Ready for More Freelance Writing Gigs? Goodbye Elance, Hello Upwork

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If you use Elance to find freelance writing gigs, listen up: The Elance-oDesk power couple rebranded in May to become Upwork, and the way you grab freelance gigs through the platform is changing.

There’s drama! And intrigue! And, don’t worry, I’m going to explain it all to you.

If you’re new to Elance, the platform is a freelance marketplace that connects you with projects and clients you can bid on. Many freelancers run their entire business on the platform — it not only provides new jobs, but also payment protection, hourly tracking and an impressive profile where clients can browse reviews and work history.

As Elance changes though, there are a few names being thrown around, so let’s take a second to break down the cast of characters:

  • Elance and oDesk, two of the biggest freelance marketplaces, merged in 2013, but retained their two separate platforms for connecting freelance professionals with gigs.
  • That merged company recently rebranded and, as of this May 2015, is called Upwork.
  • Upwork is a new platform, most similar to oDesk (which now redirects to The Elance platform will phase out by early 2016.
  • If you’re an Elance user, you’ll need to learn to use Upwork, which includes copying over your profile. (Not ideal, but also doable.)

Got it? Excellent. Let’s continue.

What’s up with Upwork?

These changes are mostly brand-related, with the added bonus of a slicker website and mobile app. On its blog, Upwork’s product team is also promising upcoming improvements that support “faster hiring and better collaboration to support for larger teams and enhanced professional growth.”

In an article on TechCrunch, Ingrid Lunden writes that with the rebrand comes changes like “a new mobile app, new search algorithms, faster processing and a real-time chat service — a completely free product that Upwork’s new CEO Stephane Kasriel describes as a ‘Slack killer’.”

The two biggest changes:

Push notifications

Speed is king when it comes to pitching your work, and Upwork is pushing it even harder. When clients invite you to apply for a job or respond to an application, you’ll get a push notification directly to your phone.

Danny Margulies, creator of Secrets Of A Six-Figure Elancer/Upworker, wrote on the Upwork blog, “This gives you a huge advantage; since online hiring tends to move at an accelerated pace, being ‘in the right place at the right time’ can make all the difference.”

New message center

The Upwork Message Center lets companies chat with freelancers who are immediately available for work, which is convenient both for freelancers who are ready to earn and companies who need immediate help. It’s also helpful for clients who want to communicate with a team.

New access to more work categories

Additional product-specific changes affect how you’ll work and get paid. Upwork’s new FAQ page has a fantastic group of downloadable guides explaining these changes. For example:

  • Unlike on Elance, you must set a public hourly rate and all earnings are public on your profile. A new “job success” score summarizes your activity.
  • All members now have access to all job categories, while on Elance you had to upgrade in order to access this feature. This is a great opportunity to land diverse clients while stretching your skills.
  • When logging time, Upwork captures not only screenshots, but mouse movements and keystrokes. When it’s time to get paid, clients are automatically charged every Monday.

You will have to copy your Elance profile over to Upwork, but that’s the only extra step involved in the change. Not to fret — you won’t lose all the work you put into that profile.

At Upwork, quicker is better

The changes boil down to this description by Elaine Pofeldt at Forbes: “Upwork is looking to gain an edge by enabling clients to hire freelancers more quickly.”

Lunden at TechCrunch adds that the goal is to make “discovery and check-out as quick and seamless as possible: all friction points become chances to lose your potential customers.”

Upwork’s updated algorithms aim to better match clients to freelancers. So instead of the three weeks it often takes to hire a contractor, the new platform now only takes minutes.

The inevitable blowback

Professional marketplaces like Upwork hope to automate work, taking out as much of the human error and obnoxious quirks of freelancing as possible. The Uber for the remote work set. As smooth as buying on Amazon.

But is that possible? And do we want it?

Like any product change, some long-time Elance users aren’t happy. The downside to “only taking minutes” means freelancers need to be ready, at any time, to respond to potential sources of work. You’re rewarded for being chained to your smartphone, accessible at all hours of the day.

I don’t know about you, but I work best when I’m not interrupted. And if I need more clients, I still don’t want paid work I’ve already landed to be interrupted by a frantic pitch.

On top of the new time crunch, Upwork’s FAQ states, “Files, messages, funds in your account, withdrawal methods, tax forms, reports, skill tests, Connects, and ongoing jobs cannot be imported to Upwork. You will still be able to access them on Elance. Also note that while your work from Elance is shown on your profile, it is not included in your Upwork account’s other records or reports.”

This sounds like a big hassle. And it also sounds like Elance wasn’t particularly communicative about these changes, leaving many freelancers in the lurch — and even worse, unable to access their work due to site maintenance.

