Time Tracking Review and Elance Alternative

If you’re looking to grow your business with online freelance workers, you may have tried one of the more popular freelance job sites like Elance. As of July 2015, there were more than 4 million jobs posted on Elance with 3.6 million freelancers listed on their platform. For every post, there was an average of 8 bids for the job. Hourly wages ranged from $13/hour for a typist to $20/hour for a web and application developer. (Freelancers can set their own hourly rates based on desired skill level and experience.) Some common job titles found on Elance include programmers, developers, web and graphic designers, copywriters, marketers, customer service agents and even accountants and lawyers.

Elance is a vast hiring system filled to the brim with jobs, freelancers and a wide range of skills. This post will review Elance time tracking, hiring and project management mechanisms such as productivity tracking. After learning about the strengths and weaknesses, you can also check out a useful Elance alternative that may surprise you.

How Elance Works

Elance doesn’t charge anything for freelancers to set up profiles or for companies to post jobs. They do charge an 8.75 percent fee to the freelancer’s bid, which is paid when work is completed and approved by the client. So for a $500 job, Elance would take an additional $43.75 as a “finder’s fee” for the work. Elance also has a $25 “featured” job listing, which gives you additional visibility for your job posting. If you’re looking for inexpensive labor, Elance might be the way to go.

However, one consideration in using this hiring platform is the time it will take to screen and select the right candidate for your job. It’s possible that you’ll be better off focusing on a local freelancer that charges a higher hourly rate but delivers better quality work.

The Elance Workroom

Each freelance job creates an individual workroom between the freelancer and the client, which acts as a project management toll of sorts. This gives both parties the ability to share and add comments, images, documents and to-do lists. It also features widgets like video conferencing to increase productivity. If you are already using project management software for your organization, this area may seem redundant, and you may want your freelancer to use your own project management system rather than the Elance system.

Elance Time Tracker

Time tracking on Elance helps freelancers and clients monitor the time spent on a job or project. Their Time Tracker tool (available on Windows, Mac and Linux) populates the worker’s timesheet, which is submitted to the client for payment on Monday morning. If you’re working on a fixed price job, the time tracker will send the weekly status report. The Elance time tracker takes random interval screen shots (part of its Work View feature) to document all work the freelancer performs online. The freelancer must agree to and approve the feature to use it, and Elance recommends that all clients use this feature to protect themselves and ensure that they are getting the work that they were promised. The Elance time tracker is easy to install from the resources section of the Elance website. Freelancers simply sign in, and launch the time tracker from the list of installed programs. Work View can be turned on or off, signed out or paused when the freelancer wants to stop recording hours. The tracker also records time in the freelancer’s correct time zone.

Time Tracking Functions and Elance Alternative

If you are already tracking your employee’s time in a time tracker like Hubstaff, you may find it easier and more effective to remain with your own time tracking system for monitoring your freelancer’s activity. This Elance alternative could provide more control over the customization and settings you use with your freelancer. If you’re already using your own project management software, a different time tracker could integrate with those apps instead of forcing you to use the Elance platform. For example, if you use Trello, Basecamp or Insightly CRM, it would be easier to integrate Hubstaff instead of switch to the Elance Work Room and Time Tracker completely.

Elance Client Protection Program

Elance has a protection program for clients that ensures you only pay for the work you approve. They recommend you and your freelancer agree on authorized hours for the project, then use the Time Tracker with Work View to see the freelancer’s activity and screenshots. Employers can reject any time that was not spent on their job.

This protection requires you review the freelancer’s time and screenshots within five days of payment to verify the work before Elance pays the freelancer from your account. For fixed price jobs, you have the option to review and approve the work delivered prior to the funds being released via Escrow to the worker.

If you fail to approve or reject the time after 30 days, the funds will automatically be released to the freelancer. This protects employers from paying a freelancer who doesn’t deliver as promised.

The Bottom Line

Elance continues to be an affordable way for companies to hire freelance talent for short-term projects. With the millions of freelancers vying for a shot at your project, you can often find quality talent at rock-bottom prices. However, to ensure you are getting what you pay for, you may want to consider adding additional online time tracking and screenshot verification from an alternative source to ensure consistent work from your freelancer. Companies must keep in mind the additional price they pay (8.75 percent of each total project cost) for finding candidates on Elance. This money might be better spent finding a qualified freelancer elsewhere, and using the extra savings to hire a more qualified individual who may get the job done better, or in less time.

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Want to learn more about managing remote freelancers? Check out our guide to remote team management.