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Type of businessPrivate company
Available inEnglish
Key peopleStephane Kasriel CEO
online employment platform
Freelance marketplace
Alexa rankDecrease 17,762 (October 2016)[1]
Current statusMerged with Upwork

Elance was an online staffing platform based in Mountain View, California, United States, now operated by Upwork.


Elance was first launched in 1999, its name inspired by a 1998 Harvard Business Review article titled "The Dawn of the E-Lance Economy".[2] It was initially developed as a technology for supporting virtual work. The fact that technology is so prevalent in the world today is a possible reason for it playing a major role in the world market; the article discuss this possibility by looking at an e-lance economy driven by e-lancers.[2] This type of economy is very different from the type of economy that has driven the United States and world economies for many years. In the past the economy has been driven by companies and corporations that create products and then bring them to market. The e-lance economy focuses on the ability for many different e-lancers, who are individuals, to come together to create things without a company or corporation to oversee their operation; this collaboration would be at the center of the economy according to Malone and Laubacher.[2] This is done through the use of the internet, without the internet Elance would not be possible. Two years after the introduction of the company Elance introduced a vendor management system (VMS) for contractors and third-party services used by large enterprises.[3] In 2006 Elance sold its enterprise software division and developed instead its current web-based platform for online, contingent work.

As of February 2013, Elance was being used by approximately 500,000 businesses and 2 million registered freelance professionals, who have collectively earned nearly $850 million up to that date.[4][5][6]

A merger with oDesk, another online staffing platform, was confirmed in December 2013. The deal was finalized in April 2014 and the two companies created a resource that consisted of 8 million freelancers and 2 million businesses.[7]

Elance-oDesk relaunched as Upwork in May 2015. At that time, the two platforms consisted of 10 million freelancers and 4 million businesses.[8]


The Elance website allows businesses to post jobs, search for freelance professionals, and solicit proposals. They can evaluate the contractors applying for the job and, once a contractor is selected, communications and files are exchanged through the Elance system. Payment for jobs, which can either be hourly-rate[9] or project-based jobs, is made by the client through Elance's system, which deducts a percentage of the fee, 8.75%, as a "commission."[10][11] Elance's Work View tool provides an official record of work completed. For project-based jobs statement of work or milestones are used to indicate progress toward completion, and funds are held in escrow by Elance to ensure payment upon completion of the milestone.[12][13]


Freelancers search Elance's website for jobs and can research clients' buying histories on the system. Each freelancer can post a profile displaying past jobs and feedback, a portfolio, and specific skill and educational-background information.[14] Registered free users are allowed to submit a limited number of proposals each month while those on paid membership plans can submit additional proposals. Elance offers payment guarantee once work is done using the Elance system.[15][16]

A 2012 survey of freelancers conducted by Elance indicated that freelancing was the "sole source of income" for 48% of respondents and that 69% had at least a bachelor's degree.[17]


Information technology jobs, such as web and mobile programming and development, account for the majority of earnings on Elance (59%), followed by creative jobs (24%), marketing (7%), and operations (7%).[18] Jobs for writers and graphic designers are also popular.[19] Elance maintains a current list of their overall top 100 in-demand skills, and in 2011, the most in-demand skills were PHP programming, WordPress programming, article writing, graphic design, and HTML programming.[20] Specific data, including global job growth numbers and earnings on the most in-demand skills, is made available on Elance's website.[21]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Elance has been cited as an example of the emerging paradigm of informal workplace communication, employing social media tools and cloud-based applications to drive productivity.[22] Elance also caters to the increasingly liquid labor market by facilitating direct contact between contractors with specific skillsets and clients with specific needs. This reduces search friction and benefits the economy as a whole.[23][24]

According to 2013 reports from Accenture and Deloitte that mention Elance, enterprises are increasingly looking to supplement their permanent employee workforce with flexible, extended workforces of project-based personnel.[25][26][27] Business owners support the trend because it lowers their payroll expenditures, and workers support it because working for multiple clients results in increased job security.[28] Project-based hiring also allows small businesses access to highly skilled workers at a significantly lower cost as compared to hiring full-time staff.[29]

