Why I closed my Elance profile and you should too

Yesterday I finally closed my Elance account and asked them to delete my profile. They say they’ll close it in the next billing cycle, so it’ll take a month for it to be deleted from the Internet – hopefully for good.

For writers like me, online bidding sites like Elance are a waste of time. In June last year I wrote about my experience with Elance and why the system just doesn’t work for me. I know I’m not the only one. Almost a year later, the company has bought out oDesk, arguably its biggest competition, and this makes them huge – but the market there is one where bargain-bin hunters hound professionals to provide them Pulitzer Prize quality work for the same price as a couple of cokes and a packet of chips.

I’m not even exaggerating. I was once invited to bid on a job where the client wanted to pay $20 for a 50,000 word novel. What shocked me was people actually bid on the job! What are they doing?

I left my profile open for a while because I did garner a few clients. Only one paid me a decent price for several articles. The others didn’t pay well at all (but admittedly were better than most of the work there) but I did the work for them to test a theory I often hear about Elance – that if you build a good profile and get good reviews, the decent paying clients will come.

Frankly, I don’t believe this for a second. The amount of time you spend doing the cheap jobs so that you can move into some bracket of decent-paying jobs can be better spent marketing yourself the old school way and actually writing and querying publications. Furthermore, I don’t think there really is a decent paying market on Elance – at least not a consistent one. Practically every job I bid on was badly priced, with only a few exceptions. The highest paying ghostwriting project I did bid on – and almost won – was offered at just a little lower than a decent ghostwriting rate. I lost the bid because the guy who won underbid me (surprise, surprise) and claimed that he was a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter. I checked out his profile and his stuff was pretty good. But I couldn’t help but wonder why, if this was the case, he was bidding on jobs at Elance – and for the price he undercut me for, too.

Decently priced jobs are honestly so few and far between that the time you invest to find them and bid on them (and then often re-bid when the client asks you to provide some speculative work) is not worth it. Why bother building a decent Elance profile if you can rather build a good profile with real people in your own city, through relationships, word-of-mouth, cold calling and a decent website?

The Elance online freelance model, despite the hype, actually doesn’t work near as well as it (a) could or (b) claims to work. Your time is better spent getting business the old school way. My suggestion to any writer these days is avoid Elance. If you’re starting out, rather build a portfolio through volunteer work – say, the local newspaper or your dad’s company. Real relationships and real people. Freelancing through online sites seems like an easy way to get things done but it’s more of a pain in the butt – one that will always be a pain to you if you invest in it – than the old way of getting things done.

My opinion of the site is so bad that I am going to insist that every trace of me on that site will not be found by search engines because being there just makes me look cheap and desperate. I think a writer ought to think about that. Don’t waste your time or ruin your reputation.

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34 thoughts on “Why I closed my Elance profile and you should too”

  1. I’ve actually been quite lucky with Elance. A few weeks after joining, and when I was just about to give up on them, I got a decent enough ongoing editing job. So I’m certainly not going to leave them although I recognise a lot of what you say. Also, my impression is that, in general, their editing jobs are not as badly paid as their writing jobs, many of which are really just a joke.

    1. Glad you found something there Macrina 🙂 If you can bag a few clients, that’s great; maybe the editing jobs are better – but I’ve found better clients elsewhere 🙂

  2. You are lucky. I didn’t have choice to cancel my account. I received an email today that Elance was closing my account essentially because the number of bids I submit far outweigh the number of jobs I’ve been awarded. While it’s true that I’ve only had three jobs in as many years, I did have a 5-star rating. I was one of those professionals that had professional rates–which meant most clients thought the bid was too high.

    It’s true that for most freelancers getting quality, professional and paying clients can happen anywhere if you put in the work. Elance is an unnecessary middle man.

  3. I had a very different experience; I’ve been earning a living off Elance for just over a year now, and it’s made me change my whole viewpoint on what my life could be.

    There are two caveats, though: a) I am a young man and still have very low income requirements, as well as having a rather small portfolio, and b) I work in the Design & Multimedia field.

    The writing field on Elance is abhorrent, though, I agree. When my friend who is a writer asks me about finding work on Elance, I tell him to avoid it like the plague. My sister attempted to get these kinds of jobs, and the work and pay was abysmal, to say nothing of the low level of quality required.

    I make animated videos for people, though, and while I have definitely had my fair share of wasted time and clients who are awful, I’ve also found repeat clients who are very gracious, kind and a pleasure to work with – clients in America, France and the UK, who pretty much keep me busy permanently. Without the help of Elance, I would never have had the chance to meet up with these clients.

    I note with interest that you are situated in South Africa, as am I. I am surprised to hear that you are able to find better work here than on Elance, as that has been the opposite of my experience – jobs in South Africa in the video industry are low-paying, uncreative and uninspiring, and at the end of the day you’re left with a lacklustre portfolio.

