vWorker (Formerly Rent A Coder) - Freelance Marketplace Site Analysis and Review
In 2000, programming consultant Ian Ippolito had a wonderful problem: more work than the time required to do it. He realized that if so many clients needed programs written, that there were probably programmers out there who’d be happy to do the work, if the two groups could find each other. He set to work himself and created Rent A Coder, a marketplace for technical work, which launched in 2001.
The site grew rapidly and expanded its focus, and in 2010 changed its name to vWorker. This is short for virtual worker, a term commonly used for contractors on online freelancing sites. vWorker is still predominantly oriented towards technical work, with programming, Web design, database and related tasks accounting for roughly three-quarters of the listings on the site. However, the company is working to broaden its offering in non-technical fields, and there’s a fair number of writing, design and other projects.
vWorker is not a large site in terms of the total number of projects posted; it does have a decent amount of volume, but it’s not in the same league as the really big sites that have over 1,000 new projects posted per day. Part of this is because the site screens project listings to cut down on chaff, which is a positive. Overall, project quality is not the best: there are many good projects but also some pretty bad ones. vWorker inadvertently contributes to some of the quality issues by having few barriers to entry for contractors, instituting no project value minimums, and marketing the site to clients on the basis of cost savings rather than quality.
It is perhaps ironic that a site dedicated to technical work is also not the best when it comes to technology—perhaps a classic example of the cobbler’s children going barefoot? vWorker’s website could use improvement: it is functional but not elegant, and can be slow at times. Some of the fancy features that are found on other sites are missing here, and the help system is also a little underdeveloped.
Yet despite it flaws, vWorker is probably my favorite site of the “Big Five”. Why? Because it is the only freelancing site that I’ve used that consistently shows that it cares. The company does more than talk a good game: it puts its money where its mouth is with well-thought-out, high-quality business processes. The site works hard to educate both clients and contractors about the nature of online work. It protects both contractors and clients from being ripped off by mandating that clients use escrow, and prohibiting contractors from requesting advance payments. Its mediation/arbitration system is truly industry-leading, making vWorker the only place I really feel confident that I will be paid if I do the work I promised. Customer service is excellent, with responsive agents and 7-day phone support, and Ian Ippolito himself posts on the company blog and interacts directly with customers. vWorker charges relatively high transaction fees, but I believe it is a good example of getting what you pay for.
In this section I provide a complete discussion of vWorker and how it operates, sharing with you my experiences in using the site, and information that you’ll want to know to decide if it’s a good fit for your needs. My review is structured using the standard thirteen criteria that I use for all sites in this Guide, covering topics such as project quantity and quality, fees and payment methods, escrow services, arbitration features, policies, customer service and a lot more. For full details about these different analysis factors, please see Criteria for Choosing Online Freelancing Marketplace Sites, where I fully explain all of the evaluation areas.
As always, note that this review is based on personal experience using vWorker, along with information from the company, research, and feedback from other users. If you find any errors in my assessments, or just disagree with my opinion about something, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Remember that sites and companies change over time; what you see here was accurate as of the time of writing, but may not be quite as correct by the time you were able to find and read it.
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011
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