Upwork: Elance/Odesk Rebrand Favors Freelancers Online And Available To Chat

Upwork. It’s the new name in the online freelance job marketplace.

It’s been over a year since freelance marketplace major players Elance and oDesk announced to Small Business Trends and other news outlets that they were combining to form one superpower platform. But while the merger occurred behind the scenes, the two brands have continued to operate as distinct platforms. This has come as some relief to freelancers and businesses, as there has been a well-known yet unofficial hierarchy of freelance platforms for years.

With the upcoming rebranding and merging of Elance and oDesk, freelancers and businesses alike have been wondering what the new platform will look like and how the changes will affect the way that people have been doing business for years. After all, there are more than 4 million business clients and more than 10 million freelancers actively working across the two platforms combined, according to Tech Crunch.

On May 6, 2015, oDesk as we know it ceased to exist and Upwork was launched in its place.

Visiting the old oDesk URL brings you directly to Upwork, with a reassuring tagline so that people don’t immediately click away.

oDesk is now Upwork. You’ve come to the right place. We’ve upgraded oDesk to help businesses connect with great talent faster than ever before.

Elance is unaffected – for now. Christina Schultz, a spokesperson from Upwork, told Small Business Trends that Elance is not part of the initial rebranding stage and is unaffected by the new website launch.

The plan is to keep Elance.com around for a couple of years and then eventually it will be going away.

Shultz said that the decision to allow Elance to continue to run as a standalone platform for the time being was made to allow the freelancers and clients who are already comfortable using Elance to “preserve their continuity” and to “give them a chance to acclimate.” This decision makes sense to Elance freelancers and clients alike, who recognize that there are business relationships on Elance that have existed for years. Being forced to move over to a new platform without expecting that the change will affect their communication, workflow and productivity in the short-term is not a reasonable expectation.

Finally, long-held questions by freelancers and businesses alike are starting to be answered. What will the new platform be like?

Upwork will utilise a new mobile app and a real-time chat service, in its desire to speed up the selection and on boarding process. Stephane Kasriel, the new CEO of Upwork, has said that it currently takes, on average, three weeks from the time a business posts a new job listing before a freelancer is chosen and hired for the role. Upwork aims to bring this process down to minutes, and will utilize its mobile app and real-time chat service to facilitate this.

The real-time chat service is designed to take the place of the current “Workroom” feature, which is basically an email service where previous messages are stored in chronological order in one ongoing thread. The chat service is designed so that clients will be able to connect with freelancers who are online at the time, chat with them about their requirements, and begin the task immediately. Files and other documents will be able to be shared through the chat interface.

Critics of this new system state that the online chat system will benefit those freelancers who are willing to stay online almost twenty-four hours per day, waiting for a client to get in touch with them, and will disadvantage freelancers who are not online and available to chat at all hours. And of course, the fact that the website is all accessible through the new mobile app will only help to facilitate this bias. It is argued that whether a freelancer is online at the time that a business posts a new job listing should not be the number one criteria for assessing the skill set of the freelancer and their suitability for the role. While most clients would have an idea of the type of freelancer they are looking for for the role, the set-out of the new Upwork site will skew clients towards favoring freelancers who are immediately available and responsive to their chat requests.

Arguably, the freelancers who are better suited to the role maybe those people who are already busy performing a similar role for another client, rather than those freelancers who are presently not working and spend their time waiting online for a new opportunity to become available.

Time will tell how much of an impact the push for “online and available, all the time” will have on the current state of the freelance job marketplace.

[Image via Upwork.]