Report Card for the Big Five Online Freelance Marketplace Sites
When I set out to write up my reviews of the five major marketplace sites—Elance, Freelancer.com, Guru, oDesk and vWorker—my chief concern was that I wouldn’t be able to include enough detail to do them justice. By the time I was finished, though, this had transformed into the exact opposite worry: that I’d written so much that it was actually too much to absorb.
I realized that not everyone has the time to read all of that material, and that even those who do might find it hard to remember everything and then conduct useful comparisons among the sites in all of the criteria I covered. So I decided I would summarize all of my evaluations in the form of a simple “report card”. This table shows each of the sites’ strengths and weaknesses in simplified form, allowing you to see at a glance how they compare to each other.
The report card assigns a standard “school style” letter grade to each site in each of the thirteen categories in which I assessed them. The meanings of the grades are generally self-explanatory: the better the grade in a particular area, the better I feel that the site scores. The only one that I need to explain is “Project Discipline Focus”; here, I have given higher grades to sites that have broader and more diverse ranges of work, and lower grades to those that are more narrowly focuses.
Of course, any time you boil down thousands of words into single letters, there is the risk that people will read too much into this highly condensed information, nit-pick specific grades, and so forth. Please remember that these are subjective scores and are based mostly on my own opinions. There are bound to be some inconsistencies, and more importantly, an individual assessing the sites using criteria different from mine could come up with completely different grades.
All of these grades are given from the standpoint of high-end freelancers, which as always, is the emphasis of this Guide. This means I made assumptions in my evaluations that would suit professional freelancers who emphasize quality. One specific assumption I’ve made is the use of flat rate projects with escrow, and I’ve marked down sites that don’t have proper escrow and dispute resolution / arbitration services.
With all that said, my report card for the Big Five sites is shown in Table 9.
As you can see, I’m a fairly conservative marker, so there are lots of Bs, a few Cs, fewer As, and only a couple of Ds and Fs.
I decided that while I was doing this, I might as well also try to summarize these scores further to come up with an overall grade. To do this, I converted the letter grades to numeric scores using the key shown in Table 10. Note that it is not linear, giving an extra boost to scores that are exceptionally good, and a fairly harsh penalty to serious weaknesses. (This was adapted, in part, from vWorker’s “All Worker Competition” scoring system.)
Finally, I did a weighted average of the ratings using the weightings shown in Table 11. Again, these are my subjective views on what’s most important in assessing a site.
The final overall grades are shown in Table 12. As you can see, there’s not a huge amount of variation from even the lowest to the highest scores here, but that’s to be expected: any site that scored extremely badly across the board would probably never have gotten into the “Big Five” at all.
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011
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