking up good domain names, just register at PickyDomains and you can get $25-35 for every domain name of yours that is chosen by the site owner.

3. Look for Guest Posting Deals

Many websites offer writers a chance to get paid for guest posting on their blog. The blog owner gets great and fresh content which promotes his blog. You can find paid guest posting opportunities in plenty of blogs. One tip is to look for medium ranked websites. The very top sites seldom pay for guest posting (being featured on them is the motivation for people to write) and the very low sites seldom have the money to pay for guest posts, unless the owner is very serious about expanding and willing to invest money.

An added advantage of guest posting is that you get featured on prominent blogs and you can use it to build your brand as a writer. This is very helpful if you want to show your portfolio to someone.

4. Just Freelance!

There are many freelance sites for writers which have hundreds of job openings. You can simply apply to these and hope to start working on assignments. People are always looking for the best quality writers, so you shouldn’t have a problem landing some top assignments if you are good at writing. Sites like oDesk, Elance, Guru, etc. have plenty of jobs you can find.

5. Write Resumes

People will certainly pay for a well-written resume – after all, it is a matter of landing their dream job. If you can pick up all the basics and nuances of writing a resume, you can offer your services to career cells or just freelance on the internet. For professional resume makers, it is a very good use of their time and they can demand a very good price for their time.

Do you have any other ideas to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: TheTrial

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oDesk Review: Good and Bad

oDesk ReviewThis is my oDesk review. oDesk is a site where you can get a ton of freelancing jobs. It is one of the largest freelancing marketplace on the internet. The total value of contracts at oDesk was $16 million for the month of April 2011, so you can imagine that it is a really huge business. Huge doesn’t always mean good, so here in my oDesk review I’ll discuss both the good and bad aspects of oDesk. If you are an employer, also read my oDesk Review from employer’s perspective.

I have been a freelance writer at oDesk since March 2009, at which time it wasn’t half as big as it is now. I have seen it grow rapidly and have seen the number of jobs being posted steadily increase in almost all areas. Since I am a freelance writer, I follow the jobs in the writing section very closely and have some insights that I wish to share with you on oDesk review with respect to these jobs.

The first thing I would like to mention here before going into the detailed oDesk review is that the site takes a 10% fees for what you are paid. For example, if you are paid $50 for a task, oDesk will get $5. This is similar to the industry standard. oDesk doesn’t have any membership fees and is completely free to join. There are no paid memberships either, which is very good, in my opinion.

Also to those wondering, oDesk is not a scam. If oDesk was scam, it wouldn’t be the place of choice for millions of members. oDesk is just a platform to bring employees and employers together. Some people who talk of the oDesk scam were duped by some employer there – this happens sometimes. However, if you are careful, e.g. by asking for an upfront payment or working with high-feedback employers, you can avoid these oDesk scammers.

After reading this oDesk review, if you decide to join the site, do read my 7 oDesk Tips which will help you land your first job with ease. You may also be interested in how I make money from my blog. These are tough economic times and employers have ridiculous requirements for hiring. Freelancing is one way out of this mess and oDesk is definitely an option to consider.

Looking for work at oDesk?

oDesk Review: Quality and Quantity of Jobs Posted

Good: There are plenty of jobs at oDesk for almost all the categories that you can think of. Personally, I know about writing jobs – they have more than doubled in the last year itself and perhaps will keep increasing. Since there are so many jobs to choose from, you can find the jobs where your skills are in demand and apply for those with your expertise. For example, some writers are better at creative writing while some are good at writing sales copies. Since there are many jobs, you can always find some that are tailored to suit your skills.

Bad: Even though there are many jobs at oDesk, their quality isn’t the best. For example, there are only a few jobs with reputable businesses. In writing, there are almost no jobs posted from magazines or even local newspapers or other famous businesses. I am not sure how bad this is – it is similar in most similar sites like Elance or Guru, but Elance tends to get a few of the better quality jobs just because it is older than oDesk. Hopefully, things will change in the future.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for small to medium jobs with small businesses, oDesk is great! If you are looking to be hired as the next NY Times columnist, you will be disappointed. Take this into consideration when you present your oDesk review to others.

oDesk Review: Getting Paid

Good: In terms of getting paid, oDesk perhaps has the best system in place. There are two kinds of jobs – hourly and fixed price. If you are working on an hourly job, you can post the hours you work at oDesk. You will need to install their special software which allows it to track your activity: keywords and mouse clicks. If the activity is above a certain threshold and the random screenshots taken by this software show that you are working and not browsing the internet unrelated to the job, you are guaranteed to get paid. This is a very good safeguard in place which new freelancers especially like (those who are skeptical about the whole system!) Since freelancers are guaranteed to get paid, it is certainly a positive aspect of oDesk review that no other site can beat.

