Elance - Escrow Services, Work Tracking Systems and Payment Guarantees
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Work View for Hourly Projects
Elance’s escrow service is not available for hourly projects. Instead, clients and contractors have the option of using Elance’s Work View, a software product that combines hour tracking/logging with a program that monitors and reports back on the contractor’s activities.
To use Work View, a contractor must download and install Elance’s Tracker application, then activate the Work View feature. While active, the program allows the contractor to specify which projects he or she is working on. It will keep track of the time spent on each project and report this to a special Work View data area in the project workroom, which can be seen by the client. The application will also take screenshots of the contractor’s computer desktop at random intervals five times per hour. These are normally also sent to the client; they can be deleted by the contractor, but this has an impact on the Elance hourly work guarantee (see the next section.)
Many professional freelancers rightly bristle at the idea of using a program like this. There are three typical concerns raised.
First, much as Elance hates this label, the application is by definition “spyware”—it is keeping track of what you do, complete with taking screenshots. Many contractors just detest this idea on principle. Elance’s Tracker program actually appears to be a bit less invasive than oDesk’s similar application, which even has a function to take webcam pictures! However, the objections to its use are generally hard to argue with, at least for a freelancer who is accustomed to being treated like a professional.
There are also concerns over confidentiality, especially if a freelancer is working on multiple projects for different clients. A program that is taking screenshots could capture information unrelated to a client’s project inadvertently.
Some contractors also question whether measuring work on this basis is really the best idea, especially for certain types of work that are paid hourly but not computer-based. The existence of this system can sometimes cause clients to expect to be able to use screenshots to prove work rates when it doesn’t make sense.
Elance has anticipated these concerns, and usually responds quickly that the use of Work View is optional. That’s true, but as with the escrow system, if the client requests the use of the feature, contractors must agree if they wish to bid on the job. A contractor can “opt out” of Work View, but in so doing, they are also “opting out” of a lot of possible work.
The real answer to the matter of Work View is to remember that it is really not designed for professional freelancers at all. It is intended more for clients who are hiring inexpensive workers to do low-end or repetitive work; in these situations, it can be of value to both contractors and clients alike. Pros will more often work on a flat rate basis, or advise the client that they’ll agree to hourly work but not with the use of Work View.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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