Why Elance Sucks Lately

I used to love Elance.  I want to love them again.  Don’t know if it’s the economy or if somebody’s asleep at the wheel over there.  I’ve made over fifty grand on Elance in the last two years, writing all kinds of stuff for clients around the world, and while it was always bluecollar writing with absolutely no glory (as in, no bylines) — hey, that’s the definition of freelance writing, isn’t it? — it’s all gone to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

If you aren’t familiar with Elance — and if you’re a blogger you should be, because there’s work there — it’s the eBay of online writing gigs.  People from around the world who need to hire writers post projects there, and then writers bid on them, backed by a proposal, samples, and an infrastructure that provides user ratings and feedback, categorization and full-service money exchange and conflict resolution.  On paper it’s perfect, and for a while it was the answer to any writer’s dream of actually writing for money.  And while all that’s still in play, Elance has turned into the garage sale farmers market art fair marketplace of cheap writing.  (Note: writing is only one of several skills auctioned off on Elance; some rocket scientist decided to categorically pair it with “translation” , so you’ll be working in the “Writing and Translation” category, which in street terms is like working in the “Tax preparation and car tune-up” category.)

Here’s what’s wrong with Elance lately.  Because the posting and bidding process is largely unregulated (the only rule is that buyers can’t ask for free work, though the point here is that they might as well be), the economy — combined with large does of greed, desperation and utter cluelessness — has driven rates for writing services down well below minimum wage.  When a buyer posts a project they declare a budget range, and about 80 percent of the time buyers select a bidder at the lower end of it.  If the range was reasonable that would be fair, but here’s the shitty reality: they want entire books written for $500… they want twenty articles delivered for $50… they want an entire web page written for $75… they want 1000 articles written for, again, $500.  I’ve seen all that, and worse.  Much worse.  Somewhere Robert Bly (look him up) is being fitted for a noose in his garage.

Here’s an example project I saw this week.  Some buyer — and they truly come from around the world; if you read the postings, at least half are obviously prepared by English-as-a-distant-second-language self-proclaimed newbie entrepreneur — is asking for 850 articles of 550 words each.  His budget range is $500 to $1000.  Do the math.  Then get angry.  That’s less than a buck an article, up to slightly more than a buck an article.  But forget the slightly more option, because somebody, somewhere (think India), will actually bid $500, or even lower, and no matter how strongly you pitch your credentials, the buyer will more than likely select the lowest bidder.  Almost always.  If you can write four of those things in an hour — and if you can, then you’re a real pro, or just the opposite — that’s a working wage of four bucks an hour.  When you apply this same formula to the guy who wants a 50,000 word book for $500 — one that won’t have your name on the cover, by the way — the math is even worse.

The economy isn’t Elance’s fault.  What is their fault is that they have no quality standards in place, or even a standard of fair play and equity.  You’d think they would understand and honor the value of professional writing, and when they support highway robbery and insulting pricing they show that they obviously don’t.  And why should they, the site still posts about 15,000 new projects monthly, on which they get 7.5 percent of the action, in addition to the very reasonable membership fees.

Bit of a rant, I admit.  And I don’t really have an agenda, other than fair warning and a sad lament.  My Elance user name is Wryterman — check my client feedback and my numbers, and you’ll see that I’ve been there and know what I’m talking about.

And if you’re a blogger, know this: more than ever we must cling to our values and self esteem as writers who deliver value.  And as for “free” writing, doing this is far more rewarding that what Elance is schlepping these days.


Filed under other cool stuff, turning pro

91 Responses to Why Elance Sucks Lately

  1. Hey Larry,

    I came across your post today, and thought I’d follow up as the guy whose job it is at Elance to bring high quality jobs to Elance.

    Overall, you are right on about the need to separate the “Writing” from the “Translation” categories. This is something we will do, and wish it was an easier switchover that it is.

    As for the low-brow writing gigs on Elance, this is something that we really don’t want either, quite frankly. There is a lot of value to having an open market, but it comes with these sorts of challenges too. Especially in a day and age when content is more important than ever for search engine optimization and such.

    We have a few of our own ideas about how to elevate the market, but would welcome your own thoughts. Feel free to ping me directly with those ideas: bporteus elance dot com.


  2. This is huge. Brad, who works for Elance, found my blog and actually contacted me (see above). Not to defend, not to tell me off, but to acknowledge and ask for help. That’s a best case scenario outcome, because I really can help. I’ve since written him a long email recommending a way Elance can create and enforce standards that serve both sides of the buyer-seller equation where writing is concerned, and Brad assures me my ideas will get airtime with the Big Guys. That’s all any blogger can ask for — that his work finds the target audience, hits home and makes a difference.

  3. Jay

    I feel your pain. I’m in more IT related fields myself, but I have seen the same thing. I am newer to elance and similar sites / services. I have not as yet made money using them. I love the concept though.

    I see the ridiculous low balling budgets and bids as you have noted. What really gets me is that I know that a very large percentage of these projects can not be successful. It is not simply that they are bidding too low, the requirements are crazy and the timelines outrageous. I see people promising to finish in two days what I know will take at least two weeks to do.
    What I find really interesting is that the market has not corrected yet. When I first saw all these bad projects coupled with bad bids, I thought, “Hmm. These sites have been around a good while. I wonder why the market has not worked itself out yet.” To this I still do not have an answer.

    • Thanks for commenting, Jay. I’m afraid the problem won’t go away quickly as long as there are folks in far off lands — like, say, Arkansas… sorry — that are willing to work for three bucks an hour. Hey, companies like Nike discovered long ago that if they bend over, they’re just asking to get screwed, so why not. I think your comment about the projects not succeeding is very astute, too. Trouble is, most of these posters are first-time “entrepreneurs” who have just walked out of a “how to make money on the internet” workshop, and when their projects fail there will be another wave of enthusiastic cluelessness right behind. What’s a professional provider to do? Not sure, other than keep fighting the good fight and keep scouring for those few legit projects that are out there. I wish you well in that pursuit. Thanks again. Larry

  4. Mike Wright

    The timing of my discovering your blog is perfect. I’m an Elance newbie and am in shock over the rates. Just this morning there are several new job postings for articles that state they’ll pay $1 per 500 words. A friggin’ buck! Now, at this stage I’m grateful for any work at almost any rate, but I don’t live in Bangla Desh, I live in Oregon (West Linn too!)

    In 1993 I sold a 1,500 word article to a nationally published magazine for $200, roughly $300 in 2009 dollars. $10-$15 would be a high rate for an Elance bid article. Granted, technology has streamlined much of the process since ’93, but I can’t write anything 20 times faster than I did back then. Getting old maybe.

    While I try to provide well thought-out, well written, effective pieces, I’m beginning to feel like that’s not what “the market” wants. Most buyers want it cheap and fast and full of key words, to hell with quality. It’s really disheartening. Thank for airing out what many of us are thinking.


  5. Nina

    Hey Larry,

    great article. I fully understand what you are talking about. I work as a graphic designer, and have always looked for an opportunity to do some work on the side. So some time ago I joined Elance…. oh, boy! Had a known that I would only be wasting my time with posting bids and never getting anything because… well, I am about to design a corporate logo for $60. One tried and tries, but it seems that no matter what the quality of one’s portfolio might be, some guy in India who is willing to do the job for $30 will always land projects. Sorry, but since I am not living in India, I am also not able to spend 10 hours working for $30…. and then to have to pay Elance fees on top of that. Great for the ones who are willing to work for free…. me on the other hand – I am out of there!

    As you can see… you are not the only one out there. Many of us feel your frustration.

  6. Katelyn

    As someone who is very specific in what I write about (health and wellness) I didn’t even bother to join Elance after I saw this blog. Bidding for work is a disaster in my opinion, particularly when it means quality goes out the window. In my profession accuracy is a must, and it pains me to read through some of the “advice” there is on the internet when it comes to health issues. Elance should not strive to emulate eBay, because writing is an art, a talent, not a product. It’s a shame, because they certainly seemed appealing, but now, I’m very relieved I didn’t join. Even at $9.95 a month, if it comes down to who will work for the absolute cheapest price, then it’s nothing I wish to be associated with, I have standards and by god, I’m sticking to them!

  7. Ken T

    I work on Elance and other similar sites. I’m not a writer but a software developer. I have a masters degree and I do great work. I was hoping that after I had more clients under my belt I could demand more money, but the fact is that the clients aren’t really interested in paying for a developer that has a reasonable chance of success. They are interested in paying for really cheap labor.

