Tips for Elance Outsourcing

By Mark Ling
Tips for Elance Outsourcing


(Note: Elance is now Upwork. You can use Upwork to outsource as you would with Elance. In fact, it's a better system!)

Hi Everyone,

As an internet marketer, one thing that you’ll find is that there are just not enough hours in the day in order for you to grow your online business as fast as you’d like.

Not to mention that some of the activities that you need to do to make great commissions online require work that you may find to be boring.

Some people enjoy article writing, other people find it tedious, some people find graphic design to be painfully difficult, others struggle with getting their website online and so forth.

The great news is that you don’t need to hire someone full time in order to get these kinds of tasks done and one of the best resources on the web for outsourcing one-off projects is a place called Elance.

At Elance you can outsource one-time or occasional tasks for a one off fee. These may be contracted to experts in various areas of affiliate marketing including: writing content for your websites (including newsletters, articles, free reports etc), graphic design (e.g. for your website header graphic, or free report cover, etc), programming, voice over work and more.
Just to give you a little more detail, the Elance services categories go beyond those just used by an affiliate marketer and expand out to include:

*    Programmers – web, software, SEO, mobile, blogs, database and others.
*   Designers – graphic, logo, animation, illustration, banners, brochures and others.
*    Writers – articles, web content, blogs, translations, copywriting, technical writing, ghost writing, e-books and others.
*    Marketers – advertising, SEM, social media, sales lead generation, telemarketing, e-mailers, research and surveys.
*    Administration – customer service, virtual assistants, data entry, web research, e-mail handling, transcription, word processing and others.
*    Consultants – accounting, finance, engineering, legal, product design, human resources, management and others.
There are more than 150,000 experts in various fields available on Elance.

A good post will result in many bids on your project, often dozens.

It pays to be very specific when it comes to your job posts, that makes it easier for Elancers to bid, and gives you a greater chance that you’ll receive what you expect.

For example, if you wish to have someone create a 20 page report on ‘The 10 biggest mistakes people make when trying to quit smoking’ then I recommend that you post this project as a ‘mini ebook about how to quit smoking – 7500 words minimum’

You can provide more specific details about the exact title of the report, etc, once you choose your successful bidder. If you really want to be private about it, you can just say that you need a mini-ebook written that is 7500 words, and then you can tell them the topic after they have bid. You are more likely to get a bidder that knows a thing or two about your topic though if you specify it in your project headline or description.

The reason I prefer to put the word count in is that everyone has a different idea of what font size is appropriate, what margins your page should be and so forth. If you only specify the number of pages that you require then you could conceivably end up receiving half the number of words written than if you specified the minimum word count. It’s much better to do it this way.

It also pays to make sure that you request at least 2 samples of your elance bidder’s work. Post that in the job description. If the Elancer doesn’t read the project properly and doesn’t list any samples, then just ignore them and more on.

When it comes to graphic design, I usually prefer to receive at least 5 samples of their work (as it is not as time consuming looking at graphic design samples as it is to compare writing work).

Also remember, don’t necessarily choose the cheapest bidder. Remember that when you create content for your websites, real people are reading your articles, real people are deciding whether or not they wish to subscribe to your newsletter, and real people are deciding whether or not to read each of your emails and so forth. So it pays to provide them with content that they will enjoy and learn from, not just a collection of words that vaguely resembles the topic they were searching for.

When selecting a bidder, I prefer to choose someone who has at least 10 feedback ratings and who has over 95% positive feedback (if not higher). After that I look at the quality of their sample work. If I’m still not sure, I put a test project through them, e.g. I might ask them to write a couple of articles for me for $20 or something.

Once you find a good Elance worker who does a great job for you, it pays to invite them in future when you have new projects, as it’s better to build a relationship with someone that you can trust, rather than having to sift through different applications every time you have a job to post.

If your need is for programming work then you should probably utilize services because the responses will be greater in number, and I find that the work is just as good if not better than programmers that you find at elance. 

Once your project is underway, you communicates directly with the contractor through Elance in the project workroom or via the messaging center.  Progress reports are made through this medium, as are submissions of the completed project material.  The workroom and message center are also used to communicate any editorial needs, corrections or adds and extras to the contract.

Through the Elance Workroom for the project, you may work with the provider until you are satisfied that the material or service meets your expectations.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I’m keen to hear your comments and questions. While I have a lot of people working for me in house, I’ve just ticked over $100,000 in spending on Elance, so it is certainly a place that has been very helpful for me, especially when I have more projects going on than my staff can handle.

