Outsource basic webdev maintenance? (eLance vs oDesk vs Guru vs RentACoder)


I am considering outsourcing some basic webdev maintenance work.

Little tasks like: "Please add clock or other wait indicator when the AJAX is still processing." that should take less than an hour each.

What is a good site for outsourcing this work? How do eLance and oDesk and Guru and RentACoder and others compare?

This article compares RentACoder and oDesk, and says that RentACoder lets you bid on projects on a per-project basis. This can be cheaper than oDesk. oDesk charges you an hourly rate, but gives you better controls to monitor your workers. With both services, the author had a negative experience with a large project. He recommends you use these sites only for small projects, and to break big projects into bite-sized chunks.

One downside of oDesk is that you must bid on the project. RentACoder and Guru and eLance allow you to specify a vague price bracket, and field quotes within that range.

eLance jobs start at $50, whereas RentACoder (and others?) allow you to start at less.

Guru does not allow you to ask for mockups of any design work.

Development Outsourcing Web Dev

asked Feb 24 '10 at 08:54
Joseph Turian
895 points
  • If it takes less than an hour, why don't you do it yourself? I'd rather spend my time fixing it myself rather than spending my time on maintaining the freelancer. – Jpartogi 14 years ago
  • jpartogi: Because these tasks would take me several hours to figure out, if I am not proficient in the underlying technology. They only take an hour if you are already versed. – Joseph Turian 14 years ago
  • But you think a developer without knowing your code base can do a quality work just going in? OWhat about the time it takes him to undersand how the code so far works? Maintenance nightmare, here I come. – Net Tecture 14 years ago
  • I would say outsourcing big projects hardly ever work no matter what freelancing site you use. – Earlz 13 years ago
  • Also, in general, make sure that you can answer these questions: http://www.brightjourney.com/q/good-questions-ask-approached-freelance-web-development-gigEarlz 13 years ago
  • Good question. This being said, you should work on your accept rate... – J Delage 13 years ago

11 Answers


this is Nicole from Rent a Coder.

As many have suggested (thank you all), our service is appropriate for hiring workers for this type of work. I'd like to point out a few differences between our service and services like Elance, oDesk, and Guru however, since those differences could influence the success of an outsourced project.

Selection of workers:

The more bids you receive, the more bargaining power and selection you have, and the less you have to pay. However, some sites make money for themselves in ways that reduce the # of bids you receive.

Elance workers can't make more than 10 bids a month unless they pay a subscription fee ($10/month for 20, $20/month for 40 or $40/month for 60). This could reduce the number of qualified bids you receive.

Guru attaches a hefty subscription fee onto its workers who want to make more than 10 bids at a time. That not only limits qualified prospects, it increases the cost of your projects since workers may pass this fee onto you.

At Rentacoder, we do not place a bid limit on any of our workers for any reason.


Unfortunately, 10-20% of projects fail (and on some sites this # is higher). If your worker is a bum, it's important the site offers escrowing and arbitration so you are guaranteed to get your money back. However, some sites charge so much for arbitration or make it so time consuming that it becomes impractical.

Elance charges $66.66 or $133.33 for each arbitration, which may make it too expensive to be a legitimate option on your project. And its mandatory pre-arbitration processes allow an abusive worker to stall the start of arbitration (consequently preventing you from accessing your money for weeks... 21 business days in fact). Elance's arbitration process can be tricky too, with each part of the process elongated with 3 - 15 business days in-between. What can be particularly frustrating is that Elance doesn't publish the detailed rules of its arbitration process.

oDesk's limited arbitration on pay-for-time projects is not based on quality of work, but simply whether or not the worker committed fraud-based solely on screenshots, not an analysis of deliverables. As a result, you could end up paying for work that isn't satisfactory.

At Rentacoder, we offer arbitration on all projects free of charge and we test your deliverables to make sure they meet requirements. We also prevent abusive buyers from stalling an arbitration's start. In fact, 45% of our arbitrations are completed under a day and 75% of them are completed under a week. Even more, we show the public how our arbitrators make their decisions.

