oDesk Review

odesk review

What is oDesk, you might ask? oDesk is a place where people looking for freelance work and people looking to hire a freelancer can meet, arrange jobs, send and receive payments, and everything else that is required to work in the freelance realm.

They are similar in many ways to Elance, which we reviewed earlier.


So, how do you hire somebody through oDesk? Once you have an account (which is free), you can browse for someone to hire based on categories or skills, or you can use an advanced search to find providers, which is what oDesk calls their freelancers. Or, if you’d prefer, you can post a job and see which providers are interested in working for you. It’s fairly straightforward to find someone to hire.

Once you’ve chosen someone to potentially hire, you can interview them to make sure that they fit what you really want. You can also negotiate a few terms of the employment during this process. If you choose to hire them based on hourly pay (which is the most common method), you don’t have to just trust that they worked a certain number of hours, you will get a true confirmation of the hours they worked. It’s a part of their dual-sided guarantee: “an hour billed is an hour worked” and “an hour worked is an hour paid”.

How do they guarantee such a thing? Well, when a freelancer is doing work, they have to be logged in to a special program that will take screenshots at a rate 6 screenshots per hour. If, for a section of time, they claim to be working on your stuff but they are on YouTube or doing something else instead, you don’t have to pay them for that section of time. There are other things that will allow you to refuse to pay them for that time as well, as shown below:

odesk review payment guarantee

This is honestly good for everybody. If a freelancer is doing the work that they say they are doing, it guarantees that they will get a payment. If they are not, it guarantees that they can’t rip off the person that is paying them.

The buyer is given the ability to pay whenever he or she chooses to pay. If a buyer refuses to pay (bad idea), the freelancer is allowed to give them a big, negative feedback, and it seems that those that don’t maintain a 100% feedback rating have a harder time doing much of anything through oDesk. However, since this is not directly regulated by oDesk, it means that the interview process is designed to go both ways. When you are interviewing a potential provider to see if they can do what you want them to, they are (in a sense) interviewing you right back to see if they are comfortable trusting that you’ll pay them. This is especially true when working in the realm of pay-per-project jobs, or really anything outside of hourly where the “payment guarantee” does not apply.

Once everything is done and everybody is or has paid, both sides give feedback ratings to the other side. It’s important to work well with others in order to keep a feedback rating that will continue to allow you to, well, work well with others.

Getting Hired

Getting a freelance job through oDesk is somewhat similar. Freelancers can create a free account, update their profile with their abilities, and set an asking price. Then they can actively look for jobs that have been posted, or sit back and wait for a potential employer to find them. Since they are new, they will likely have to set a lower price in order to attract work. But, once they have some feedback, they can start asking for higher prices, as long as their skill level warrants it.

Once a potential job is found, both parties go through the same process that a buyer does when looking for a provider. Everything is very straightforward, and there are few special cases.

Keep in mind, though, that a new provider who wants to work hourly will have to download the oDesk application to keep track of the hours they are working.

How It Differs From Elance

There are a couple big differences between Elance and oDesk. In Elance, while a potential employer can get a free account, freelancers have to pay a monthly fee to be in the listing. At oDesk, both types of accounts are completely free to have and hold onto. For the freelancers, aka providers, oDesk offers a better deal since it won’t cost them anything if it doesn’t work out.

The other big difference lies in how an employer pays a freelancer. At Elance, the employer pays an amount to Elance and they act as an escrow service. So, the employer has to pay in advance. However, the employer is still protected because the freelancer never actually gets the money until they’ve completed the work. This is good for the freelancer, but it can hurt the chances that an employer will want to use the service, which, ironically, ends up hurting the freelancer if the number of employers drops too much. At oDesk, however, there is no upfront payment. Instead, people who manage to rip others off a couple of times will never be able to offer work again because nobody will accept work from someone who has ripped someone off in the past. But what about that one person that got ripped off? Through a conflict resolution center, oDesk does everything they can to prevent that from happening, but it can happen. This is definitely better for the potential employers, though it might not be as good for the freelancers, depending on how you look at it.

How oDesk Earns Money

But, wait, how does oDesk earn money if all accounts are free? It’s actually fairly simple. They take a 10% fee from every payment. It doesn’t actually cut into the freelancer’s earnings, though. Instead, when a freelancer sets a price, say $10 per hour, oDesk simply increases that amount by 10% before it shows it to potential employers. This is a fair and balanced system that only charges money when there is actual success.

Bottom Line

oDesk seems like a great place for somebody to start doing freelancing. No monthly fees allows someone to experiment with the idea to see how it goes without investing much into the actual attempt. It seems to lead to freelancers getting paid a reasonable amount when they are good enough to deserve it, and it allows those looking to hire to see what they are hiring through the feedback provided from others that have hired the same person.

