I just read oDesk: One Writer’s Experience and His Plea to Clients. It’s a guest post by Greg Minton over at Deb Ng’s Freelance Writing Gigs.com.
The post made me furious. According to Greg, oDesk not only provides the usual functions of a bidding site, to use it, freelancers have to download time tracking software that also takes sporadic screenshots of the writer’s screen! That’s as bad as keystroke loggers tracking work.
If you go to oDesk you can watch a video that sells this idea to employers. The pitch includes the notion that in an office what a writer does is obvious and she gets paid based on “time worked.”
Well, maybe. When I’ve written inside the boss really didn’t have much idea of how I did what I did. They either liked what I had written or didn’t. Nor did they have much idea if what I’d written took 10 minutes or three days.
oDesk claims that when employers are working with freelancers there is a wall that prevents the client from knowing what the writer is doing which oDesk solves with the screen shots of the writer’s computer and automatic time tracking with the company’s software.
Talk about a big brother attitude and engendering total lack of trust between the client and the freelancer!
I’d Negotiate This Way
So, if a client wanted to use this system what would I do?
I’d first try to discover what about that system really appealed to them. I’d try to identify the fear that made them feel a system like oDesk’s would get them a better product.
I think I’d be quite frank too about how it felt like spying on me – that I acknowledge I’m not at my computer every minute I might bill them for. I’d talk briefly about the inspirations that come in the shower or on a walk and try to move them to a flat fee for the project, paid half or a third up front.
I might also ask them if they understood how much of their budget oDesk was getting and make sure they realized I was getting less.
Finally I’d simply tell them I’m not willing to work under those circumstances.
If that meant I’d never sign the client, so be it.
I suggest you do the same.
Have you worked under this oDesk system? What do you think of this kind of system?
Image from http://www.sxc.hu