    I think the real problem is that the customers need to be educated. Many of them simply can’t afford the work they want done. There is no reason to believe that they will be successful at achieving their goals and somebody needs to tell them to either increase their budget or find some other way to get what they want.

    It is unfortunate, but this is how the global economy works I guess.

  8. David P

    Most new businesses never make it ( last time I looked – 2007 – the SBA stats said 625,000 start ups and 530,000 failures). And for every business failure there are probably a host of reasons.

    That said, does it make economic sense to spend $1500 on a logo when someone in some other part of the world will deliver for $50? Before I’m slapped to near death – consider that most of these businesses will be shuttered within a year or 2. The businesses that do survive will likely refine their image as part of a natural evolution toward success.

    Sorry, but let the outsourcing continue. It brought us cheap everything. And when you get sick of replacing your toaster every year …buy a better one.

    PS – I’ve worked both sides of Elance …as a Buyer and a Provider.

  9. @David — you make a decent point. It’s just when the economy forces high providers into a position where they need to compete on price with lower-end providers (less experience, lower quality), and who have a competitive advantage because of their third world locale… well, it’s a free market, so bully for the buyers… and it still sucks for the high-end providers. I’ve suggested to Elance that they create a high-end category to separate the lower end commodity work (that doesn’t require an experienced pro) from the challenging stuff (that does).

    Thanks for your thoughts, David.

  10. Access developer

    Since all consumers in our planet have a budget in mind prior to wanting to buy something, Elance should force buyers to declare their exact budget when posting a job. Giving a range won’t cut it. For example, what does “Less than $500 mean”? $499.95? $50?

    I bid on around 20 jobs a month and the few jobs that get awarded to someone almost always get awarded to providers in the States. So Elance should demand that buyers select the countries they wish bidders reside in. Providers should also be able to filter out buyers who don’t want bidders from their country.

    Not all buyers are struggling and/or clueless startups. A few are quite moneyed. I have an Access program that filters out broke buyers, i.e. buyers whose average monthly purchases over the last several years can’t finance my monthly living expenses. That doesn’t mean that I don’t bid on jobs posted by broke buyers. I do.

    Finally, as a tiny business with no employees, I try to DIY as much as possible instead of demanding that someone cuts my hair, mows my lawn, designs my logo, or paints my house for a pittance.

  11. I design and develop software. The rates floating around at elance are impossible for US service providers to compete with. Elance has to know they have a problem. In my opinion they are milking the last bit out of the US market with their $10/month fee because they know that real project work is dead for US providers. Don’t waste a dime on Elance. If Elance believed in their service they would at least allow people one or two “free” bids. As it is, one has to pay $10/month for the right to bid on a few $100 projects per month. That’s insane. Try craigslist. I’ve gotten work there, even in this terrible economy. Look for work that needs someone local.

  12. Lengo

    Not only are the prices unrealistic, eLance’s contract is unrealistic. They state that they are NOT an agent, but go to state that providers and contractors cannot work together outside of eLance for 12 months after one job job is procured by the contractor and provider. That sounds like an agent to me.

    If eLance is the future, then the future looks bleak.

  13. I’m glad I found this post. I am a graphic artist and animator that has been using Elance for a few years, and it has definitely taken a turn for the worst recently.

    I’m interested to know how the dialogue with Brad Porteus turns out. I think that you are right that more pricing categories would help. (At least a couple more between $50-$500) Because there *are* jobs that only require $50 of work. But these should not be lumped in the same category as a job that requires 10 TIMES that amount, or people will undercut each other and the market will suffer for everyone.

    Another problem is that Elance uses completely backwards regulation. Elance forbids providers from sending samples or mock-ups that are related to the specific job. Can somebody explain the logic of this? Allowing samples would provide a huge factor in the decision-making involved in choosing an appropriate client. Otherwise, the only factors are the price (which keeps the prices low), and previous job statistics. It creates a cycle of disproportionate earnings. Providers that have not been awarded as many “Elance” jobs will look less attractive, and will not be awarded as many jobs. The only option they have to stand out is to bid at the lowest price.

    If Elance allowed samples (or even encouraged them), talent and compatibility would become increasing factors in the chance of landing a job. As an animator or designer, it is worth it for me to spend a few moments working to visually communicate directly to the client’s needs. More feedback would be provided to those who aren’t making the cut. Once a relationship has been established, both the buyer and provider would be comfortable raising the price, and everybody wins.

    Instead, Elance quickly removes and penalizes jobs in which samples or mock-ups are involved. Perhaps the motivation is that Elance is trying to prevent buyers from taking advantage of providers and getting free work? This would not happen if there were careful procedural explanations, or even applications, for protecting bidders and their work. For visual content, there is watermarks. For programmers, there are expiration dates. For writing, and for all work, it could be a miniscule fraction of the amount of work required.

    I’m interested to know your thoughts. Thanks for this freelance support group. I thought there was something going wrong with me, personally, until I found this message board.

  14. @Thorne — thanks for your thoughtful input on this. I haven’t heard from Brad in a while, but he should get this thread, which means he’ll see (I hope) your commentary, which is spot-on and paints a vision for a solution, as well. Nice work.

    I’ve been away from Elance for some time, and while I continue to be frustrated by the low-rent nature of that market (just saw a writing job wherein someone wanted over 100 articles by a “skilled” writer… at $5 each, or about 20% of the real-world market value.. and eight suckers actually bid on it, which cuts us legit providers out of the loop, since such buyers don’t know (and probably don’t care about) the difference.

    See, you got me stirred up again. Excellent input, Thorne, thanks.

  15. Totally agree with this article, I’m a web developer myself and face the same issue with elance and odesk. You have these 3rd world developers bidding $2-10/hour and idiots who don’t know anything about software development will accept their proposals because they have no concept of things like 12 hour timezone differences, lack of communication skills, and even lack of programming skills. You truly do get what you pay for!

    I’m waiting for a site to come along that does everything elance does except has a way to split it up so that someone looking for a developer or a writer can say, I only want developers from my country, and then won’t get spammed by 50 Indians bidding $5/hour. By the same token, as an American developer, you can then search for employers who are only looking for you, not Indians.

  16. @Justine — well said. Perfectly said. Thanks for contributing. I keep checking in at Elance in the hope that something will have changed, but here on the writing side, there’s still buyers demanding “high quality professional work” for 100 articles of 800 words each… for a maximum bid of $500 — that’s about two weeks worth of work — and bidders actually bidding $150 for the job.

    In what dimension, in what freaking time zone, does this make any sense to anyone?

  17. Wow – I am so sorry that you are so frustrated and truly hate that you will reconsider as you have “mad writing skills” and I am confident that you can find quality clients on Elance that will pay you a competitive price for services offered. I agree that the marketplace has changed from the good old days when you could just post a short (sometimes canned) proposal and win all types of projects.

    Now, you’ve got to market yourself and scrutinize buyers like crazy. Some may think this is a waste of time but I personally don’t. I’ve completed over 700 projects on Elance and have been a provider there for over 10 years.
    Why? Because the online marketplace works and I know how to work it. LOL!

    Here are some tips:

    – Submit competitive proposals and don’t worry about those providers who are lower than you. If you’re good, showcase your talent and get paid with a stellar profile and kick-butt samples.
    -Market yourself via the private message board. Sell your skills via the private message board to really stand out from the crowd.
    -Don’t waste connects on goofy buyers only bid on the cream of the crop projects from reputable buyers with solid reputations.
    -Always require half down and the balance upon project completion.
    -Submit proposals often and have fun. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some but the ones you win will make it well worth the effort.

  18. @Kristi — thanks for the great comment and tips. I’ve been considering diving back in, and this really helps. Much appreciated!

  19. vayapues

    To Access developer:

    you stated “Since all consumers in our planet have a budget in mind prior to wanting to buy something, Elance should force buyers to declare their exact budget when posting a job. Giving a range won’t cut it. For example, what does “Less than $500 mean”? $499.95? $50?

    I bid on around 20 jobs a month and the few jobs that get awarded to someone almost always get awarded to providers in the States. So Elance should demand that buyers select the countries they wish bidders reside in. Providers should also be able to filter out buyers who don’t want bidders from their country.”

    As a buyer, I have a very different perspective. As a buyer I want to get the best product I can get, for the cheapest price. Indeed, it is my responsibility to my company to do so.

