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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 - Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use
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Elance - Feedback System
(Page 5 of 5)

Issues and Problems with Points and Levels

The level system has been the source of much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth by contractors ever since it was introduced. Most of the complaints fall into these main categories:

  • Calculation Transparency and Consistency: The lack of clarity about how points are calculated protects against manipulation, but also makes the system a “black box”. This decision makes it hard for contractors to understand what sometimes seem like arbitrary changes in their point totals or level number over time.

  • Emphasis on Volume: Many clients assess provider quality on the basis of their level number, not realizing that level heavily factors project dollar volume into its equation. The system is designed to favor bigger providers (usually companies) over individual freelancers.

  • Applicability of Specific Metrics: Various contractors take issue with some of the specific metrics that Elance chose to include in its assessment. Arguments can easily be made against the value of a metric like “earnings per client” or repeat clients—some types of work are much more likely to have repeat clients than others, and some people work on larger projects than others. The merits of marking up providers based on what’s in their profiles is also suspect.

I think some of these complaints have merit, but some fail to take into account the realities of the business world. For example, Elance favors larger providers both because they make more money off them, and because many clients feel more comfortable with businesses than individuals. Yes, this is arguably unfair to smaller providers, but unfortunately, that’s life.

On the whole, the level system represents an ambitious effort to try to come up with a single number that represents a contractor’s overall value. While it may fail to hit the mark perfectly, I think it mostly does a reasonable job. Critics who would do away with levels must consider the alternatives: there has to be some way that providers are ranked, after all. Most of the people who dislike the level system also take issue with the numeric feedback ranking system and with using total dollar volume to rank contractors, and that doesn’t leave much else.


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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011

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