The Problems With Working On oDesk

In my last post in this series, I discussed whether you, as a freelancer should work on oDesk or not. You might have left the site feeling a little unsure. While I did not chastise oDesk, I suggested not using it as a measure of your success or potential as a freelancer. Of course, you may have realized this by now, but for the benefit of those who haven’t oDesk is a freelancer marketplace where an employer posts a job and freelancers bid the lowest amount of money they are willing to do it for! And believe me, people are willing to do jobs for unbelievably small amounts of money. But, more on this later, for now, all you need to know is that you must not let oDesk define you as a freelancer. Below, I will share some problems with the oDesk system that I have encountered.

Fair Price: On oDesk, it simply does not exist! oDesk is highly competitive and unfortunately, there are a ton of remote workers, especially in the Philippines willing to do large amounts of work for dismal sums of money! And by dismal, I mean very dismal. I have come across contracts where the freelancer is employed at 0.33$ an hour, yup, you read that right, 0.33$ an hour. I think what makes it worse is that the freelancer has worked on the contract for over 1,300 hours and is perfectly happy about it. You can’t compete with prices like that, you simply can’t. If you are considering it, maybe you should consider another career!

You can’t blame the Philippine people for taking such low paying jobs. In their own currency, it translates to a lot of money. Why would they refuse a high paying job. I happened to speak to a fellow freelancer from the Philippines and he told me he worked on an extremely difficult job for 8 hours a week and at just 2$ an hour. But, he was happy, he could afford to send his children to a good school and was in fact, among the richest in his community. You can’t really fault a person for taking a job then. Unfortunately, it also brings down the overall price of the market. Why will an employer hire you at 20$ an hour if he is getting the same services at 2$ an hour?

Job Security: Again, this is an area where oDesk is severely lacking. Your employer has ultimate power. He can end your contract at anytime he wishes, without so much as a word. You are completely helpless in such an event. Sure, you can contact oDesk and launch a help ticket and go through all the motions, but invariably, a client will simply state that he or she was dissatisfied with the quality of your work and so chose to end your contract.

Eventually, oDesk will rule in favor of the client. After all, it is the client who hires people on oDesk and pays them. This generates revenue for oDesk in terms of a commission. However, one thing to note here is that this is true for all freelance situations, even those outside of oDesk. In a way, oDesk provides you an extra layer of security by at least providing a method of dispute resolution.

Job Frequency:  This is a real kicker. On oDesk, jobs are very hard to come by, at least initially. This is due to a number of factors. First, when one is new, they rarely have a good idea about writing a great application letter for oDesk. There is a lot of difference between writing a normal cover letter and a cover letter on oDesk. Ironically, it is cover letter writers who seem to have the highest unemployment rates!

Then, there is the very important issue of price. Once you have read point one, this is pretty self explanatory, but basically I mean that it is unlikely that you would be able to compete with the ridiculously low prices that people bid. 

ODesk Fees:  This is not so much a problem as an annoyance. Frankly, to many a 10% commission on every transaction does seem a bit steep. Why should one pay 10% of their earnings to oDesk? They didn’t do anything, did they? Think again. oDesk maintains a website which stores tons of data, (I’m guessing it must be in the Terabytes range) and most importantly, oDesk gets you in touch with employers and allows you to work. It provides a way of tracking time and a lot more. Thus, it needs to make money somehow. This probably is the best way to do.

Thus, personally, I do not find this a problem. It has been included in the article primarily due to the large amount of feedback against it!

Keep reading the series on working successfully on oDesk. I will be blogging more about some alternatives to oDesk. Stay connected to find out more, I would be more than happy to field any and all queries, just post a comment. Also, take a minute to join the Freelance Writer’s Club. It’s a great way to get periodic mails about new posts, useful resources and also, the occasional writing gig!