Is Odesk in trouble?
For a while Odesk grew rapidly as an outsourcing portal. In Dec 2013, Odesk
merged with Elance. For reasons best known to them, the joint company decided to
keep the two units operating independently. It seems the Odesk management
team’s total focus was to grow to a level that they get acquired and they
succeeded in that. Once that objective was achieved, it seems the Odesk
operational team lost interest and Odesk has been in a steady state of decay
We have been both a client and an outsourcing agency on Odesk for a while. We
provided design and development services for clients and we also hired on Odesk
where we were short on resources. We used Odesk exclusively for quite a while
till the red flags started popping up. Here are our observations:
- Refusing to address fake / spam job posts:
As an outsourcing company, we look at new jobs being posted and if it is
relevant to us, we apply. It’s unusual to see the same job being posted
again and again. It’s extremely irregular to see a whole block of jobs –
like 10 jobs at a time – to be repeated several times a day. So we decided
to investigate and we noticed certain patterns and URLs in such jobs. See
As you can see with a very minor code adjustment, Odesk can filter out such
posts where a URL and an email is mentioned. Yet they don’t. I keep
sending them such screenshots. They say they have forwarded them to
engineering but then nothing happens. Are they deliberately allowing such
stuffing? That would be inflating your data. Hmmm!
- Dispute Resolution:
Disputes invariably arise between clients and freelancers. The job of a
portal is to use their good offices to help resolve if possible. In theory
Odesk does that too. Yet they don’t accept telephone calls and they don’t make
telephone calls. Only email is allowed. The people they have in that
department are either the rejects of the company or brain dead. They take
days to respond and even when they do, it seems they never read the points you
mentioned to them the last time. It’s like sending emails to a wall. It
becomes a waste of energy. You are better off closing your account and
moving on. The worst part is, if you write to their higher ups, nobody
responds. We have sent letters, faxes and voice mails to their joint CEO
now, Fabio Rosati but no response. Talk about customer service.
- Unsafe for agencies / I.T. Companies:
Most of today’s smart applications and websites require multiple skills and
cannot be handled by a single freelancer. That’s where I.T. outsourcing
companies called ‘Agencies’ by Odesk come in handy.
Agencies like us have
multiple skilled resources and are in a better position to handle complex
tasks, big or small. There is a serious flaw in Odesk’s operations – an
agencies contractor can refund a client any amount of money without the
agency manager’s authorization. We have tried our best to make Odesk aware
of this. At first their staff themselves cannot understand that this is
possible. When we prove it to them that this is not only possible, but has
happened when a rogue contractor decides to hurt the agency by doing such
refunds. When they finally understand how this is possible, they refuse to
do anything about it. Their answer is, this how it is, if you want to
operate on Odesk, you’ll have to live with it. It’s just the risk of doing
business on Odesk. How irresponsible! It’s like a bank letting anyone from your
company writing checks – even past employees – authorized or not. Hard to believe they would let
this happen. Yet we have learnt the hard way that that’s how it is on Odesk.
If you are an I.T. Company, you may not want to operate on Odesk till Odesk
decides to fix this huge security hole. Right now they refuse to even
acknowledge that this is a flaw. I guess they are waiting for a lawsuit as
sooner or later that’s going to happen.
- Odesk Timeout:
See this picture. This is a very common picture we see on our screens when
we try to reach the Odesk website. I am sure others see the same. We started
reporting them and nothing happened. So we started sending them
snapshots. Now they acknowledge but the same thing keeps happening again and
again. It seems their engineering is over their head and are unable to
handle new technologies.
- Doing nothing about Affiliate spam: See picture. We get such emails through the Odesk email system all week long
stuffing our mail boxes. Odesk can easily filter these out yet they don’t.
Maybe they don’t care.
Maybe keeping the Odesk and Elance platforms independent is not such a good
idea. Maybe they should merge the two operations and adopt the Elance platform
which seems better suited for a more secure and efficient environment. At a time
when their strongest competitor
making significant acquisitions and growing rapidly, it seems Odesk is
stumbling. It’s very unfortunate because for quite some time, it was our
platform of choice. I guess all good things eventually come to an end.