March 31st will be a historic day for freelancers on oDesk when the new membership starts to roll out. And just as expected, this new oDesk membership scheme marks another tell tale sign of what I call, the “Elancipation of oDesk“. Remember, they told us that it will be two separate platforms, but they never said that they will continue to work on the same scheme, that is, FREE and equal membership levels on oDesk versus upgrade/paid options on Elance.

So tomorrow, when you log in to your account, you'll have a choice, either you keep a free, basic account or upgrade to freelancer plus plan. The big question is, what is it really for me to be on a free or a paid membership account? If I have been successful with the free account, how can the paid membership be any different? Will I earn more, or get more jobs, have less competitors?

oDesk provided an overview on what to expect come that fateful day and here are they with a few of my personal insights on the issue.

Free Vs Paid

There are two classifications of Freelancer memberships, there is Freelancer basic or the free account and there is also the Freelancer Plus account which is the paid account and will cost you $10/month. These membership classifications are actually the same membership option on Elance.

Key things to remember in the new scheme:
oDesk Membership table

  1. Membership is required (obviously)
  2. The basic plan is free for all freelancers.
  3. Freelancers who upgrade to a Plus plan will have extra perks, like
    • Earn an additional 10 Connects per month,
    • The ability to buy additional Connects
    • Rollover privileges for unused Connects
    • Visibility into your competitors’ bids on jobs.

This membership also is available to agency owners. An Agency Plus plan includes

  • All the benefits of a Freelancer Plus plan,
  • The ability to add team members
  • More Connects to be shared within the agency

oDesk Agency membership plan

How will the change affect the oDesk economy?

It will be a sure additional source of revenue for oDesk, but beyond the monetary consequence of this, oDesk actually envisions these changes this way:

“We want to make sure all great freelancers and agencies can succeed on oDesk, whether they work a lot or a little on our platform. We’ve therefore designed membership plans to support your agency at whatever activity level makes sense for your business.

The Agency Plus plan is designed to help our largest and most professional agencies stand apart from other freelancers and single-person agencies. For a monthly fee, the Plus plan offers the ability to support unlimited team members, a higher Connects budget, the ability to purchase and roll over Connects, and visibility into what others are bidding. Going forward, we’ll continue to add benefits that our largest, most active agencies value most.”

My personal thought on oDesk connects and Membership options

I've worked on Elance and oDesk platforms and they both have their own pros and cons. Definitely, the paid option can be a pro or con depending on your personal take on it. I can say that I still favor oDesk over Elance. I think competition is very real on oDesk. You don't just compete based on quality, you also compete on price and the sheer number of freelancers who flood to submit proposals for open projects. And while it is true that paid memberships and limited connects will reduce this number, I'm convinced that standing out of the crowd still depend on

a) Your work history on oDesk,

b) Your previous client's feedback

c) Your approach in presenting yourself with your proposals.

Will I go for the upgrade option? My simple answer is a conditional NO. As long as I can apply to any job, under any category, I will keep the free plan.

What about job categories?

The category fees are implemented in Elance and its probably just days or months away before it becomes a reality on oDesk too. You may have noticed that recently oDesk made some changes with categories and announced a New oDesk Category Structure (March 2015) so it's foreboding that category payment will also soon be a reality. When this takes effect (which I still hope won't happen soon), I'll probably have to get a paid membership as I will need to get into at least three categories like what I used to have in Elance.

Elance extra category subscription fee

What are your thoughts on these changes? Will you upgrade your accounts or keep the free one? Let us know in the comments.

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