17 thoughts on “oDesk, Freelancers & the Future of Work”

  1. The future of work? God, I hope it’s not oDesk. As a freelancer I hate it and avoid it like the plague when doing a search for new work.

    Any new “platform” that puts oDesk’s kind of dehumanizing marketplace as a level of abstraction between me and a potential client is evil and makes it harder for me to get serious work.

    1. You might dislike oDesk for all the right reasons that make sense to you, but you are focusing too much on the tool, and not on the larger trend in how the work is changing and how we need newer tools to get things done in the future. oDesk is one of them. More will follow.

      1. oDesk is a notorious lowball outsourcing sweatshop network. GigaOm needs to research this stuff a little more broadly instead of running press releases.

      2. I don’t disagree about the larger trend at all, and I appreciate GigaOm and WWD taking time to talk about it in depth. I just think oDesk is an example of the dark side of the trend, rather than one of the “tools we’ll need to get things done in the future.”

        A centralized marketplace is not a necessity for accessing a radically decentralized work force. The same category of tools that make a boom in freelancing possible will also eliminate the need for a tightly controlled venue for finding those freelancers.

    2. Guys come on grow up. oDesk is changing the way we work and finally there is an assurance of payment done by a freelancer. Does other websites provide that? Also you get better rates here than anywhere else. I guess its a boon for freelancers and I will not be afraid to say for some companies also.

  2. Gary and the Odesk team are doing some pretty innovative things. They are positioning themselves to run away from the competition (i.e. Elance and Guru). They keep finding ways take part in the whole transaction of the hiring of an employee, rather than just be a lead-gen business.

    1. Agreed. I think this staffing effort and focus on benefits for freelancers is a big step forward I think.

      It be interesting to see if there will be more companies that will come up with platforms such as oDesk.

  3. The future of staffing is that knowledge workers are all going to be reduced to commodities? Really? Stunning.

    I am pretty sure that there is more to successful software than throwing together 4 random contractors at the lowest rates you can find, adding in some magic design specification, and out comes software on the other end.

    When Google starts staffing it’s new research and development via odesk, maybe I will change my mind.

    1. No, Aaron, not commodities, but infinitely niched, project-driven specialists. The scale and facility of Internet makes this new solution possible. You can use it to complement the R&D work which should be done by your core team.

      1. No person who isn’t on the short end of the power dynamic would ever agree to be “watched” the way oDesk advertises it watches it’s workers.

        There is no room for creativity when someone is standing over your head, paying by the hour.

        Your point about specialization is baffling as well. There is a certain type of buyer who thinks you need a person with niche A + niche B + niche C (insert buzzword here) expertise… the kind who chases the purple squirrel. But even in a big world, there are not enough people globally to make that possible.

        I have no objection to outsourcing or offshoring – in fact, I just got back from China earlier this year, where the company I work for is running quite a successful project. I am for a global marketplace.

        What I am not for is people using a power differential to further validate a relationship between buyer and seller that depends on constantly being “watched”. That dehumanizes everyone – no matter what country you are from.


    I agree with Om that it’s great to see ODesk taking this step. The trend of “infinitely niched, project-driven” work is going to increase and we want to see more of it. Providing benefits is going to help the freelancers as well as the companies hiring these freelancers. More people will be able to jump on the freelancer bandwagon, and employers are going to be able to reduce costs (by hiring freelancers for short durations). I understand the frustrations of users of ODesk – it is likely that competition (and comments on forums like GigaOm) will cause the ODesk to change for the better and/or better platforms assisting this distributed contract-for-work environment will emerge. (These trends are well described in Tapscott’s Wikinomics).

  5. Whether or not ODesks supervisory low bid model is a sustainable one for American contractors, this move strikes me as a powerful one. With the influx of new freelancers crashing the market, there is a rapidly growing need for services that provide support and enable them to be excellent technicians, while they learn how to behave like business owners. Offering the ability to have basic benefits removes one huge worry off the newbies plate.

    +1 Good idea. Curious how they will actually implement it.

  6. As companies get more comfortable working with virtual companies, ad-hoc assemblages of people on projects, and geographically distributed workforces, the key skills go beyond the knowledge required to do tasks. The most successful freelancers and/or small companies will be those who are best at assembling teams for projects. Not sure the oDesk model fits that future but it does reflect the changing marketplace.

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