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 Upwork.com). 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:
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?