4 Tips to Not Get Screwed on Elance

For those who don’t know, elance.com is a site where people can sell their services. Basically like an ebay for services instead of goods.

The way it works is you can post a job for anything from web design, data entry, marketing, ghost writing to virtual assistance and relevant service providers can pitch for your work. You then select the provider who you think best fits your request and they start working away.

Funds are placed in an escrow holding service and released once you mark the work as satisfactory.

Anything that can be done remotely can be organised over elance.

The key benefit of this system is the ability to take advantage of currency differences. You can pay someone market rates in India or Eastern Europe and have it come to a fraction of the cost in a western country.

But using this service to complete tasks does not come without complications.

I’ve done a few projects on elance now, some better than others.

Here are a few tips from my fails:


Seriously, this is important.

Treat your freelancer like your boss treats you – there is a job to do, no exceptions.

For people with no management experience, this can be tricky. I learned quickly as I saw a project expand from 2 weeks to 2 months! Setting rules is important as discussed below, but enforcing rules is equally if not more important.

Don’t listen to excuses like “the work was harder than we thought” or “you had too many change requests”. They shouldn’t have bid if the work was too hard. If they think your change requests are going to push out milestones, they need to request milestone changes. If they don’t, tough luck. You’re not the expert they are.

2. Make rules

Make rules for everything. How, when and in what format you want the work delivered.

Ask for periodic updates and set deliverable dates. Tell them if things are not up to your expectations you will pull the project or have them restart.

Be specific in your rules. If for example you’re having a website done, tell them if you want the site up and running on your host or if you just want the files sent. Tell them if you want social media integration, testing or support.

These should all be laid out before the job is accepted.

3. Punish rule breakers

Set penalties for rules being broken.

As an example a 5% penalty for every milestone not met.

That means, if they update you in 4 days instead of 3, hit them with a 5% penalty. Make sure you do this the FIRST time they miss a milestone. This will discontinue a pattern of abuse. Again, don’t be a pushover little bitch. Highlight punishments clearly in the rules before the project starts.

4. Don’t give feedback until you are completely happy.

This means that everything is up and running and you have tested everything. Don’t get conned into providing feedback after you see the site working well on their host, or you have a general brand theme without all items complete.

Elance workers like eBay sellers live for feedback. And once you leave feedback, you can’t change it. Many suppliers would prefer a 5 star review and 50% of the money over 100% cash and a 3 star review.

The verdict?

There is no doubt elance can provide quality work for cheap over a secure and reliable platform.

But if you let people screw you, they probably will.

The success of the project still rests on the project manager – you!

58 responses to “4 Tips to Not Get Screwed on Elance”

  1. Wow. You are definitely the boss that thinks all his employees are intrinsically lazy, dishonest, and greedy. It sounds like you are promoting a Machiavellian management style, “if they fear you, it means they will do their best”. As an Elancer, I think its safe to say many people choose to freelance to escape this management style in the traditional office setting.
    Perhaps you should consult a HR specialist, find out what really motivates and gets the best work out of employees. It applies to freelancers as well. In fact, to all humans. Fear is not Respect. Wise people don’t fear anyone because they don’t need to; they find respect from others willing to see power as an unlimited resource, not the other way around.

  2. Oh you poor pushover little bitch.. No wonder you think yourself that, look at how you “try” at managing people! You should instead hire a Project Manager who knows what he/ she is doing. Leave it to the professionals and you won’t have a headache.

  3. Boolls-it! Freelancers are not slaves so your tone and attitude is just buls-it!. None of you are obliging each other. You, as a buyer, paying them, and a freelancer, in turn, is providing their service (the knowledge he acquired through years that you yourself do not possess). So respect him and regard him as an associate. As simple as that.

  4. As other people have said: sometimes the client is the issue. I don’t see that taken into consideration in this article at all.

    I book about 30 jobs a month on elance and most of them are private invites because I’ve been around a while. However, I learned a long time ago that when a client presents themselves like this author to me then they have probably been burned before, haven’t gotten over it and I don’t have the energy to deal with them. No one wants to be the rebound. The money is not equal to the stress.

    I’ve had clients give me 24 hours to do something which would require me to have X but not send X until 3 hours before their deadline then complain that it wasn’t done.

    I just had a woman recently (As in today) claim I didn’t send her work to her on time. When I actually sent it a week early and had sent two follow up emails to her asking for feedback. I sent her a screen shot and she said, “Oh!”

    I’ve had clients “read” my proposal, hire me for the job and then show that they completely ignored anything I said in the proposal. “Why is their a watermark on this?” “Well sir, if you didn’t ignore my previous three emails telling you to fund the escrow then maybe you’d have it by now.”

    I had one woman dock me a point in “Cost” when she was the one who set the cost before I even bid which was already a third of what I’d normally charge. She docked me a point in “quality” because I sent one file format instead of the one she wanted because she never told me she wanted it and when I asked her she said she thought, “I would just KNOW!”

    I think we’ve all had clients who have asked for one thing, hired us for the job to give it to them, and then asked for something completely different or changed things around just enough that it screws things up and not consider that fact. “You know this animation is great but can we add 5 more minutes to this project because I just had A DREAM LAST NIGHT and it will look cool!”

    I had one girl send me 50 emails/posts a day for two weeks and they were all two words. She’d literally send one saying, “That’s great” After the fourth private gig where she did this I started hitting “Decline!”

    I have zero problem dropping a client and walking away and I really think other freelancers need to do that too because, guess what? The freelancer shouldn’t be a “pushover little bitch” either. Clients are coming to us to ask us to do something they either can’t do or don’t have time to do but the client could just as easily be the issue. I think most of us will jump through hoops for clients that are at the least professional but once you started presenting yourself as a person who has had issues in the past, chances are you’re going to look for issues and no one needs that stress beyond getting the job done.

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