The Way We Work
October 23, 2013 by Catherine Raney

With experience both as an oDesk freelancer and client, Joshua Warren has a unique perspective on online work.

It all started when the economy took a dive several years ago. He found steady work on oDesk as a freelance web developer earning $15/hour, but in no time he was commanding a rate of $95/hr—and still the demand for his work was more than he could keep up with. As a result, he began hiring other oDesk freelancers to help with overflow work.

Still, the requests kept on coming, and Joshua soon realized he couldn’t get all of this work done by himself. He recalls, “I was just a single freelancer getting absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of work, and realized that I needed help. Instead of looking for someone locally, I wanted to find the absolute best person that could help me no matter where they were in the world.”

So, in 2008 Joshua founded Creatuity, a web development firm specializing in Magento, PHP and WordPress. He explains how he got started: “I found a project, just a personal project that I hadn’t made a lot of progress on and didn’t have a lot of time for. I put it out there as a test project and hired a few different people. That’s actually how I ended up finding someone that I’m still working with to this day.”

Flash forward five years, and Joshua is at the helm of a booming business that currently employs 23 people, 13 of which are remote and deliver all work online. While growing his company, he honed his own best practices for hiring and managing online talent. Below are five of our favorite oDesk success strategies from Joshua.

1. Don’t narrow your talent search by hourly rate—the perfect freelancer might be out there for just a little bit more.

Because getting it done right is usually more important than getting it done cheaply, Joshua advises against narrowing your applicant pool based on hourly rate. He explains that when he first started hiring online, he discovered that “instead of finding the best balance between price and quality, a lot of people were just looking for the best price. I realized that it’s important to get as many candidates as possible by not narrowing down on money upfront and leaving the job requirements open.” This technique has helped Joshua identify a number of talented freelancers who—while a little more expensive—were well worth the investment.

2. Look for candidates who are passionate about what they do and who you’ll personally enjoy working with.

When it comes to evaluating potential hires, Joshua has developed his own formula based on equal parts communication and passion. He explains, “Finding someone I can work well with can be just as important as finding someone with the technical qualifications, so I’ll look to see if they included something about themselves in their application. Did they say something that shows me they’re passionate about what they do, that they are interested in it, that this isn’t just another contract and another few hundred dollars? Is this something that is their craft, that they enjoy doing? Those are the people that stand out to me, and those will usually be the very first ones I’ll invite to interview.”

Joshua Warren, oDesk freelancer

3. Written communication is a key indicator of overall job performance.

With online work, Joshua has found that there is a strong correlation between written skills and overall performance. This is because the most common way for remote team members to work together is through email or other written messages. For this reason, Joshua explains that “you need someone who isn’t afraid to send you a detailed daily email, and who will also understand you when you reply.” To identify people who can communicate well in writing, Joshua focuses on written abilities instead of verbal abilities in his interviews.

4. Establish and articulate a clear company culture to guide your hiring and management decisions.

Joshua disagrees with the common misconception that you can’t create a company culture with remote workers. So, one day he and his team developed a list of their core values using email and online polls. He explains, “it really surprised everyone we had hired because they’d never seen remote workers treated that way—they were used to being treated as these contractors that you kind of use up on a project and then move onto the next thing.” This experience proved to Joshua that building a company culture with your remote team is not only possible, but also has a strong positive impact on things like team morale and engagement. He explains, “I think it’s helped more with retention than bonuses or raises or anything else really could.”

5. Double your productivity (and gain a killer competitive advantage) by building a network of global freelancers to cover all time zones.

In Joshua’s experience, having a team from many different time zones is smart business strategy. Creatuity is currently running at 18 hours of productivity per 24-hour cycle, and Joshua plans on recruiting in China, Australia, and Japan to get that productivity rate up to 100% of the day. He explains the benefits of having a company that never stops working: “Our clients are amazed because they will bring us something at 5:00 p.m. and they’re thinking ‘Hey, you know, it’s 5:00 p.m. here in Dallas, we’re going home and it’s going to be a little while before I hear back on this.’ We’ll hand it off to someone in Poland, and by the time the client is back in the office at 8:00 a.m. the work is done. The clients are just blown away because they think someone was up all night working on it!”

For more about Joshua and his best practices, check out our free eBook or our Client Resource Center!

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

  • Mahfuz Raihan

    Thanks Joshua....very Inspirational....Though as a Contractor I would say we need more employer like you in oDesk...I have worked as a VA for last four years via third party...nd that really a pain...From last year September I am active in oDesk. Believe me I tried Thousands of way to get a job here But the problem is some clients are not willing to pay what I deserve...they think lower price will get their job done but they dont realize ultimately they are paying the same amount we asked for except the other contractors work at $1/hr for 100 hrs and we at the same time complete the work within 20 hours.

