This 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.
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.