Is Elance Worth It?

Better Luck Next Time

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket


I logged into Elance today to turn off my notifications. I no longer use the site for a variety of reasons. One of which was definitely the change in policies regarding how they rate freelancers. But mostly the reason was because, well, I am just beyond that for the most part. Today while I was disabling the notifications I checked in with the recommended opportunities on a whim. And was reminded why I made my choice.

Pay was miserable for the amount of work people were looking for as well as the time frame. Things like, we want 6 1200 word articles. We’re going to pay $23 for all six. Or, looking for original ghostwritten fiction, 5K to 6K words, $40 for the project. Fast turnaround. Umm, no, no thank you.

So from that you would probably think that I would say that Elance (and other bidding sites like ODesk,, etc) are not worth the time (or money!). But that’s not entirely true. Honestly, if you were to ask me if it was worth it, I would say, “It is until it isn’t”.

Let me explain. In list form because I hear the internet digs that.

1. Good for beginners

Bidding sites are great for the time when you’re just getting back into freelancing or when you don’t have any portfolio to speak of. There is a ton of work available and yes, most of it is dead boring content creation but work is work.

I point many of my friends who are not professional writers but have a handle on the English language and want to make a few extra bucks on the side in the direction of Elance. It makes finding quick gigs and managing payments super easy. If you’re only looking to earn some extra beer or diaper money, it’s a good place to run to.

2. You don’t have to chase people for money

Clients are required to put the money into escrow so you know it’s there before you even start. Which is great. If they don’t fill the pool, you don’t swim. Which is in stark contrast the greater freelancing world where people can (and will) withhold payments, pay late, or never pay at all. I haven’t actually run into any of that last set but I hear horrible things.
Although you have some clients that try to scam freelancers on the site, it’s pretty safe.

3. There’s a dispute resolution

Nobody likes conflict. With the bid sites, they sort of let you avoid it if you have to cancel a job or if the client wants to cancel. Or if you finished a project and they take issue with the work or if they want to change the deal midstream.

There are all sorts of built in features to help bypass communication errors between the client and freelancer. It’s what you pay the 8.75% for. And that’s handy.

But, there are some serious cons to the site too.

1. Sucks for making a living

Bidding takes a lot of time. You have to think of what to pitch, get your samples together and you’re going into a pool with A LOT of other workers and, let’s be honest about things. Minimum wage in a third world and developing nation is way different than a first world country and it doesn’t even come to close to most people’s ideas of comfortable.

And this is no disrespect to those workers. We all have to hustle but, if 60% of the bid pool will do the job for 2 cents a word and you want 10 cents, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going to happen here.  

2. Rating System?

I don’t even really understand it. For a while I was level three in both art and writing. Which was strange because I had NEVER gotten an art job on the site but I had a ton of writing gigs with positive feedback. I also went from being a level 5 to, well a 3. So basically, the ratings are probably BS.

They do have skill tests that you can take to help boost our desirability which will likely help you get pulled up for invites but once again, it’s all about who is in the pool with you and chances are if you’re getting started, the other people in higher end pool are probably far more likely to land the gig because on paper, they probably look better even if they are actually a content mill.

3. It’s a lot a lot of time for little reward

Like a lot. There’s no way to really standardize the bid process and although you can pinpoint what sort of jobs you want to bid on, you still have to bid on them. And even if you have your bid process down to a science, you do still have to bid on a lot of gigs to find a single one that pays out.

And honestly, I don’t have time for that.

When I began to get more lucrative and steady work opportunities I dropped Elance and other sites like that altogether. I can’t say for sure that I’ll never come back to it. I may end up going for some pick up work during a dry time but it has been removed from my routine as a job source.

But that’s where I’m at in my career. I think that sites like Elance can help new freelancers really build confidence and get some work in a portfolio but it’s not great in the long term due to its limitations.

So, yes, Elance and bidding sites can be beneficial but know when to let them go and where to go to find more lucrative opportunities. Use it as stepping stone, not a business plan.