This post was authored by Mikita Mikado, co-founder of Quote Roller.
A little over a year ago, my partner and I decided to shift focus and make a big change in our careers. We ran a small web development team but always thought about building something bigger. We decided to launch a startup.
In our existing roles at the web development firm, we issued huge numbers of sales quotes. All of the proposals looked alike and the process of copying and pasting with Word documents seemed very outdated. On top of that, we never knew if or when a client even looked at the proposal.
That is how the idea for Quote Roller — a cloud application that helps to create, send and manage sales proposals — was born.
When we started, we thought the hardest part would be building the application. We were wrong — we built Quote Roller with internal resources in less then three months. However, that was only the start of the journey, not the summit.
The most complicated part of launching a startup is attracting users. Marketing is tough, we quickly discovered.
After the launch of Quote Roller, we tried everything to attract visitors. We added the application to a number of startup directories, we pitched major technology publications like Techcrunch and Mashable, and more. But none of these strategies were bringing a stable stream of visitors. That’s when we decided to focus on good old search engine optimization (SEO).
I did a bit of research, and found the keyword combination “proposal sample” was searched more than 400,000 times and “proposal templates” nearly 75,000 times. I decided to give it a shot, and launched a section on our website dedicated to proposal templates created and shared by Quote Roller users. However, we needed the first few templates to be added to the library. At this time we had nearly 2,000 visitors a month to our website.
To start building this library, I tried finding a writer. This was just impossible. Someone who knew how to write a web design proposal was clueless about writing a landscaping proposal. I realized that we needed not just one writer — we needed an army of writers. That is when I thought about oDesk.
I logged into my oDesk client account and published a job asking to create a “web design proposal.” In less then a day I received about 10 offers, across a whole range of prices. I couldn’t believe it; I would be able to get 100 proposals for what I would have otherwise paid for 10 to 20 proposals. I posted a few other jobs for landscaping, insurance and graphic design proposals, and they all had the same great response.
Almost everyone who responded to the jobs had extensive experience in writing proposals for the industry they applied for. As a result, we built a great library of proposal templates, quickly reaching nearly 30 proposal samples. In about three months we had almost 40,000 visitors to our site, a good number of which converted to subscribers.
Leveraging oDesk helped us accelerate our startup and add not one but dozens of professionals with extensive industry knowledge to our team. Our commitments were low risk and almost all the jobs were done on budget and on time. Knowing what I know now, here are my top three tips for making the most of your oDesk experience:
1. Break it down
Use the huge pool of specialized talent on oDesk to your advantage by splitting a large job into small pieces, and hiring people who have expertise in each particular piece.
2. Clarity is key
Be as clear as you can in your job description, and include as many details as possible. Be honest, straightforward and responsive. This will help you attract the most relevant and qualified candidates.
3. Play nice
Try to build a relationship with your team. Be personal, nice and responsive — it will pay off. You may even be able to establish long-term relationships that you can continue to leverage in the future.
What will your oDesk success story be?