In addition, most of these types of sites let you pay a worker you have employed before by the hour, which is the most convenient and cheapest way. However, neither Elance nor Guru verify the worker's timecard is accurate. On Rent a Coder, workers must punch in and out of a timeclock, and you can see a continuous record of their webcam and desktop, so you know the time is accurate.

There are other differences as well. I invite everyone to compare the 7 major services through this link to learn even more: http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/DotNet/misc/CompetitorInformation/WhyRentACoder_ForBuyers.aspx 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 (see http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/misc/Feedback.asp ).


answered Apr 1 '10 at 07:44
71 points
  • +1 - I am a big fan of "How to Make Friends and Influence People", and one point he makes is to show that you are familiar with your competitors, and not just put them down, and your explanation of some of your competitors methods was clear and useful. I can see the point of the webcam and desktop, but as a multitasker it would be annoying, as I may read a webpage while waiting for an application to compile, run unit tests and get deployed, for example. – James Black 14 years ago
  • Not going to vote up, since it's spammy, but it is the most honest and balanced vendor pitch I've seen in a few weeks. Thanks. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • BTW – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • @alphadogg, did you verify the name was changed before or after Mar 31 2010, this post's date, before you made that comment? – Tony Henrich 13 years ago
  • One big problem I had with Rent-A-Coder is in one project the coder got my source code and then canceled their bid during their grace period. A right which RAC provides to the seller. Then the most annoying thing with RAC is that you can't contact the person anymore after the cancelation. For me I couldn't find out why they canceled. They got my source code and I go the short end! So beware. – Tony Henrich 13 years ago
  • My bad. I saw the dates on the first few responses in Oct/Nov and stopped checking, not realizing how old this post is. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • Say how about a little design refresh of Vworker. Review Odesk or any of the others and its got a shinny feel to it. Like it just wish it didn't look so depressing. – John Bogrand 13 years ago
  • @Tony_Henrich If you don't trust people to deal honestly with your source code, how can you ever hope to outsource anything, successful or not? (NDAs might help, but I don't know how easy they are to prosecute.) – Marnen Laibow Koser 12 years ago


I don't have a site to point you to, but I do have some advice. If a lot of your tasks are small then consider doing them yourself. The overhead of managing small tasks is high when you compare the amount of time it takes to do the work. You have to issue the instructions, manage the progress, check the work etc and it all takes time. Arguably more time than it would take you to code it yourself.

You might want to think about doing it another way. Maybe contacting your local university and posting an advert there for someone who could come and work with you for a few hours per week to do the little tasks you have. You will be able to manage them more effectively, have them with you and help locally grown talent to gain experience.

Good luck with your project.

answered Feb 24 '10 at 11:29
Smart Company Software
1,190 points
  • +1 for suggesting an opportunity for young programmer. – Jeff O 14 years ago
  • @Jeff s/young/less experienced :) – Earlz 13 years ago


Find an intern. It's that simple. They gain experience, they learn. You gain loyalty, a consistent engineer who eventually knows your code base. You gain peace of mind.

answered Feb 25 '10 at 16:23
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • I agree. An intern is a much better choice. – Jpartogi 14 years ago


I've personally used Elance, oDesk, and Rent-A-coder and local resources. I've had the best results with Rent-A-Coder believe it or not. The design of the site may be Web 1997, but it works.

A few tips for using the online services:

  • Have a clear-cut design document. Eliminate English slang words
  • Define your acceptance criteria
  • Specify if it's ok to use existing Open Source software or not
  • List any preferred frameworks, development languages and tools
  • Providing a coding standards document
  • Encourage bidders to ask as many questions as they want

I never have entire applications developed. I usually micro-target tasks. Be wary of the "$25 I have this done already" type of bids.

answered Mar 12 '10 at 13:57
Erik Howard
121 points


I have outsourced about 30 projects via Rent-a-Coder and Guru 28 of them being successful, and have had the most success with Rent-a-Coder. Their outsourcing process is just more thought through. On Guru, the rating mechanism is flawed because one can see the rating of the other party before you rate yourself. This leads to everyone rating 5 out of 5 because they are afraid of revenge rating. This has poisoned the market.

Rent-A-Coder should outsource some of their GUI development. It was nice 10 years ago.