    Forcing a buyer to reveal their budget is an absurdity that simply does not work, not for the buyer, and not for the seller.

    If I reveal my budget, a very predictable outcome will result. Every bid will not surprisingly come back in that range. People who would have bid lower, will increase their bid, while people who might have bid higher may decrease theirs.

    I almost never accept the lowest bidder. Only when they have the best work. (which does happen). However, I do not want to pay more than someone is willing to accept either, nor do I expect anyone to lower their bid to fit my budget.

    The deal needs to be a good deal for all parties. A good match between my company, and the freelancer.

    I should be able to post a project, and get a list of fair prices, based on what people are able to accept. I can then review their portfolio, and select the one who does either the best, or at a minimum adequate / acceptable work.

    The point is simply this. I don’t have any desire to force a service provider to lower their costs. Nor do I want to feel that I was taken advantage of, by someone who increased their bid.

    I want a fair system where I post a project, and freelancers give me their bids based on their costs, and profit motives. I there fore would not use a system that forced me to reveal my budget.

    Under the current elance model, I always select the lowest range, but then often accept bids many thousands of dollars higher.

    As far as being forced to select the country, that is just silly. I can get excellent work for a tenth the cost in India, China, etc. I am happy to use Americans if they are competitive, or if their work is compelling enough.

    If I were forced to pick a country, I would have to pick India or China. The number of jobs available to you would fall through the floor.

    If I then never see your bid, I would forever be restricted from doing business with you. Not a loss for me, but a loss for you.

    I am simply not willing to reveal my budget, but if your work is compelling enough, I will pay your price, if you have the guts to propose it. Likewise, I am willing to hire an American at American wages, if you are the best, and if I need the best. But if I am forced into a corner, I will go the more economical route.

    If you want to chase buyers out of the market, then keep pushing us. We don’t care. We can go elsewhere. If you want our business, then you better take a real hard look at your customer service.

  20. Not a rant. This is a great article. I feel like any professional who browses Elance for 10 minutes will quickly see that there are no standards in place. The sad thing about this is that Elance could be a really powerful site, but it’s not. If they enforced quality standards, it would be an awesome marketplace for everyone.

  21. H

    What really should happen is that all U.S. providers should form a loose association and agree on standards for how much different projects are worth at a MINIMUM. This still allows some providers to charge more but under no circumstances would any provider work for less. And if providers in 2nd/3rd world countries were smart they would match those minimums set in the 1st world markets. But there’s lots of not so smart people in all markets…

  22. sufyan

    agree, even though i am from pakistan still i cant work for that much lower price as mentioned by you,
    i take 15$ per hour minimum but still got requests from the buyer to lower the bid or bid amount too high!

    another negative point with elance is about connects and categories . . . plus no guarantee payment! i hope they can improve things a little.

  23. Pingback: The Internet Is Shit | The Avid Writer

  24. Larry:

    I can all too well relate to your frustrations. Though I’m a writer myself, my medium for employment is putting covers on the books people write, or styling the pages themselves. As a professional designer who has been around the block, I can say with surety that sites like ELance are harming my industry, not helping it.

    eBay had a good idea with selling people’s unwanted junk using the online bidding system. A fairly unregulated “cheapest bidder gets the job” bidding environment for professional services, however, is not only degrading for those professionals who are in need of work, but threatens the very livelihoods of all in their field. For what will the aggregate impression of the goods and services we professionals provide look like in a culture where talented people have to bend and scrape for pennies just to win a contract?

    This is in the end just another example of the deadly paradox of thrift; a paradox, one might say, that is partly responsible for the economic woes we are suffering in our day and age. The ELances and the Walmarts of the world are cheapening our standards of living from both ends, not only in the products we buy, but the services we provide.

    If anyone has any respect for a talent or trade, they would avoid places that invite auctioning off hard-earned and hard-honed talent at bargain basement prices. Don’t get me wrong. Getting a deal is one thing. Contributing to a community that encourages virtual slavery is quite another.

    I hope Brad Porteus reads this too, though I doubt the gist of my message would ever go over well at the next corporate meeting.

  25. I write on odesk and elance, and I’ll bid way over a buyer’s posted budget (usually on odesk, because of the way their weekly bid limits work). And if the buyer posts too low for a copywriter, I’ll rip em. I don’t care. They need to hear that 800 words of good copy can’t be had for 10 bucks. Then I tell them to contact me when they’re ready to fix the 10 dollar garbage that they paid for.

  26. I couldn’t agree more. I’m new to eLance, and looks like I won’t be staying there. As a programmer, I see people bidding at an hourly rate of $10 an hour for work that should be $40 an hour (all offshore).

    I just don’t think I can compete with those types of prices, and have no incentive to even try to land a project on eLance.

  27. wilson kildare

    Great post and a great discussion. I found your blog when I decided to research elance to see if it was legitimate. After looking at the buyer proposals it seemed like a complete joke. Going through all the comments here I’m not convinced that it isn’t. But I might give it a try and see if anyone has use for a good copywriter who charges more than $1 an hour.

  28. What we really need is a new site like Elance but only for Americans. You could market it as “Avoid outsourcing rubbish and get quality in your own country! Hook up with local service providers now!”

    Then have minimum standard hourly wage amounts so no one is really racing to the bottom on price but instead charge more if they offer more or better quality.

  29. Hey there Larry (and all other bloggers),

    I just came across your blog in search for some information regarding e-lance bids and budgets. I work as a freelance writer for Demand Studios and after ending up in a disheartening dispute with Paypal, I sought out other venues of making revenue on the web. Browsing through ‘possible’ working assignments to pursue, I must say that the market place looks pretty dim.

    I need to disagree with a few other bloggers here however who seem to believe that the marketplace should be restricted to just US providers. It should not matter if a provider is from the US, Europe or what you deem as ‘3rd world countries’. If the provider has the right qualifications and business ethics to do the job right, then what part of the world they are from should not matter. It is unfortunate that many people think this way. There are many talented people from other countries who have great potential to add value to the market place. Selection is key. I happen to live in Jordan, but my mother tongue language is American English. I am usually pretty modest, but compare my credentials to the average Joe, then it would be a pretty sad idea to say that the solution lies in restricting marketplace location. And no, I don’t just happen to live in Jordan, I was born and raised in Jordan.

    That said, I do believe that standards should be in place to ensure that quality gets compensated accordingly. I haven’t checked out oDesk or guru.com yet, but I suppose they wouldn’t be that much different in terms of buyers basing their projects on ‘cheapest seller’ concept.


  30. Anonymous


    I know that your blog and post is a little old and I’m really late replying to this, but…

    I have been on eLance since they started and were BETA way back in 1998-1999. I left due to this same issue. However, I was NOT bidding in the writing category, but the data entry/secretarial/transcription or whatever category that they classify it now.

    In the beginning it was okay and we were able to bid regular/normal prices, such as anywhere from $8.00 per hour to $20.00 per hour and actually GET that price. However, when they started letting people from places like India come in and bid, they started bidding like $2.00 per hour! Now, as we all know, those of us who live in the Good Old USA just CANNOT afford to work or live on $2.00 per hour!

    The sad part about all of this is they say that they don’t want people to lowball and they don’t condone it, but yet they allow it to happen anyway. Not to mention, that I even had people (yes, from India) copying my credentials WORD FOR WORD and they didn’t even live here or much less even work here in the U.S.! So, I then started putting a disclaimer at the end of every single bid to discourage them from copying my bids! What can I say, I was winning TONS of projects just because of my credentials and the way that my bids were professionally written, by none other than MYSELF! 😉

    I got so tired of it, because nobody seemed to listen to anyone and I thought that you might like to know at the time (I am NOT sure of this now), but the people that run eLance are FOREIGN/INDIANS THEMSELVES AND THEY RUN eLance out of an apartment and are making a killing! 😉

    Needless to say, that I finally hung up eLance after being one of the MOST SUCCESSFUL eLancers and bidders on their site! I hung it up because I saw how it was NOT going to get any better and it kept getting worse and worse and worse as the time went on. Not to mention, they now charge you to bid (whereas, I can remember BEFORE they even did that and they just only took a percentage of the bid that you won and that was it!). They now hit you numerous ways (they charge you to bid, PLUS take a percentage of what you make off of the winning bid!).

    To me, that just isn’t worth it, especially when you cannot even compete or much less win a bid that even hardly covers the so-called “fees” that eLance charges! 😉 Now, you can see the ones that are really making money.

