Elance and oDesk have announced a “merger of equals.” The reporting on this has ranged from ho-hum to breathless. The folks over at the technology site PandoDaily say the “gig economy” (Did they invent that phrase for this article? I’ve never heard it before.) is growing up and that, “the staffing world is getting a major shake up…” That’s a different interpretation of “staffing” than I’m used to, but we can go with it. This guy breaks out some numbers showing that if you’re going to call oDesk and Elance staffing companies, then they are a very tiny part of a very large industry. Techies, love the idea of disruption though.
Forbes magazine says that freelancers are “dismayed” about this merger, although the writer of that article quotes just two commenters as his evidence. What I found most interesting is that according to him, oDesk is the home of rock-bottom pricing compared to Elance, which is the opposite of how I remember it.
Does Elance oDesk Merger Affect Freelance Writers
As freelance writers, it is sometimes hard to remember that not everyone who freelances is one of us. There are numerous types of freelancers out there. Freelance designers, freelance developers, and various kinds of one-off freelancing, where you hire someone (anyone?) to do a one-time project that no one actually has experience doing. These sites, and their merger, would obviously mean something different to them than to us.
Once upon a time, I had an Elance account. I had an oDesk account too. Also, accounts with freelancer.com, and others I can’t remember. I even wrote for Demand Studios, Bright Hub, and eHow, although those aren’t freelancing platforms so much as content generation companies. I haven’t used any of them for years.
The catch to both Elance and oDesk, for freelance writers, at least, is that they are typically people looking for very low cost providers, often under significant time constraints. There are those who thrive on this, and those overseas are frequently cited.
Every time I say that oDesk or Elance are not worth it, someone shows up and insists that they are. One person even sent me an eBook he wrote about how to make money with Elance. When I was done reading it, I couldn’t help but think you could make much more money, much more easily in other ways.
Next come the people who tell me that they met their biggest clients through Elance. When I ask if they still work through Elance, the answer is always no. That tells me that Elance may be a last resort for both writer and client. As a client, if you just can’t find someone you can try Elance. As a writer, if you just need one more client, you and try Elance. Of course, you’ll be needing those “How to increase your rates,” articles down the line.
However, I finally met a fellow freelance writer who uses Elance as a significant part of her business. As it turns out, Elance works a lot like eBay. If you show up once and a while just to do this one thing here and there, you won’t make tons of money at it. However, if you build up a reputation and reviews, then you can get some decent work for some decent pay. The catch is that you spend much of your time NOT applying since even successful Elance writers won’t get more money out of clients that want to pay bottom dollar. But, if you are willing to take the time and effort to build up a reputation, and only work with the best clients, then it can be a good way to run your railroad, so to speak.
What that all says to me is that you don’t get to dabble in these marketplaces. You either do it, or you don’t. Most writers I know, never have the need to stay long enough. Once you start getting freelance writing clients through other means, the effort needed to go from sorting through postings, to responding, to actually getting a client on these sites is just not worth it, unless you can get it down to a quick, mechanical, almost automatic process.
So, if you already depend on these websites for a lot of your business, you’ll be happy to know that for the near future, this merger or equals intends to run both sites separately. Inevitably there will be some changes ahead, but they should occur slowly enough for you to make adjustments. For those of you who do not use these sites, you probably won’t start now, even if the new company is bigger and more “disruptive.”
If you are just starting out, my advice would be to sign up for these sites and try and earn some business. You’ll find yourself making a very low rate at first because until you have enough reviews. However, don’t let this be your only course of action. Spend an hour a day doing this, the rest of your time building your own website, making connections, writing for blogs (even your own). The more you are out there, the more people you will find, and the more people that will find you.
These days, most of my new clients (when I take on new clients) come from referrals or because they saw my writing somewhere else. A few end up calling me when they end up here after searching for financial freelance writers, or technology freelance writers, or even Denver based freelance writers. Ironically, many of those who end up here after searching are looking for Elance rates or oDesk level rates. I have to politely decline.
Just for the sake of fuller information, here is an article I found interesting that I read awhile back about someone’s experience hiring a freelance developer on Elance, if you are looking for a different kind of look.