Sunday, June 29, 2014

Software Development Outsourcing - Top 5 Portals

Poster announcing employment opportunities
in business process outsourcing (BPO) operations in Bangalore. 
Outsourcing software development came a long way in the last decade. Before the turn of century this was a domain for larger companies that could afford a physical presence in the “source” countries. The emergence of outsourcing portals made it possible for small companies and individual developers (freelancers) to meet in a virtual and secure space. The pioneers in this market were Elance and Rent-a-Coder. For outsourcing software development Rent-a-Coder was by far the best choice, due do its reliable rating system for sellers and buyers and a good escrow and qualified arbitration service, which was specifically fine tuned for outsourcing software projects. Alas, they got acquired and absorbed by in 2012. => So which portal is the best in 2014?

Top 5 portals to outsource software development

My ranking is as follows:


Elance -  a classic in the outsourcing space. Of all the confusing web interfaces of these portals, I find Elance the best one to work with. Other than that, there is little difference to our runner up -

Top2: - generic outsourcing marketplace, just like Elance. Market leader by number of projects.


ODesk - not a bad place either. When they started, their unique selling point was billing by the hour. Freelancers had to install a spyware on their machines that takes screenshtos every x minutes, so that the buyer can verify time spent. I dislike that. Since a few years they also offer fixed price projects, which is what I usually recommend (along with a good specification, but more on that later). Odesk was acquired by Elance in 2013. Responding on the Elance blog, company officials have been stressing their commitment to keep the two sites separate, even though ownership will be unified.

Top 4:

Not sure what to put here… Guru might be here, as it is mentioned relatively often. But I have not yet used. And see no reason to try it.

Top 5:

Empty - suggestions welcome!

A note about the names of these services: I personally prefer to call them outsourcing portals, but often they are also called online staffing service, online workplace or freelancing website.

No matter what their name is: Essentially they offer a way for buyers (= needs to get something done) and sellers (=can do something, often located in an emerging economy) to meet. They charge a fee of typically between 3-10% of the project volume.

Closing remarks: 

While the above services are the best, there are many more freelancer marketplaces out there, often with a somewhat different focus.  In the following I list candidates that I heard of but have not reviewed yet. I also mention briefly what I consider to be their unique selling point (USP) compared to the market leaders above.

  • Fiverr  - USP: As the name suggests, the focus on small five dollar projects
  • NextCrew - USP:  Not a marketplace, but a software to help traditional staffing companies to move to the cloud (I hope I understood that correctly)
  • PeoplePerHour - USP: none?
  • Onforce - USP: Managed option - they offer to manage projects for you
  • - USP: none?
  • TaskRabbit - USP: Focus on manual, local tasks (no software dev outsourcing)
  • Toptal - USP: Pre-screened candidates
  • Twago - USP: Focus on German market
  • WorkMarket - USP: None?
  • Workana - USP: Focus on Latin America 
  • Ziptask - USP: Fully managed outsourcing

[1] Image by Paul Keller is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


  1. The best Outsourcing Software Company I know is Nixsolution
    There are the most popular web developing company in the Eastern Europe and the best choice if you need some software for your business.

  2. Well, thanks a lot for your list. I'd like to ask you about outstaffing. Is it bad or is it better than outsourcing? I've found this website, but not all of the information is quite understandable.

  3. This said, there are several issues connected with outsourcing, not least trust, ability to deliver, reliability and overall business considerations including value-for-money. app development outsourcing