    I am NOT afraid of competition, but this is EXACTLY my reasons for no longer being a part of the eLance Community. However, I will admit, that it was good while it lasted.

  31. @Anonymous — thanks for this informative and interesting contribution. I wasn’t aware that eLance is run by off-shore management. Nothing wrong with that, specifically, until it bears upon their values and sensiblities, which it certainly has. Who are you working through now, in terms of an online project board? L.

  32. GetsResults (username on Elance)

    I lost my job here in the U.S. and tried to place a few bids on Elance.com and was astounded to discover that so many listings were far below the federal minimum wage here in the good ‘ole U.S.

    A protective labor rate normally reserved for the unskilled worker. I sent Elance Support an email today asking if they saw this as a problem, and subsequently Googled “why Elance sucks,” and came across this very blog here.

    I recommended to Elance that they explore solutions to this problem, including one option that would match employers with providers based on the locations of their country IP addresses so that either party could not gain an unfair advantage over the other based on normal competitive labor rates found in their mutual country.

    Alternatively, perhaps Elance could simply set a “minimum” bid rate set to the highest minimum wage found around the world, so that those in the U.S. could get at least a sub-living wage, while simultaneously, making the bidders from developing countries very elated and happy beyond their imagination–they would feel like they hit the lottery after Elance implemented this viable recommendation. 🙂

    Note: I am more disgusted by U.S. employers who exploit the cheap labor on Elance by accepting what is tantamount to slave labor.

    This is precisely what is killing the U.S. in the offline world, which is why I went to Elance in the first place–how ironic 🙂

    If any of you know of a website similar to Elance that has the gist of what I recommended here, please share it or offer me any constructive suggestion for me to replace my former $100K salary that went offshore some time ago.

  33. Hi everyone,

    We are the culprits, from Pakistan (India), and we have worked at Elance for more than 4 years and made over 200k at the website. Living in Pakistan (India) is far less expensive than living in UK or USA. That is one of the reasons that we can bid low, and that really is the trick for getting payments. However even we stopped bidding at Elance and have built our own site genexbs dot com and we get good work from our website and at much better rates.

    I suggest you guys (writers) should focus on writing at your own websites/blogs and will get some work from there.

  34. Vukadin

    Muhammad is right. Elance is global market , not just US/UK , and living standard vary a lot between countries.. For example , in NY you might need 6 000$ to cover all expenses while in Serbia I can cover all expenses with 500$ and live good with that money. So when I work for 20$ an hour on Elance , I am making 5-6 times more money than I actually need. Also I noticed that buyers are not ALWAYS awarding to lowest bidder , but to providers that show that they know what are they talking about. Most of the jobs I bid get awarded to providers that bid close to or higher than average bid amount. But I also saw some crazy project demands like this :http://www.elance.com/j/3d-mobile-game/21523276/
    Client is asking for full mobile 3D game developed , with custom created graphic and sounds of great quality and even with placing that game into app shop.. all for 500-1000$ budget range..
    Overall Elance is a good site , just that it has pretty big margin at 8.75% while ODESK doesn’t charge those to providers but to clients.. Also you must take into notice that India is having economic boom so they will rise their price , or have started rising already..

  35. Amen

    Extremely good article.. I am a Pakistani and have been working on elance. But since I live in Australia, I charge a lot for my services. I have to say that over the past few months I have stopped bidding as frequently as I used to simply because of the points you made. I hope elance sorts this out before they become a market place for poor quality work and lose the respect they still hold in the eyes of a few clients and providers. The response from Brad is very heartening and encouraging indeed. One solution to the problem would be to increase the proposal minimum thresholds. Trust me, when I was in Pakistan, 30$ a day would be enough to live a luxury life (I could afford a maid for a month with that money). Here its a whole different story… I miss home… ‘:(

  36. Jon

    Hey Larry I agree with you bud. The buyers are leechers but only because elance and other freelance services allow it. Rentacoder ( changed to Vworker) is even worse, scriptlance another trash heap, and dont get me started on odesk

    Its enough to drive a sane man crazy. I refuse to do tons of work for pennies. Its B.S

    Not to mention elances restrictions on connects which are wasted if you dont land the job. That annoys the hell out of me. And them only allowing you to bid in 1 category.

    ESucks is what is should be called!

  37. Tim Price

    Hi, I have been cruising Elance and oDesk for the last week. That will be my last week. Like most here I am disheartened to find competitor rates from third world countries effectively impossible to compete with if I want to eat. But in reading this chain from Larry, I see a dangerous trend for the north American economy as a whole.

    This is not an issue of quality vs. the lowest bidder but one of international economies vs. the individual. Buyers get preferential treatment in that they enjoy first world charges for their end product while providers are left in a race to the bottom on the open world market. The predictable mantra of defence for this goes something like “hey, it’s a free market – if you don’t like it move on.” But that’s too simplistic and exactly what we’ve been taught to think: unless you’re willing to move to another country you’re stuck here watching as more jobs disappear. This chant usually comes from the same type that rationalizes privatizing public money to bail out wall street while all the risk is socialized. If it’s this easy then how long before agencies dump their editors, copywriters, art directors, designers and turn into cheap talent rep houses selling to the high end while paying at the low end? Elance and its breed are an accelerated form of moving more north American jobs offshore.

    Elance can’t be blamed for doing what any business would do even if it may be short-sighted. It is accountable only to the profitability of the company no matter the ethical concerns as long as it falls within the confines of the law, or in this case, laws that are as yet lacking. Without regulation the economic “recovery” plan will work only for wealthy owner/operators and see the spread between rich and poor continue as more of the workforce remains unemployed.

    Weather company managers like Brad move to make provisions that level the playing field across diverse economies could save his company ship from a permanent dock in the third world-only talent pool before the rest of the world jumps ship. But it’s doubtful he will do anything without the incentive of government regulation.

  38. @Tim — well said. And well written. I hope Brad at Elance reads it with an empathetic eye. As the IBM of this niche, they are in a position to changes things… if they so choose. With the number of US providers (like you and me) pulling out, maybe they’ll think this through a little more deeply. Thanks for contributing.

  39. Mike Lawrence

    Seems to me that the market is shrinking. Many of you are leaving it. Will this result in quality (or whatever buyers are in need of) dwindling? What happens when all that’s left are unqualified bidders taking pennies from people who don’t really know what they want?

    It will collapse. Especially when you consider even offshore labor is leaving the marketplace.

    McGraw Hill doesn’t post on eLance. There’s a reason for that.

    FWIW, in IT we’re seeing an interesting trend where the offshore labor market is being trimmed with a commensurate reversion to local hiring. Turns out that being able to speak the same language helps and cheap does not always mean results. How many ads have you heard that tout “U.S. based support” That means the market is rejecting offshore call centers, as one example of this trend.

    Far out, huh?

  40. Matthew

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. Although I’m happy to see that Elance has contact you and appears interested in managing the situation, I suspect it is beyond repair.
    I have also worked on Elance, and at first I loved it, but in reality it’s a race towards the bottom and one in which I cannot participate in without feeling insulted and de-motivated.

    I just canceled my membership there, and until prices come up significantly I won’t work there again.

  41. Jeff

    Elance and sites like it are trash. I am designer and have been one for the last 8 years. I always require 50% payment upfront before starting any work. There’s no way I would waste my time on some BS escrow system or rely on some third party system to get paid.

  42. Jon

    I actually have a solution to this problem and I’m glad you brought it up. The one question that I do have and if you can or others wish to comment back on this. It would greatly help.

    What would you say is an acceptable rate for 2 things

    1. Hourly rate? $10, $15 or $20 for writing?
    2. On fixed projects where a person wants articles. What do you think is a good price for 500 word articles and for 1000 word articles?

    let me know im serious I do think I have a solution that could make many USA, Canada, Australia and British writers happy doing work online again for people.

  43. SteveT

    I remember seeing a provider post a job on Elance for some academic writing in a particularly specialized field. He claimed he would accept nothing but bids from English-first-language respondents and that the winning bidder must have demonstrable track record writing on this topic (i.e. submit clips from professional publications recognized in the industry.) He wanted 10K words on the subject and listed it in the less-than-$500 budget range. Average bids from American and Europeans who, judging by their profile and track record, appeared to be competent were in the $400-450 range. One bidder in India, whose profile was written in such tortured, contrived English as to be almost unintelligible, bid $51 ($1 above the minimum.) Guess who got the job? That’s the day I canceled out of eLance for good. At the lowest paying content mill, you can do better than 1/2 cent per word and you don’t have to pay someone for the privilege of bidding on jobs that pay so abysmally and are so blatantly dishonestly represented by the “provider.”

