Some people seem to think they are justified in offering extremely cheap prices for the work, goods, and services they purchase on freelancer sites such as Elance, oDesk, and etc. I have also heard someone say that it is the contractors who are really setting the price.
If you are, for instance, a writer in oDesk, you would know that statement is not true. In fact, it isn't true of any site. First of all, most buyers set a max and min price for as their budget. That means it is they who set the range within which bidders compete with one another. They control the bids before bidding ever begins.
That alone is factual and refutes the idea that the bidders have the real choice. But in addition to that you have to consider the fact that in almost every job post there will be contractors who don't bid based on the jobs' real value, but who scramble to out bid everyone - almost always driving the bid prices down far below the original budgets' maximum price.
Even if a job has a $500 fixed price value and the budget is set to match, you will surely get plenty of bids that are only $100 and below. And, before you blame the bidders, there are plenty of buyers who actively encourage this process.
You will see all caps saying "WILL REJECT ALL BIDS MORE THAN $1 /hr!!!!." Or, on a more subtle note, you will see them saying "Low bidder wins the job." Or, even more subtle than that you will see "Our budget is very small..."
This is the standard language for buyers posting jobs on oDesk and other freelance sites. On the other hand, in over 2 years as a freelancer, I can count on one hand the number of times I heard a buyer say "Price is not the most important factor so long as the quality of work is excellent" or "Will pay top price for the best work possible." Instead I see postings saying "Looking for a Superstar to join our team" while their $3 /hr Budget Maximum lets you know that they are really only building a sweatshop.
I know is a very old and worn out cliche, but it is still around only because it is true. You really do get what you pay for. So, don't try to trade in your copper pennies and expect to get Gold Bullion back in return. Be reasonable, but don't be cheap.