Top 25 Project Management Blogs

May 14, 2009 by

These project management blogs carry wisdom from around the globe—from agile best practices to navigating office politics—and we think project managers will find each voice uniquely helpful. If you aren't already on these RSS feeds, you probably should be. UPDATED LIST: November 11, 2013. Read Full Article

How to give your website a quick SEO check-up

May 13, 2009 by

If you have a website that hasn’t seen any change in a while then it’s time to give it an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) checkup. There are some simple tasks you can perform that will significantly assist the success of your website in search engines. Google Analytics: Google Analytics is free, easy to use and incredibly useful. If you are not paying an SEO company to optimize your website and get it ranking in search engines, then this is for you. What do you get: Google Analytics will tell you how many people are visiting your website, what keywords brought them to your website, what websites referred them to your website, where they are from, how much time they spent on your website, what page they entered your website, what page they left your website and much more. The information is fantastic. However, ensure you analyze it and act on it. There is no use having so much relevant information and not taking any action on it to ensure you are tweaking your site the right way. One of the most important pieces of information you will gather from Google Analytics is what type of visitors you are attracting to your website. Are they the right type of visitors and potential clients? If not, tweak your Title meta tag and your content to let the search engine know, for example: you want people who were searching for “web design” not “web development“. Check your links: There are many tools available today, free to use, that will tell you if you have any broken links. Be sure to use these, and correct any broken or missing links you may have. Meta information: Examine your Title meta tag on each page. Is it reflective of the content on each … Read Full Article

Top 10 Online Resources to Learn and Master Microsoft Excel: Training and Tutorials

May 5, 2009 by

So you want to master Microsoft Excel, but don't know where to start? Do terms like Array Formula, VLOOKUP, User Defined Functions, ODBC, VBA and PivotCharts make you cringe? Is the transition from Excel 2003 to Excel 2007 giving you a double migraine headache? Have no fear! There is a vibrant community of Excel Experts online who are willing to take you under their wing...you just have to know where to look! We've compiled the top 10 places online to find help and get trained for free. Read Full Article

7 Things Every oDesk Employer Should Know

April 21, 2009 by

We’ve been using oDesk for a while now to subcontract out programming, data entry and virtual assistance services. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of people, but it took a while for us to get into our groove and figure out how to best use oDesk to our advantage. Below are 7 steps that we’ve learned while using oDesk, should make your employer experience a lot easier and more useful. 1. Establish Clear Objectives and Talents When looking for an hourly hire, make sure you know what you’re looking for. Don’t just put up an ad for “PHP Programmer”. Instead, establish what skills you are looking for: PHP Developer with 4 Years Experience, extensive knowledge of XML and PayPal integration. Not only does this help you attract more experienced candidates, it will help you figure out what you’re looking for. 2. Keep Clear Lines of Communication Just as you want to hear from employees, they want to hear from you. Keep them informed of anticipated work, project completions, and even why you let them go. This makes it a much more beneficial experience for everyone involved. 3. Test before Hiring If you’re not sure about a potential hire, hire them first for a small fixed pay job. That way you can judge their skills without committing to a long term project. You can also limit their amount of hours initially to get an idea of a skill level. For certain jobs, like writing, you can ask for specific samples from potential hires. 4. Know the going wage I see this one a lot – You can’t hire competent programmers from North America for the same price you would someone from overseas. Cost of living and taxes just won’t tell you. So if you’re angling for the homeshoring angle, be … Read Full Article

Break it Down: 8 Steps to Better Management

March 18, 2009 by

A new feature coming in the next few weeks inspires us to discuss a key technique for project management. It’s relevant to any kind of remote work, but at oDesk the ideas grew out of managing software development workteams. Our co-founder and CTO Odysseas Tsatalos is a firm believer in breaking the development process down to the smallest tasks, and our new task code feature will let buyers and project managers who adopt the technique to more accurately track the time and costs dedicated to each task. So for those inspired by the new feature, we offer eight tips that can make you a better manager: Think small: Break a larger assignment down to manageable tasks. Each takes a few hours—sometimes, a few days, but the larger the task, the harder it is to manage and track, so break things down as far as logic allows. Examples from an engineering environment: “Add landing page to production trunk,” “update the What’s New section on homepage,” or “add fields to database.”  Go high level: Keep your task description (or codes) to a high-level concept. This way, your reports will be more meaningful. Example: “Write a newsletter article,” “Edit the newsletter” and “Format and email the newsletter” may be tasks for three different providers, but they form a “Newsletter” component owned by your marketing manager. When reviewing the communication efforts at the end of the month, your reports will immediately show how much effort was spent on the newsletter.  Automate: Tasks should be automatically queued to their correct owners. There are many project management tools available to do that; these days we’re using Bugzilla, which is available in every team room. What system you use isn’t as important as finding one that works for you.  One thing at … Read Full Article

