Elance - Bidding, Client Interaction and Project Award Policies and Mechanisms
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Project Award Process and Policies
Awarding a project is a pretty simple affair. The client reviews the submitted proposals, asks questions of “short list” candidates if necessary, and then selects the winning bid. The contract establishment process below then begins.
Elance provides some general “common sense” tips to clients to help guide them in reviewing proposals and deciding on a winning bid. However, the company does not seem to dictate to clients a specific set of policies with respect to proposal selection. The terms of service generally require the client to act in good faith and follow the site’s rules, but aside from that, it’s really up to the client to make the decision based on whatever parameters he/she finds most important.
Consistent policy enforcement is frequently a problem area when it comes to project awards, especially for projects aimed at the low end of the marketplace. I discuss this in more detail in the section on ethical policies.
Every Elance project begins with the negotiation of terms. When a client chooses a provider, the website will default to setting up a default final project deliverable milestone. This milestone is set at an amount equal to the contractor’s bid, with a date equal to the current date plus the contractor’s delivery estimate. So if today is February 14, 2011 (and it is!) then if a client selected my proposal today, and I had said I needed one week to do the job, the default due date would be February 21, 2011.
The client decides whether to edit the terms or not, and when satisfied, submits them to the contractor for review. The contractor can either accept the terms or decide to change either the amount or due date; in this case, the terms are sent back to the client to accept or edit again. The process continues until an agreement is reached.
For longer projects, the contractor and client can agree to set up additional milestones (in addition to the final deliverable). For example, for a writing project, they may agree that the contractor be paid 25% up front, 25% upon receipt of a first draft, and 50% upon project completion. Whenever terms other than complete payment upon project completion are desired, these should be specified up front in the proposal.
The project terms are also used to guide the creation of invoices for work completed, and they are integrated into the Elance escrow system as well. One important gotcha for providers to be aware of is that agreeing to a change in terms can lead to escrow that has been funded for a milestone being refunded to the client. See the discussion of escrow for more details.
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