Staff? You have staff? I hear you say. Yes, that’s where this online business can head for you (if you want it to). Eventually when your online business is booming, you may find yourself outsourcing tasks very frequently so you may wish to hire someone full time to fulfill those tasks for you and only you. I started out with just me, then I hired a student to work for me for 10 hours a week (before I knew about elance), and now I’ve grown my online presence into a collection of multi-million dollar web properties. The ability to delegate work to other people who are more skilled than myself in various areas has been one of (if not THE) biggest reasons for my huge success online and will be for you too.

msrao2010 14 years ago
After reading this post.I have come to know,how I can choose the best workers for considerable amount with keeping in mind good quality content.Thanks Mark for taking your valuable time and sharing wonderful tips for completely newbie like me to affiliate marketing.
steve baker 14 years ago
I hear it time in and time out again OUTSOURCE and I'm slowly understanding that it can help you un so many ways thanks for the post and tips!
Celie 14 years ago
What an amazing amount you have spent on Elance! Shows how we may trust your recommendations about it for sure, many thanks.
Periasamy 14 years ago
Very Nice Post. Thanks a lot.
JIm 14 years ago
Mark makes it sound easy. However, my own experience has been different with elance. First, I should say my article quality I accept is only "quality". Many of these writers should NOT be writing because the articles are of poor quality. Finding a "quality" writer is VERY hard to do. If a person is lucky enough to find a "quality" writer then use that writer as much as possible since there are so many poor writers on elance and elance type of websites.
Owen Ashby 14 years ago
Some great advice here. I've just had some copy written by a freelancer from Craig's list and while it is technically OK it is pretty much useless. It's not been a costly lesson...but it is a lesson and now I'll be following Mark's advice to the letter!
Patricia 14 years ago
I worked professionally as a writer in the "real world," and then thought it would be nifty to go thru Elance but I backed off after 3 absolutely disastrous experiences and will never, ever go back. I will, however, share a couple of comments from the provider's point of view.

Every provider is encouraged to post samples of their work on Elance. It is inappropriate to ask for "samples" to be drawn up just for you. It's inappropriate to ask for work that isn't paid for, that is, work on spec. Unless they've changed things since I left, the minimum amount you can spend or bid on any job is $50.

You'll have people climbing all over your request for proposals if you offer a decent rate. There are people from around the world -- 3rd world -- who will do the various jobs for virtually nothing. Don't go there. Jobs are badly needed HERE in the U.S., for one thing, plus you run the risk of getting exactly what you pay for with non-native speakers.

Alberto Rouiller 14 years ago
Good article Mark. I need some help with article marketing and article submission so this is definitely something worth considering.
You might want to expand it further in a future post about when to hire from elance or rent-a-coder vis-à-vis outsourcing from the Philippines or from India.
Christopher Rose 14 years ago
As both a provider and user of outsourcing, I have to say that Elance is a really clunky site and you really ought to check out Odesk.

It isn't perfect by any means but it is a whole lot better than Elance, which I have long since given up on.
Brian De Den 14 years ago
All true words.... Nice to be reassured...
thank s

for that great post. i don't use Elance for my outsourcing . cause i have a few places where i got my article/ header/ press releases and for cheaper then them.

Shriram Gangadharan Ayyar 14 years ago
I work online full-time and thank you writing this article in favour of working online.
Ross Leadbetter 14 years ago
Thanks for the general information about E Lance. Your words have been helpful.
Beth 14 years ago
Thanks for the info, I am one of those people being drowned with tasks! I use elance for article writing but really need help getting a multitude of sites up. Thanks for the article - I am paying about $4 for 500 words, what would be a rough estimate for an ebook of around 7500?
Mark Ling 14 years ago
@Jim - Yes I have had similar disastrous experiences with elance which made me stop using them for about 2 years at one stage, however I have found that lately the top writers and top graphic designers and top voiceover talet seems to be very good. As with any place, if you choose the cheapest providers or people without stunning examples and so forth, you've got a chance of not getting what you want. While others are choosing elancers who bid at $7 per article, I'm paying $20 to $30 per article, so I don't share your bad experience as a result.

@Patricia - Absolutely, and I usually don't accept writers for jobs from non-native english speaking countries for that reason, however I do often accept them for graphics jobs if I like their sample work.

@Christopher Rose - Yes Odesk is great and especially good for tasks like seo and link building.

Just to people reading, this wasn't an article about how to outsource for dirt cheap, this was an article about how I use elance to get quality work done for me when my in house staff are overloaded with work. I wrote this so you can learn from my experience, but I do imagine many of you will find that my approach here is certainly on the expensive side of outsourcing.

If you are looking to outsource for lower prices then the country that I've had the best success with is the philippines and you will find great people from there on As with any country the philippines also has it's share of poor quality workers, so make sure you choose the best applicant from a large number of them and not just the first person who applies for your job post.
RACNicole 14 years ago
Hi, this is Nicole from (formerly known as

Just to keep everyone abreast of what's happenin' in the outsourcing industry, vWorker provides access to not only programming workers, but writing, illustration, even data entry workers as well (and more). You can get a sense of the broad scope of service here:

If you have any questions, please let me know. You can also call in to talk to a facilitator 7 days a week, or email us.