    If you see from my point of view you need that one click you are waiting good hourlie can bring you to the limelight...but you are not getting it because you are charging too high from their point...they need a cheap contractor with all the qualities in the world.
    Your oDesk life made me believe that there are some clients who are willing to pay the right wage for the right work.....Thank again

    I am happy now that after a year I got that one click. Lets see whats next...

  • Cheptiony Mutai

    Joshua's story is very inspiring. I love his style of hiring contractors and managing his business. This is a fantastic expression of me. I started as a freelancer but I am now hiring and recently checked out my starts and noted that I have paid contractors $1000+ and still paying. I am headed the same way as Joshua.Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Damien Darby

    Joshua, it’s so good to hear I’m not alone in my oDesk rags to riches success. Bravo! It’s also good to see another American digging himself out of this depression 2.0 through the #futureofwork. With 100 Million folks out of a traditional income, our stories must be spread far and wide.

  • Joshua Warren (@JoshuaSWarren)

    Thanks for the kind words, all! If any of you have any questions or comments, let me know. I also wrote a brief article today inspired by many of you that have reached out to me, called "Acknowledging The One Thing Standing Between You and Your Goals: Fear" - check it out at and let me know what you think!

    • johnpaulobanaagBanaag

      You help to realize how to pursue my goal and to achieve it...
      You gave me an inspiration...I hope we could meet in Odesk.
      Its hard for me to look for a job right now.

    • Jon-Paul R.

      Hi Joshua,

      I gave your blog a read. You wanted some feedback on the idea; "Fear, not a lack of time, money or opportunities, prevents us from reaching our goals. The first step to overcoming this is simply to acknowledge our fear."

      While it's true that fear has been a huge stumbling block for practically everyone at some point in time (i.e. whether dating or otherwise) I think I'd find it difficult to agree that the "... One Thing Standing Between You and Your Goals: Fear".

      You too have probably met many contractor that doesn't lack the fear to even lie about their ability, but lacks the talent to meet the lie that they esteemed themselves with. Thus ultimately it's not the fear that caused their downfall, but their lack of integrity. Other people have the gusto (the fearlessness) to get out there in front of clients and do all it takes to get the clients (you know the sales guys ), but such people often lack the organizational skills or perhaps even the business skills, to maintain the business they bring in. Thus it's not the fear that killed their opportunity, but perhaps we can call it a lack of business administration.

      Where we will agree is that Fear is surely be a dream killer. When it comes to taking 'leaps of faith', it cancels the leaps and annuls the faith and though it doesn't affect everyone in life the same way, I think we'll also probably agree that "Fear" is something we all need to stop and take an inventory check on. To evaluate the depth to which it may be hindering us in someway or another. To make sure that our lack of hope doesn't cancel our dreams.

      Warm regards,

      Jon-Paul R.
      Native English U.S.Copywriter (Digital Content Provider & Strategist)

      • Jon-Paul R.

        P.S. Just to clear the air, I have no relation to nor any idea who the commenter with a similar name as mine (theirs being "johnpaulobanaagBanaag"). Clearly though, we have much less in common than just our writing styles.

        All the best Joshua,

      • Joshua Warren (@JoshuaSWarren)

        Great points all around, Jon-Paul! I'll have to admit, I wrote the article from the standpoint of an honest, hard-working individual. If someone is unethical or otherwise has a lack of integrity then my article doesn't really apply!

        I would say that even a lack of business administration skills, however, has at its root, fear. When you dig down deeper - ask "why?" and "why not?" quite a bit - you'll often find the underlying reason is fear. For instance, I realized early on that there were areas I just didn't do well in, that I needed help in - I'm not always the best at being organized, for instance. The answer to that was to find people that could help me improve in that - either personally, through my friends and associates that I spend time with, or professionally, by hiring them. But for a long time, the thing that stopped me from hiring the people I needed, people that complemented my strengths and compensated for my weaknesses was fear - fear that I wouldn't be able to afford them, fear that I wouldn't be able to manage them, etc. So, there again we see fear.

        From your last remarks, I think we're in agreement on this - that deep down, it seems like we lie to ourselves or won't admit to ourselves how much fear prevents us from reaching our dreams, which is really sad, but the first step to moving past it is to just admit it and be honest about it!

    • mraza111

      Can you hire me

  • Niaz Morshed

    Quite inspiring. Thanks for the great writing! :)

  • Kristin M Flores

    great story! I can see myself growing my business just like him one day :)

  • jayanth1