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

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oDesk - Project Quality
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oDesk - Project Discipline Focus

Like most of the big sites, oDesk is not aimed towards a particular type of work. It covers all of the standard work categories that are commonly associated with online freelancing, including programming, Web design, writing, graphical design, and business and adminis­trative services. That said, while oDesk doesn’t try to favor any area, it has come to favor certain disciplines over others as a result of how it operates, and how it tries to attract clients.

As I mentioned in discussing project quality, oDesk is not geared towards clients looking to hire expert freelancers, but rather employers who are seeking inexpensive “virtual workers”. That orientation, combined with the company’s emphasis on hourly work over fixed rate projects, and its promotion of intrusive tracking software, has a major impact on the sorts of contractors on the site, and thus, the types of projects listed to hire them.

oDesk requires that all projects be put into one of nine categories: Web Development, Software Development, Networking & Information Systems, Writing & Translation, Adminis­trative Support, Design & Multimedia, Customer Service, Sales & Marketing and Business Services. These each have five to ten or so subcategories. oDesk.com allows you to easily see how many current projects are in each subcategory; I captured a snapshot of that infor­mation when writing this part of the Guide, totaled the numbers for each category, and put them in Figure 8.


Figure 8: oDesk Project Category Distribution

This chart shows the distribution of open projects on oDesk for a particular sample snapshot. As you can see, around half the projects were related to Web and programming, while Sales & Marketing is the next largest category at 15%. This category is much higher on oDesk than its major competitors.

 


Note that the numbers I captured reflect total open projects at a specific point in time, not total project listings. It is conceivable that some categories tend to have projects filled and closed faster than others, but this data should be a pretty close approximation of total projects posted.

You can see the dominance of information technology; combining Web Development, Software Development and Networking & Information Systems yields a total of 47%. IT is a big part of online freelancing, so there’s no surprise there. This is about the same as most other sites; in fact, that 47% figure is identical to the total that Elance has for its Web & Programming category.

The differences are more noticeable in some other categories. Especially interesting is the whopping 15% for the Sales & Marketing discipline—this is much larger on oDesk than it is on its competitors. A major reason for this is the large number of projects related to search engine optimization and related activities on oDesk. Many of these are link-building projects, which make use of the less-skilled inexpensive labor that oDesk has in abundance.

The Writing & Translation category is comparable in size (percentage-wise) to Guru and Elance. About half of this category is in the Blog & Article Writing subcategory, which has hundreds of projects looking for authors to write or “spin” inexpensive articles. The Design & Multimedia section is somewhat modest at 12%. The Administrative Support category, at only 9%, is smaller than I thought it would be, but I suspect that some of the work that belongs in Admin Support is incorrectly listed under Sales & Marketing or Business Services. Even at 9%, this is still larger in both percentage and absolute terms than most of oDesk’s competitors, except for perhaps Freelancer.com. Both of these sites are large and cater to the, ahem, “budget” part of the marketplace, making them popular choices for clients looking to get menial administrative work done inexpensively.

To get a grasp on how much competition there is in the various categories, you can compare the chart above to the distribution of contractors on oDesk. I also show there some of the history of hourly wages on the site, again by category.


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