Note: oDesk.com has rebranded to Upwork.com.
Upwork, like Elance, is a community that brings together contract workers and employers. The company has been in business since 2003, and now serves hundreds of thousands of clients all around the world. They boast more than 3 million freelancers ready to bid on your job.
In late 2013, Elance and oDesk actually merged into one company, but continued to operate separate freelance marketplaces. Then, in 2015, they rebranded oDesk to Upwork. I’m not sure why they made the change since 0Desk was a well-established brand with a solid reputation in the industry, but their official press documents said it was to help businesses connect with great talent faster than ever before, collaborate in larger teams, and fuel growing companies.
Why they couldn’t have done that under the old name, I have no idea.
While Upwork / oDesk was primarily known as a place to find programmers, it is also a great place to find a virtual assistant, and administrative support is one of their fastest growing categories. I found over 5000 matches for a recent Upwork search for “virtual assistant”.
Upwork has no sign-up fees to access their network of freelance virtual assistant service providers. In fact, you can create an account, post your requirements, and have workers bidding for the job within a few minutes.
The company makes money by taking a fee from the contract price of the work. That means if you agree to pay an Upwork virtual assistant $500 for 100 hours worth of work (not an uncommon price!), they are really collecting slightly less than that.
The Upwork system offers the benefits you’d expect from this type of marketplace, including feedback mechanisms and dispute resolution.
One thing that sets Upwork apart is their monitoring software. (Note: Elance has since implemented similar “Workview” software.) Some say it’s a little Big Brother-ish, but others swear by it because it makes sure the work that is paid for is the work that gets done.
The software, which workers turn on when they begin a job, tracks keystroke volume, takes screenshots at certain time intervals, and even has an optional webcam feature. If you’re wary about hiring a remote virtual assistant, it can definitely help overcome some of the fear of not being able to manage their working hours effectively.
A Global Minimum Wage?
In 2014, Upwork introduced a $3/hour minimum wage. Yes, it’s still absurdly low by Western standards, but it does prevent even lower bids from new overseas workers in developing economies.
When searching for virtual assistants on Upwork, pay close attention to their account history. How long have they been working? What does their feedback say about their work?
Another thing to look for is to match the virtual assistant’s specific skill set to the tasks you need done. Everyone has certain specialties, so seek out those who have good ratings in the areas you need the most help with. Alternatively, you can post your own job requirements and have workers bid on them.
My favorite other broad-focused freelance site is Fiverr, primarily because you can just select the freelancer you want to work with directly, without sifting through dozens of applications. But it’s definitely better for smaller jobs where there’s less money on the line.
For ongoing employment, you might consider OnlineJobs.ph, the largest job board in the Philippines with a huge database of qualified workers.
Related: My in-depth comparison between Upwork and OnlineJobs.
Have you worked with oDesk or Upwork? Please share your experience below.