    So, to sum up a very lengthy comment. If you’re in the Design and Multimedia field, most definitely, approach Elance. Another good field is programming – there is no way to do a half-assed job of programming, hence the rates are the highest on the whole site.

    If you’re a writer, avoid the site! The writing jobs on Elance make me give up faith in humanity.

  4. I started yesterday and I can’t stand it already. I need a job and I have placed out all my skills but I have to rethink this by deleting this account. I need a real job that i can get a stable salary/wage from. Things are too hard for me to be freelancing around Elance. No offence to those who find Elance great. It’s just my personal opinion on this.

  5. Not only do I agree with you Ryan on how insultingly low the pay scales are (I’m a writer), but to add insult to injury, my account was closed two days ago for no reason. I received an email that said the following: “During a Trust and Safety review we found an unacceptably high level of disputes, poor feedback and/or client complaints that negatively impacting client satisfaction. As a result of this performance review, your account has been closed.”
    No only have i NEVER had any negative feedback, I haven’t done an elance project or even answered an ad for at least 6 months–and this happened out of the blue. I have no idea what’s going on, but luckily I don’t care.

    1. They also cancelled my account yesterday. I have challenged them to prove any sort of violation, but they are just sending me copy/pasted answers. I guess they get rid of freelancers with little activity.

    2. Suspect they probably just didn’t like the fact that you hadn’t done any work there for six months and sent out some generic email. Wish there was a ‘like’ button on the comments – your “I don’t care” made me smile 🙂

  6. Hi also I receive an email that they found some issues so they close my account and I didn’t violate any of they said.
    looks Elance want to delete as many account of freelancers … First I really get mad because I have a rate of 4.8 but it is really difficult to get a job there is almost impossible, low payment is really common for web development … Also is not stable for someone that have many responsibilities.

    I thought Elance would help me to get better incomes but that never was the case.

    I hope to find a outsourcing company that needs a web developer soon, I really need a job

  7. I received a notice around the same time these other posters were receiving theirs. I also had not worked any Elance jobs in months as I was finding many jobs through Craigslist, Mediabistro, etc.

    My notice stated poor feedback (with all 4 and 5 star ratings) and that I had taken work off site. I never did such a thing.

    I didn’t bother to dispute it. I had stopped using the site some time ago due to their rating system. I dropped from lvl 5 to 3 with no explanation when they redid their algorithms.

    The jobs for writers are a joke. There are some high paying jobs but they go to people who under bid. I’ve had much better luck finding gigs the “old fashion way”.

    I wish I had seen this blog when I was trying to decide if Elance was even worth it.

    1. In the last month I’m seeing and being contacted by more and more writers who have had the exact same experience as you. They’re definitely on some kind of ‘purge’ to maximise their profits. I really don’t suspect they’re going to last very long TBH – their business ethic and model just isn’t sustainable for the long term.

  8. Hi,
    I have just woke up to find my account has also been closed. Reason: High number of negative client experiences.

    I work in the audio field and my account was created to fill in the gaps when I wasn’t as busy. Having applied for a lot of jobs, I maybe got one every other month. I only had one negative review from a client who was very problematic as they never fully disclosed the details of the job until I had accepted the job and after delivering the job they then expected revisions for the same cost which I was not willing to do do. Long story short, they became personal in the e-mails and left me negative feedback giving me 2.5/5 for most of the sections even though they were unfounded. One example was the delivery time which they scored 2.5/5 even though I received the final video at 5am and had completed my job by 1pm.

    I am not losing much as I only did 6-8 jobs in the space of 12 months but I couldn’t believe how much people were selling themselves short to make a bit of money. I am however unhappy that with no forewarning, my account was closed with no contact e-mail given or a more personal response.

    1. That was one of my big issues as well simply due to the fact there was no recourse for dispute. There was no way to say, hey, I think this is wrong. Instead, they just shut it down.

      Not very customer friendly.

  9. I received a notice at 11:18 PM EST yesterday. My notice stated I have a high number of negative client experience.

    I have only completed about 4 jobs via Elance. Two of which gave me 5 star ratings and the others did not leave a review.

    I’ve had a few clients who posted “job X” but when you’re awarded the job it becomes “job A – Z” at the same rate of “job X”. My first encounter of this – I completed the task. However, the other times I immediately rejected the jobs.

    I was in the Admin field which is extremely crowded with freelancers hence the pay rate is extremely low.

    I did make one good connection – since the second client I worked for on Elance (just over a year go) contacted me a few days ago saying “business is picking you and I need you for candidate selections and training”.

    I was excited to have my first repeat client on Elance – Now I do not have an account. I trust this client and I will be able to work around this.

