vWorker - Freelancer Community Characteristics
Unfortunately I cannot provide the depth of discussion of the contractor community at vWorker that I would have preferred. The site does include a freelancer search function, and this allows you to do searches based on work category. However, freelancers don’t select work areas in their profiles as they do on other sites, so it’s not possible to get reliable statistics on how many freelancers operate in each category on the site. It’s also not possible to get solid stats on how many freelancers are in various geographical regions, the way I’ve been able to do on other sites. Thus, the best I can do is give you my opinions based on my own experiences using the site, and some more limited statistical analyses.
Due to vWorker’s technology orientation, the site is heavily dominated by programmers and others who work in technical fields. There are decent populations of designers and even writers on the site; in fact, the current #3 ranked freelancer on vWorker is a writer. The number of workers in speciality non-technical fields seems to be relatively small.
In terms of geography, a brief perusal of some of the site’s top freelancers indicates a heavy leaning towards south Asia, eastern Europe and central/eastern Asia. vWorker has a very prominent following in eastern Europe and Russia—more than other sites. The number of freelancers in North America appears to be quite low in percentage terms.
As mentioned above, I cannot get accurate statistics on freelancers for the site as a whole, but I did a more limited experiment where I captured and then analyzed the countries of residence of the top 1,000 contractors in vWorker’s “All Workers Competition”. Table 6 shows the ten countries that have the most freelancers in the top 1,000, in descending order. India being in the #1 spot is to be expected, but between them, Romania, Russia and Ukraine account for over 25% of vWorker’s top 1,000. Only about 15% of the site’s most active and successful freelancers are in North America.
In general terms, I find the overall quality and professionalism of the vWorker community to range from slightly below average to slightly above average—the same rating I gave to the site for project quality. There are certainly some very good contractors on the site; I’d like to think that I fall into that category myself. :) However, there are also quite a few people who are mediocre at best, and an even larger number for whom mediocrity would be an improvement.
As much as I like vWorker, I really don’t think the freelancer community is as good as it could be, and I think the company itself is largely responsible. Many of the issues here are directly tied to the problems that lead to low project quality, because the two go hand in hand: average quality projects tend to attract average quality freelancers, and vice versa. The best step that vWorker could take to improving its freelancer base is to work on project quality, by dealing with some of the issues I addressed earlier, such as the lack of project minimums, the marketing of the site as a place to save money, and so forth.
I really think the lack of any barriers to entry into the marketplace is a problem that the company needs to address. It makes sense for a new company to want to attract as many freelancers as possible to the site, to expand the number of bids that clients receive, and make it more likely that they’ll find someone they like. But at this point vWorker already has a lot of members: it needs better contractors, not more contractors. I understand that they may not want to start charging a monthly membership, but this would help cut down on the number of new unserious, low-quality workers who join up.
vWorker’s best tool for helping clients identify quality freelancers is probably its “All Worker Competition”. This tool helps clients sift through the proposals they get to identify the ones who have a solid track record, and is in my opinion much more useful than overall rating numbers (the 1 to 10 score). I think the company should place more emphasis on this rating, and help clients understand how to use it better.
Finally, I believe that vWorker’s policy of allowing unlimited numbers of bids by freelancers is a mistake. This impacts freelancer quality indirectly: with no costs for placing bids and no restrictions on the number that can be placed, unqualified contractors can try to make up for their lack of expertise by “shotgunning” proposals to clients. Some don’t even bother writing proposals: they just try to beg for work. Combine unlimited bidding with no membership fees and you have an open invitation for abuse; clients must deal with the immediate consequences, but everyone suffers in the long term.
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