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

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Guru - Project Discipline Focus
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Guru - Fees
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Elance is sometimes sarcastically called FeeLance in reference to its relatively high fee structure, but some feel Guru would be just as deserving of this sort of moniker—if only anyone could think up something that catching using the name “Guru”. :) Guru’s fee structure does seem oppressive when you look at how much is charged for memberships, and how many fees the site charges in other areas. However, looks can be a bit deceiving. While Guru can be rather expensive to newcomers and casual users, its overall cost of use becomes among the best in the industry when you increase your project volume. In other words, the site has been designed to favor serious freelancers who do a lot of work there.

Fee Responsibility

Guru is among the most one-sided of the major sites when it comes to who pays fees: the entire cost of running the site is borne by contractors, while clients pay nothing at all. There aren’t even the optional “extras” offered by some sites that are paid for clients—contractors pay for everything.

Membership Types, Profiles and Profile Fees

First, note that Guru has separate accounts for clients and for contractors. You are allowed to register as both a client and a contractor, but to do this you must set up distinct accounts with separate user names. I’ll ignore the client accounts for now, since this Guide is of course oriented towards freelancers.

Guru’s freelancer accounts use a clever two-tier structure: there’s an overall membership that you get when you register, and then one or more profiles set up within the membership. Each profile is dedicated to one of the 17 work categories on the site. So, if you were planning to freelance exclusively as a writer, you’d sign up for membership and then create a Writing, Editing & Translation profile; if you were freelancing as a writer and a photographer, you’d probably create profiles in both that category and also Photography & Videography.

There are three membership levels in Guru, which are bought and applied on a per-profile basis:

  • Basic Profile: All profiles start out at the Basic level, which is free, but carries severe restrictions (see below).

  • Guru Profile: This is the “real” membership profile for individual freelancers. It provides full access to the site and lower transaction fees, but comes with a significant monthly cost.

  • Guru Vendor Profile: An enhanced membership intended for businesses, which opens up the possibility of getting more projects, and provides some other perqs, in exchange for an even higher monthly fee.

Again, note that these levels are specific to each profile, not your membership as a whole. (There is only one type of overall membership). You can have up to five free Basic profiles, but only one can be active at any given time. Upgrading to Guru or Guru Vendor incurs a monthly cost for each profile upgraded, and you can upgrade each of them independently. So, you could have Basic profiles in both Admin Support and Writing, but only would be able to use one or the other at any given time. You could upgrade either of these to Guru or Guru Vendor, keeping the other at Basic, and then use both simultaneously.

Basic profiles are very limited, with the following being the key restrictions:

  • You can only place 10 bids per month in your profile’s category, and this cannot be expanded.

  • You are unable to bid on projects where the client has asked for a Guru Vendor.

  • Your communication options are limited: you cannot initiate a private conversation with a client on a project (though you can reply if a client contacts you). You also cannot use the project’s public message board to ask for clarification on a project.

  • You cannot attach files to proposals.

  • You pay 10% nominal transaction fees instead of 5% (see below for more).

  • You cannot place premium proposals.

A Guru membership with a Basic profile is probably more restricted than the free membership options on any other site. The limitations on communication are more problematic than they may initially seem: it is very difficult to bid on many kinds of projects without the ability to initiate dialog with the client. I’m assuming that Guru put this policy in place to prevent spamming from new contractor signups using Basic profiles, but it also makes it abundantly clear that the company really wants you to upgrade your membership for any sort of serious work.

The monthly costs for Guru and Guru Vendor profiles are very high compared to the subscription costs of competing sites, especially given that they only grant full access to bidding on projects. The cost of upgrading a profile is higher for some profiles than others, as shown in Table 5.

Table 5: Guru and Guru Vendor Profile Fees


Guru Profile Monthly Cost

Guru Profile Annual Cost

Guru Vendor Profile Monthly Cost

Guru Vendor Profile Annual Cost

Admin Support; Sales & Telemarketing





Broadcasting; Fashion & Interior Designs; Graphic Design & Multimedia; Illus­tration & Art; Photography & Videography; Websites & Ecommerce; Writing, Editing & Translation





Business Consulting Engineering & CAD; ERP & CRM; Finance & Accounting; Legal; Marketing & Communica­tions; Network & Telephone Systems; Programming & Databases





The annual cost is equal to roughly six times the monthly cost, so you get about a 50% discount if you go year to year. There’s also a 20% discount on all profiles you upgrade beyond the first if you do two or more at once. But even with those price breaks, you are looking at costs much higher than you’ll find on other large sites. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s my belief that this represents a deliberate policy decision; by creating this “barrier to entry”, Guru is attempting to discourage casual freelancers from signing up and bidding on projects, to keep the quality of proposals higher than it is on other sites. And it probably works, too: but it’s very expensive, especially to independent freelancers.

The difference between a Guru and a Guru Vendor profile is mainly one of access. Clients are able to specify that they want only Guru Vendors to bid on their projects; if this is done, and you only have a regular Guru (or Basic) profile, you are locked out of this project. This option probably exists because some people just feel more comfortable dealing with a company than an individual, but as you can imagine, some individuals aren’t too happy about this mechanism. When I was active on Guru, I ponied up the extra for a Guru Vendor profile anyway, because I didn’t want to miss out on a potentially good project over my membership level. However, I just did a check of current open projects, and only around 5% of all projects were specified as Guru Vendor only.

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