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Elance.com is a website for freelance workers to find online projects and make a bit of cash from the comfort of their own homes. “Buyers” (businesses) post jobs on elance, and stipulate their maximum budget for doing the work and “Providers” (freelance workers) can then submit a proposal for the work and bid a price for doing it. In theory, it’s simple. In practice, it’s pants.
The kind of work on offer ranges from website coding to graphics, to copywriting, proofreading and translating – basically anything that can be done on a computer. A look at the website today shows that there about 25,000 jobs open for bidding.
My experience is as a provider. My entrance into the wonderful world of elance was slightly different to most people’s (I guess), in that I was invited to do an editing project for a company in Australia, who then asked me to sign up with elance to manage the project. Most members don’t get invited in – anybody can join up and basic membership is free.
I had to submit a proposal and a bid for the project I’d been invited to do, even though it was actually a “private” project and not open to bidding by any other elance members. I was fine about that though – after all the Australians had a right to see what kind of a proposal I’d write and make their judgments accordingly, and I had the right to suggest a payment I was happy with. For the record, the bid was $100 (US). Since the bidding was closed, there was no question that they would award the job to someone else. All was looking good, so I hit the “sign up” button on elance.com.
Initially, signing up seemed easy. The site is modern and slick and pleasant to use. They didn’t want to know my life story in order to set up my profile. However, when I got to the end of the sign up process I then discovered I had to sit a test – to prove that I had explored the website and knew all about how it works. I was a bit annoyed to have this sprung on me without prior warning, as I was eager to get started on the “real work” rather than faffing about with this. So I speed read the help pages, and passed the test (I think you need 60% to pass) – phew.
After sending the Australians my username, they accepted my proposal and bid. They then released the payment into elance’s escrow system – which means they send the payment to elance in advance of me doing the work which is a guarantee that I will get paid. I completed the project, which was short and easy, and sent my files off. Within a few hours the escrow payment had been released and I had $100 in my elance account. All looking rosy thought I.
Thinking that elance seemed to be a good way to make money online, I decided to sit down and really find out what the site was all about. Unfortunately, it seems that getting further work with them is not going to be easy, and could potentially cost me more money than I could make! Elance are tight wads, it has to be admitted, and they are out to get money from everyone they possibly can. Let me elucidate.
My $100 is no longer $100. Elance took a whopping 8.75% commission from me, immediately. If I want to have the money sent to my bank account, it will cost me a further $10, and I can only ask for one transfer per month at that price. Further transfers will cost $25 each! Another way to get the money is via Paypal, so I’ve gone for that option. I have long been a Paypal user and I know that Paypal transactions are pretty much instant. However, after requesting my money two days ago, elance kindly informs me that the transaction is still in progress, and that it can take 1-2 days to complete. Why? Of course, I will be charged another fee by Paypal when the money actually arrives in that account.
The elance bidding system works with “connects”. As a free member, you get three connects per month. Each time you make a bid on a project, you use up a certain number of connects. A low budget project will cost you one connect. Higher budget projects will cost you more, and you can also choose to have your bid put at the top of the list of bidders, if you pay double the number of connects.
Even though I was invited to do a project privately, I still lost one connect, which I thought rather unfair. Still, seeing as I had two left, I decided to see whether there were any other projects worth looking at. I found an interesting looking job, but there was very little detail about what the buyer wanted. I decided to send the buyer a question asking for more details. After clicking “send”, I saw my connects drop down to 1! It seems that you lose a connect just by asking a question, whether or not you actually submit a proposal and make a bid on the work. After waiting several days, I had no response to my questions. I decided to make a proper proposal and bid for the buyer anyway, since I wouldn’t lose another connect in doing that. I spent a fair amount of time writing a really good proposal, and have heard nothing. I don’t expect to either.
So now I’m down to my last connect. I could, if I was completely mad, choose to become a paid member of elance. This would entitle me to several more connects per month (depending on the level of membership I buy), allowing me to bid on more projects. Of course, there is no guarantee that I’ll get offered any work, and in all likelihood I’d just be wasting my money. The cheapest paid membership is $9.65 a month, which is a lot of money in my opinion. There is an awful lot of competition for jobs, and many providers are based in countries with poor economies, allowing them to offer very low rates to the buyers – this is especially true in the field of IT.
Elance creams money from you in other ways. You can have your credentials verified at $15 a pop (I haven’t bothered) and you can also purchase extra connects. Each months the connects are reset, so if you buy 10 this month and only end up using 5, you’ll lose the other 5. Does that sound fair?
Each time you do a project, the buyer can leave you feedback which stays on your profile. Your profile is where you can write about your services, list your education and professional qualifications, display examples of your work, post your picture and show off your test scores. The tests are actually quite a fun part of the site. There are many to choose from and take up to 40 minutes each to complete. Subject matters include computer programming languages, writing skills (grammar, spelling), language translation skills, as well as business skills like resume writing or accounting. I’ve done a few of the writing related ones, French translation and Word 2003, and did pretty well at all of them. If you get a high score your position within the elance community is displayed as “top 5%”, for example. I also did an SEO test but failed that one! Tests are free, but you can only display the results of 5 tests on your profile page. So I have good test results, and my feedback score for doing the Australian project was 100% - elance make out that this kind of stuff will make it more likely that you get work. So far there are just tumbleweeds rolling past my profile page!
I intend to stick with elance as a free member and see how it goes. I may be offered more work with the Australians, which will be good. (Or I may not!) Each month I will get my 3 connects and I will have the chance to bid and see what happens. If I get really lucky, I might even buy the cheapest paid membership, but there is absolutely no way I would pay for that without making several hundred bucks on there first. That way my profile page will be filled out nicely with completed jobs, and it would feel more like betting with money I’d already won on the horses with rather than shelling out from scratch. I am lucky that I already have contact with this one company – as a brand new provider on elance I think you stand very little chance of getting awarded any project whatsoever, and you could well be duped into paying them through the nose for nada. If you are tempted to sign up, go for it, but DON’T PAY FOR ANYTHING until you start getting jobs – which could be never!
The Connects is 10 now-a-days.. i have applied for a couple, and have found the possible employers to be fairly rude and up their own a**es! it seems if you dont have a university degree and dont work for some high profile media giant you have no chance of finding work! excellent idea, but needing extortionate crudentials for writing a blog is rediculous!
greenierexyboy 25.07.2009 19:06
God...I'd never sign up with something that sounds like a name for a minor (but messy) medical procedure.