  10. Hello,

    Elance is the biggest scam I have come across, my account had loads of connects which came with my membership.
    I was accumulating them for few months, they suddenly suspended my account. This came wthout any warning or notification to me.There is no appeal process as well. I have lost connects worth months of membership money which they charged to my
    card. Biggest scammers, shameful company, I would never register in their workplace again.

    With Regards,

    1. Same here kscoped ,
      After six months with 8 jobs and 5 stars with good feedback they deleted my account today, and they just dont answer me why. Unproficient and scammers simply.

  11. Also, something else I just thought of, they’re canceling accounts after the year starts. For the American freelancers, how are we supposed to get our tax forms? I’m moving in a few weeks, I have no way to update my address and a change of address card is only good for a month or so.

    Bad business.

  12. Elance and oDesk simpy sucks they don’t care about any thing but the $$$. First elance put my account under review unfortunately they can’t close it as there is a job in progress and after a week odesk closed my account. On Odesk i have 4.9 ratings and good work history. Closed my account stating that i’m having “High number of negative client concerns” 15 active candancies, 6 jobs completed successfully with no dispute.

    After the merger they have just gone mad thinking world is there. But let me tell you the time is near when they are going to get closed or may be some scrap dealer but it.

    The lesson i have heard is just don’t give a fuck about TOS, policy they are all shit. Which ever freelancing site you choose. Just try to make client work directly and make them permanent with good work.

      1. The thing is that I’ve seen bad reviews on Elance
        But I thought that it comes from interested parties
        Only after my bad experience, something that happened really fast !!!
        I realized how the bad reviews were right 🙁 Your post is a justice!

        Sorry for the incorrect English

        1. @BharatSaini
          I notice that Elance Updating their crooks’s profile!!!
          elance is a company of scammers
          Most of their contractors are scammers Indians
          aman619aggarwal: is a good example
          I worked with him and he just stole my money
          All his reviews are fake
          Notice the number of overall reviews of users
          Who submitted the reviews
          elance = Scam
          Fraud Scam company!

  13. It was so good to have come across this post. My odesk account has just been closed without any reason just when I thought I’d start getting serious about this freelancing thing. True I haven’t been very active on it but whatever little work I did, it gave me a good 4.9 rating. I was just heartbroken. How can they even be this cruel? My major concern however is, what do I do to embark upon a successful freelance writing career otherwise?
    And thanks for this post and all the comments. I feel I can breathe now 🙂

  14. Hi,

    My account is under review since February this year. I appeal for a final review since I still have a long term contract with my client.

    I’m afraid that they will take my account down. I’m a mother of two kids and that’s where I make a living.


  15. I’m so disappointed with ELance. I hadn’t been active and they essentially started to spam my email box. I unsubscribed from their service, removed my information, added them to spam block, and wasn’t even given the option to properly close my account within their admin. The whole process ELance presents creates too many hooks to jump through for something in which the quality or sense in spending time in doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure what ELance was doing before or how they managed their whole system before the purchase of oDesk, but this was purely an irritating experience. I’ll stick to the other old fashion methods some of which are already mentioned here.

  16. Hello! I agree 105% with Ryan. I think Elance is very unfriendly in their system. Is not easy to understand. I just won a small job for a design cover, and once the cover was finished the client disappeared and didn’t fund the money. So, I lost my time and money. I am so frustrated! As you said, the jobs are big, but with little pay. Can you please give me some tips of how to get clients through my site? I am specializing in eBooks formatting. Thank you. I wish you success in your writing business!

  17. I found the same problem as you, as an SEO specialist had been invited to bid on a job where the client wanted to pay $20 to optimized 70 pages of a website with total about 35 keywords in short of term. He did not pay even in my hours rate and I did for key research. elance charge us and make the bid goes so high and elance does not charge the client. It was a crazy project then I cancel membership shortly.

  18. LOL.. Elance is a joke and all that I can do is laugh at them. I have no words for their ridiculous antics. I’d suggest staying away from any Elance company.

  19. What I don’t understand is: Some say Elance is OK, some say it is a waste of time. So, where is the harm in leaving your profile on Elance, while also looking for work via what Ryan calls the Old School Way? Does it have to be Either / Or?

  20. I’m happy to have found this. Too late, though. Then again, Probably would have ignored it when I was deciding whether or not to join Elance.

    Same story from Pretoria. Just had my Elance account closed. I had a 4.8 rating, with only one client below 5 stars. Same rubbish mass mail – and worst of all, a client that still owes me what I need to pay my rent this month.

    I also had someone from Bangladesh copy my name, photo and link to my portfolio. A client of mine gave him the job, and it was a nightmare until I finally figured it out. Loopholes everywhere.

    Watch out for that one – check that nobody steals your identity on Elance.

    It seems they’re weeding us out, the ones who don’t bid on enough $10 writing gigs for 50k words. I was even considering upgrading to a paid account.

    I feel utterly cheated, conned, and outsmarted. At least we can still laugh about those schmucks, right?


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