Elance (www.elance.com) is a great freelancing site marred by a horrible interface. It's not hard to navigate, it's just annoying. Its design brings to mind the careers page of many companies online.
Most of the expected categories of freelance assignments are here: Writing, Programming, Support, Admin, and a handful of others.
This site, like many of the others in this series employ the adversarial component to obtaining assignments: The freelancer bids for each assignment against other freelancers. Each freelancer lists a price they would do the assignment for, as well as information as to why they are the person for the job and their experience in performing whatever task the assignment calls for.
In order to bid on a job, the freelancer has to use what is called a Connect. Each Elancer receives 20 Connects each month (various membership plans can increase this number). One Connect can be used to bid on a job. For a few more Connects, the freelancer can move their bid to the top of the list of bids. This limits freelancers from bidding on every assignment that comes across their screen.
Elance also offers Elance University, a place where a freelancer can learn about various topics related to the different freelancing fields offered by Elance. However, the prices range from free to $250. Most courses are free.
Elance monetizes itself by adding an 8.75% service fee to your proposals. So if you bid $100 for an assignment, your would-be employer would actually pay $108.75. This is a lot better than Elance's main competitor, Freelancer (profiled later). Freelancer takes their percentage from you, the freelancer, up front.
As mentioned before, Elance has a membership system. Everyone starts out in the Basic plan, but can move up to Individual, Small Company, and Large Company tiers.
Each tier allows you to add more skills to your profile, as well as add Connects so that you may bid on ever more assignments. The prices range from free for Basic to $60 per month for Large Business (Individual and Small Business cost $10 and $20 per month, respectively).
Elance also has their own mobile app so that freelancers can obtain assignments on the go.
However, in March 2014, Elance merged with oDesk, another freelance site. On May 6, 2015, just before this post was to go live, an email was sent out to Elance freelancers about the future and new name for the company.
The new company is called Upwork and as of right now, it's unknown what changes this will bring to oDesk and Elance.