In 2009, Elance was selected as one of CNET's Webware 100, an award recognizing products and services that embody Web 2.0 ideals of collaboration and cloud computing.[30] In 2013, Elance was selected as one of Red Herring's top 100 companies.[31]


While Elance has received accolades by the technology industry and business community and there are some good reviews by those who have obtained work through this system, some of those people who actually compete for jobs using this social media have been more critical. Some complain of competition in a global job market with low rates and no benefits, work delivered but not paid for, job descriptions that are not always accurate.[32][33]


On December 18, 2013, Elance announced that it would sign a definitive agreement to merge with its competitor, oDesk, to create an online workplace for a combined total of 8 million registered individuals. A joint statement issued on the same day stated that Fabio Rosati, chief executive officer of Elance, would lead the combined company. The new entity's name was to be announced after the deal was closed. According to Rosati, the executive team and board will be balanced with people from each company. Both websites would stay open, and the company will keep both Silicon Valley headquarters, with ODesk in Redwood City, California, and Elance in Mountain View, California.[34] On May 4, 2015 Elance-oDesk announced that the company was relaunched as Upwork and advised Elance users to transition to Upwork.[35][36]


  1. ^ "Elance.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  2. ^ a b c Thomas W. Malone; Robert J. Laubacher. "The Dawn of the E-Lance Economy". Harvard Business Review.
  3. ^ "5 Things to Know Before Becoming an Elance Provider". businesspundit.com.
  4. ^ "Elance Trends: Freelancer Earnings".
  5. ^ "Elance to give $1m to Startup America Partnership".
  6. ^ "Elance Annual Impact Report 2013".
  7. ^ Jill Krasny (December 18, 2013). "oDesk Merges With Elance". Inc.com. Mansueto Ventures. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  8. ^ Ingrid Lunden. "Elance-oDesk Rebrands As Upwork, Debuts Slack-Like Chat Platform". TechCrunch. AOL.
  9. ^ "Work View Tool".
  10. ^ Rafe Needleman. "Elance updates tools for hiring, managing contract labor". CNet.
  11. ^ "How Does Elance Work and How Much Does It Cost?".
  12. ^ "How to Manage Your Clients".
  13. ^ "What It Costs". Elance.
  14. ^ "Your Online Profile & Portfolio".
  15. ^ "Ask an Expert: Freelancing is easier than ever because of technology, attitudes". USAToday.com. May 1, 2011.
  16. ^ "Guaranteed Payment".
  17. ^ "The State of the Freelance Market".
  18. ^ "Elance Online Employment Report".
  19. ^ "Elance Index: Online Contract Work Shows Growth". ReadWriteWeb.com.
  20. ^ "Overall Skill Trends".
  21. ^ "Overall Skill Trends". Elance.
  22. ^ Quentin Hardy (January 7, 2012). "A Prophet for a New Workplace". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  23. ^ "The World Bank – Connecting to work : how information and communication technologies could help expand employment opportunities".
  24. ^ Damien Hoffman (October 11, 2010). "Should ODesk, Elance, and Solvate Have Won the Nobel Prize in Economics?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  25. ^ "Accenture – The rise of the extended workforce".
  26. ^ "Deloitte – The open talent economy".
  27. ^ Carolyn Hughes (December 13, 2011). "4 tips for small business hiring". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  28. ^ Paul Davidson (October 13, 2010). "Freelance workers reshape companies and jobs". USA Today. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  29. ^ "Small Business Vendor Award Nominees".
  30. ^ "Webware 100 winner: Elance".
  31. ^ "Red Herring 100 winner: Elance".
  32. ^ Sarah Halzack (June 15, 2014). "Freelancers from around the world offer software developing skills remotely". The Washington Post.
  33. ^ Carolyn Said (June 10, 2014). "Elance-oDesk links freelancers to jobs worldwide". San Francisco Chronicle.
  34. ^ Levy, Ari (December 19, 2013). "Elance Merges With ODesk to Boost Service for Freelancers". Bloomberg Technology. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  35. ^ "Freelancing Marketplace Website Odesk rechristended as Upwork". news.biharprabha.com. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  36. ^ "Making The Move from Elance to Upwork? What You Need to Know Before You Hire - Upwork Blog". Upwork Blog. Retrieved 2016-04-05.

External links[edit]