At the end of 2013 I learned that Odesk and Elance are merging. For those that aren’t familiar with these two markets, here’s a brief background (those that already know can either skip the following two paragraphs or read and complain in the comments about how I got it wrong).
Elance.com is a job site where freelance writers like me get work (there’s work for other kinds of freelancers too, but we’re not talking about them). There’s good jobs to be found there, but the pay is usually lower than what you can get than if you went out and found clients yourself.
Odesk.com is the same thing, only the asking rate for these projects is much, much lower than Elance (if that were possible). How much lower? I’ve seen people post $1 blog post jobs on Odesk. One. Freaking. Dollar. At that rate, I would have to write 3 articles to afford one cup of McDonald’s coffee.
And now the two companies are merging. Not so good news for freelancers who still use the two sites as their main source of income. This detailed post from Carol Tice explains the many reasons why. To me, it means that two entirely separate and distinct markets—the borderline-reasonable-budget jobs on Elance and the bargain-bin/flea-market shoppers on Odesk—will be merging into one messy pile of job tickets.
Oh, Elance and Odesk deny this of course. They say they’re going to keep the two sites separate. And they probably will. At first. But as Carol pointed out in her post, one of the sites is probably going to get the axe. So where will the evicted freelancers go? The other site, crowding an already overpopulated marketplace. A good paying project on Elance usually gets dozens of bids, and it’s always a struggle to get noticed. Add in the Odesk people, and you’ll have a Black Friday crowd attacking every project.
The market is moving away from these types of bid sites, and they’re struggling. Businesses are starting to realize that junk content isn’t going to win the Google ranks anymore, and more freelancers are beginning to charge the rates they deserve.
Me? Well, there’s no way I can say “I’ve moved past these sites, and I’m earning better money” and not sound arrogant (at least none I can think of at 2 in the morning), so f*** it.
I’ve moved past these sites, and I’m earning better money.
I’m still grateful to Elance and Odesk. I might kick myself for not going straight to clients sooner, but the money from these sites helped me keep my family’s finances above water during some pretty tight times. I met one of my best clients on Elance. And the time I spent writing $5 blog posts helped me improve my writing for the better-paying clients I’d meet down the road.
But I look back at Elance and Odesk, where I first learned to price my own work, where I first learned to talk to clients, and where I earned my first dollars as a writer, and I am sad. It’s the sadness of seeing your first car sold or junked, even though it was a POS that you cussed at every day.
The world is moving on, and where you’ve been is no longer relevant to where you are now.
I need a beer.