In short, it looks good to me!

Steve Miller

Steve's interests lie mostly in Japanese games. He imports Japanese games and reviews them on his Japanese Game site Kuromatsuri.com.


  1. Thank you for your review of oDesk. We appreciate you sharing your opinion and doing the research needed to fairly evaluate this freelance service. We’ve read quite a few positive reviews of the site, but especially appreciate how you compared oDesk to Elance. We have seen fit to link to this article in our independent oDesk Reviews section. Anyhow, keep up the good work spreading truth.

  2. Karl Taylor

    There are other freelancing web sites like Getafreelancer.com or elance.com but Odesk is very good.
    I am working on Odesk for more than 2 years now and very much satisfied with it.
    Only one hurdle with Odesk is If you don’t have enough reviews people less consider you for hiring even if you are too good in your work.

  3. gmikeyg

    Terrible customer service. I have spent many hours on the phone and online trying to resolve an issue. Spent a week waiting for a resolution, still nothing now. I was promised multiple times to have a resolution within 24 hours. It never came. Now, I am sooooo angry about being lied to and mislead, you find me writing here. You cannot be notified when someone leaves you a review, so unless you are a paranoid narcissist, you will get the shaft from helping people by giving them a chance when they have no reviews and they fail to perform. They can be angry, hurt your profile, and walk away from their empty profile thinking that they can speak English well. But all of your hard work goes in the toilet. So you get hurt, they may walk away with a small upfront fee, and your profile is forever scarred. Notice how most of the fans actually work for odesk? How many more of these five star reviews did not disclose their affiliation?

    • Christie

      Yes. I was hanging on for a resolution, too, and nothing. The person didn’t pay me and Odesk couldn’t make sure that I got paid. So I don’t bother to work without a contract and the employer having a verified method of payment. Other than this one incident where I stayed up all night completing the work and didn’t get paid, my experiences have been positive. I have met some people who were wonderful to work with. Yes, people are crazy enough to ask you to sell your time for $1 an hour or less. On the other hand, I’ve been paid surprise bonuses for my good work. Just protect yourself as best you can and value your time.

      • Dor

        Same here. Horrible customers service – people who would rather talk back than actually work out a solution. I’ve been literally lied to on a number of occasions – and caught them. To make things worse, even showing them did not help. In one case a manager promised to take care of an issue personally – and quickly. Didn’t hear from them for 2 weeks and only when I called back and screamed – turns out he was on a holiday and he emailed me and asked me to tell him the story all over again. In another case, I got scammed by a client and a supervisor told me I shouldn’t complain because it gives her more work, and then said I was the only one complaining about the client – even though his feedback showed freelancers hired later on complaining about the same issues. The same supervisor admitted that oDesk won’t take action because the client was paying some of the money.

        They follow their own rules when they want to and don’t follow when they don’t want. When you ask questions, their answer is usually “we’re a private company, we don’t have to provide answers”.

        A company with a mentality of a shady taxi driver.

  4. ModestLady

    The only way to hurt your profile as an employer is to not complete your business. If you are looking for experienced workers on oDesk they are there but if you want to just hire the cheapest laborer than that is the quality of work you will get.
    I have signed up for both Elance and oDesk and I have to say I appreciate not being charged by a site to offer my services when it is already at a discounted rate. Working from home gives me a steady position in the company I am currently contracted to. I do not pay for my own payroll. I am paid regularly through my oDesk account and my employer approves my hours prior to offering the date for my pay to be cleared.
    That is clearly a win win situation. Plus: No Gas Budget!

  5. I have odesk account and debit card of odesk. Now I am working on infolinks and I want infolinks debit card. It is possible to have multiple master debit cards of different sites for single person?

  6. @Izhar

    It should be. There’s no reason I’m aware of that you can’t have more than one debit card from more than one site.

  7. SEO Marketing Montreal

    Hiring the highest bidders is not a guarantee against incompetent workers either. Make sure you correctly interview candidates before paying any advance: Some seem to be sending cover letter automatically without reading them. I once wrote a job offer of which the title was : Write 5 articles about LEED, then the description was saying that the candidate must have a strong knowledge of what is LEED and write about LEED credits MR6, MR7 and MR8. Guess what? After hiring the candidate, I got a message from him requesting me to send him the subjects to write about.

  8. sydni

    our experience with odesk was not favorable. the freelancer we hired and screened as carefully as one could being sure to write out our expectations on SEO work although agreed to by the freelancer turned into a broken contract of him using unethical backlinking tactics. our company received many disturbing emails from companies all across the world stating we had illegally placed links. even tho our hired freelancer gave us his word he would not do anything unethical. would not be inclined to hire any other worker from odesk because of this.

