What will the oDesk and Elance merger mean for contractors and clients?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s BIG news in the freelance world. The two largest online workplaces, oDesk and Elance, are joining forces. oDesk, with over 4.5 million registered freelancers, and Elance, representing some 2.5 million freelancers, are merging in an effort to better serve customers and create more opportunities. We’ll take a quick look at some of the implications of this merger and address one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind – what does this mean for clients and freelancers on oDesk and Elance?

odesk elance merger

Why Merge?

Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, answered this question in his article on the oDesk blog. Here is what Gary had to say about the merger.

“The answer is pretty simple: we think we can do a better job this way. We are both inspired by a similar vision: to deliver online work experiences that create freedom and boundless opportunity for clients and freelancers everywhere.”

Gary also noted that the merger will allow for significant technology investments, with the goal of enhancing things like mobile support, hiring, and online collaboration.

What Does This Mean?

This is a multifaceted question. Since the deal isn’t officially closed, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding what this merger will mean in the long run. However, oDesk has posted a list of FAQs on their blog, which addresses many of the main concerns users may have. Here’s a few of the important points:

  • Will the way I work or pay for services change? For now, everything will stay the same. The two companies will continue to operate as separate services. Your accounts and profiles will not be affected. oDesk did indicate that changes would likely come down the road although no specifics were revealed.

  • Will oDesk or Elance be changing their names? In a follow up letter, Gary Swart assured everyone that both platforms will remain separate under a larger umbrella company. Thus, the question appears to be, “What will the parent company be called?”

  • Will it be more expensive to work/hire on this new platform? No. As of now, there are no planned changes in fees or membership structures.

  • How soon will this merger take place? While the timeline is a little unclear, oDesk expects the merger to be complete within the next four months.

  • What other changes can we expect? The goal of this merger is to revolutionize the way freelancers and businesses work. Changes will likely come after the merger closes. It’s too early to predict what these changes will be, but oDesk says to “expect accelerated product and quality innovations that help both oDesk and Elance serve you better.”

With the news of the merger also came the announcement from current oDesk CEO, Gary Swart, that he will be stepping down following the completion of the merger. Thomas Layton, oDesk executive chairman, will continue in the same role at the combined company. Elance CEO Fabio Rosati will serve as chief executive officer. Gary Swart plans to serve as a strategic advisor.

My Thoughts

Honestly, it’s too early to tell what this will mean for clients and contractors. In reality, most contractors and clients I know have both oDesk and Elance profiles. I think there is a lot of overlap between the companies’ user lists, which makes me wonder what the true number of unique users actually is. I like that they are keeping things separate for now, as I’ve always been more partial to oDesk (it’s been good to me, so why spend time on a different user interface). We’ll be sure to keep you posted on how this relationship impacts stakeholders in the virtual world.

For More Information on the Merger

If you’d like to learn more about the merger, head over to the oDesk blog.


Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and Entrepreneur.com.

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