Curt D 14 years ago
Hi Mark,
Curt here, one thing I would add that I always look for is this. Don't just look at feedback score, go and look at the write ups and see how many comments they have in their last 10 jobs. If you see someone getting 4 to 5 stars and NO FEEDBACK or added sentence, then this is trouble. Most of the time if someone does a great job, people will take the time to write up a sentence. When someone is okay, most people will just give a good score, as to not piss the person off or feel like a jerk, but will obstain from writing something. Writing someone shows that the other clients were impressed enough and happy enough to WANT to write something good. Scores without comments over 10 or 20 straight jobs scares the crap out ot me and makes me wonder "Why did all these past clients give a 4 or 5 start rating but NO ONE wrote a comment or sentence of support? Where they just being polite or just wanted to get it done and move on?

Cancer Cure 14 years ago
I'm just getting to a point where I want to start doing some outsourcing, so this post couldn't have come at a better time. It's so reassuring to have criteria to work from, things that I should ask potential workers and things to watch out for. I particularly liked your tip on asking for articles by the word, not by the page. Mark, I want to thank you for a very helpful and informative post.
Colin Hayvice 14 years ago
Hi Mark
Congrats I found the article very interesting and in some parts enlightening. The 7500word mini ebook idea was a "lightglobe" for me. It is hard for newbies(like me) who go to workshops to build a website and are taught to just put PLR articles and like on their sites. I can see that this is just to prove that the presenter has in fact enabled you to get your website up within the time promised.
Regards Colin
David 14 years ago
I'd like to engage someone to upgrade my blog to the latest version of Word Press and to check and validate the plug-ins. I'm too scared to do it myself in case I crash it . I'm more than a bit concerned with the risks associated with nominating a stranger, site administrator, to affect those changes but I guess I can reduce that risk by deeply vetting that person. Agreed?

Can anyone give me a clue on likely cost, please?

What's my best bet? Elance or Odesk?

Any and all advice appreciated
Gabriel 14 years ago
I have been considering trying to outsource but just have not taken that step. Perhaps I am to nervous about paying for services or I am not ready yet. Sounds real good though. I am sure I will be trying these types of outsourcing techniques. Thanks for the very helpful insight to a field of marketing I have yet to experience.
anthony thomas 14 years ago
I used Elance to make a website for me and it just dragged on and on with stupid and rather silly mistakes within its construction and I did give them a similar website I wanted made but they just cloned the template instead. I did initially look at the feedback from other users and it was up to 90% which was the best at that time and obviously was the main reason for picking them and I hate to think how bad the rest of the web designers could have been overall. The firm I had would continually disappear on me and say they would be passing the next part onto somebody else. Attempted to get my initial deposit $600 back and going to an arbitrator would have doubled my expense and overall loss and it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be honest. I would think twice about using Elance for any work again.
Francisco Acosta Reyes 14 years ago
While I also highly recommend Elance I think that you need to be very careful with your project decription. First, you need to describe very thoroughly what your project is about, and if you are a newbie make sure the person you'll be working with is willing to provide you with assistance. Maybe this will be a bit hard but just ask two or three questions to him on any doubts you have. If you find the person willing, you're on the right track. Also, when writing content make sure it is well balanced. If the elancer is writing a 7500 article, make sure the subjects covered are balanced, specially if the content is to be published in your site. That is, each page on your site should be 300 words minimum.
Also I agree, don't go for the cheapest. Check their background. Are they only elancers? Where are they working? Are they in college? What are they studying? If you decide to hire a new elancer, this is very important.
Alan -- $100K Small Business Coach 14 years ago
Elance can work extremely well, however, it usually fails quite miserably.

The key here is to have an online profile with a COMPELLING marketing message. AND when you respond to any request for a proposal with a VERY COMPELLING marketing message. That marketing message isn't usually TELLING them how good you are, it's usually asking the right questions about what they want, and building a mouth watering image that they could get once they call you to start the conversation.

One other problem that happens with Elance and is that many of the people looking for help there are bottom fishers. The primary concern of many that are looking is GET IT CHEAP rather than GET QUALITY help that will give them the most valuable help.