    • Emory Rowland

      In my experience, freelance sites don’t work well for link building because link builders are tempted to take shortcuts in quality that go unnoticed to the average business owner. I’ve had much better luck with web development, design and content creation.

  9. Alice C

    I have been working for 2 months as a freelancer on oDesk and have only good words about them so far. Got to love their 2-sides rating system as well as the oDesk application, and it may be just me being lucky or choosing carefully my employers, but thank goodness so far it all worked out very smoothly, and actually met a few awesome people to work with over there.
    I saw a few comments/feedback (about 5-6) left by other freelancers or employers as results of bad collaborations, but I believe that could be avoided by choosing carefully your contracts.

    …Just my twopence. I honestly hope my future experience with oDesk will prove as good as the past 2 months :)

  10. Joe

    Sounds good and worth checking out. I was playing around with peopleperhour a while back and once they take their fee it can really eat into your wages which is not ideal and especially for smaller jobs. The experience was pretty offputting to be honest.

  11. LT

    Had some success with odesk for IT help and one design project, but not really helpful when I need some in-shop help. For that went to Craiglist in past, but am liking Hour.ly now.

  12. reygood

    Odesk is fair to both the freelancers and the employers. If there are no-good freelancers, there are no-good employers as well. The only thing you can do is choose wisely.

  13. Kayle

    Beware of odesk. They are reading your private emails.
    They are reading your private emails.
    They are reading your private emails.
    They are reading your private emails.

    As part of oDesk’s continuing commitment to ensure all users are in compliance with our policies, we are implementing a quality review on all cover letters.

    Blah Blah

  14. Michael Mangalam

    If you are looking to hire business consultant types, check out ParetoCentral.com, which is the “Global marketplace to find consultants”. It works similar to craigslist, except that each listing gets global exposure. At the same time, consultants tend to be from US.

    – Michael

  15. Srinivas

    Odesk’s concept is excellent and all three (Odesk, service provider and employer) get benefited out of the work. I have joined odesk and by god’s grace I have got good employers at Odesk and earning money. Once we have built rapport with employers it is much easier to get new projects one after other. Thanks to Odesk and all employers with who I worked with.

  16. mark

    DO NOT TOUCH O DESK – first contractor wasn’t a provider just some dodgy bloke who used other providers, then got nasty and said we were causing trouble because we started to question his time frames – next lot couldn’t even import and export csv files despite having all the odesk qualifications and test, they quoted 25 hours and logged over 50 – they got half the funds before we could stop it have had to cancel the card to stop o desk taking the other half – cannot get a resolution from o desk as they now absolve themselves of any obligation – what a bunch of cowboys

  17. Inram

    I’ve used oDesk and have had no problems so far. I also just bumped into this new freelance website, not sure what they have coming but it looks interesting. Sprigo.com

  18. Josh

    Odesk is one of the many ways that scammers feed on innocent/naive people which also makes it a great place to do scam baiting. I encourage all of you to partake in scam baiting these monsters off Odesk and have loads of fun doing it. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as watching their “cleverly” laid plans laid to waste.

  19. Buy College Essays

    Scam baiting? Josh, that’s why they have created the so-called Escrow. You pay the firm, not the person. As easy as it sounds, it’s quite safe.


  20. Deborah Spagnuolo

    I love Odesk. When I need someone for small jobs, or something that only takes a few hours a week, Odesk is perfect. Once I find a worker I really like, it’s easy to use. They handle all of the payments and accounting. The fee is reasonable since I’m not using them for tons of hours.

    Best feature is the ability to see the screen shots of the workers. If I get the sense they are billing me for more time than actually worked, I can go to the screenshots and see what they’re doing.

    I highly recommend workers from the Philippines. I’ve had problems with culture differences with Indian workers, but not with workers from teh Philippines.

  21. Dion Lynk

    I’m going to give Odesk a shot. I’ve had them bookmarked for about a year now. I’ll come back with more after the break…

  22. Bill

    Good luck trying to make any money on Odesk when you are competing with people who will work for $1 per hour

  23. Robert46

    I became utterly frustrated with oDesk before I even got through getting started (as a potential employee). It’s a tedious and difficult process even to start with it. I left my last job because all work had to be done on a huge collection of Web-based applications, each one more horrid than the last, with no standard interface and no one way of doing things. It was so annoying, I just quit. oDesk is just as tedious, dysfunctional, and aggravating. With oDesk, you get two jobs — the employment that you may or may not get, and then the job of dealing with oDesk’s procedures, and Web pages.

  24. A.R.

    I hired one contractor. He stole my idea and oDesk had to suspend his account. I hired another one a day after that and he took my money and stopped responding to my emails. oDesk had to suspend his account. The second guy was top ranked. Go to elance. They dont charge you for your projects. oDesk is not worth it and the resource quality is terrible. Just a fair warning.

