oDesk Review

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Along the way to becoming a successful internet marketer, there comes a point where you can’t do everything yourself. You just have to many sites to run and too much content to produce that it becomes too overwhelming for you to handle things alone. That’s when you can leverage the power of outsourcing and this is where a service like oDesk comes in.

In this oDesk review, I will show you how you can use the site to hire good contractors and how it will help you start scaling up your business.

To get started with oDesk, you first need to signup for a free account. Both posting jobs as an employer and getting hired as a freelancer is free on oDesk. The way they make money is to take an extra 10% from every payment.

So if you have a job in mind already, you can write up a short job description and post your job on the site. Or you can search for specific providers and contact freelancers that way. Either way, it’s quite simple to find candidates for your job.

Since oDesk is such a popular site, you won’t have any problems finding a number of candidates. Especially now that they have merged with Elance. Combined, they have more than 8 million freelancers from 180 countries which is an enormous talent pool to pick through.


Just recently, I posted a programming job for a WordPress plugin I was developing and I got over 20 proposals in the first hour. And for some writing jobs, I can get even more candidates than that.

You can look over the proposals and “interview” candidates that look like a potential match. This is super important, and it makes a huge difference in finding a great candidate or a bad candidate. The interview allows the candidates to make sure they understand your job requirements and you can get a feel of what it’s like to deal with the candidate.

I usually like to conduct interviews over Skype since pretty much everyone uses it. Here are some questions I like to ask in my interviews:

  • How many other assignments are you currently working on?
  • What hours do you usually work?
  • Are you able to work full time on my project until you complete it?
  • Do you have any problems understanding my job description?

Also, make sure you validate the skills they have listed in their profile and ask for samples of their work so you can get a feel of what kind of work they produce.

For more involved jobs like programming jobs, I often like to ask the candidate if they’re willing to do a small milestone first for a smaller payment. This lets you get your feet wet with your chosen developer without committing a lot of time and money to him if he doesn’t happen to work out.

oDesk Candidates

You can choose to hire workers on oDesk at an hourly or fixed-price. One of the unique benefits of oDesk is that you don’t have to “trust” your freelancers to bill you the correct number of hours. The way they handle this, is that providers have to use a special program which will take screenshots of them working (6 per hour).

If they claim to be working during a certain period of time, but they’re not, then you don’t have to pay them. This is a really nice feature that’s good for both parties involved. Your freelance workers are guaranteed their payment if they do the work they say they are doing. And you’re protected as well if they aren’t.

oDesk screencapture

Once the job is completely, both you and your worker leave each other feedback ratings. Like other sites of this type, it’s important to maintain a high feedback rating so freelancers will be willing to apply for your jobs.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been using oDesk for a few years now and it’s been my go to freelance site for finding work to be done. I’ve found contractors to help me with all sorts of tasks but I mainly hire Odesk workers for programming jobs.

I’ve had some really good luck hiring some decent develoeprs for reasonable rates on Odesk. And some of them, I’ve established relationships with and re-hired for several jobs.

Although, it takes some time to find capable workers, once you do, the time saved is well worth it.

Outsourcing really is the only way to go if you want to scale up your business beyond a one man operation, so I suggest you give oDesk a shot.

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  1. Stephan says

    I use Elance and oDesk for more than 2 years now. Elance has always had a tool that tracks the work of contractors. And it has a testing system as oDesk has. However, I prefer Elance for its better usability. oDesk is quite confusing. Also, at oDesk you find a lot of unskilled people while Elance provides quality contractors.

    @Grass: How limited must you be to prefer people with more than 100 hours of oDesk?

  2. says

    I am a full time work at home professional.

    I reviewed all freelancing sites and found oDesk is more convenient to move around and settled on oDesk.

    I don’t find any problems working on oDesk or payments part. I find the support from oDesk is excellent and quick.

    Another attractive feature is free skills certification.

    One has to acquaint with the features provided to employers as well as employees to appreciate. There is no match on many features on oDesk with any other freelancing sites.

    • D. Wayne Cooper says

      Elance also has free skills certification. And it’s my impression that they use the same 3rd-party provider of those skill-rating tests. It’s ExpertRating, I think.

      The difference is that oDesk offers a large number of tests (300+) on narrowly defined topics, e.g., sentence structure, whereas Elance uses a relatively small number of tests, each of which purports to deal with a much broader range of skills. The problem is that a single test in Elance might ask you the definition of “Stage Left,” how many letters are allowed in a google-identified website name, and whether a given sentence shows proper parallel construction. All are things worth knowing, sort of, but they’re not hugely related, except that they all deal with “writing,” broadly defined. And knowing about, say, SEO has nothing to do with knowledge of clear sentence structure.

