Elance Going Beyond a Job Bid Site

Elance homepageAlthough I haven’t kept a close eye on Elance, my impression has been that it was a basic job “bid” site for freelancer programmers. The site description summarizes their main focus as “outsourcing to freelance programmers, web and logo designers, copywriters, illustrators and consultants.” People with the jobs are the employers or “buyers” and the Web workers with the skills are the “providers” on Elance.

Since launching in 1999, the company has worked to expand their offerings, integrating some features to create more than just a job site and more of a work tool. What interested me beyond the job marketplace is Elance’s concept of a Remote Work System with the goal of creating a remote workspace for freelance workers to provide them with additional incentive to continue using the site after the job match has been made. The features are meant to help service providers manage a part of their work through Elance and give buyer and service provider more ways to connect and transact business.

Elance Find Work pageThe areas Elance has been beefing up to create their “remote work system” include:

1. The Interview Process. Beyond matching up a buyer with a service provider with specific skills that meet their project needs, Elance offer an integrated chat function and a click-to-call function that allows the buyer to place a call to the provider anonymously and for free. Providers can also take “certification” tests via Elance to evaluate their level of expertise and ostensibly giving buyers more of an assurance of a provider’s skills.

2. The Payment System. Elance now offers an escrow account so that once a buyer and seller match up, the buyer can place the payment into an escrow account via Elance with the intent to assuage the provider’s mind that the money is there upon completion of the project. The payment still needs to be triggered by the buyer so even once a provider completes the job, there is no guarantee that they provider will be paid. However, Elance also offers dispute assistance for both buyers and providers.

3. Tracking Project Status. With a new status reporting system in place, buyers can set milestones for providers to meet, and providers can report on their status showing progress against milestones on a percentage basis. Elance recently implementedĀ  a time tracking widget that a provider can apply to a deliverable or milestone, add notes for the buyer, and attach files. The time tracker can also cover units of work such as blog posts. Status reports can then be converted into invoices once work is complete.

The company says that while they are offering enhanced features to help the buyer and provider manage a portion of the project, their site is not necessarily a replacement for a more robust project management system like Basecamp. Like Basecamp, however, the new Elance features offer an archive of interactions and communications between buyer and provider which is especially invaluable for a provider who is working on multiple projects at once.

Elance search resultsOut of curiosity, I did several searches to see what freelance opportunities fit my skillset, experience and interest. There were a good number of web site and blog content development jobs open for bid, however, I found too many that didn’t seem to add up in terms of pay.

For example, one blogging job had a budget of $500 but were looking for someone to craft 5 blog posts per week. The duration of the project wasn’t visible but after just a few months time, the pay per post for that job would be embarrassingly low.

Another blogging job was paying an hourly rate which seemed a little unusual for work that is more commonly paid by the unit i.e. on a per post basis. Another wanted 20 articles for less than $500. Maybe a good job for an inexperienced writer working up some portfolio pieces, but there is no way to slice $500 by 20 and get anything resembling decent pay.

So while I’m not convinced Elance contains a wealth of well-paying, high-quality writing jobs for established Web content developers (I can’t comment on the programming jobs since I’m not a programmer), it could be a good place for a novice to find their first jobs. Plus the site provides some extras to helpĀ  manage those jobs.

What has been your experience with Elance or other “bid” job sites?