The Way We Work
September 12, 2013 by Catherine Raney

Chris Clegg founded Portland Marketing Analytics in 2010, and decided to experiment with online work to see if this new way of working could help grow his business. He quickly discovered that oDesk was more cost-efficient than a traditional staffing agency and more effective than going through a recruiter, so he began to use oDesk as his go-to pool for talented professionals. Three years later, his company’s revenue has increased every year, and it’s now on track to become a multi-million dollar company. He told us, “I couldn’t have done it without the support of oDesk contractors.”

En route to success, Chris developed his own list of online work dos and don’ts. Below are four of his favorite tips on how to hire online and get to work.

1. Take your job description seriously. It’s not realistic to think you can throw your problems up online and wait for someone to swoop in with all of the answers. Chris explains that whenever he didn’t clearly explain what he wanted, he found a lot of well-meaning freelancers who were ultimately unable to help him. Drawing from his experiences, he emphasizes that it’s crucial to treat an online job post just as you would any other job description. He recommends, “lay out very clearly exactly what you’re looking for and what the expectations are.”

2. You get what you pay for. At first, Chris was drawn to oDesk because he believed it would be a good resource to get work done cheaply. He quickly realized that this was not the case; as with in-person employees, there is a tradeoff between quality and price with online workers as well. He recalls a favorite quote that captures this tradeoff: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you see how much it costs to hire an amateur.” Now, before Chris posts a job, he sets a fair budget and focuses on finding freelancers within that budget. Hiring skilled professionals at the rate they deserve is worth it, he explains.

3. Interview extensively. One of the benefits of online work is that it’s easier to identify the right candidates, particularly because you can interview a much greater number of candidates and test them by giving them small projects. Chris explains that it took him a while to start taking advantage of this; in the beginning, he interviewed only 2 or 3 people for a position, and then hired whoever he thought was most qualified. Today, he interviews between 15 and 20 candidates. He also doesn’t hesitate to give potential hires test projects, which has enabled Chris to more accurately pinpoint the right person for the job. He explains, “this has led to many more long-term relationships and much greater success for me and for my team.”

4. Hire specialists. When Chris started using oDesk, he thought the ideal freelancer would be a “jack of all trades,” someone who would help him with all of his projects. He quickly found, however, that the real advantage of oDesk was that it allowed him to hire specialized professionals for specific tasks. He now deconstructs problems into smaller projects and then looks for freelancers who are experts in those areas. He explains, “finding someone with the specialized skills and who is available for 10 hours or 30 hours at the moment I need them is critical.”

Now a seasoned expert in online work, Chris has many more business plans in the works— including expanding Genealogy Beginner, a genealogy research website. He says, “I have many more dreams in mind and many more things to realize, and I know I’ll be successful because of what oDesk has to offer.”

For more about Chris, his best practices and other ways that business owners like Chris have found success with online work, check out our Client Resource Center. You can also watch his video below!

What are your best practices for hiring online workers? Share them in the comments section below!

Catherine Raney

Marketing Coordinator

Catherine Raney is the Marketing Coordinator at oDesk, focusing on creating educational resource materials and building recognition programs. Before joining oDesk she worked with different international nonprofit organizations including Ashoka and Asylum Access, where she developed a deep interest in globalization and social change. Catherine recently graduated from Claremont McKenna College where she majored in history. She was just awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, which she… read more