Elance vs Odesk: Find the Best Freelance Opportunities

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Elance vs UpworkFreelancing offers individuals an opportunity to define their own schedules while pursuing projects of their choosing. From writing to mobile app design work, more and more companies are looking to hire out creative work to individuals online. Elance and Upwork (previously known as oDesk) are two major players when it comes to connecting companies with freelance writers, designers, marketers, and much more. If you can do something, and do something well, there is a good chance someone is looking for you to step in and tackle projects both large and small. Elance and Upwork provide a marketplace for individuals to showcase their talents, and companies to mine talent pools for the right fit for the job they have. We reviewed both companies and have detailed our findings, offering you our insights on everything from getting paid to finding the right niche for your freelance work.

Visit Website: Elance

Visit Website: Upwork (formerly oDesk)

How it Works

Both Elance and Upwork use a very similar system for connecting companies to freelancers. Individuals go on the respective website and upload a profile. The more detailed you add to your profile (with information about your background, past work history, degrees, etc.) the better chance you have at landing work. You then search for the type of work you want to do and “bid” on a project. If a company accepts your bid, you then sign a contract and start the project.


Another important factor in deciding between Upwork and Elance is the amount of work that is being bid on. Both Elance and Upwork boast that over 500,000 companies use each site, but Upwork gets the nod for having a higher volume of job postings in 2012. It is important, however, to note that Upwork has more freelancers vying for these jobs. See the comparison table for the actual numbers by company.

Applying for Work

The biggest difference between these two companies comes in to play when you want to apply for multiple jobs.

Elance has a tiered system that limits your profile with the free version, as well as limits the amount of jobs you can apply for in a given month to 40. As you begin to pay a monthly fee, you have an increase in the amount of jobs you can apply for, as well as more visibility to employers with your profile.

Upwork works by giving you a low weekly submission amount, and raising that amount when you take skill tests and surveys. These tests and surveys aim at showcasing your knowledge so employers might elect you based on your skill set and knowledge in a particular area. While Elance allows you more up-front submissions, we give the edge to Upwork for remaining free to users and allowing you to showcase your expertise to potential clients.

Getting Paid

One of the most important factors in deciding what direction to take your freelancing opportunities is how you get paid. Upwork uses a system where once you log in and begin working, a “snapshot” system periodically tracks your time and progress. This helps to avoid disputes with clients and makes sure you get paid on time. With Upwork, you have two categories of payment structures and each job will fall in to one of these two categories: hourly and fixed-price. Hourly jobs get paid every week through either PayPal, funds transfers, or pre-paid debit cards. Fixed-price jobs are set at the beginning of each project.

Elance uses a similar tracking system to ensure the correct amount of work is being done on any given project. Elance uses a central hub called “Work View” where you sign in and use when working on your projects. Employers can view your progress in real-time and see how much work you have done and when you did it. Elance also has the same two hourly and fixed-price options for projects. Payments can also be processed through wire transfers, bank checks or PayPal.

Upwork gets a slight edge in this category for paying its freelancers sooner in most instances as compared to Elance. Elance can take up to 10 days for payment if you are not using PayPal, while Upwork usually transfers your money in under a week.

Comparison Table

ElanceUpwork Logo
Signup CostFreeFree
Freelance Job Categories10075+
Companies Using Service500,000+500,000+
Jobs Posted Last Year1,100,000+1,500,000+
Registered Freelancers2,500,000+3,100,000+
Service Charge Paid by Client8.75%10%
Basic Costs to Freelancer$0$0
Max Applications per Month with Free Plan4025
BBB AccreditationA+A+

Note on max applications per month: Elance offers paid packages where freelancers can apply to more than 40 opportunities per month. Upwork offers more opportunities per month if freelancers meet certain obligations.

Most Popular Types of Work

If you are a writer, then there’s a good chance both Elance and Upwork will have plenty of opportunities for you to bid on. Each site breaks down more general categories like “writing” or “data entry” into more specific categories so users can hone in on what interests them and what they can excel at. Elance has the edge in sorting for more specific skills and jobs by providing 100 subcategories to choose from, whereas Upwork only has 75. Each one seems to specialize in certain areas. These listings are the most popular opportunities posted on each site. Take a look and reference your particular skill to see which site might have more opportunities for you.


  • Website Development
  • Mobile App Development
  • SEO
  • Graphic Design
  • Content Writing
  • Translation
  • Data Entry
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Admin Support
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Finance and Management
  • Legal


  • Website Development
  • Software Development
  • Networking and Information Systems
  • Writing and Translation
  • Admin Support
  • Design and Multimedia
  • Customer Service
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Business Services

Conclusion – Upwork is the Best Choice for Most

While both companies are a great tool for individuals looking for part-time, full-time, and even group work, Upwork comes out ahead in our rankings based on their volume of available work and system to which they fit freelancers with the right work. Before you commit to one company over the other, we encourage you to check out both sites and see which one might be right for you. We should mention that both sites have excellent reviews from both businesses and individuals alike, so we could not favor one company over the other in this category. Whichever company you choose, you will find a host of opportunities available for you to explore your freelance career.

Ryan Rauch graduated from Scripps School of Journalism in 2009 and has been writing for We Rock Your Web since 2012. Ryan enjoys writing and researching new and evolving home security measures, and has a passion for technology.

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1 Comment on "Elance vs Odesk: Find the Best Freelance Opportunities"

Ann T
Ann T

Upwork sucks, bring back Elance!


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