Bad: The software is too intrusive. Plus, working is not the same as typing and mouse-clicks. For example, the software cannot know that I am thinking when I am not typing. Many clients do understand this but you can never be sure. Another thing that I don’t like is it gives the feel of big-brother watching you at all times. That is not how any work is done – you cannot oversee every aspect. I do like to browse the internet and check my mail while I am working too.

If you do end up choosing the fixed price assignments instead of the hourly ones to avoid this trouble, there is no guarantee you’ll get paid. This happens much less with serious clients but there are a few who post small jobs and will not pay you. In those cases, it is better to demand an upfront payment. oDesk doesn’t have an escrow system, which is really bad.

Bottom Line: Look what suits you – if you are fine with your employer monitoring every minute of your work, you are guaranteed to get paid for every hour of work. If not, just look for fixed price assignments and work with clients who have a good feedback so you are not scammed.

oDesk Review: Feedback System

Good: The feedback system is wonderful at oDesk and is much more revealing about both employees and employers than at similar sites like Elance or Guru. After the assignment is done, oDesk will ask both the parties involved to give a feedback on a scale of 5 for different parameters like quality of work, communication, deadlines, etc. In addition, both parties should leave a comment that appears on the profile page. This is a very good resource for both employees and employers to work with long-term oDesk members only so that there is little or no chance of getting scammed.

Bad: There is nothing very bad about the feedback system that oDesk uses. However, there are times when an employer can give an unjust feedback and it will affect your overall score and profile. A bad feedback, even if given unjustly, is hard to get rid of. Worst case, you can refund the whole amount of the project to the employer and your feedback will not count.

Another aspect of oDesk feedback is that you can make any comment that you get private (but the score will remain). This sometimes makes it hard to really know why the particular employer or employee was not recommended.

Bottom Line: oDesk feedback is excellent but be careful of unjustly given low feedback.

oDesk Review: oDesk Tests

Good: oDesk tests are actually wonderful. They allow workers to give online tests and these scores are displayed on the homepage. This helps employers weed out people who lie in their profile (e.g. people saying they have perfect English skills when they don’t know the basics of grammar). Apart from the actual score, the percentile is also shown which makes a lot of sense. If you are first place, top 10% or top 20%, it shows again with your test scores and is a nice achievement to have. oDesk tests are also extremely useful for people totally new to oDesk who don’t have any prior feedback, to show they are good. If you want to do well on your oDesk tests, read my oDesk test tips post for more details.

Bad: oDesk tests don’t seem to figure in the overall scheme of things, while determining the best employers of the month or calculating an overall score. I would like to see the test scores given more importance. Also, few employers seem to care much about these scores in their job requirements, which is a pity.

Bottom Line: oDesk tests are great to improve your overall profile and show that you know what you are doing.

oDesk Review: Support Provided

Good: No good site is complete without good support. oDesk has a very good help and support system. There is live chat available most of the times and even otherwise you can always send a ticket. Apart from these, there is an active forum where you can get advice, voice your complaints and give feedback and suggestions.

Bad: Compared to the number of people using oDesk, the forum is not that active. I think oDesk should do more to provide a more vibrant community.

Bottom Line: oDesk has a very good support system, from their staff to your peers. oDesk review for support has overall been good.

oDesk Review: Data and Statistics

Good: My oDesk review is going to be incomplete without this point. Data and statistics are very important to know how the site is doing and where the business is coming from. The oConomy, for example, provides a good idea of the value of all the jobs at oDesk. You can get many other estimates as well.

Bad: Some of the statistics are highly outdated. If you look at trends, you can find the data is from March 2008. That’s an eternity in a fast growing business! Who cares about statistics four years old? Worse, it is highly misleading to prospective employers and also freelancers. You can see the average wages are almost always above $15/hour for a writer even in the developing countries. I am sure it is far from the truth now, but oDesk refuses to publish the statistics or make them up to date. I am sure they have the data, so if they have nothing to hide, I don’t see any reason why they don’t want to publish the latest figures.

Bottom Line: Some statistics are good, but others are not updated in ages, and can be very misleading. Make sure the statistics that you see on oDesk make sense in terms of when it was last updated. Figures from half a decade are completely meaningless when the industry and the website are growing at the rate that it did.

So I hope you liked my oDesk review. If you have any thoughts on this subject, don’t forget to share it in the comments. I would also love to know your experience in using oDesk.

You should also read my post on oDesk Cover Letter Tips and 5 Freelancing Ideas to know more about freelancing and working with oDesk so you can have a successful freelancing career. Also, to know more about how oDesk compares with competitors, read my posts on oDesk vs Elance and PeoplePerHour Review.

 

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7 oDesk Tips for Freelancers

oDesk TipsThese oDesk tips will help freelancers get the oDesk jobs that they want. oDesk is a marketplace that brings freelancers and employers together. This is a way to bring workers and employers together so they can negotiate and work on a project. oDesk is just a medium for the interaction of the two parties and provides some safeguard mechanisms to facilitate the process smoothly but ultimately it is between the contractor (freelancer) and business owner (employer) to decide the terms of their work arrangement.

oDesk is a great way to start a freelancing career for anyone. It is completely free to join (there are no premium memberships, like at other freelancing sites like Elance or Guru) and has a flat rate of 10% fee for all payments made at oDesk, which is actually not too bad, at least for beginners. It is a really great way for someone to make money online by using his skills.