      I’ve taken several of these, and they strike me as lame, at least the ones that don’t test fluency in, say, Arabic or a particulary computer langauge. Some appear to have been written by non-native English speakers, and few would reveal anything that wouldn’t be apparent in a basic cover letter. These tests are clearly in their infancy.

  3. Adele Stanton says

    Hi I am a freelancer.
    Elance do have the time tracker feature now.
    I have only just heard of oDesk and am just reviewing what others think of it.
    I enjoy working for Elance although even escrow does not secure funding from a freelancers side. I have had a few cases of doing work and never getting paid (outside of elance). So I am very guarded about passing on final work and not getting paid. Also picky on who I choose to bid on.
    Also It will be interesting to see, if oDesk has degraded freelancers creditability by hiring stupidly cheap workers from asia and middle east like so many other freelance hiring sites.

  4. says

    Hello Josh, thanks for the review. I was working on oDesk before as a programmer, I really liked the idea of logging in while you work. ScreenCapture gives the feeling of security to both freelancer and the employer, since you both know the work in progress. As a freelancer, you have PROOFS that you are working on something and for the employer you also have PROOFS that your money is not going waste and the person you hired is not playing FarmVille. LOL! ^.^

  5. Mohsin Mehmood says

    oDesk is the best e-working site in all. Its free to join, build up and nothing to pay to have an ‘Upgrade Membership’ thingy.

    I would rather differ some of the comments posted by the fellows, all newbies are not non-experienced so give them a try. For Contractors, try to be as professional as you can so nobody thinks you as a newbies and walks away. Your profile may show 0 hours at start but your attitude shouldn’t. On oDesk most important thing is the Cover letters as they are the point of contacts. Below are few of the points, may be noted when dealing with Cover Letters.

    1- Never Ever use an automated cover letter. Don’t copy paste the letter. But if you are feeling tired of typing everything again and again then, make an excel file, write down your portfolio in it. e.g. list of websites you have created, list of articles you have written, list of tasks you have done as VA or whatever you have done. Only copy/paste those portfolio items which are relevant to the job you are applying for, e.g. if you are applying for a job in which client wants a thesis theme expert in WordPress then don’t show him all the sites you have done in WordPress, show him only those which you have done in thesis theme.

    2- Read the job ad carefully, very carefully and look for following things:
    (i)- Does it include a phrase ‘Start your job application by word ‘XXXX” If yes then do so otherwise client may think you haven’t read the job ad.
    (ii)- Look for any question client has asked specifically e.g. ‘How many days will you take to complete the task’. Answer those specific questions with grace.
    (iii)- Try to ask questions ! This is the most important thing in an online Cover Letter – try to find anything in the post about which you can ask a POLITE question to the client. Question should sound that you want to clarify the requirement.

    3- Introduce yourself but don’t over-introduce. First para should start from your introduction but don’t include every detail of yours. Every job posted on oDesk gets 20 applications on average. So client may not have the ‘AMPLE’time to read every detail of yours. Here are the tips;
    (i)- Your name will already be mentioned in the message sent to the client so don’t include ‘My Name is XXXXXX’
    (ii)- Your detailed degree and resume is available on your profile page so don’t paste it in your cover letter, but do include anything which is relevant to the job. e.g. if its a Customer Services job and it is mentioned in your detailed profile, please do mention in the cover letter as well that you have done that thing before as well.

    4- Use power words, and they should be relevant to the job posted by the Employer. Now here is a very interesting fact I am going to share with you people, Click on the following image http://database.reshamswear.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/f_reading_pattern_eyetracking.jpg
    This image shows how humans read on the computer normally, when they are giving it a glance, we read it in a pattern like ‘F’ so you should include your power words in those ‘F’ areas.

    5- Use your good feedback and stars. Its very important that you maintain a good standing, 4.9 or above is highly appreciated. Then whenever you are applying for a job, use this thing as a marketing tool. At the end of you Cover Letter mention your Feedback score.

  6. Peter says

    I guess this is mostly targeting Robert Hudson. 20 dollars per hour? That is about double minimum wage. Sure you get by but not that well. I’m not trying to be condescending or anything, but the way I see it, these sites have pushed prices way down. A good copy writer with experience should make about 50k a year. To me that means rate * 0.7 * 168 * 11 = 50000. This work out to about 38.7 dollars and do not include social security but I guess that depend on where you live. My point is, if you’re good – you’re selling yourself cheap.


  7. Valentine says

    I am a freelancer and I don’t think there is a secret formula in “how to find a good, hard working freelancer”. Some of them are doing their job on a daily basis like they would for any regular position in a regular job (on site).

    This has nothing to do with how you can or cannot monitor your freelancers ( oDesk is safer indeed ), this is more of a H.R. kind of thing and like Josh mentioned two months back, it comes with the territory.

