Elance. Odesk. CloudCrowd. TaskRabbit.
While you might have heard of these websites at some point or another, the real question is — do you know what these sites are all about?
They are companies that have created their own ‘marketplace’ for jobs, and they’re part of a growing trend in online hiring. While economies across the globe have seen slow growth in hiring for traditional full-time employee positions, the need for specific talent for project-based work has flourished. In fact, one of these online marketplaces, Elance, produced a year-end review of the hiring happening on their website. In their 2011: Online Employment Review report, businesses who posted a project for the first time last year, in addition to those service providers and individual freelancers establishing new profiles, increased by 120% since 2010. In 2011 alone, over $150 million were earned by their registered service providers and individual freelancers for working on Elance projects.
The types of projects that appear on these online marketplaces range greatly. From being a virtual assistant for someone in another country to adding 5,000 Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers, along with projects requiring complicated financial analysis expertise or software programming, projects on these online marketplaces present an opportunity for a wide variety of people to participate.
In simple terms, sites like Elance create a place where companies of any size can post an ad looking for assistance with a specific project. They have the ability to write a brief description of what their need is, how much they want to pay, if it’s an hourly job or a fixed-fee engagement, how long they expect the project to last, and other colorful details that might escape a standard job description you’d see elsewhere.
Here’s a brief excerpt of a recent posting for a project:
This is a contract project, so the person hired into the project must be able to piece together various information quickly, understand what needs to be done, ask appropriate questions instead of waiting around for someone to tell them what to do. If you fall into the latter part of this description, we don’t want you.
The project is placed in the appropriate work category, with the hope that a number of qualified service providers and individual freelancers will review their need.
Service providers and individual freelancers who have the expertise sought have the ability to bid on the project. They are required to create a proposal, including details on preferred rate of pay and sharing details about why they should be hired for the project. Many times, interested freelancers share their vision for how they’d solve the problem by describing the approach to solving the issue and providing a breakdown of time it would take to complete the project.
While there are many benefits to using online marketplaces for finding work, be aware of the ‘cons’ to these sites:
- Competition for projects is extremely fierce: We’re not talking just about the ‘best qualified’ person for the job in your neighborhood, or if you wrote a great proposal. With providers and freelancers hailing from every country of the world, your competitive applicant pool just increased by thousands.
- The value of your expertise typically doesn’t reflect the ‘market’ rate: While those seeking work might find these online marketplaces a great place to find unadvertised jobs, they will likely encounter that businesses who post their needs on these sites want to pay rates under the average for their local area. After all, with the global reach of talent participating in the online marketplace, businesses can easily find an equally bright MBA in another country with great experience… but at a third of the American price, for example.
- Most businesses assume that you have your own equipment to do the job: No shiny new laptop or new cell phone given by the company to do your work. In many cases, the freelancer or service provider must already have the equipment to perform the job (like a computer, software programs or a phone, for example).
- Businesses want people who can provide effective service from Day One: Remember, this is project-based, contract work. You won’t be getting training to ‘learn’ the job. You’re expected to provide your expertise the minute you start working. It’s very possible to work for clients who provide minimal direction yet expect you to deliver amazing results.
- You have to pay for a level of membership that will increase your chances of getting hired for a project: Not all of these online marketplaces are like this, but Elance and others require providers and freelancers to buy a membership to their site. Paid membership will allow you to certain ‘perks’ that help you in your quest to get hired. It allows you to keep your bids private – only viewable to you and the client, for example. The number of bids you can create a month will also be dictated by your membership level. The more you pay, the greater chances you receive.
Sound like it might be for you? You’re not alone — over 500 providers on Elance, for example, are based in Hawai’i. The professional skillset of the kama’aina runs the gamut — providers offer services from virtual office assistance, travel writing, Java and mobile app programming and everything in between. They work full-time projects, as well as part-time engagements for clients primarily on the U.S. mainland, and internationally.
Have you used an online marketplace site to aid in your search for work? What has been your experience? Share your thoughts.