Marjorie Asturias never thought opening up her own business was a possibility. But while working with a Dallas-based marketing firm that used oDesk to augment its on-site staff, she saw a way to build a company without the barrier of overhead. She started as a one-woman shop, but as work picked up she took the plunge and formed her own social media marketing agency, Blue Volcano Media.
Today, she works with a team of oDesk freelancers located throughout the U.S. and Canada. Depending on her clients’ needs, she typically works with an additional three to five freelancers at a time, all through oDesk. She taps into the online workplace because it “creates a huge savings for small business and gives me scalability; that’s important when you have such a small budget.”
By using online freelancers as the foundation of her business, Marjorie has grown her company while working the way she wants. “We are a virtual company,” she said. “I had an office a couple of years ago…until I remembered part of the reason I started this business was because I hated going into an office!”
While growing her own virtual business, Marjorie has developed her own strategies to best hire and manage her online workforce. Here are six of our favorite oDesk success tips and tricks from Marjorie:
1. Attract excellent candidates with highly detailed job posts.
Writing a detailed job post helps Marjorie attract candidates with the exact skills she needs. She explains, “With oDesk, there is already this huge talent pool with portfolios, ratings, resumes…so when I write my job post, the more detail, the better.”
2. Look for telling details when narrowing down initial applications.
Before considering an applicant, Marjorie looks for three things: a profile picture, a strong written cover letter and solid feedback. She automatically dismisses applicants without profile pictures, because not having a picture conveys an anonymity that won’t fit in with Marjorie’s close-knit, small-company culture. She also sorts candidates based on the quality of their writing: “It can be three sentences or three paragraphs. If it’s well-written and without mistakes, they go to the next round.” The final key ingredient that freelancers must demonstrate before making it to the next round is strong feedback and ratings. She advises, “Always read a freelancer’s feedback and ratings for a candid snapshot of their past work performance.”
3. Conduct rapid-fire interviews when narrowing down potential hires.
Once Marjorie narrows down her list, she interviews up to 25 remaining candidates. That may seem like a lot, but compared to the pain of hiring the wrong person, taking the time to interview extra candidates saves a great deal of time (and money).
4. A good project manager will free you up to focus on core business concerns.
Marjorie has found that a project manager can take care of details and keep things on track, freeing you up to focus on the core functions of your business. She recommends, “if you have the resources to hire a project manager who has the skill set you’re looking for, you should definitely take advantage of it. If you don’t, actually, I think you end up doubling the work.”
5. Build an assertive management style with regular meetings and crystal-clear processes.
Over time Marjorie has found the right balance between a more hands-on style of oversight and still giving her team enough room to operate independently. She explains the evolution of her management style: “I didn’t used to be as assertive, but now I’ve learned that it helps if we have regular meetings, so we usually get together over Skype at least once a week if not more.”
6. Create a team-centric environment built on professional trust and respect.
Having weekly meetings has not only improved her company’s workflow, but has also helped build a culture of freedom, respect and camaraderie. Marjorie explains, “I do try to inculcate folks with this idea that we’re a team. And it’s in our meetings that we really create and get a sense of our culture…they tend to be 50% laughing and joking around and sharing stories and 50% talking about business.”