Odesk is very similar to Elance in that you have the ability to post jobs and also set yourself up as a provider of skills etc etc. Signup is free but you do need to validate your credit card. Its a simple process whereby you enter the card details and Odesk will then debit a couple of transactions from your card. Once this is complete you enter the debited figures into the validation system and you will be good to go. It should only takes a couple of days to complete and is a smooth process.
Once you are all validated you can start posting jobs. This is simple enough to do and you have the option of using either hourly charging or fixed price NB most work is done on the hourly charging. Once posted you will start to receive offers for the work, you will be able to see the providers profile and feedback scores, as well as the Odesk competency tests that the provider has taken. ODesk provide a full messaging system so you can communicate with providers from within the Odesk site.
So moving on, when you have shortlisted the providers you can interview them, all of the providers I have worked with have provided their IM details or phone numbers so this is easy enough to do. This is a great opportunity to find out a bit more about the providers and to ensure that they fully understand the requirements. I also use this opportunity to get an estimate from the provider on how long the work will take, especially important if you are paying by the hour. Following the interview you can then choose to hire a provider, this is simply a one click task. It is worth noting that you can specify the amount of hours that a provider can work per week so at least you can control what is worked.
You've hired and the provider is good to go! I personally with other outsourcing sites have often wondered about what exactly the provider is doing and are they actually spending the time on my job that they have said? Odesk has this covered and it is one of the best features and one that certainly sets it apart from other sites. Providers on Odesk have a software application installed on their machines that tracks not only the time spent on the job, but also takes a screenshot of their system and uploads it to the work diary which you can then view online. This is really useful and gives you the confidence that you are paying for your work to be done and not subsidizing other people!
Odesk take care of all the billing for you so you don't have to worry. They notify you in advance on what they will be taking from your card and all the financial data is located in the "payments" section of your account.
The quality of providers seems to be very high. But as with any outsourcing always make sure you fully state your requirements and ensure that the provider understands what is expected of him/her otherwise you can run into problems. As a point of note Odesk will assist with dispute resolution only for hourly charged work, if you go fixed price, you are on your own!
Odesk is feature rich and is good way to build a remote workforce in a cost effective and efficient way and it is now the site of choice for all my outsourcing activity.