We dig Upwork.com, the product of the merger of Odesk.com and Elance.com. They provide the ability to filter talent algorithmically, and it's a huge help. We use them to hire virtual assistants, marketing help, writers, and a host of other freelancers. However, we do not recommend hiring engineers  or any product-oriented talent for that matter — through their site. 

Low cost talent on high complexity work = low reward when discounting for risk

In the world of software development (and other skilled knowledge work, where complexity is the ante), talent matters. Furthermore, managing software development across timezones is totally miserable work unless you get really stoked about late night Skype sessions with far away places. Working asynchronously across communication barriers and timezones is not even remotely fun. Not only that, you almost always end up failing to communicate what you want built. 

There are great people working on software in every country. The trick is to find them. We know because we've been doing this for a lot of years. UpWork has no such specialization. 

Do you have the time and money to burn?

Our best recommended UpWork strategy is to cast a wide net. If you have time and money to experiment with test projects and search for the diamond in the rough, this is a great solution. 

If you don't have time and money to waste on the search for the diamond, don't even try it. You've got to have a healthy tolerance for risk and a large margin for error if you go this route for software development.

We built Gun.io as an answer to oDesk and Elance, who are UpWork's parents

These sites specialize in "race-to-the-bottom" bidding. Conceptually, auction formats work well to establish market values of services, if you have skill parity. What turns out to happen, however, is the best talent has abandoned this site and others like it because they can't make a real living competing against cheap talent. We started Gun.io with the promise that we'd protect elite software developers from race-to-the-bottom pricing, and we've always stuck to that. Because we have the best clients, we retain the best talent — and vice versa. 

Our community sticks around because we pay well, we treat them well, and we maintain a great corporate culture. People like to work with other people like them — highly talented and dedicated professionals in their field who make their full-time income from freelancing. We organize those people into exceptional virtual software departments. Together, they all achieve more because they support each other in project performance, and we support them with total, 100% backing.

Speaking to a human is always better

One of the major differences with Upwork and Gun.io is the ability to speak to human before you make a purchase. You might be able to define your software project in a little box. If you can, go for it and watch for the flood of proposals at ridiculously low prices. Then figure out how to filter and hire from that flood. Then figure out how to communicate with people who kinda sorta speak English. 

Submit a project to us, and you'll speak to a member of our senior leadership team inside of a day. We'll talk not only about your immediate development goals, but also about your business, your revenue strategy, and your best development options (which may, in fact, not be with us).  


Upwork is good for some kinds of work, or when you've got time, money, and a large margin for error on hiring freelancers. In all other cases, Gun.io is the better choice — no question.

After having read our essay, whether you're intrigued or shaking your head in disagreement, we encourage you to get in touch. We'd love to hear your take.

Use the button below, or email us directly at [email protected].