  44. @Steve — well said, thanks. Seems like we’ve all left a pint of blood on the Elance site, and departed shaking our heads. Just curious, where are you bidding now for online assignments? L.

  45. Pingback: Elance Sucks | Creative Flavor

  46. AmyColorado

    I have had it with Elance. They completely suck. Their customer service department are jerks. I use Guru, I have over 100, 100% positive reviews. I have been on Elance for less than a week and I already have two review less than 5.0 (4.6, 4.8, 5.0, 5.0) due to the employers are unrealistic and have no way to sort out the bad ones. I had one client that had 8 pages of a typed word document, not counting images and wanted everything to fit in 4 pages with no edits. I could not ask any questions and go screwed when the client accepted my bid. After contacting a couple people that did work for the same to employers they said the same thing, they wish there was a way to warn future freelances of people like these.

    Elance is all about the money and does not care about the freelancers.

    Not to mention the fact they will not allow you to sell print as a broker outside the site. By the time you pay 7%+ for their fees there is no way to make a living on their site.

    I just canceled my membership on there today and will not go back.

  47. Carol

    I tried to register on Elance (before I found this webpage) and 10-15 usernames later, all of which were unique, I still did not have one that someone else did not already have. It was then that I realized that I probably wouldn’t even get past registration. I then googled “buy a username on elance” thinking that perhaps some clever person had snatched up all the usernames and had intentions of selling them. That search led me to this page and the realization that perhaps some publishing angels were looking out for me.

  48. Thank you for this post! It explains a lot, as well as a few more I’m finding through searching online. I recently returned to Elance after an extended hiatus as I had no use for it and I paid a one month membership with 30 connects to spend a few days trying to find some new clients.

    After a few days of fruitfully trying to find new clients, I painfully regret this. So many things have changed and the things that changed clearly indicate to me that Elance is not interested in what providers have to say. I’m contemplating never going back there again after my connects run out this time.

    Here are some things that ticked me off about Elance changes:
    a) They got rid of the private message board. Before, at least you could send a client a message in the PMB after you had made a bid and do a bit of extra marketing and follow up. I found this extremely effective with many clients, because this showed to them that you were a good communicator and not just a template proposal spammer.
    b) They got rid of the public message board. Before, other more experienced Elancers could point out inconsistencies in a client’s job description or publicly follow up on questions that the client should have put in their description in the first place (for writers: word count, no. of pages, etc.).
    c) They seem to have become a lot more draconian with regards to working with clients outside of Elance. This is probably the biggest factor right now telling me to ‘get out while you can’. Apparently, you agree not to use clients you met on Elance for a full 12 months after you finish a project with them. Bummer. Looks like Elance has just become another mainstream agency without all of the real services a professional agency provides (marketing, arbitration, sales AND follow through, provider loyalty).
    d) I really don’t want to compete and be judged against people unqualified to be doing the work I’m doing. I spent more than 5 years in university getting my qualifications and worked for 10 years as an English teacher. How does that put me in the same category as someone who spins keyword riddled articles for $1 a pop?

  49. @Richard — nicely stated, and vented. If you come across some better sites that match qualified providers and realistic, professional clients, I invite them to share ’em here. Thanks again, I wish you the best along this path. L.

  50. amy

    I have a much different perspective from most of the people out there (at least the ones talking about elance online), and while most of you probably won’t like it, I’m going to tell you anyway.

    I have always been a good writer, and have never done it professionally, but I lost my job a year ago. I spent several months looking for any job I could find, in my field or not. After going on interview after interview for minimum wage jobs and having no luck, someone suggested I try looking on elance for writing jobs. This was in Mar. of this year. I looked for jobs writing about a subject I know a lot about and enjoy and submitted proposals for few jobs, and got one within a week. And then another. I’ll admit they were not at a rate I enjoyed working at, but I wasn’t working for pennies either. I got more and more jobs each at a higher rate and have learned a lot in a few months, and in 5 months, I have made over $10,000. You want to know why?

    -I bid on a lot of jobs, but only those that I think I can win, and most importantly, jobs I think I can do well, and do FAST. Writing about my niche topic, I can crank out articles pretty fast. Yes, it limits the number of jobs I can do, but by doing jobs I can do well, I have built up excellent feedback, which leads to more jobs. I don’t waste time trying to get jobs I’ll have to spend a lot of time doing research for unless that is built into the cost, it just doesn’t make sense and I don’t enjoy those jobs as much either.

    -I don’t worry about what anyone else bids on the job. I choose jobs that are posted by professionals who will pay good rates. Yes, there are WAY more people looking for cheap labor than those that will pay for quality, but the big fish are out there if you are willing to take the time to look. And yes, I have bid on plenty of jobs that ended up being awarded to someone who will work for $1 an hour, but I came to conclusion early on that those people only care about one thing, and that’s fine with me; I know I won’t ever work for them. I know that half the people who bid on most jobs are not qualified, but that by looking at proposals from providers on each end of the spectrum, buyers can see that they will most likely get what they pay for. Some people don’t care about the quality of anything and this is no different. You can stress about it, or you can ignore those buyers.

    -I realized early on that submitting proposals and marketing myself is a huge part of this business. If you think you’re going to get high paying jobs by spending 5 minutes searching and another 5 minutes submitting proposals, you will frustrated and angry, and like a lot of people here, complain about the system to anyone who will listen. To succeed at elance or any of these freelance sites, you have to be willing to put in the work to be successful. Reading many of the comments from people who think it sucks (and not just here), it seems as if a lot of people just want to sit at home in their pajamas and get rich quick. This is real work for those with real skills who will get paid what they are worth if they accept nothing less.

    -I know there are a lot of seasoned professionals out there who think that these sites are demeaning to professional writing and that’s fine, but for someone like me, this is perfect. In the last few months, I have made a fair amount of money, I don’t have to go to an office, and my schedule is flexible. Even better than that is that I enjoy what I do. I don’t care what some highfalutin writer who thinks he’s the next Mark Twain thinks of my choices for working for what I work for. At the same time, I know there are people in other countries (India for example) that have their reasons for working for pennies; I don’t judge them for it, I just know that I can’t do that.

    I take pride in what I do, and I have gotten repeat business not only because of this, but also because I am professional, meet deadlines and treat people how I like to be treated. I am professional and would never comment on a public job posting (as I have seen other seasoned elancers do) a negative remark based on a buyers decision to hire someone else. If you treat elance and your freelance career as a business, you have a much better chance of success.

    Bottom line: Like everything else in life elance is what you decide it will be for you. If going in, you think you won’t get any jobs because someone will undercut you, then that’s exactly what will probably happen. Luckily for me I had no expectations and it turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.

  51. Joe

    I searched for “Elance sucks” on Google. I was prompted to do this because I have submitted bids on many, many jobs. The jobs I bid on were across the board. Writing jobs, artwork needed, and programming. I have honed a few good talents over the years, and had the websites to back my work.

    What I found so disheartening was seeing not only the pay offered, but that people were willing to work for pennies on the dollar! I live in the US. I am a US citizen, and would bid on jobs only if the employer was also a US citizen. I have nothing against working outside the US. As a matter of fact, many of my friends and colleagues are either Indian or European. There are many great workers around the globe, I was just dumbfounded by how cheap they would sell their skills for.

    I quit Elance today. Like you, Larry, I am interested in finding out where these other people went. I know how to drum up business. The key, and what many people who didn’t find success on Elance may not know, is you do business with people. I would write detailed proposals, tell a little about myself, and follow through with emails. Some people were courteous, and replied in kind. The straw that broke my back was a “Not right now” response from a bid I put in. Elance doesn’t allow open communication. It’s “Read a proposal” and “Submit a bid” only.

    Screw that. It was enough to send me packing. I’ll just keep doing my own thing. I might not make pennies on the dollar doing it, but at least I will be happy tinkering.

  52. @Joe — well said, thanks for sharing this. I wish you luck as you move forward, be sure to let us know when (and where) you find a professional venue where real work from real professionals is fairly compensated. Thanks again — L.

