Elance - Freelancer Community Characteristics
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General Quality and Professionalism Level
My overall assessment of the quality and professionalism of the Elance freelancer community is average to above average. This varies widely from one category to the next, and of course there are many exceptions. But on the whole, I believe most Elance freelancers do a decent job, and some do very good work. I fully expect this estimation to be criticized in both directions: Elance and some of those who like the site will think I am being too harsh, while many professional level freelancers, frustrated with the number of below-average providers on the site, will say I am being too generous.
Obviously, this is a subjective and imprecise assessment; it is based on my overall impressions after considerable experience being in the community, but it’s not like I can objectively analyze thousands of individuals. In making this judgment, I am trying very hard to be fair, and not to fall into the trap of being swayed by outliers that get a disproportionate amount of attention. While it is true that there are plenty of unprofessional, poor quality providers on Elance, there are also many very good ones.
I also need to point out that I am “grading on a curve” here: I’m comparing Elance to other sites. Elance definitely does not have the consistent high quality of freelancers that some specialty sites do, but it is much better than most of other sites of its size.
I do have to say, though, that I believe the overall trend in terms of provider quality on Elance has been downward for some time, and that this is likely to continue. Elance has steadfastly refused to implement policies that would favor higher quality project listings and a more professional base of freelancers, despite many suggestions and requests. The company continues to market the site towards non-professionals, trying to expand its provider base quickly at the expense of expertise, and portraying its contractors as “online workers” rather than independent contractors.
Recent policy changes, such as allowing the $50 minimum bid to be bypassed, and letting clients post projects without funds verification, are also reducing overall project quality, and leading many better providers to seek greener pastures. There are many professional level providers who are losing interest in trying to compete on price with overseas workers and are moving out of online freelancing entirely.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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