Online global outsourcing has become one of the base pillars upon which freelancers carry out their way of living. It is meant to be a flexible, stress-free zone in which creativity and brainstorming can thrive in unison, resulting in better work results.

oDesk (renamed Upwork) vs Elance vs Freelancer – What’s the deal?

Today, there are quite a few online outsourcing platforms, with three leading the way: oDesk (renamed Upwork), Elance and Freelancer. Each with their own share in the roughly estimated 40% industry growth, they provide users with 2 distinct services – either to hire or to be hired.

Emerging in 1999, Elance is the oldest and wisest of all three, with oDesk (renamed Upwork) being launched in 2005 and Freelancer in 2009

On the other hand, when it comes to the number of active users, Freelancer holds the throne with roughly 7 million people, which complements the average number of jobs posted, which is 4.4 million. oDesk (renamed Upwork) falls second with 3.1 million active users and an average workload of 3.6 million jobs posted at all times, while Elance has a surprising number of 2 million users with an average number of 2.9 million of jobs posted at all times.

If you look at the cumulative freelancer earnings estimate, Elance’s $739 million is roughly $200 million away from oDesk’s (renamed Upwork) $920 million, with Freelancer falling to a distant third with $150 million. This, compared with the total number of users, gives the average Elance user an advantage of roughly $100 dollars.

It’s important to note that all three platforms support both fixed price project and hourly payments, but each has a separate mix of business

oDesk (renamed Upwork) is almost entirely comprised of hourly projects, while the rest have focused on fixed price projects. Seeing the user feedback, it seems that the dominant opinion is to approve of fixed projects, but to the extent of using them to work on something small, mainly because of their inflexibility and tendency to cause delays. Hourly payments give the worker the flexibility he needs to do a supposed trial work before engaging in an all-in contract with the employer.

Most platforms, including oDesk (renamed Upwork) and Elance, have drafted policies in which they guarantee payment if video time tracker software is used. This is controversial by itself, and most users share the opinion that it is indeed overly controlling. Hourly projects however are indeed a gray area that it is hard to evaluate them when it comes to the subject of payment.

By implementing video time tracking software, the system gives itself the rigidity needed to progress further. Having stated this, it’s important to note that Freelancer doesn’t make the time tracking software a prerequisite for a guaranteed payment; a simple time card would do.

The platforms earn money with their payment services

The employers pay the employees through the platform’s own system. In order to make their offers more attractive, they spice them up with astonishingly low fees.

Elance leads the way with 8.75%, then there’s oDesk (renamed Upwork) with 10%, with Freelancer falling behind with 13%. Roughly 2 or 3 percent of that are needed for them to move the money – the rest goes to their budget.

See how Hubstaff’s pricing compares with Elance.

All of these platforms are constantly improving themselves, with payment volume doubling each year. The main disadvantage they all share is their lack of knowledge concerning  management of distributed teams.

oDesk (renamed Upwork) is the leader by size

It is the place where hourly projects were pioneered and perfected and it is also the place where the idea of time tracking software was first introduced.

Since its launch, Elance has been cited as a shining example of the growing phenomenon of informal workplace communication. Using state of the art software, including cloud computing and web 2.0, it has been included in CNET’s Webware 100, an award prizing those same ideals. In 2013, Elance was selected as one of Red Herring’s top 100 companies. Traditionally, their job offers were fixed price, but now they rival oDesk (renamed Upwork) with their hourly payment and time-tracking.

Freelancer has a distinct unbound way of work

They won’t force anyone into using any specific business model. The users can get anything separately, whether it’s a fixed or an hourly price, or maybe even buying an advertisement. Their disadvantage lies in their unapparent worker protection policy.