Elance - Bidding, Client Interaction and Project Award Policies and Mechanisms
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Elance has been around for over a decade and is a very large, well-established marketplace. Its size and experience have enabled it to developed a full-featured set of systems for project initiation, searching, bidding, client communication and project award and management. It certainly has its quirks, but on the whole the site is quite functional (if a bit irritating at times). If there’s a weakness to the Elance system, it has more to do with the company’s policies in certain areas than its software.
Let’s delve into the details.
As with other sites, most projects on Elance start with the client filling out a project listing. The client is prompted to give the project a name and description, asked if it is a flat rate or hourly job, and given the opportunity to set several options. As mentioned in the project quality discussion, this project listing process could be a lot better; problems such as a lack of guidance in creating the description, and important options being hidden in a drop-down box, make it harder for clients to create quality listings, and that in turn affects contractors.
Elance projects can be public or private. A public listing allows anyone who has the ability to bid on projects of that type to place a proposal; private listings are only shown to those who are invited to bid. Clients can also invite specific contractors to bid on public listings; this indicates to the contractor that the client is interested in them specifically, and also means they can bid without spending any connects, but uninvited providers also can bid.
Clients who want to invite contractors have the ability to search through the contractor database in a way analogous to how contractors search for projects. They can look for providers who have particular expertise in the area where they need work. The results can be filtered based on a number of criteria, including category, average feedback rating, “level”, location, stated hourly rate and more. A provider’s “level” is an overall assessment of their experience and activity, and is calculated by Elance on a weekly basis; I discuss it in more detail when I look at the Elance feedback system.
The provider search engine is one of the most frequently complained-about features in Elance—even by providers! One reason is that, by default, search results are listed by provider level, which many providers feel gives an unfair advantage to companies over individual freelancers. It is also common for searches for a specific type of contractor to yield odd results; this can mean providers getting invites for irrelevant projects, while those who are well-suited to doing them aren’t noticed.
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011
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