December 13, 2007 by Guest Blogger

When people think of outsourcing, they often think of India. Or Russia. Perhaps the Philippines, or Bolivia.

When oDesk was founded, the idea was to connect small- to medium-sized businesses around the world with providers worldwide who could provide IT services at competitive rates. All around our site are images of globes and mentions of the words “global,” “international,” “worldwide.” Certainly a great number of our providers are international.

So it came as a surprise when we looked at recent data and discovered that U.S.- and Canadian-based providers are the fastest growing group on oDesk (when these two countries are added together).

How did we measure this?


We looked at the number of providers working over a set time period grouped by country. When we last looked at this data, the U.S. held spot number two in terms of the number of timesheets submitted by providers. Add the U.S. and Canada together, and bam, you’ve passed India.

What’s interesting, though, is then to look at the number of hours providers worked each day. Our providers in Asia continue to log in over 50% of the total hours logged each day, while U.S.-based providers log a lower percentage. What this suggests is that while providers in the U.S. are quickly joining our network, they are likely supplementing their incomes with jobs from oDesk (and thus not working a full workday on our site), while providers in Asia, including India, are more likely to be working full-time for oDesk projects.

Still, as U.S.- and Canadian-based providers continue to accrue feedback and work history on oDesk, I wonder whether they will slowly begin to switch to becoming full-time freelancers and we’ll thus see a growth in the number of hours logged by North American providers. We’ve already got some full-time North American-based freelancers on our site — take Keith S., for instance — who’ve left typical jobs and have never looked back.

What do you think? Do you see U.S. as the next outsourcing hub?

  • http://www.web-dev-design.com Susanne Bullo

    Actually, I’m not attempting to be critical – I’m simply repeating what is told to me buy buyers who have gone with developers outside the U.S.

    A huge portion of my clients are ones that went with outside U.S. developers and found they (the buyers) weren’t able to convey the intricacies of their projects. Projects that should have taken say 4-5 hours were incomplete after 15 or more hours. The developers are on the same level as U.S. developers – the problem was not knowledge or capability. Rather, it was a language issue. These buyers came back to U.S providers due to not being able to convey their needs efficiently.

    The foreign language we learned in school or foreign language classes is invariably a “high” or “proper” version. On a day to day basis, most of us do not speak the Queen’s English. Germans do not speak high German on a day to day basis. Things get lost or misinterpreted in translation.

    In any case, it was not my intention to come across as critical. I’ve worked the provider side, the buyer side and the oDesk side and have nothing but respect for providers in other countries – for the most part (we all have a few bad apples) I’ve dealt with extremely hard working and very competent providers. I even recommend non-U.S. providers when I’m not able to take on a project.

  • kawesa

    Apart from the language barrier, I don’t see much hindrance to outsourcing, its way cheaper to get a developer residing in Bulgaria, Ukraine, India or South Africa than in the US or Canada. I think that as Odesk grows much bigger and more popular, you’ll see a shift in the current trend. And for critical systems such as mission critical and security critical systems, one needs to be a lot more careful or end up losing lots of your dollars, I’m pretty sure there’s some developers on Odesk, myself included, that can handle critical systems critically so to speak.
    It’s not surprising to learn that US developers are more critical of offshore outsourcing, since the skills of non-US developers are just as good but way much cheaper. The competition currently is pricing.

  • http://www.web-dev-design.com Susanne Bullo

    What I’m seeing over the course of the past few years is a lot of companies swinging back from other country outsourcing due to language barriers. That job that was set at $5/hour by another countries provider may end up taking 2 to 3 times longer to complete due to language confusion. A lot of my buyers are ones that originally used a provider or providers outside of the U.S. and have come back to have the same project redone as things weren’t clear.

  • Susie

    As more kids learn how to develop in high school I definitely think getting a job over the internet to do coding makes sense, at low end rates that match those on Odesk.

    I also hope to find more sys admin types in the US for more assurance in administering my system instead of what can feel like a “random” person abroad. (I often wonder what security software and other precautions they have on their system, which would be nice to know in their profiles. And if they are using genuine Windows etc. which I tend to doubt isn’t the case for many at those prices!)