oDesk vs Elance

Everything is moving to the Internet and digital world, so does staffing and outsourcing. Today, online global staffing and outsourcing have become one of the primary ways of freelancers to carry out and continue their way of living. Such type of service has also become a way for companies to find workers quickly and efficiently. It is meant to be a flexible and stress-free work environment, in which both creativity and brainstorming can thrive together in unison, generating better work results. Of course, even the biggest online outsourcing platforms have ups and downs, but these platforms are getting better and better over time.

Two of the most popular online outsourcing platforms right now are oDesk and Elance. They are similar that they both provide users with two possible possibilities: to hire or to be hired. However, as direct competitors against each other, there are indeed differences between them. Elance is the oldest in the play, has been around since 1999. oDesk was released for the first time in 2005, but has been recently renamed into Upwork. Below, we will see the more detailed breakdown of the differences between oDesk and Elance.

Types of Works Available

Regardless of whether you are a freelancer or looking for employees, you may want to know the types of works that are widely circulating in each of the two services. oDesk Upwork is almost entirely composed of hourly projects, with just a few that are fixed price projects. On the other hand, Elance has both hourly projects and fixed price projects in roughly equal proportions.

The general opinion is that hourly projects are a gray area. It is hard and difficult to evaluate, and it just gets more complicated and debatable when it comes down to the subject of payment. Different people may accomplish the same task in different lengths of time due to various factors. Then again, using a video time tracker for the payment is a controversial consideration as well. Some people consider such software to be too overly controlling. On the good side, though, hourly projects may make a way for a worker to perform a supposed trial work before going for an all-in contract with an employer. It is also suitable for small-scale tasks. On the other hand, fixed price projects are usually preferred for larger works, but these indeed have the tendency to cause delays and are not very suitable for small tasks.

Payment and Monitoring Methods

All fixed price projects available on Elance use escrow, which is already a widely accepted payment method and guarantee. Escrow is safe for both the employer and the freelancer; it guarantees that the payment is going to be sent after the project is properly accomplished. It is fairly simple and straightforward; the employer funds an escrow account and releases it after the project is completed. Even if, for some reasons, the employer forgets to release the fund, it will be automatically released after 30 days. There is some waiting, indeed, but the payment is guaranteed.

But Elance also implements Tracker with Work View to guarantee the hourly projects as well. Basically, the program takes screenshots while you are working on a project. The hours billed by the employer must correspond with the screenshots provided. Unless the client identifies specific hours as not related to the project, your hours are automatically paid after the timesheets are sent.

On the other hand, oDesk Upwork can only guarantee payments for hourly works. It guarantees the payments for the hourly projects in a similar way as Elance, using a tracker program that automatically takes and sends screenshots as you work. However, oDesk Upwork does not have escrow. Hence, there is no way to guarantee your payment if you take a fixed price project from oDesk Upwork. In other words, oDesk Upwork is great for those who prefer to work on an hourly basis, but not for those with a project-by-project basis.

Communication Methods

Elance comes with various tools to help you communicate with your clients and to ensure your projects flow smoothly. After you are awarded a project, you can have access to the Private Message Board, Real Time Chat, File Sharing, Project Terms with Milestones and Comments, Status Reports and Timesheets, as well as Autopay for hourly projects or Escrow for fixed price projects.

On the other hand, oDesk Upwork only provides the Work Diary to track the amount of time that you spend working on the project; that’s all. Communication between the client and the freelancer must go through personal emails, telephones, or chats. There is no communal workspace where all official communications can be tracked. Considering that emails can accidentally get lost in the spam box, chats can get turned off, and calls can be missed, it is quite unfortunate that oDesk Upwork does not provide a reliable communal workspace to prevent miscommunication.

Project Quality

As a freelancer who provides skills and services, the last thing that you want to happen is spending hours communicating with someone who appears to be a potential buyer, but actually does not even have a whole lot of potential. Time is crucial; you could have spent your time to work on your current project or to look for more serious projects rather than to answer emails, calls, and chats from someone who is just testing the water.

Elance tries to ensure the quality of its projects by charging an activation fee ($10) for a buyer before the buyer can post any project. This is a method to ensure the buyer’s seriousness and commitment, as well as to ensure that the buyer does have a legitimate form of payment to pay the freelancer or provider – whichever you prefer to call yourself.

Meanwhile, on oDesk Upwork, buyers can post as many projects as desired and communicate with all providers. This is bad because there is nothing worse for a freelancer than talking with lots of buyers who are just testing the water without resulting in a paying project.

- Has mostly hourly projects- Has both hourly and fixed price projects
- Implements a tracker program to guarantee hourly projects, no escrow for fixed price projects- Uses escrow for fixed price projects, Tracker with Work View for hourly projects
- Communications go through personal emails, calls, or chats- Provides tools including a private message board to record all communications
- Buyers can post as many projects as desired- Activation fee for the buyer before posting any project


In general, Elance is still the better option. It provides both hourly and fixed price projects, and both are guaranteed. It provides various tools for effective communication, and it ensures the buyer’s commitment and seriousness to protect the freelancer/provider. It is also generally better for the buyer due to the communication features. There are people who work well on oDesk Upwork, and that’s great, but Elance is currently better.

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