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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  An Analysis and Review of Popular Online Freelancing Marketplace Sites
      >  Elance - Freelance Marketplace Site Analysis and Review

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Elance - Customer Service and Support
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Elance - Freelancer Community Characteristics
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Elance - Ethical Policies, Fairness and Integrity
(Page 1 of 3)

I consider Elance to be an industry leader in the field of ethical policy: of the large freelancing marketplaces, it has among the most policies against unethical behavior. The company includes many rules designed to ensure fair play, to protect the interests of clients and contractors, and to improve the quality of projects and proposals. If the company has a weak spot in this regard, it is with enforcement of these policies: as the expression goes, its reach sometimes exceeds its grasp. Elance has also unfortunately taken to making decisions that deal with difficult issues in the way that is most expedient, rather than the way that serves the needs of contractors.

Ethical Policies

Elance includes a number of policies designed to encourage ethical behavior on the part of contractors and clients. These mostly fall into two general categories: project posting rules, and bidding/interaction/award policies.

I mentioned some of the project posting policies in my discussion of project quality on Elance. Aside from prohibiting projects involving illegal activity, Elance also disallows projects involving adult material, bulk email or spamming, plagiarism or academic integrity violations, or anything that violates the terms of use of third party sites.

The policy against projects involving academic fraud is commendable because these activ­ities have become rampant on the Internet, and most sites simply do nothing about them. It is very common to see projects listed that openly call for hiring people to do homework or write theses for students. One problem with this prohibition is that the line between academic fraud and more reasonable behavior isn’t always clear. For example, while it’s not acceptable to hire someone to write a thesis from rough notes, is it okay to hire a proof­reader to look over one for spelling mistakes? Generally it is, but obviously one can imagine scenarios that would involve a judgment call.

Elance also deserves considerable credit for the third-party terms policy, which demon­strates explicitly the company’s sense of fair play, and its respect for the policies of other sites. One example of where this policy comes into play is the banning of many projects that call for freelancers to abuse Craigslist by posting spam there. Since Craigslist has a policy against hiring third parties to make postings, all such projects are automatically not allowed on Elance. Prohibiting such projects has a certain positive impact on the site’s quality.

Elance has a number of specific rules that are intended to protect the integrity of the bidding process. Some of the more notable ones:

  • Clients cannot ask for, and contractors cannot offer, work below the project minimum of $50 for fixed rate projects or $5 for hourly work.

  • Clients and contractors are not allowed to arrange free work or work in exchange for a positive review.

  • Clients are not allowed to ask for free samples of work directly related to their project; only past samples from other projects are allowed.

  • Contractors are expected to notify clients if they subcontract work.

  • Contractors are not allowed to enter “placeholder” bids and then try to bump the price up after the project is awarded.

All of these rules are designed to ensure that competition for project is fair, and to avoid common pitfalls that frequently lead to project disputes or outright fraud.


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