  53. http://www.weblance.com will be implement standards and addressing this very issue

  54. Rohan


    Your points are, without a shadow of a doubt, valid. But there’s one thing I’d like to add to the ‘think India’ bit. I’m an Indian, and while there a lot of writers who are willing to take on projects at dirt cheap rates, there are just as many quality writers. We ( I say we since I’m a freelance writer myself) are as irked by these ‘I’ll-write-for-anything’ sort of writers as people in Western countries are. But the fact is that the first point of exploitation is initiated by the person who has the audacity to offer such a ridiculous rate to a writer. And as for people willing to do such projects for cheap, they exist in every country. It’s the need to earn, somehow, anyhow, that fuels their desperation. It’s not really their fault. But yes, I do wish that people regarded writing for what it truly is – an art.


  55. I love that. I am going to tell my marketing folks, this is exactly what we want. I hope you don’t mind if that comment lands on our front page! real work, real professionals, real wages!!!!!!!

  56. Rohan, I believe the Indian mage issue is the fact the market still believes they can get something for nothing. You always get what you pay for, in India or the USA. I have worked successfully with great teams in India, but I paid for it!

  57. John

    oDesk appears to be another alternative. Haven’t use it or eLance. Stopped while signing up for eLance due to all the bad experiences people have had with them.

  58. I disagree with Rohan in regards to the statement that writers who will do work dirt cheap (or cheaper than dirt) exist in every country. I’ve been doing this kind of work for years, long before there even was an internet. I’ve also been an Elance member for a while and thankfully, I don’t get most of my work from there and certainly don’t rely on it. Most of the dirt cheap workers are in countries outside of the U.S. I know this because I’m a researcher (that’s what writers are “supposed to do”) and it’s very clear that the lowest of the low bids come from Asia, Africa and the Indian continent. And unfortunately people who want blog content or SEO articles don’t care how they get them. They just want the content (original or not) and they want it cheap. But you can’t fight the Elance system. Instead of banging your head against the wall, it’s best to step back and do thorough prospecting, which means getting work from a variety of sources. My guess is that Elance has allowed such practices and they in the end will be the ones to suffer for it. I’ve noticed recently that a lot more employers have begun to state specifically that they want people who are native English writers and speakers. But the down side to that is people are still getting around the system. I bid on a job recently that required such qualifications, and I noticed comments from contractors such as, “English is my mother native tongue.” No, the person wasn’t from the U.S., and by writing such oddball wording they showed it’s not their “mother native tongue.”

  59. Theresa Lane

    Thanks for this article. I actually posted a project on elance 2 weeks ago for logo design. The only people that bid were from India. Their references looked great, but when it got into the acutal logo design phase, they delivered pile after pile of useless, disfigured poop. A 5 yr old could have done better. I asked for some local Americans to apply, and they did not respond back. I was offering a good, respectable range as well. My opinion is that eLance is dead.

  60. mazola

    Yep, lately if you look at new jobs offered you’ll see ten or more companies from India offering bids. Word of mouth must have gotten around there and every everybody who knows some HTML is trying to get a piece of the pie.
    Their government says they are not in the business of stealing USA jobs but it looks like that’s just not true.
    Local americans don’t respond because who wants to bid for peanuts like they do. Some of the job offers come from american idiots who don’t have a clue and think they can get away with cheap work.
    It was the British that taught them how to read english so thank the Royal Crown for it. lol

  61. I just wanted to let everyone know what we’re going through. We agree with all of your main points. We are a strategic brand definition, business planning, marketing planning and implementation resource. We are run by people with an average amount of experience in the industry of around 10 years. We have service side, client/company side and business & tech consulting expertise. We’re a “deeper toolbox,” and we have a hybrid structure, meaning that our man-hour rates are a fraction of those of larger firms.

    First, Elance scolded us for putting our direct contact info into proposal letters. So we took it out, even though it’s laughable to assume that they think that they can be the “Project Police,” and prevent clients and providers from working together as they wish to. Second, they suspended our account for “User Performance” issues. What this means is as follows: “Sorry, we know you pay us $40-60+ USD a month for access to bid on projects, but you’re not winning enough of them and paying us our ridiculously high commissions, so we’re suspending you.”

    They also said that we had multiple accounts (totally untrue; there was one account for the umbrella holding company of affiliate companies, and another for a specific affiliate who specialized in strategic deliverables–two separate corporate entities), and that we did not complete a job (also false–the client hired us, then hired an outside resource, and never wanted to agree to our upfront payment terms and conditions, making it a “phantom job”).

    Elance will not have a civil conversation and keeps referring to a mysterious “Policy Dept.” They took our monthly bid money, suspended our account indefinitely, are holding our credits, and are now penalizing us for marking the phantom job “complete!!”

    We are not going to take this crap from these half wits. We are issuing a press release, and going onto all of the complaint sites, reporting them to the BBB and US Attorney General’s office. We have been in business for far longer than they have, will do just fine without them, and will be around and successful LONG after they are gone. And, they will pay us back!

    PS–Always interested in good complimentary partners and companies who may want to become part of our affiliate network of providers.


    Chuck Hirsch
    Dir. of Strategy
    Wovn Group

  62. I hired one of the “referenced folks” and my project was never completed, but the escrow was released on a time basis. Cost us $327. Elance was unhelpful in getting those funds returned. We petitioned, won and they told us to collect from the vendor who no longer existed.

  63. Marcus

    Elance is untrustworthy. They can close or suspend your account at any time and they can hold all your earned money without proper reason. I was working on elance and I had a very bitter experience. The client I was working with was a perfectionist, a Hitler of sorts and had impossible standards and even after multiple revisions he was not releasing the money.

    I opened a dispute and called elance for assistance and the help desk collected all my information and a couple of days later my account was frozen and all my funds are held in elance $3500!! This includes all the money I earned from 5 other projects! I’m not able to bid on new jobs and I’m not able to withdraw my hard earned money! I’m unable to sleep, my appetite is gone…This is the most sickening work expereince I have ever had in my life…

    If you are considering elance for serious work, then ditch the idea… then will pull out the rug from underneath your feet any day they please and you will not be given a fair trial….

    Its not reliable, Their customer service acts empathic, but they are all lazy asses who will shut down your account if you give them work.

    Elance sucks

  64. x

    Man you suck !
    i never select the lowest price
    i select the one with the best portfolio and price

    Do you want to pay 150$ a hour or 15$ ?
    Elance is great but not of all
    stop crying !

  65. I agree with Larry for his comments on elance lately. Myself being an Indian entreprenuer also feel the same way. Elance is such a wonderful tool and I never felt I missed the MNC work culture using it. But at the same time, I feel its being under-utilized by just being used by freelancers with merely attracting low-cost project handling at the cost of project qualitative deliverables. I don’t know whether the clients really enjoy the results. Its really not possible to get work done below an appropriate budget.
    If the tool can add some features to have a selective range of bidders like having pre-qualification criterias which can add more values and serious business.
    I’m not sure whether we are expecting too much out of it as it may be only designed for freelancers:)

  66. jlo

    I would like to comment on the subject That yes Elance really sucks!!! they are based in california and guess what just like every other major company outsourcing there business. Thats BS to me how is it helping our countries economy having other forein workers bid for jobs for 1 dollar shame on elance for doing this they should just dedicate it as a USA business to help our country grow and help our fellow americans who are in need of money to feed there family. I am a member and no luck making anything there so as far as I know Elance really Sucks!!!!!!

  67. Max Power

    Well said, it is not just writting that is suffering in this area as a vfx, animation expert I’m finding it impossible to compete with pricing that is so ridiculously low that even those from India can’t possibly be making any money. animation is one of most grueling and labor-intensive of the arts. And it usually takes hours to produce just seconds of animation. Despite my outstanding qualifications, education and skill sets I find it impossible to use Elance as a source of revenue. I’ve seen some of the final results of these cheap bids, it would appear the clients do not appreciate or care about the quality they receive as long as they can get it for cheap.
    There’s an old saying:
    You can have it fast
    You can have a cheap
    You can have a good
    but you only get to have two of the three.
    It also seems like Elance’s is willing to jump on providers for even the slightest infraction of their so-called rules, yet clients get away with absolute murder. I guess we know which side of the bread the buttered on with that one. Truthfully I think Elance sucks. Even if you work up a decent competitive bid 99% of the time the client goes with the lowball and you’ve wasted your time pursuing a dead end, that was always going to be a dead end. I don’t know quite what I’m going to do about it, but I think I’m going to invent a better solution for all of us creatives. I have a idea stirring in the back of my mind.