In a TechCrunch comment, Andy Tallent writes, “They have made the site more difficult for freelancers and ignore the feedback from the hand that literally feeds them.”

But I’ve been on both sides of major site changes at tech companies, and for every hater and troll, there are a dozen other freelancers hard at work merging their profiles, already crushing it, grateful for the advantages of new technology.

Them’s the breaks, I guess.

The good news for freelance writers

The good news is that these changes seem to be focused on connecting companies more quickly with freelancers, which means more work coming your way… and who can argue with that?

Sure, it’s a pain to learn a new platform if you’re cozy with Elance, but the changes seem worth it for the long term.

What do you think? If you’re on Elance, are you excited about the new Upwork platform? If you’re not, do these changes make you more likely to sign up?

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Marian Schembari is a writer, storyteller and brainstorm partner based in Germany, who left her heart in San Francisco, New Zealand, London and New York. Part of her heart belongs to the internet, too. Marian believes in the internet’s power to invite a real, deep look into our... .

Marian Schembari | @MarianSchembari

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  1. Honestly, I only went as far as putting my toe in the water at elance when I was first getting my business started, and I did not judge it a good fit for me at that time. It struck me as a kind of reverse ebay where jobs were auctioned off to the lowest bidder, and a disturbing number of those bids were literally pennies an hour.

    I keep hearing that in the midst of a whole lot of below-minimum-wage work, there is good work to be found on these sites, and I wish people well in finding it, but I continue to be concerned about a business model that seems to be more of a race to the bottom for the benefit of clients than a way of connecting clients and freelancers for mutual benefit.

    I look at it this way: If this place were for freelancers’ benefit, it would be clients who would be required to post a public price for their project, and they would be the ones chained to their cell phones, expected to interrupt their work at a moment’s notice.

    Again, I am sure there are some freelancers for whom the model works well, and for those for whom it is a great fit, I wish you all the best!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services

  2. They track your mouse movements and keystrokes? What for? That seems overly intrusive.

    Sounds to me like this was a botched merger that didn’t give much thought to how the end user would be impacted by the changes. Connecting *faster* isn’t necessarily the same as connecting *better.*

    • I agree, Jim, and that was off-putting for me, as well. A freelancer is self-employed, and this came off sounding more like having a taskmaster standing over you counting how many bricks you were making per hour. Again, it seems that everything is for the good of the client, to assure them they are getting their money’s worth from a worker often picked mainly on the basis of that “public hourly rate.” A healthy freelancer/client relationship should be built on trust engendered by good reputations on both sides.

      For me and my clients, per-project (rather than per-hour) rates are often helpful. I do keep a log of my hours, but that is for my own use to make sure that my bidding process stays on track. I have a desired hourly rate, but my type of client generally doesn’t care what it is. They care about the total price of the project, the number of days or weeks (not hours) it will take, and of course, the excellent quality. I’m sure there are some clients like that on sites like Upwork, and I hope they connect with the right freelancer for them, but the overall business model just does not seem designed to foster that kind of relationship.

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      Freelance Editorial Services

      • Trish,

        I just heard an audio podcast about this very thing from Jenn Mattern, who writes the All Indie Writers website and blog. She took down the elance/upwork business model and also, the smarmy way they do business with their freelancers. In her case, they wanted established freelancers to write for free for their new website so elance/upwork send a blanket email to anyone with a freelance blog, offering to publish a post for them. (Jenn was a little offended by that.) I’m guessing Miriam, who wrote this column, took up elance/upwork on their offer, because this post is a sales pitch for them (whether or not that’s what she intended).

    • You’re right Jim. And Freelancers are losing the site that has supported them for years.

      Make things right and sign the petition here:

  3. Hi guys,

    Firstly I want to say I am so glad I found your website! After blogging for almost 5 years at Eco Warrior Princess ( I’ve finally found a website that can help me transition to life as a full time writer. Yay!

    I have just launched my own digital agency The Social Copywriter ( and some of the clients that found me on LinkedIn are pushing me to join these kinds of websites. But after learning about the Big Brother approach I’m kind of hesitant to. Plus seeing how low some writers are willing to go in terms of price, I don’t think a bidding war is suitable to me. I value the work I do and the thought that goes into it.

    Anyway just my two cents. Looking forward now to browsing many more of your wonderful articles and one of the only websites that I’ve willingly handed my email address over to. Well done!