So, again, your marketing message separates those shopping for CHEAP help from those wanting the help that will take them where they want to be the fastest.
mocabu 14 years ago
The quality of the result can all depend on the expert you select for the job. Thank you for the information.
Bill Wynne 14 years ago
I have started to use Elance and you can get great work done for you at a very reasonable price. I have found that you can find people in the States to write for you and the pricing it not that bad considering the quality. There are people that will bid on your project that don't even have the skills and will quote an unrealistic price so those of you who are just getting started make sure you take a hard line and make sure you will get what you pay for.
Keethan Nadarajah 14 years ago
very useful..thank you
megachile 14 years ago
good advice here, thanks Mark

Im thinking about outsourcing the whole article writing/spinning process as it takes me way too long to do. I agree that the key to outsourcing is properly vetting your potential workers capabilities.

CTEric 14 years ago
Nice post! ;-)

Flying Tech
Ray Gollis 14 years ago
Good article, I have used outsourcing before with Elance. For Some articles, I feel it is a good service to start with. I am looking in to some of the other services also: Rent A Coder, Get A Free Lancer, ScriptLance, Craigs List Phillipines. I am working on articles right now. I am using some software to get the job done. But it would be nice to outsource this work. This is very time consuming, considering you have to create accounts in over 100 article directories, do keyword research, write and then submit.

I think outsourcing is a great idea, Saves you time and aggravation. I had a good writer than did some World of Warcraft articles for me on Elance and she did a very good job. I will consider doing outsourcing in the near future.
Nick Makaryk 14 years ago
Really good article.
Thanks for the help.

Norman Sefton 14 years ago
Thanks Mark for your insights and thanks to everyone for your input and helpful comments

Much appreciated,
Asim Bawany 14 years ago
I am currently a provider on Elance... Having a telemarketing background, I regularly find and deliver work on Elance. If you were to visit their forums, you will find all the quality providers ranting at how almost every buyer is looking for the cheapest provider. You get providers in all shapes and sizes there... You also get buyers in all shapes and sizes... twice now, I have been burned by buyers (both times US) for a total of about $1000... considering I am in Pakistan, that is literally a fortune for me!

But I didn't quit on it... You get good and bad buyers and providers in every market place. "you get what you pay for".... when I started on elance, I even worked for $3/hour inspite of knowing I am perfectly capable and skilled to earn a lot more. You've gotto do that when you're trying to break into a market. Now I dont accept any work for less than $12/hr and commissions.

the most important thing to look for in a provider there is their proposals first of all. How they communicate and relate to your job post... dont look for the cheapest.. dont count their stars or feedbacks... thats all secondary... as a provider I know can get stars without even working on a project... try to get to know the person better and see if he fits into your picture of what you want in a provider and whether that is in line with what that provider wants in a buyer.
Michael Edgar 14 years ago
Can anyone recommend an outsource person to get my Affilojetpack sites up and running? Philippines preferred.

Emphasize Outsourcing 14 years ago
Elance changed my life. Im using this freelance website for past 5 years.
Get your project done at Internet marketing
Outsourcing Philippines 14 years ago
Great article, thanks for sharing. This is an added information especially those that has no how with elance outsourcing.
Web Outsourcing Services Company 14 years ago
Well this is really a great help for the people who wanted to do some outsourced work and they dont know how and from where to find a contract and you really made it very easy for those people
Shalisha Alston 14 years ago
One last thing about Elance. Always keep your money in Escrow. This way if you don't like the job, you don't have to release the money! Also, ALWAYS go through Elance boards in terms of communication. Don't do any communicating via personal email. Thats how a lot of people get screwed. If all communication is done through Elance public board, there is a record kept of all agreements and conversations. I especially use Elance Escrow because if I don't like a job, I don't have to pay - that's why they have Escrow.
justyourtype 13 years ago
I have been a service provider on Elance as a book designer and book typesetter for more than 7 years. As one poster wrote, it's important to be as specific as possible about your project requirements. As a contractor, I need as many details as possible to provide you with a fair and accurate bid for your project.
I have worked on many different types of jobs with people from all over the world via Elance and other than a few "bumps in the road" it has been and continues to be a good experience.
One of the biggest downfalls is buyers or clients who come to Elance looking for tons of cheap work and that lowers the integrity of the online workforce; keep in mind we are professionals who work for ourselves for a living and just because we are competing with others, we shouldn't be expected to be paid in peanuts.
Usman Shahid 13 years ago
I am a freelance writer and I have been working on Elance for more than a year. I have made long term relationships with clients and they seem to be satisfied with my work. But they do make hiring mistakes and I probably know why this happens. The feedback system on Elance is great but people are able to manipulate that and it is easy to get it up to 90% or 4.5. Check for recommendations before hiring a provider and see if they have suspicious feedbacks from a single buyer to inflate their ratings.
jazzonly789 sanchez 13 years ago
Hi..! to very nice all comment and you mark.. thanks for this article..Tips for Elance Outsourcing i really like this and I am so interested in this topic because I am also an article writer it will help me a lot!
Yong Custodio 13 years ago
Thanks for sharing this!