Within 18 months of the Elance and oDesk Merger, Upwork was launched earlier this year. Upwork is the result of the rebranding of oDesk and the phasing out of Elance.
I don’t know how I discovered oDesk years ago, but it was one of the best discoveries I made for my business. Truth be told, the oDesk model back then was cumbersome and somewhat ineffective, yet I still managed to hire some pretty decent talent. In the early days the whole hiring and referral process was done via Yahoo! Messenger with electronic resumes funneled back and forth.
Just to show you how up close and personal things were back then, one of my contractors in Russia “disappeared.” My oDesk account manager became concerned. In fact, she messaged another contractor who lived close to Vladimir and asked him to bike over and check on him. Things sure have changed from those early days.
Yes, a contractor disappearing is a manager’s worst nightmare. Afterwards, I did have second thoughts about outsourcing. But when I landed a large commercial software project, I tried once again to hire locally. However, I could not find workers with the software skills I needed. So, I went back to oDesk and hired a software developer from Australia. The 16-hour time difference was tough at times. But, we managed, and he was a great asset to me for many years.
oDesk Now Upwork
oDesk (short for online desk) has grown into a virtual, global marketplace that provides the tools and resources for hiring and managing remote workers. This includes the ability to assemble an online team, review each worker’s online work diary, collaborate, pay, and more. Additionally, contractors can take free skills tests, which show on their profile.
According to Wikipedia:
“As of 2012, oDesk is the largest online marketplace in which independent professionals and their clients can establish and fulfill work arrangements.”
“As of December 2012, oDesk had 2.7 million freelancers and 540,000 clients worldwide.”
Yes, as of today oDesk seems to dominate the competition.
I know that it’s a bit unsettling when you think about hiring a virtual worker for the first time. So I thought I’d write this post to share some basic tips and best practices for getting the most out of your oDesk experience.
How to Get the Most Out of oDesk
Posting a Job
1. Jobs posted may be fixed or hourly depending on the project.
2. Set up your client profile and keep it private so that applicants do not have access to your website or contact information. Unless you don’t care if they do.
3. Try posting a small, fixed-price “test” project for your first job posting.
4. Post a succinct job description that outlines required skills. Provide documentation, if necessary.
5. oDesk has a series of checks and balances including the ability for contractors to leave feedback on clients and vice versa. Check out the feedback other clients have left on contractors that apply to your job posting.
6. You have the option of specifying experience level, whether you want to work with an independent contractor or an agency, and marketplace visibility of your job posting. I usually set the job visibility to oDesk users only so that the job is not visible to everyone on the internet. It weeds out a lot of noise.
7. Advanced options for refining your applicants are also available to you. For example, you can select applicants based on locale or feedback scores.
Hiring a Contractor
You will be able to hire people for $1 per hour on up. Cheapest isn’t always best.
1. Do a Skype interview to test communication skills and technical abilities.
2. Give a small test project to a prospective contractor.
3. Be available to answer questions and provide clarification.
4. Realize that for most remote workers, English is a second language. You would do best to keep your conversations around the project specifications. I have found technical conversations are usually very well understood. Casual conversation not so much.
5. Communication is of the utmost importance. Both ways. It’s time to reconsider your hire if they are not touching base with you on a regular basis or if they neglect to answer your e-mails.
6. Make sure there is agreement and understanding as to who owns the rights to the work that is completed especially when you hire an artist or graphic designer.
Using an oDesk Recruiter
oDesk now offers free recruiting. What used to be a paid service of a few hundred bucks is now offered totally free to clients. So you can enlist an oDesk recruiter to post a job for you and invite candidates to a specific job posting. Due to time constraints, I decided to use this service a few weeks ago. My recruiter was very knowledgeable, helpful, and took care of all the details for me.
He recommended we wait 3 business days and then he would send me a short list of the most qualified candidates to interview. Since the job was posted on a Thursday, that meant I wouldn’t interview until the following Tuesday. Based on my prior experience, I thought that was too long to keep applicants waiting, but I followed his advice. What happened was that the most qualified candidates withdrew their applications stating “client unresponsive.”
I contacted my recruiter and expressed my concern, but he held firm and said he would invite people to the job posting. Within a few hours I had some excellent candidates and hired one after a brief interview. He completed the job within 3 hours of being hired.
Based on this experience, I offer this advice: If you can, do your own job posting and screening. Contractors are generally ready, willing, and able to start your job immediately.
oDesk is a great option for finding highly specialized technical skills or to augment your workforce. Their customer support is second to none. It’s easy to hire, manage, and pay your contractors. oDesk makes their money by charging their clients a 10% fee, which isn’t bad considering the tools and platforms available to you. Over the years I’ve been pleased overall with the quality of my oDesk contractors from the U.S. and abroad.
What other questions about oDesk or outsourcing do you have? I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments below.
p.s. The illustration in this current blog post was done by my latest oDesk contractor.