vWorker - Bidding, Client Interaction and Project Award Policies and Mechanisms
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vWorker includes all of the functions associated with the standard online project process—posting, searching, reviewing, proposal writing and project award—but with a few unique twists. The company is a real innovator in some respects, including its highly intelligent project listing process, its clear, plain English policy notices, and the protections built into the entire process for both clients and contractors alike. The site also has a unique “expert guarantee” mechanism that helps clients identify serious contractors. On the other hand, the site itself is not the best in some areas from a design standpoint, and could especially use some refinement in how project summaries and details are shown.
Let’s dig in there’s a lot to cover!
vWorker clients can initiate a new project in two ways: either by filling out a new project form and then optionally inviting contractors to bid on it; or by searching for contractors they feel are likely a good match for what they need, and then listing a project for them specifically. As with most sites, the majority of clients start with the project first; in fact, only a small percentage of listings have invites.
vWorker (unfortunately) calls clients “employers”, and the part of the site designed for them is accessed via the “Employers” tab on the right side of the navigation bar. From there, the link to post a new project is prominently displayed in the top left corner; this brings up a single-page project submission form with a number of fields in it.
I mentioned in my discussion of project quality that I generally like vWorker’s project submission form, because it includes some useful options and has some very clever functionality. However, it also has a few aspects I’m less than thrilled with.
One of the odd decisions made by vWorker in setting up this form can be found right near the top. There are four different “bidding types”: a standard open auction (for a project intended for all bidders); a private auction (for only bidders who are invited by the client); a one-on-one project (not an auction at all, but a new project with an existing contractor for repeat work); and a bonus payment. But you can only see the first of these options by default; the others don’t appear unless you click “No, I want to see other bidding types ” Okay, perhaps vWorker is trying to avoid clutter, or it thinks that making only the most common option visible will reduce incorrect selections. But I think this is more confusing than just letting clients see all the options and explaining what they are.
vWorker doesn’t explicitly have a selection for flat rate or hourly project types; instead, this is triggered by choosing between its “Honest-billing money-back guarantee” and “Triple-point money-back guarantee”: the former is for hourly work and the latter for fixed rate work. It’s good to make the point about the guarantees, but a new project listing form isn’t really the place for what I think sounds like a sales pitch.
Depending on which guarantee you select, options appear relevant to the project type, such as a budget and deadline for flat rate work, or number of hours and duration estimates for hourly projects. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I am impressed with vWorker’s decision to explicitly warn clients right in this area against having unreasonable expectations when it comes to delivery deadlines.
Another unique feature I referred to in the quality discussion is the “Legal Protections” box. This is essentially an effort by vWorker to codify specific project requirements based on project type right within the language of the project listing, rather than relying on a default or standard project contract as used by other sites. When a client selects a category from the hierarchical list on the project form, the site offers to fill in this box with boilerplate text relevant to the project type. It’s a very nice touch that helps make clear to contractors what is expected of them for different sorts of tasks. My only concern is that these terms appear in listings so often that contractors may tend to start ignoring them, yet they become binding if a project goes to arbitration.
vWorker hides the rest of the page under an “Advanced project options” box, which I don’t like: better to show clients all of their options, as this improves the odds of an accurate listing. In addition to allowing an HTML full project description, clients have the option of limiting bidding based on region or even the specific countries where freelancers reside. The only thing I don’t like about these limits is that I think clients sometimes reduce their own chances of success by making assumptions about contractors based solely on where they live.
vWorker also has unique integrated NDA functionality that hides a project listing unless a contractor agrees to submit a signed NDA. While I find these annoying as a contractor, I can see the value to some clients. And again, vWorker smartly warns clients that requiring an NDA will cut down on the bids they receive.
vWorker has a pretty amazing “wizard” functionality that is unlike anything I’ve seen on any other freelancing site. For certain types of common projects, such as Web design and development, the client can select to go through an online “interview”, in which the site will ask questions to help determine the client’s needs, and then post the answers right in the project listing. The advantages of this over just leaving the client to his or her own devices are obvious. (Of course, whether contractors actually read all of the fine print that results from these interviews is another matter entirely.)
There’s no option to select open or closed bidding because vWorker is closed bidding only.
vWorker provides help for clients via pop-up help balloons accessed using question mark (“?”) icons. There’s also an inset window offering live chat assistance during the company’s normal business hours.
Clients who want to invite workers to an existing project, or start a new project specifically for contractors they identify, do this by clicking “Find workers ” at the top left of the nav bar, right next to “Post new project”. They can browse for freelancers by work category, or do searches based on a surprising number of criteria: average rating on past jobs; number of projects completed; country of residence; even time zone.
To be honest, though, I’m not sure how well vWorker’s contractor search functionality really works. As a vWorker contractor myself, the majority of the invites I receive are for projects that I am unqualified for. I have to politely decline because the client wants work done involving technologies and expertise that are unrelated to anything I’ve done on the site before, which really makes me wonder why I was solicited to bid at all.
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011
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