  25. Odesk is a good site for people who would want legitimate work at home. I am sad to hear about some unfortunate experience of some readers about odesk. But in my experience, it is a very nice site for extra money. I am still open in trying other freelancing sites in the near future.

  26. hackrishna

    Never understand why customer pays to install wordpress
    or write HTML. Odesk and its so called candidates is fooling customers. HAHA HAHA

  27. Support Specialist

    Don’t waste your time with Odesk. Check out Elance or any of the other sites out there. Odesk’s “customer service” is awful. If you have a problem, they won’t work with you to get it resolved. You can only deal with them via email and it could take weeks to get any sort of resolution. I gave up after a week of ridiculous back and forth emails. They suspended my account (due to an error on their part) and would not work with me to get it resolved.

  28. Lornajane

    I have been working in Odesk from April 2011 until now. I am proud to say that although there might be some minor glitches in Odesk, I have earned around $700.00 in a 6 weeks this summer. It is a good way to earn money at home. I am pleased with working at Odesk.

  29. ron

    I used scriptlance in the past, and got mostly excellent results. It kind of sucks that I have already built up a good reputation on scriptlance and now all of the action is at odesk- so everyone needs to start from scratch. But the really good thing is that the service provides a pretty awesome way to keep tabs on workers.

  30. Sharon

    I have been working with oDesk for quite awhile now and have established a good reputation. Yes, there are unscrupulous employers and contractors alike, but that seems to be the case all across the board with any freelance site. The key is to be selective. If it’s too good to be true – beware. Potential employers’ active and completed projects and feedback as well as pay rate are all visible under the job listing so you can see their preferred pay scale and review employee relations by reading feedback. This is excellent for us freelancers – because we can choose projects with more precision, increasing the odds of a good match. As an employer, there are tests to rate skill levels, feedback, online portfolios of previous work, an interview process and so forth for their protection. I realize it is a risk – and some of the employers I have worked with have been burned by other unscrupulous contractors – my word of advice is – read the cover letters carefully, watch out for braggarts… ask for references. Check them. Just be careful. There are those of us on oDesk who are more than willing to give a quality job to you – the ideal for us is to get work – scamming people only ruins it for everyone. It is a shame people resort to such means… just be aware.

  31. Isa

    To be clear, Odesk can be a good tool if the employer is VERY careful.

    I suggest only going with a fixed amount for a project. The contractor should be able to estimate their time and approve a fixed amount if they have experience with the project type. OF COURSE it is suggested by Odesk that one pays by the hour. Naturally odesk and the contractors make more money (even if contractors had misrepresented their capabilities. They can just say, “sorry, it’s taking me more time, blah blah blah…”).

    In the interview, make sure you cause them to respond to very specific items in the job description to check their knowledge, making sure that they NOT ONLY have a portfolio, but that they identify knowledgeably what role(s) they had in the portfolio projects.

    Insist on complete paragraphs of information in discussions (versus texting) and require details as the project progresses.

    Finally, try to NOT pay any but maybe a token initial payment. Keep the contractors motivated!

    If you are a seasoned employer you know already to be polite. Use the words please and thank you generously, and pay on time when the project is complete.

  32. Marie

    I have had 1 good contractor (out of 6-7) with ODesk who actually finished a project for me. The others disappear in the middle of working on my projects and take off with any money I’ve given them. Then I’m always told by the next contractor that the work the last person did was crap and it needs to be redone and fixed, of course costing more money. ODesk has horrible customer service, they don’t care about employers at all and totally disregard any agreements that have been made between the contractor and the employer. I personally, will never be using ODesk ever again. The contractors are terrible, especially if you are a woman and are outsourcing work.

  33. Riyam

    Odesk is a good site to work from home. However, there are some bad companies there in Odesk. If you want to apply for a job, apply only for hourly paying jobs. Please do not apply for Fixed price jobs because some companies are not paying well as they agree to pay. I had a bad experience with some companies in Odesk. So, please be care while you apply for jobs in Odesk.

  34. Ruby

    Odesk is terrible their verification department gave me a headache. Their jobs pay miserable and mostly hire from other countries that will accept 1 dollar an hour. The employers abuse of the contractors by paying so little and demanding so much.

  35. Cathy

    Many USA based clients search for contractors who will work for $1.00 or less. It is very difficult to make a decent hourly wage on this site. I gave up trying.

    • Emory Rowland

      Cathy, I’ve found that contractors at that price point are often cutting corners either on quality of deliverables or originality. I know I’d be wary after having been burned a time or two, not by oDesk but by other connections.

  36. YoungBlazecky

    I prefer using seoclerks.com instead of odesk. It’s much easier and safer. You can give it a shot buddies :)

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