  68. @Max — keep us posted, we need that Idea! Wishing you luck, and thanks for your contribution to this continuing (three years in) discussion. L.

  69. Stix76

    Elance https://www.elance.com has been a good place to do freelance work and grow my business but recently there has been a number of scammers that use their site to get free work done they pass verification and are allowed to hire on Elance.

    I have lost over $1000 to these scammers and also have gone thru a lot of stress and mental torment, they have refused to help me out and even suspended my freelance account with them, so I am being penalized for bringing scammers to their attention it is my fault that disputes has arised from scammers that they allow in their platform.

    They have it in fine print that they provide a “guarantee” for payment but they did not follow it and decided to suspend me. I am hoping to find a way to make them liable for this

  70. Hi all,
    If you guys are sick and tired of current outsourcing communities like Elance then get involved in the http://www.Kwikode.com forums to help build a marketplace that Freelancers and Employers actually want to use. This article is great because it highlights a growing issue with most of the big freelancer sites out there. Let’s do something about it! Tell us your ideas!

  71. Sebastian

    Believe it or not Elance is actually pretty decent compared to the rest,
    Freelancer the ex Get a Freelancer is going down the crapper day by day blocking contractors funds even if they won the money from a design contest which they introduced not that long ago, a lot of people were complaining about them lately,
    and oDesk is insulting even for people living in isolated African tribes with jobs, in happy cases, under 5$ in fields like Graphic Design.
    It’s full with clients that ask for web designs for 10$ to 50$ which in reality would cost 1000$ at least, or others that ask for professional logo designs for 10$.
    So far I only have experience and completed 1 job on oDesk but to be honest even micro stock photography sites are more profitable for me than oDesk.
    If you think Elance sucks then check out oDesk, I would love to find out your reaction when you’ll see that writing jobs are paid under 1$ per article, sometimes even lower than 25cents.

  72. Erika

    I am a little upset by elance, too. However, instead of accepting jobs, I’ve been looking to post a job. I’ve been looking for decent 2D animators, and it seems they are not available on elance. Animators there all look the same, most look as though they are not well skilled, and many (though not all) want high paying salaries for them. I understand animation is costly, and I am prepared to pay it, but if I’m going to pay a high price, I would like it to look high price. I might as well just hire an actual stuido to take on my add animation at this rate.

  73. Tsumig

    Elance is a company who tries to control freelancers all over the world; they do not have live phone support for most issues. We had a project which we have completed and Elance put a hold on to our account to withdraw money until we completed another project while we are on holidays. Aren’t this Elance’s hands on our business? How come they ask us to employ people while we are on holidays, and holding the money for a completed project?
    Elance is a place where you can go to kill your whole reputation within hours. They have policies only to protect their commission but not the interest of the Freelancers. They do not think that their survival is completely dependent on freelancers work. If there are no freelancers, they won’t be there to control our businesses.
    On the other hand there are so many buyers who do not pay and vanish. E lance do not have a control over them to settle our money. We have lost more than $30000 worth of work which has never been paid by the buyer.
    This is a disaster for any Freelancing business.

  74. Sandra

    Hi Larry,

    Just for interest’s sake, have any of your suggestions to Brad Porteus in 2009 come to fruition yet? Writing and Translation is still Writing and Translation three years down the line, I see.

    Just wonderin’…..

  75. @Sandra – good question. Early on, before this process (when I was a frustrated Elance provider/vendor), I did hear from him, asking for clearer feedback. But nothing in response to this post. Others have said complaining or even constructively criticizing Elance is like talking to a wall, so it seems they aren’t open to feedback or change (I could be wrong… but are they changing?). I think we must conclude that, if you want to work for less than one cent a word, and maybe not get paid, and maybe have the portal (Elance) meddle in the middle, then this is a real option… but for the rest of us… it’s frustrating because this global pay paradigm, watered down by off-shore providers who actually can live on one cent a word, and/or don’t provide the same quality… for us we’re left to ourselves to find real projects with real clients who understand the value proposition and have some sense of win-win. At first it looked like this type of venue was the New Age of freelancing… looks like we’re back at the Square One of personal client cultivation and nurturing. L.

  76. Christian

    Great article and you are so on point. Yes absolutely no value in Elance work whatsoever. Its been reduced to a sweat shop in Delhi type level. Will never use their services again!

  77. Fed Up

    I wish people would have warned me before I spent so much time signing up for Freelance, Guru, and Elance. These sites are a waste of time unless you’re already well-off and want to contest with laughably-small wages for a job that will vaguely demand the world.

    I knew I wouldn’t be buying a new car, but never did I think that I wouldn’t even make enough to buy groceries for a month. Between three freelance sites. This whole industry is a joke. I’m better off spending my time looking for a full-time job.

    Hopefully after these three years of complaining, someone has started or found a semi-decent freelance site that has a minimum wage limit.

  78. adam

    How can we fight back and close places like Elance down?

  79. William


    I am in the 3d industry,

    This is exactly what is happening to me.. I have been on Elance for about 3 years. And done some really fun work, got all good reviews from clients.

    I do not understand how, in India or where ever they are, can do 3d art for such a little. 3d Art is a VERY hard skill to learn – Plus the 3d software and the PC required to get the job done, are damn expensive. My 3d PC cost me about $5k. The Software I need to get a job done ++ $10k… I can not work for 1 entire week for $150. It makes no sense…

    Especially when I see the quality of “their” work, compared to mine. Crumbs I have been doing this for 14 year. Not to blow my own horn but “their”, work SUCKS .. in comparison.

    Those are my thoughts…



  80. Rob

    Wow! It’s interesting to see that this article is almost 4 years old and nothing has changed on Elance, although admittedly oDesk is still worse in terms of their fostering a cyber sweat shop mentality.

    Both sites need to introduce some kind of minimum hourly rate and also introduce tighter controls on clients who post outrageous jobs, like 10 articles for $5 or design a book cover for $10.

  81. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: bids from the third world. People from poor countries such as India who earn $0.50 an hour can get twice that much on Elance and so they bid accordingly. It’s impossible to compete with these people unless you’re prepared to give away your work, or just about.

    I am a writer, and I saw one job advertised that was for somebody to write a romance story of 40000 to 45000 words in length for less than $500. In fact, pretty much every writing job on Elance seems to be for less, usually much less, than $500 nowadays. For that price the advertiser is going to get absolute crap and thoroughly deserves to get absolute crap.

    The only way to fix this problem is to nationalize Elance, That is, to have an Elance for western countries only and another Elance for poorer countries. This won’t happen of course because people will shout that dreaded word “racism” and others will complain that not everyone in the third world bids at these bargain basement prices so why should they be penalized. But the harsh reality is that all of the ridiculously low and sadly winning bids on Elance come from the third world.

    My advice to everybody who takes pride in the quality of his or her work and believes that a fair price should be paid for his or her work is to boycott Elance and similar sites where slave wages are the rule rather than the exception.

  82. lporiginalg

    I’ve been on elance for 5 or 6 years now. Back at the start I could make a decent living solely off elance. I transitioned there from scriptlance which was basically the bargain bin version with only 5% project fees, and rent-a-coder which was sort of the original big player with 15% project. Elance was sort of the happy medium and for a while it was really awesome because all the mass of Indians weren’t moving there yet because of the monthly membership fees that could be avoided using services like scriptlance. I always knew it wouldn’t last and yes it has definitely gotten to that point where the competition from India and other such places makes it well nigh impossible to make a living solely off of elance projects unless you’re willing to work 14 hours a day for slave wages.

    But here’s the thing, there’s no point complaining about it. It’s about as useful as crying about any new peice of technology that makes you obsolete. It’s not elance’s fault. It’s not the cheap labourer’s fault. If it is anyone’s fault it’s the Employer’s who don’t care about quality, nationalism etc, but that’s fully their right. This is simply a result of free market capitalism. An ideology that Americans love to trump as the one true religion until somebody comes along that can do their job better or cheaper and then the shouts change to those of protectionism as the comment directly above this one.

    Don’t direct your rage at the Indians. Nobody wants to work for peanuts. A starving man has no choice in the matter.

    Don’t direct your rage at the job posters, it’s their right to hire whoever they want at whatever price the worker is willing to agree to.