However, it is not easy to get the dream assignments at oDesk unless you follow these oDesk tips. This is because you will be competing against several candidates from across the globe. Some of them will have superior skill and experience while others might have a cost advantage compared to your bid. Therefore it is important to know and understand the best oDesk tips which will help you land your coveted job. There are regular tips on cover letters that you follow, but this post is written exclusively for oDesk cover letters.

oDesk Tip-1: Complete Your Profile

This is a very important part of your oDesk work experience which is often neglected by beginners. oDesk profiles are fairly comprehensive. You need to enter a lot of information regarding your previous experience, your skill sets, work portfolio, work samples, etc. It is very important that you take the time and effort to fill these out in a detailed manner. Potential employers do look at your complete profile, so it is important to appear professional.

Also remember never to bluff your way into a job – always be truthful about your skills. For example, oDesk asks you to assess your English skills. If you enter a 5, you better be good because it is not hard for an employer to make it out if you are anything less.

Another important aspect of the oDesk profile is including a portrait of yourself. This shows employers that you are genuine and serious about the work and are here on oDesk for the long term to make it as a freelancer.

A final tip is to make sure that your oDesk profile shows 100% complete by the time you are done. This way you can keep track of the essential elements like portfolio, resume, portrait, etc.

oDesk Tip-2: Make a Compelling Tagline

oDesk gives you an option to sell yourself in one line using a tagline. Use this wisely. When an employer looks at your profile, the first thing he sees is this tagline beside your name. It should be compelling and should showcase your strengths in that particular area. Don’t make it very generic, like “Excellent writer for hire”. Instead, make it very specific to your needs, like “Published author with 10 years of creative writing experience” or “Experienced copywriter with a Masters in English” or something that is right for you.

oDesk Tip-3: Take oDesk Skills Tests

Many employers want the best people and taking the oDesk skills tests not only shows that you are good but also shows that you are serious. Personally, I have taken and passed 14 tests related to writing, 9 of which show a Top 10% badge against the score. This is a good thing to have in your profile page.

Taking the oDesk skills tests is especially important for beginners who do not have a lot of work history and feedback. By passing these tests with flying colors, you are showing that even though you haven’t worked long at oDesk, you are serious about making a commitment to your freelancing career.

oDesk Tip-4: Never Bid Below What You are Worth

This is a common mistake made by people who are desperate to get their first job. They try to lower their rate to much below what they are worth. There are many job postings at oDesk aimed at people like these but this is not the right approach towards any freelancing career. Sure, as you gain in feedback and reputation within the community, you can demand higher prices but that doesn’t mean you under-sell yourself to write articles at $1/hour.

In the long run, you are always better off working on projects that are worth your time and effort and those are the employers you really want to be working with in the long term. You may have to prepare an additional 10-20 job applications but don’t sell yourself short. Follow all the other oDesk tips here and even without the feedback and experience, you can demand good wages.

oDesk Tip-5: Read the Complete Job Description

Different jobs have different requirements and it is very important to read the full job description before you decide to apply for it. Of late, many employers ask the freelancers to include a certain word or phrase in their cover letter, just to make sure they have read the full posting. I personally don’t like this a lot but many employers stand by this tactic to weed out the applicants. If you fail to mention that word or phrase, they will not even read your entire cover letter and you are simply rejected.

Also, reading the complete job description helps you prepare the right cover letter which is very important and discussed next.

oDesk Tip 6: Write Customized Cover Letters

As with traditional jobs, a cover letter can make or break the application. It is very important that you read and understand the full job description and know what skills are required. If you think you are suitable for the job, apply with a customized cover letter. The employer should see that you have read the full posting. Mention a point or two that he has written in the job opening description. Show your previous experience as relevant to what the job demands.

It is very common, especially for people new to oDesk, to simply make a general cover letter and post it for every job posting. This is a completely unprofessional and wrong way of approaching a freelancing job or career. Customized cover letters show you are genuinely interested in the job. And make no mistake, it is very easy to spot a general cover letter which is written for every post in the category and not specifically for the job at hand.

oDesk Tip-7: Maintain a Good, Long Term Relationship

This is a tip for the long term, which is very important. Today, I hardly look for new assignments at oDesk because I work with my previous clients with whom I have worked for long. Really long. It should be the same in your case as well. Once an assignment is completed, if you go over and beyond what was initially expected, not only will you get a great feedback but you will also get the future assignments.

Starting out on a freelancing career can be challenging but if you follow these oDesk tips and be serious about committing to freelancing, you can live off it and make a great career. You will find a lot of success stories at oDesk where contractors have successfully quit their day job and now work full time, freelancing at oDesk.

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