oDesk versus Elance: Through the Eyes of a Filipina Freelance Article Writer…Part 2

#2 Earning Potential

Now despite the amazing number of jobs offered by each site, it’s actually pretty hard to get into the game if you have no professional online work history to refer to.  If you place yourself in the shoes of prospective clients, why indeed would you gamble your hard-earned money on an unknown contractor, not to mention from a third world country as the Philippines? Yes, we can argue all we want about how English is our second language and how some of us may even speak and write in better English than some of our “native English speaking” counterparts, but the fact is, we’ll always have to prove that we are not second rate.

  • Instead of griping about this unfortunate but prevalent perception, spend your time and energy into getting that crucial first job. In my experience, oDesk trumps Elance in this aspect. If we look at the number of jobs offered, oDesk reports 145,375 jobs posted during the month of April 2012 only while Elance reports 193,000 jobs posted in the first quarter. So that’s 145K a month versus less than 65K (193,000 ÷4). A search for job openings today yields 32,316 results at Elance and 58,403 postings at oDesk. One may argue in favor of Elance by saying that there are a considerable number of reposted jobs in oDesk, and I do agree that that some clients post the same jobs because most contractors don’t browse job openings beyond the first 10 or so pages. However, if we look at Elance, the rate that new jobs are posted is very slow, at least for article writing jobs. Some input regarding the experience of contractors in other job categories would be very helpful at this point.
  • Another factor that would have an impact on earning potential is competition. Again, the odds are against us in the field of writing since native English speakers are usually favored by more prudent clientele whose job postings automatically disqualify us since we are not U.S. contractors. In Elance, their top clients hail from the following countries: United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong; while majority, of their contractors are predictably from India (surprise, surprise!), United States, Pakistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Romania, China, and the Philippines :). In my experience, there is a significantly larger fraction of clients who only want to hire U.S. based contractors in Elance than there are in oDesk. To add insult to injury, Elance has a profusion of high profile service-providing firms that corner majority of the market, leaving the lower-paying jobs for individual freelancers such as myself.
  • In terms of general competition, I would say that oDesk should theoretically be less competitive, since their pool of contractors (~540,000), is significantly less than Elance’s, which is an estimated 730,000 (550,000 + 180,000). This may be the reason why I was able to get jobs in oDesk, and only 4 jobs in Elance, two of which were actually repeat hires. Some data on the current breakdown of contractors according to skills and location would have been helpful.  Another factor that may play a role is that both clients and contractors are promoted with more detail in Elance than in oDesk, especially since clients who are looking for a particular skill can immediately choose from among the top providers for that specific category. For example, if you need an expert in Facebook Connect, you can actually include this in your search parameters, along with contractor type, work type, location, feedback, reviews, hourly rate and groups. This can narrow down the options considerably, and if you didn’t put enough work into your profile, this would have been an automatic missed opportunity, Contrast this to oDesk where the parameters are limited to the general category, feedback score, hourly rate, minimum hours billed, test scores, location, contractor type, last activity, English level, and oDesk readiness. Thus, clients would theoretically have to go through more candidates in order to find the contractor they’re looking for, or leave the job posting open.
  • With regards to the rate of hiring, I haven’t really come across overall statistics. All I can say that oDesk clients appear to have a faster rate of hiring, judging from the number of declined bids I get, compared to Elance where the job openings remain open for such a long time, sometimes even expiring with no one being hired. Both sites seem to have issues with optimizing job opening visibility, especially if there is a sudden surge of newer job posts. Elance has made an effort with the use of the features jobs, which in my opinion are not highlighted sufficiently for most contractors to see the difference. Perhaps, they can make each job post smaller in size, so that more posts can be seen in each page. Another way to maximize navigability is to allow contractors to narrow done their job searches to those that are offered exclusively to U.S. based contractors and not. While this issue remains unaddressed, the clients should do their best to ensure that their job offerings receive the attention it deserves by maximizing the use of the job descriptions.
  • Your job application quota (oDesk) or your number of connects (Elance) is another key limiter of your earning potential. In this aspect, oDesk is more generous, since your initial quota of two increases to 5 after passing the oDesk readiness test, then to 20 after passing four or more skills test. Good feedback and identity verification (+5) will increase your quota even more. If the event your application was denied by the client, or voluntarily withdrawn by you, your total available quote is refreshed every 12 hours. On the other hand, Elance restricts your job application capacity because you only receive a limited number of connects each month. Furthermore, jobs which have higher compensation will cost you more connects. Although your unused connects can be added to next month’s quota, this scheme still has a rate-limiting effect on the rate you are hired for jobs. This was apparently put in place to minimize indiscriminate job application, which is laudable, but still… Anyway, you can always buy more connects with its paid memberships. 😛
  • In terms of average compensation for service rendered, Elance pulls ahead of oDesk, at least in terms of writing jobs. The former has a minimum fixed price rate of $20 while the latter’s minimum is $5. Let me put it this way, Elance is the only place where my bid was rejected because it was too low! On the other hand, a huge chunk of the job postings over at oDesk offer a measly $1 or below per original, grammatically perfect, and search engine-optimized article! Fortunately, I can see a see a promising trend as employers willing to spend money for quality appear to be trickling in one at a time at oDesk.

Regardless of the obstacles that stand in our way, perseverance is the key. Once the first-job milestone is breeched and satisfactorily carried out, its attendant positive feedback can open the doors of opportunity a little bit wider. You also shouldn’t forget that the demand is there, as writing is still the top four skills in demand as reported by oDesk, while the technical writer is one of the projected top online careers according to Elance.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Daniel
    Jun 25, 2012 @ 14:30:48

    Odesk and Elance has become a good avenue for online work. I have just started my career doing online work but I find both websites difficult to find a work with probably because of the number of competition in it. So I tried to search for similar sites and got through Staff.com which has their own recruitment specialist so I had an ally in finding the right work for me and thankful that I am already working and earning money from online work.


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