    Don’t direct your rage at elance, they are a business, and I would think, a hugely profitable one as a result of years of building up a business that offers a service many, many people want. Are you mad at elance for providing a way for outsourcers to undercut you or are you just mad you didn’t think of the idea first so you could be the one sitting on a pile of money?

    Don’t direct your rage anywhere, just accept that it’s the way of the world and you can adapt or you can drown.

    If you must direct your rage somewhere, direct it at free market capitalism, an inherently flawed experiement that has failed miserably (don’t think so then take a look at wealth disparity in the US)

  83. Mayank

    Previously I loved ELANCE over other freelancing websites.
    I faced similar problem as others on ELANCE. Elance Policy team Joan and support team has forced me to believe they are ILLOGICAL and INSANE people.

    We had two separate company accounts run from same ip under wifi and both of our company accounts were suspended and never reinstated irrespective of identity verifications under different user names.

    I have lost repect for ELANCE. The support team has gone worst.

    I have pending money on my account on ELANCE about 70$ and they are not even allowing me to withdraw that money.

    When I requested to get response on ELANCE facebook site, they didnot bother to reply and moreover blocked me to post comment.

    Disappointing and heart-breaking ELANCE Policy team.

  84. Elance is frustrating

    I would like to share with you a true story about elance, I am a fresher freelancer trying to get my first assignment in elance and am unlucky to be from legal studies. All of a sudden they closed my account saying I donot meet the community standard

    Let me allow you with all the details simply copy pasted
    first I received this

    On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 11:40 PM, Elance wrote:

    “> **
    > Hello shekhar4u,
    > Here at Elance we regularly evaluate member activities to help ensure the
    > integrity of our marketplace. This includes quality and performance reviews
    > of Elance members and their jobs on the platform.
    > During a review of your account, we determined that you are not meeting
    > the minimum standards for our community with regards to managing job
    > opportunities and active projects.
    > As a result, we have closed your Elance account, effective immediately.
    > If you feel we made an error in this decision, please email us directly at
    > trustandsafety@elance.com. Only responses sent to this email address will
    > be reviewed. In your message, please provide the following information:
    > 1. Your Elance Username
    > 2. Reason(s) for reinstating your account”

    Second on my inquiry”Please let me know why as in for what specific violation my account is

    they said this

    “Hello shekhar4u,

    During a review of your account, we determined that you are not meeting the minimum standards for our community with regards to managing job opportunities and active projects. Specifically, the number of proposals you’ve submitted without job award falls under our minimum requirements.

    After a full review of your account closure response, we unfortunately will not be able to reinstate your account.

    Elance Trust & Safety”

    Now how unreasonable reason is this how far can you accept this being on your sanity!

    Odesk is low paying and client comes from not so humble background but still at least the forum does not treat you like this and the clients are not that bad either some are really very good!

  85. Shahbaz Hussain


    Woow, its a hot discussion and I am 100% in agreement with those who are blaming eLance has very less checks on who wants what….

    well, let me tell you that I am from Pakistan, I work as freelance web developer as well as post some jobs. I have paid about 5 grands to

    contractors and have made about 50 grands too. When I started working on Elance in 2010 it was really very good. I was able to win 5-8

    jobs a month and was able to deliver them with perfection. I started bidding on small jobs with a very hourly rates say $5 as I was less

    experienced, I used to bid on those jobs that really mean $5/h wage. I knew if I bid on a jobs which has min hourly rate $20 will 100%

    result in wasting my connect. So i never did that as i knew my skills. And I believe I have not hurt anybody who was willing to make $10/h

    for those jobs. During past 3 years i have learnt a lot and upgraded my knowledge, my skills and my attitude too. Now I charge $40

    minimum hourly rate and I charge up to $80 per hour for web development jobs and now I never bid on $5/h jobs though I can do them

    easily but I have gone from that phase. When there is a need of bigger proposals, I even bid 25 grands on jobs and I have recently won

    one of them nearly 20 grands making near my min hourly rate for 500 hours in 3 months. I mentioned all this stuff due to the reason that

    some guys are defending India or subcontinent and saying there are some cheap shitty people who do that. But the thing is that they are

    1.5 billions. 80% from them are living below poverty line and if someone from them see a $ coming in it really makes 60x or in Pakistan

    case its 100x, when they are working overseas they convert the 500 job back to local currency and then they find it a perfect fit for them.

    There is nothing wrong with Elance, they cant put checks on who is selling what and who is buying what but really its something the comes

    from inside. You have to trust. And if the buyer has a clear budget and clear understanding what they will get on that price its their job to

    think if it was cheap or worth paying it. When I bid on jobs, i really dont convert money into my local. I never did it. I want to increase my

    monthly wage to go past $3k and have found couple of clients who have hired me overseas as their project manager and its working

    great. I have made almost 60 grands with this non-elance client in past 18 months and its working really really great.

    @Larry, you are right to say that you are not able to get what you used to do… but think about those who are living a life you cant imagine

    and if they are able to get the jobs and doing the work isnt it good from them? Next, I see there is a competition in… since more people

    are engaging with Elance so you only need to divide your skills and services in 3 offerings. and you do 1-2-3 from weak to strongest. then

    you start bidding on the jobs again you will see a difference. Since you are always bidding all kinds of jobs with a mind set you cant make

    your clients to give you jobs… You will have to do something in order to make them talk with you.

    There was a job on Elance, it has a budget “Not Sure”, and after reading that job description I idealized it would be more than 20 grands to

    do that job. So I wrote a proposal, and mention what I am, what I can do and what areas I can help him. I never mentioned a budget in

    that proposal.

    Couple days later, the client selected 4 bidders 3 from india and one from Pakistan and asked them to develop a demo in 5 working days. I

    started working on that demo and delivered in two days… Then on 5th day was asking him what was the result so he was saying he

    wanted to give chance to those who havent submitted their demos. Anyways, next week he announced I have won the job and asked me

    to post the estimate. So that was the kind of client who knew he has a big work in hands and wanted to test the skills, for those demos he

    paid $200 each just making sure they get paid for the efforts they put on.

    Why i told you this story is because, you have to find your perfect jobs, i know there will be less as you see the competition but you will

    have to either stick with your strongest skills and post your bids accordingly on every kind of job or you split your skill sets from weak to

    strongest and then bid on the jobs in accordance with the requirements. If you dont do the later one it means you will be posting another

    article with another worst experience. So lets play fair for yourself. Its about you. There are 7bn people in the world you have to compete

    with including all ages. Imagine how many of them are in your ring and what you need to do to defeat them? Thats where you have to do

    something yourself. You cant blame Elance or any other system since they are generally same for everyone. for me, for you, for them….

    for all. Hope you get it!

  86. Allen Archer

    Many American professionals (with experience and graduate degrees) are bidding on and accepting VERY low paying jobs on Elance now ($200 for 200-page books, etc., $5 for 500-word articles, etc.). I don´t know how they do it, but this trend will make very difficult any prospects of getting fair pay for quality work via jobs posted on Elance.

  87. I’m a young writer who was recently scammed out of 30+ hours of work on Elance. The client completely disappeared and after weeks of “trying” to get me paid it looks like Elance has given up.

    Here’s the funny thing: I was communicating with him on Skype and his profile picture was of the comedian Jason Manford – I didn’t realize this until afterwards.

  88. We started using ekast (www.ekast.co) – much much better option. We first used them because we were approached by the cofounders. It seemed a bit like a “me-too” site but we quickly realized this wasn’t the case. They only have a few developers who are very high quality (apparently they put them through code school independently to test their competence). We received 3 very competitive quotes but the best part of the process was the personal contact not only from ekasts support team but from the co-founders as well. They have a very personal touch that can’t be beat. Also, notable is their platform – it offers “rules”. So for instance, you can set agreements in the system such as penalty clauses (i.e. if you are more than 2 days late on delivery – then there is a % or $ reduction in cost). Quite a cool little company.

  89. AJ

    I had a bad experience on Elance. They are unfriendly and negative, they suspend your account after asking you to verify your identity!!! Why do they do so??? screw Elance!!! After year and a half working on Elance and building my profile they just suspended it!!! Its unjust and unfair!!! Their policy is unclear and their team just copy paste the answers and don’t discuss anything with you!!!
    There must be penalties in any company, but for those as they call them selves ( professional) have a very stupid and unfriendly policy!!!

  90. Joe

    Yes they sux. Stupid login system that dont work and never sends emails wota crap fucking site.