Elance is based in the U.S. (northern CA), venture capital backed, has a community of 1.4 independent contractors, generated in excess of $500 million in contracting work via its outsourcing platform, incorporate a virtual workplace and offer the ability for teams to collaborate online via their platform.
We like the fact that you have the ability to call them if you have a customer service issue. Although getting their customer service team to diverge form the “company line” can be a daunting challenge – they are polite, but clearly are trained to not deviate from certain protocols. It’s a venture backed company and decision making appears to be very hierarchical in structure.
Direct competitors include: Freelancer, oDesk, Fiverr, Elance and even LinkedIn, which is starting to be used more and more for contractor recruiting and engagement.
1) Elance has a definite US feel to the community – we have found many of the responses to projects have come from inside the US, with 30-50% on average, 10-20% from Europe and the rest scattered around the world.
2) Elance incorporates a stringent contractor and employer feedback loop in its community, which can come in handy. But, there is some bias in the latter – most contractors are aware of the value of these reviews and will absolutely integrate a review with a project completion, altogether not a bad thing in any case.
3) Like many of these cloud based (web) outsourcing platforms, we found their interface to be a bit challenging in terms of practicality. Creating and uploading a job request can be done within 30-60 minutes on average; but, managing the back end bidding and payment processes can be a bit time-consuming.
4) We haven’t tested their virtual teams and collaboration work environment – there are so many open tools that facilitate this, we just haven’t found the need. As an example, coupling Skype with Join.Me and a simple low cost video camera is a great way to collaborate with others on any project.
5) Elance shines when you are looking to outsource marketing work or projects (Content, Newsletters, SEO, Social Media Marketing); technical skills like custom programming and software development are better served using Freelancer.
6) We like the Elance escrow system – you don’t pay for any completed project until the work has been provided, saving lots of back end headaches. Although, we have found over the years that contractors will aggressively push for payment once work has been completed.