I have attempted to outsource two tiny 10 dollar projects via oDesk. The specifications were clear. After accepting bidders both of them asked be to provide the specifications of the project. I do not know whether this means that their community is flawed or if I just had bad luck.

answered Mar 1 '10 at 06:30
1,567 points


I used rent-a-coder for a few projects. My big advice is to choose developers with good ratings like at least 7, even if they are more expensive. What's $20 more? Never go with people who have 0 feedback. I tried that twice and both times, these people sat on the project and did NOTHING. They didn't even reply to my emails. Sure they got the worst ratings but to fix this, all they have to do is open new accounts with rent-a-coder. These developers are total waste of time.

OR (still not a good idea)

if you still want to go with cheaper 0-rating developers, in your requirements indicate you want to see some results after 3 days just to ensure they are actually working on the project and warn them, in the requirements, that if they don't deliver anything within 3 days, you will cancel the project and give bad feedback. Again, these developers might not care and open new accounts.

answered Mar 1 '10 at 14:50
Tony Henrich
85 points


An interesting review. We would like to offer a different perspective.

From a Buyers (employers) perspective it highlights just how much of a lottery it is when trying to recruit professional,quality staff.

On a number of these review sites there are adverse comments about Indian / Asian freelancers, and we are no exception to having been on the receiving end of some howlers, but, to put this into perspective we have had just the same experience of American and UK based freelancers, so, in conclusion,we see no distinction between gender,race, colour, religion or location of potential and actual freelancers.

We simply want to employ the best freelancers we can afford, no other criteria applies. But, the main problem is, where do you find them?

The following is an alternative view from the buyrs perspective; as a buyer we have used O’ Desk for a number of years for our project and have always paid good rates in the belief that we will engage the more able contractor. We have spent many thousands of £ on various projects.

The major complaint we have with O’Desk, is that there is NO protection for the buyer for mistakes / damage a contractor inflicts on your project.

Their dispute system is heavily weighted in favour of the contractor. We experienced a number of contractor incidents of incompetance; but the most recent destroyed our db and took our site off line for 4 days and cost us a lot of money to have the db reconstructed.

O’ Desk simply state that they don’t care about the circumstances, and the contractors hours must be paid as they have been tracked. So to add insult to injury, not only did we have to pay to have the db reconstructed and any bugs resolve, but we had to pay the contractor for the hours she spent destroying the db.

So, buyrs beware of O’Desk, they are NOT employer friendly.

We have terminated our account with O’Desk.

answered May 22 '12 at 21:12
11 points


Among the outsourcing sites:

  • Elance is the most popular.
  • oDesk is the innovating underdog.
  • Guru--no comment yet.
  • Rent-a-Coder is antiquated.

Choose between Elance and oDesk if you must outsource. Although, consider hiring a local intern--perhaps from a nearby university.

answered Feb 26 '10 at 19:08
Bill Paetzke
397 points


Here is a neat way to go about finding the right provider on any of those sites you mentioned.

  1. Post your job, list the skill requirements, experience and tests you will have candidates undergo to verify their abilities.
  2. Search for completed jobs similar to yours and review the feedback left for the providers and compile a shortlist of candidate whom you like based on the feedback.
  3. Review the portfolio of work for all those in your shortlist so that you can verify whether they have done similar types of work or it was a one-off deal. You want to choose those who have a portfolio of work similar to yours.
  4. Invite those on your shortlist who have a portfolio of similar jobs completed to apply for yours. This way you will have done the pre-screening ahead of time to improve the quality of people applying for your work.
answered Jul 13 '11 at 00:41


I would highly recommend you start using your small projects as a launch point to establish a longer term relationship with a local shop. You can find someone locally that will likely be not much more expensive (in the long-term) to anything of quality on these outsourcing sites.

I've done so and have a "virtual bench" of my own go-to people for various needs.

PS: I also think the internship is a great way to give back to the local community and find people to eventually put on your own "virtual bench". It just sometimes takes more time to mentor/nurture the relationship. Time is rarely something startups have the most of...

answered Nov 20 '10 at 00:46
1,383 points


If it's really simple tasks like you described, try Scriptlance

answered Jul 14 '10 at 21:37
273 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Development Outsourcing Web Dev