August 8, 2008 in 4 out of 5 stars, A service, Collaboration, Hiring, Productivity

What is it?

Elance: A place to (primarily) find freelance help, and also to find work as a freelancer.


Who makes it?

Elance, Inc.

Why is it the killerest?

Elance has been around for a while (at least since 2002) and serves a wide range of businesses. I won't speak to their breadth, just their value to me as a non-Fortune-500-level entrepreneur.

Elance's real benefit is in finding inexpensive (many of their providers are in Asia and Latin America) help for more specialized tasks that I can't afford the time to do myself, or that I don't have the skills to do myself.

For example, I have about 1,000 product images that I need the backgrounds removed from in Photoshop.

My friend needed a customized Flash video player designed for his site.

A quick (relatively simple) post on Elance, and we found the help we needed within 24 hours.

I like how careful they are about vetting businesses and providers to ensure everyone is the real deal. They also have an escrow service (free for businesses), and a fairly robust messaging and agreement system to make sure everyone knows what's expected and how the project will pay out.

My results have been very satisfactory.   

What could be improved?

The site is pretty complex, and as such, it's a bit cumbersome to use (I did muddle my way through without reading much and just guess-clicking and did ok however).

Some of the communication structure feels more like insulation designed to make sure Elance gets their commission than a way to make my life easier.

Most of their project management constructs are far too elementary to be useful.

How much does it cost?

Free for businesses, providers pay 4-6% plus a monthly fee depending on usage.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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I think this might be a good option to find help if you have your own business. Unfortunately, however, I don't think its a good resource if you're looking for freelance work if you live in the US. There's no way to compete with the prices offered by providers in Asia or Latin America.

Posted by: freelancer1 | Aug 10, 2008 1:40:34 PM

For the type of work I outline, you're completely right. However, I suspect there are other categories of work where one might be able to compete (marketing or finance services for example).

Posted by: Carson McComas | Aug 10, 2008 3:32:07 PM

Another option for outsourcing is the relatively new shelancers, with a range of freelancers in different areas it gives you a good choice. shelancers.com/directory

Posted by: Shelancer | Aug 13, 2008 2:29:57 AM

I've just finished using eLance for my first project (for a 5-page static website). I was initially inspired by Patrick McKenzie's article on his successful use of eLance:
His recommendation of Gursimran worked well for me so I've blogged about my experiences too:
Cheers for penning this.

Posted by: Ian Ozsvald | Aug 14, 2008 9:53:38 AM

Nice post. I have used Elance for every online project I've done and I love it. I honestly might give it a 5 outa 5 especially since they are continuously updating the site and trying to make it better. Check out my post about the site http://mindfrenzy.com/mindfrenzyblog/?p=36

Posted by: Jared | Aug 16, 2008 9:29:50 AM

I have used Elance extensively for outsourcing all of my design and content creation work. It puts me in a better position to manage and monitor the work being done by different teams and providers across the globe. With the support of specified experts, my application and website is now on the brink of launching.

Just a few additional pointers for people considering Elance for outsourcing their work:

1- Spend a significant amount of time ensuring that your job postings are in detail. This gives serious bidders a chance to propose their solutions and it also helps reduce bid noise (i.e. below par bidders)

2- Unlike what the first commenter stated, the location of the bidders doesn't matter as such. I have often outsourced to teams in the US as long as their work quality justifies their expense.

3- When shortlisting bidders, don't just select the seemingly best option. Always select the top 3 or 4 bidders and then start your due diligence with them. This helps mitigate your risks and gives you a chance to explore your options before settling in with a provider. I sometimes give my shortlisted candidates a task to test their skills and see who stands out best.

4- For certain projects you should carefully measure whether it will be easier for you to manage multiple people in the team or outsource the entire project to one team. E.g. instead of hiring blog writers you may want to outsource your entire blog and community management project to a team. This ofcourse only applied in cases where you can afford to take the risk of trusting a single team with something. Even if you do, you should ideally have backup plans.


Posted by: Simon | Aug 17, 2008 10:48:12 AM

Looks like a pretty neat company with a cool idea. Nice.

Posted by: Brett Tilford | Oct 2, 2008 2:55:25 PM

Guru.com is another great site to find freelancers on. I recently needed to make updates to my business website http://sandshack.com and I was totally amazed to find somebody willing to do all the updates I needed for $65. I don't know how elance works, but guru.com allowed you to put money in escrow so that the provider knows you will pay, and you don't have to release the money until the project is done.

Anyways, that is them, but I'm going to check out elance as well, sounds good.

Posted by: Brian Linton | Oct 16, 2008 11:29:36 AM

I have always found great AND cheap designers, writers, etc in Elance so I cannot complain..

Posted by: yacht charter | Dec 11, 2008 1:43:31 PM

In fact since I discover Elance it's the outsourcing tool I use the most, if anybody would recommend something similar, where you can get an escrow payment service please let me know..

Posted by: yacht charter | Dec 11, 2008 1:48:13 PM

Elance is indeed the leading marketplace for online talent and that is why I use them over and over again. The best way to succeed in finding quality providers is to be a quality buyer. This means expecting no demanding quality and not being afraid to do due dilligence before hiring someone. I personally, review all proposals with a fine-toothed comb, check feedback carefully and interview prospects via Elance's private message board. In addition, I am very clear about what I expect and what I will tolerate. By doing this, I have found some really great providers on Elance and highly recommend them for finding quality talent.

Posted by: Kristi Patrice Carter | Feb 2, 2010 10:25:27 AM