Update: Elance has merged with oDesk to form Upwork, the world’s largest freelance marketplace. Be sure to check out our full Upwork review or this post for a big list of Upwork alternatives.
Elance.com is one of the world’s largest communities of freelance employees and people looking to hire them. Since their beginning in 1999, Elance has grown to a network of over 2,000,000 contract professionals.
The company is based in Mountain View, California, but connects workers and employees from every corner of the globe. For virtually any kind of job you need done, you can find someone to do it on Elance.
Among the service providers are a growing number of virtual assistants. You’ll find a wide selection in this category, including full-service virtual assistant companies overseas, independent contractors, and even stay-at-home moms in the US earning a part-time income online.
If you don’t have an Elance.com account, it is easy to create one. When I signed up, there was a one-time $10 fee. After that, Elance is free for employers. (They make money by taking a fee from your payments to contractors.)
There are several benefits of using Elance to find a virtual assistant:
- You can post your exact job requirements, interview candidates, and hire someone with a good expectation of what you’ll get. This is not always possible with other virtual assistant companies.
- You can use the built-in Elance feedback system to read reviews about virtual assistant service providers, and leave feedback of your own once the job is done.
- You can use their conflict resolution process if there are ever any disputes over the quality or delivery of the work contracted. If you hire a freelance virtual assistant outside the Elance community, you don’t have this recourse.
Elance.com is primarily known for one-time projects, but is also a good resource for ongoing work like virtual assistance. If you find a provider you like, you can hire them again and again, or set up a longer-term arrangement, but it’s nice that you don’t have any long-term obligation upfront.
The quality and cost of virtual assistants can vary greatly, so be sure to check out the feedback of each provider and see what other employers are saying about them. You’ll want to look for someone with a long history of positive reviews. Does their reputation justify their price?
I’ve had some success googling the provider as well, because sometimes their Elance portfolio doesn’t tell the whole story. Since many VAs maintain accounts on multiple sites under the same name, you can check their profiles on oDesk and other sites too.
Have you had any experience with Elance in general, or with Elance virtual assistants specifically? If so, please share it here.
Elance was bought by Upwork, and no longer exists as a separate site.
People looking to hire a VA through Elance should have have a clear idea of what they want out of a VA. For some who want a more hands-on and personal approach should look elsewhere.
In my case, I decided to go for Elance because I only needed ad-hoc assistance and I wasn’t ready to pay a VA a monthly fee for a dedicated service. I have to admit that you’d really have to look through profiles. They are top-notch talent in here who command a higher price and yet there are still those whom you should be wary of. The good thing about Elance is that there’s protection for employers and this may be one of the draws for the service. However it could be a hindrance especially if you’re looking to build a VA relationship for a longer period of time.
Elance has a lot of high end and top notch talent. You’ll pay a higher rate than other sites, but you can get some good results. I do however have one major beef – prior to hiring, you cannot directly communicate with prospective emplopoyees/VAs. This makes explaining complex or involved projects upfront, and getting some useful feedback impossible until you’ve set the terms and conditions.
I guess Elance is afraid that people would just subvert the system and work outside of Elance, so they insulate employer and VA, but for me it’s a big drawback at least in the way I manage projects, and hence I’m giving them 2 stars for communication.
I began using Elance in October 2012 and have since used it to hire writers for ebooks and short guides, iOS developers, and a graphics designer. It is the only freelancing site I have used, so I am unable to compare it to others.
I have hired over 10 writers. There are many (I would guess) scam writers from African countries or low-quality writers from India or other Asian countries that are easily identifiable in their message responses to you. There are some gems, however, as I found one writer from India who is as good as any of writers I have used from English-speaking countries. There are plenty of low-quality writers from the US and Canada, or just mediocre to average writers who charge the first-world premium. I have found high-quality writers for $150-200 for 5,000 words. (sometimes I have gotten even better deals than this–$50 for ten pages on an easy topic). I hired just one writer that I was very hesitant to put my company’s name behind.
I have done three iOS projects, and all of the developers have turned the work in very late, though the quality was there in all projects. I now just assume when I am hiring an iOS developer that the work will be longer than anticipated. It takes some back-and-forth feedback to get it just right, which can delay the process.
The interface is my favorite thing about elance. It is easy-to-use and aesthetically pleasing, which is why I chose it over odesk and others. The message system is good. The escrow system is good, though I had to once request a refund for accidently double-funding a project. You need to send a message to elance help to do this. I sent the request on Saturday, and they voided the transaction the following Monday (there was an automated message that it would be 24 business hours).
Anything below 4.8 rating is pretty low for an elance contractor. All of the ratings are inflated. 4.9 and 5.0 are best if you want quality, and it is still not certain. You might be able to find a decent contractor at a slightly lower rating, but be careful about it.
Read all or a lot of their feedback.
Always ask for samples.
Overall, quality is mixed on elance, but because my business would not exist without elance, I cannot give it lower than a 4 in overall rating. Pretty happy with it.
I followed Nick’s free guide on how to find VA’s and I posted for jobs on both oDesk and Elance and found great VA as well as research assistance help on both these sites.
I’ve since hired programmers and designers as well and have had good experiences with a lot of them being pretty capable technical wise.
Its a bit intimidating getting bids from 10-20 people within 2-3 days and I felt bad having to turn a few down after going through a few rounds of back and forth with them – but if you put in real clear requirements, asking them for some input into your project to get a feel if they “get it” and checking their feedback – it will get you a long way.
I agree if you’re looking for technical help and you’re not technical, its hard to select the right person. A suggestion is to create really small paid test projects that you can give to 2 or 3 of the folks you picked, give them really detailed instructions and see which delivers what you need. Also don’t be stingy. The average in 2012 for a good developer is about $33/hr plus/minus $10.
As far as oDesk vs Elance. Its a tossup. I’ve found great help on both these sites so I use both.
I had to waste lots of hours for sending emails to and forth to just find a person to do my work. The work was very much stereotyped and I have provided step-by-step instructions. But, sadly it seems to me that the guy didn’t really care about the work. It took considerably more of my time in delegating or damage control than I would have needed to finish them myself. Then, I had to hire a VA from Lifenzyme and he did a good job. I have not still decided to renew their service as it is all about delegating your work and I have to still work on that.
Elance’s reviews system is too easily gamed and manipulated. I hired too many people who couldn’t quite hack it who had perfect ratings. It’s also kind of annoying getting back work that just barely meets your minimum requirements all the time.
I’ve had mixed results with Elance. I’ve found both great professional talent and companies I wish I’d never come in contact with. I agree that the Elance feedback does not tell the whole story, having been screwed over by a company that had seemingly good ratings.
Also, you may encounter companies and individuals who want to contract work outside the Elance system, often offerering a discount on the project. Don’t do it!! Whatever you’re going to save is not worth giving up your feedback and dispute resolution recourse if things go sour.
I continue to use Elance because it truly is a great resource, but like everything else, do your homework and put some checks in place to protect yourself.