Elance - Project Quality
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Project Value Restrictions
Elance has traditionally used a $50 project minimum in order to try to encourage higher quality in its projects. I believe that this does have a positive effect, in terms of encouraging higher value projects and discouraging “lowballing”. Unfortunately, Elance has not used the policy to its full potential. The main problem with the project minimum is inconsistent enforcement of the policy.
Until recently, Elance had a payment verification policy for new clients. Upon registration, the company would charge a $10 fee to the new client’s primary payment source. Based on the company’s own claims, this “in some ways ... has served as a filter keeping non-serious posters from using Elance.” Many Elance users felt the same way.
In late January, this requirement was removed; instead of clients being forced to make this payment, it became optional. Elance “strongly recommends” that clients still do the verification, since it allows those clients to be marked as having been verified in their project postings. However, we all know that many clients will choose a free option over one that costs money. The company itself recognized this, and agreed that “there may be some degradation in the quality of posts for non-verified posters.” They promised to devote additional resources to the team that reviews postings and reports of inappropriate job listings.
The general consensus among experienced freelancers using Elance is that this move has indeed had a significant detrimental effect on overall project quality. As the number of projects listed each month has dramatically increased, the percentage of poor quality projects has risen perhaps even faster. There are many reports of regular users flagging large quantities of chaff project postings, and not feeling too happy about having to do it.
I reviewed some recent project listings on the site and found a significant number of new projects from unverified buyers. However, I did not perceive any clear subjective trend of these projects being of obviously lower quality than I’d expect from new clients who are already verified. I should make clear that this was just a casual review of a limited number of postings. I think it’s likely that these unverified projects probably are of lower quality than those coming from verified clients, but probably not dramatically so.
It’s worth also being clear that contractors do have the ability to simply ignore projects from unverified clients. Of course, human nature being what it is, that’s easier said than done. :)
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