    Jennifer Nini
    Sustainability Freak at Eco Warrior Princess
    Content Guru at The Social Copywriter

  4. I’m an occasional use of Elance – can’t say I’m excited for the merger. Odesk and Elance were actually two quite different platforms – Odesk seemed to cater more to the “lower” end clients and freelancers – but it had the benefit of being MUCH easier to land a gig if you’ve got halfway decent English language skills and an ability to write, and there were a few gems. Elance, on the other hand, has a few more higher paying clients and a smaller freelance base, although there was a bit more competition from more qualified freelancers. I feel as if the advantages that these two separate platforms offered will be gone with their inevitable merger into Upwork.

  5. Hi,

    I agree with what Trish posted, I work on both sites for a couple of years now and find down to penny job offers on both sites.

    Reasonable good jobs can be found, but it is a candle search on both sites, on Odesk I have been upgraded to first class (or whatever they call it) and still see the same cheap offers.

    Elance has in general the same offers $7.50 to $10 for a fifty page e-book can be found in abundance and if you can write ten per week, you seem to have earned good money.

    In that respect the focus is indeed on the client and the freelancers are left in limbo.

    Payment protection is good and gives security, I find the memo interruption when you work an hourly job on both sides, very interrupting on itself and now they add mouse movement as well, like “hey, you’re not working” when you take a sip of your coffee.

    I found good and my best client (write for them for almost two years now) on Odesk, I found good clients on Elance as well.

    Trish is however right by saying that the sites do not foster a good relation ship between client and freelancer.

    You got to be lucky


  6. So glad I read this article before jumping onto the cheap freelance writer’s train. If you have a skill that you’re good at, you shouldn’t be giving it away. I already work in corporate America being micromanaged and want to get away from that. The best part of being a freelancer is the freedom.

    I agree with you, Trish. I would rather build a good client relationship and produce quality work. This may be a case of “you get what you pay for.”

    Jayne Bodell
    Freelance Writer.

  7. I agree with Marinus. There are good jobs and good clients on both platforms. I moved my profile and am working on “moving” my clients from Elance to Upwork. They both have what I need: a huge number of opportunities at my fingertips. And they take care of all accounting. All other differences are minor and just a matter of getting used to. If you are good, you will find good jobs. You do not have to take the poorly paid ones. There are enough people who will, or have to. On both platforms it takes persistence, a lot of self-confidence and a lot of hard work, but it works for me.

  8. Dear Editor,

    When I came to find your website and read the information it provided, I realized that in the past one year I was horsing around. My mind was in a whirl when your website saved me. Now I know how to go the way by your using your informative site which will hopefully help me get my bearings.
    I am a budding writer and wish to become a professional one. I hope you will help me gain my long-cherished wish.
    kindest regards
    H. Karamyar

  9. Upwork sucks, bring back Elance! Sign the petition here:

  10. Hey Marian I think you have a balanced view, but the truth is that 6 months after the merge and Upwork still can’t get basic features to work correctly like the message system or job applications. Beyond that, they want to increase commission rates, and charge freelancers to apply to “extra” jobs each month…

    Good example of frustration: … you can see the highest rated freelancers are getting fed up and leaving Upwork. But one good thing is that they are cancelling the 5-star rating system, maybe that is good. But being the “biggest” freelance market definitely has serious drawbacks, yes??

  11. Upwork is a total nightmare for freelancers. They publish all your identity info and then the mostly anonymous Buyers abuse you in the review if you dont do free work. Upwork also ranks you and only recommends your profile to the Buyer based on some twisted criteria. It is a nightmare a nightmare, and I am never ever using it. I have made thousands online as a freelancer. Please post alternatives besides Guru if anyone know of any. Upwork is a fail fail fail fail.

  12. I want to say elance is no 1. so don’t kill it. Please keep both platforms separability and don’t force to migrate upwork.

  13. I wasn’t thrilled with Elance, but found a couple decent long-term clients. Now that I’m “forced” to Upwork because of merger, I’m ready to delete my whole profile because I hate Upwork, but don’t want to lose my good reviews. Upwork is very invasive with identity/pictures as the other commenter stated, to the point I think it can be fought (with difficulty) in the United States since discrimination laws exist. Upwork also holds money longer than they should “for safety reasons” which is baloney. You do work, it’s in escrow, you should have access to that on completion. I do NOT recommend Upwork for anyone. Would love to hear alternatives.

    • Tracy Corral says:

      Carrie Smith of recommends Contently and something called Clear Voice as platforms that helped her get started freelancing. They are a totally different gig from Elance, but I would think if you have experience (which it sounds like you do), that you would be able to set something up with those platforms.

      Elance/Upwork sound like they’re scamming freelancers in a race to the bottom.

      Best of luck!


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