A Rose by Any Other Name: Introducing Upwork

If you know your Shakespeare, you’ll recognise that ‘a rose by any other name’ is from a line in Romeo and Juliet: ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. In other words: changing the name of something doesn’t change its nature (despite what failing schools would have you believe).

Such, I fear, may be the case with Upwork; the name may only have been changed to protect the innocent. Upwork, I hear you ask? Who?

You know; first you had Elance and oDesk, both online freelancing marketplaces. Then in March 2014 they kind-of-merged-yet-stayed-separate: ‘Elance and oDesk have joined forces to make our online workplaces better than ever. More jobs. More freelancers. More opportunity for everyone.’

Hmm.

The Merger that’s Still Not Quite A Merger. Yet.

Elance was traditionally the site for ‘proper, professional freelancers’ as a fellow freelancer put it, and grief-stricken cries were heard throughout Freelancing Land when they heard of this affiliation with oDesk, which had a slightly less salubrious reputation. But Elance still existed and some people still swore by it.

And now there’s Upwork, which apparently, according to the chirpy email I received this morning, is “bringing a new vision for Elance and oDesk.” Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, explains on the Elance blog that they have “an exciting and limitless future in mind,” and chose to merge the platforms into ‘Upwork’ “to better convey our vision and represent our current and future community. It’s a name that inspires us and we hope it will inspire you as well.”

Hmm.

A Brighter Future?

“Upwork will be a platform where independent professionals can thrive. With access to work history stats, the ability to earn Top Rated status, and information on high-demand skills, freelancers will have the tools to get more and better jobs,” claims Stephane.

Elance.com will still be supported and remain ‘unchanged for now’, but oDesk has already gone and simply redirects to Upwork.com. All future development will be focussed on Upwork, and the promised benefits of this new platform are:

  • New messaging tools for faster collaboration, which will include chat and video facilities.
  • A new mobile app for iPhone and Android (not that useful for me; I’m a Windows Phone user).
  • A new Hiring Hub with helpful articles and guides (I’ve had a brief look. It doesn’t seem that different to the freelancer search facility or the blog of any other freelance marketplace to me, but I suppose it’s early days).
  • Shared workplaces for teams.

Proving their worth: An Uphill Struggle for Upwork?

So will these changes lift Upwork above its competitors?

Every freelance marketplace has its pitfalls. Some are free to join, but take a huge cut of your earnings, or prevent those with free membership asking questions of clients – something that’s often all too necessary when job descriptions frequently consist of vagaries such as ‘make me a logo’, ‘do some work at my London office’, or ‘write me a long book with a squirrel’; one can only presume they’re after a book featuring a squirrel here, and not insisting you take on a nut-loving, tree-hopping, bushy-tailed rodent as your co-author.

Other sites charge hefty monthly fees, whether you get work or not; or provide a freelancer-friendly marketplace for free, but take a huge cut of your earnings. And regardless of which site you’re on, you’re competing with people from all over the world, with widely varying skills and standards of living, for jobs from clients who want the earth – or don’t know quite what they want.

I’m yet to find one that seems to exert any consistent quality control, which is why although many sites supposedly ban the posting of jobs asking for fraudulent academic work, I still get bombarded with requests to write people’s theses and essays.

So the jury is out on Upwork. When it’s back in again, I’ll let you know.

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