    On Site or Freelancing , two options exactly like oDesk vs. Elance – you WILL find unworthy employees in both cases.

  8. Robert Hudson says

    Asking for free samples, or free test jobs was abused by many enployers to the point of being a scam and is now strongly discouraged by Odesk and refused by quality providers.

    There are tons of flaky, unprofessional and shady employers. It just seems to be a fact of life. Many small business owners are attracted to Odesk and Elance because they have heard of the incredibly cheap labor from Asia and look to exploit that as much as possible, that is also a fact of life in this game, but the truth is Odesk also has employers and providers from all over the world who are willing to hire skilled labor and pay top dollar.

    I have had 18 contracts in the last 6 months with a 4.9 out of a possible 5 stars approval rate. I get 20 dollars an hour as a copy writer witout much problem. There are hundreds of listed jobs looking to pay 1 or 2 dollars an hour, and they get the jobs filled. Many of these people just want cheap SEO content or black hat services and don’t really care about the quality of the work. It has not kept me from earning a living though.

    Through Odesk I have written blogs for the Boston Celtics, travel writing, buisness writing, sales copy, gardening, articles on dozens of different subjects. I am often the highest bidder on contracts and I am awarded the job over those bidding 2 or 3 dollars an hour for a reason… I am good at what I do. As an independent contractor, my top dollar is still much lower that what someone would pay for a good copy writer from a marketing company.

    I am very please to see Odesk is attracting very high caliber employers and contractors, (odesk calls them providers) I am seeing Fortune 1000 companies, banks, and even state and local governments using Odesk to find contractors and they are giving people like myself a chance to earn a living at a respectable rate. I have also been hired by companies in England, Poland, Sweden, Australia. The world is your employer.

  9. says

    I hired my first oDesk employee, and it looks like he quits on the same day.

    It’s been a while, and I never got any job history hours from him. I made sure that I selected the right candidate on the process, but apparently it doesn’t matter if that person has 100+ hours of oDesk experience.

    He sure was excited about the work at first. He got the experience, and all… and I also gave him a similar job from his recent Employer. But still never get a word of excuse, or something.

    Off course, I’d like to hire someone else. But, this time I want to be certain if they’re going to stick around for at least the first 3 months.


    • josh says

      Sorry to hear about your experience Dev. I’ve encountered my share of flaky employees myself, and it’s just one of those things that comes with the territory I think.

  10. Elancer says

    Elance also has an system that takes screenshots in hourly jobs. It’s called Tracker with Work View. This is not unique to oDesk.

  11. says

    Thank you Josh; this post is exactly what I needed. It was a long period since I hired a freelancer, and I wasn’t familiar with any other service then Elance. Suddenly I discovered oDesk and it looked quite impressive. With your review I’m certainly going to use oDesk!

  12. Grass says

    Here are a few best practices I find:

    1. Try not to hire someone with less than 100+ hours of odesk experience, let someone else deal with the newbie and train the person.
    2. Try to find a contractor that is in the same timezone so you can monitor the progress and not wake up realize he went down the wrong path and you are billed 8 hrs.
    3. If you interviewed someone will good review, insisted on dealing with that account, don’t get talked into bait and switch to deal with an unknown account. People with good review cares about their reputation, people doesn’t have any review can create a new account.
    4. Review the work every day and dispute it right away, once it falls outside the disputable window, it will be difficult to dispute.
    5. Give very detail instructions. Use Skype as much as you can. English comprehension skill is important.
    6. Ditch the guy if he is not good. It is meant to make your life easier, if you ended up spending more time communicating or getting frustrated, it is not worthed, put up a craiglist ad at your local college. As lot of smart local kids out there.

    • D. Wayne Cooper says

      Grass, I don’t think I’d categorically exclude people with fewer than 100 hours of experience. People with that many hours started much earlier than the rest, and in some cases it’s all too clear why they had plenty of free time to take advantage of new business-development devices.
      Also, I didn’t know about this business with the screen shots being taken of the freelancers. I can’t imagine checking up on anybody that way. For starters, I would think a major benefit of freelancing is being able to go anywhere to work–Starbucks, the library, etc. Just for a change of pace. Have laptop, will travel. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a fair number of them work in their underwear. I don’t care (as long as I don’t have to look at them–well, some of them). The point is, I don’t plan to look at people to see if they’re at their desks. If they want to work at 2:00 a.m., that’s fine with me.
      I just want to see the product.

      • Frost says

        The screen shots are taken of the screen. Not a webcam photo of the worker. This feature is used to take 6 shots of the worker’s screen during each 1 hour of their work time (the time they are supposed to be logged in to work). This helps employers dispute any wasted time so they are not paying contractors for work they should be completing when they are playing on websites and such.

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