Take Smaller Bites: 4 Reasons to Break Down Big Jobs

March 18, 2009 by

We’ve got this new feature coming in the next few weeks: Task codes. Buyers break jobs down by small tasks, and a provider logging in selects a code indicating the kind of task she’s working on. That way, the buyer can plan and budget better. We haven’t come up with a version just for the provider’s personal recordkeeping (yet!), but it occurs to us that this is a great way for a provider to approach a job even if the buyer hasn’t embraced the feature. A buyer might hire you to “build an online store,” but approaching the job in that giant-sized chunk is a recipe for failure. You know you have to approach it one step at a time, and making this process visible to the buyer is a way to ensure solid communication and a smooth workflow. Go back to your buyer with a list of the specific tasks — “build database,” “populate database with product info,” “implement Yahoo shopping cart” — and time estimates for each. If your buyer creates applicable task codes, use them when you sign in. If not, just specify the task at hand on your work memo. Why go through all this nitty-gritty detail work? Here are four reasons: Manage expectations. Showing each step can make sure the buyer understands why the job will take the time and money you estimate it will take. It prevents misunderstandings or disappointment down the line.  Involve other team members. If your breakdown includes functions other team members will perform, this helps the buyer organize the team, and raises your stature as a key member. For example, your time may be best spent on building the database but not keying-in the information. Have a data-entry specialist do that while you are focusing on your … Read Full Article

oDesk: Time Study & More

March 2, 2009 by

If you are ineffective during any part of your workday and cannot determine why, then you need oDesk to help you track the use of your time and increase your throughput. oDesk is an extremely useful site due to the increasing use of contingency workforces, rise in telecommuting and growth of independent contractors. This suite of time management tools, job boards, and contractor payment services is surely to become indispensable to project managers in today’s global economy. During the past month, I have used the oDesk utilities, especially the Team Room, with several contractors and internal employees with incredible success. Time management, tracking of billable hours, team collaboration & communication  all are among the many capabilities of the Team Room. These features have increased the turnaround of team projects and improved the communication among staff members. Additionally, I have been able to use the Team Room’s work diary to track my time spent on various tasks and produce a weekly time-study. The work diary allows a user to identity time spent on various projects during the day, track productivity levels with an activity meter, and store screenshots of work being completed. The combined information can be used to evaluate use of work hours, evaluate employee performance, and review the use of resources across a team. The work diary can also be very useful to anyone working for several departments because the capture time and task tracking can be used to calculate chargeback time. Regardless of the chosen use of the work diary and other team room features, all of the mentioned features are extremely easy to use and can be seamlessly worked into the normal routine of almost any position working from a computer workstation, especially administrative, technical, and data entry positions. The clean and well organized interfaces of … Read Full Article

5 Agile tips for completing a successful project

February 26, 2009 by

Here are 5 agile tips for completing a successful project, in general and on oDesk. 1) Work from a prioritized list - There are always going to be features that are more important than others. I know clients like to say that it’s all important and that they needed it yesterday. But, assure them of the importance of prioritizing. Work with your client to prioritize their list of items. Tell them that it is important because you want to make sure you’re working on the most important items first. And, working on the most important things will assure that you are always delivering value to your client. 2) Get feedback early and often – If a project is going to last a month, break it up into deliverable chunks. Establish a delivery schedule e.g. “I will deliver small pieces of the application every Friday evening for you to try out”. This does several things: First, it creates trust with your client. Second, it gives you valuable feedback that you need throughout the project instead of finding out you were doing something wrong after it’s too late. In the end, you final delivery will be more in line with what they want than if they hadn’t seen it until the end. 3) Time-box your work – Do you ever notice that a task that should’ve taken you an hour to do expands to several hours and sometimes a day? Tasks tend to shrink or expand with the amount of time allotted. Set a realistic, but aggressive goal for each task, then re-evaluate when you hit your deadline. You’ll be surprised as to how much more you can get done. 4) Make your work visible - Always make your work transparent to your client by pushing your status instead of … Read Full Article

10 Ways to Tell the World About You

February 23, 2009 by

  A lot of businesses think of public relations as the province of enormous corporations, but it’s more—and less—than a fully staffed in-house department. PR is the function of presenting your business and its message in the clearest and most positive light, and motivating the prospective client to see you as a go-to authority. In an increasingly competitive economic environment, every business needs to work harder to get its name out there. And you’d be surprised how far you can get on only a little effort in this digital age. Example? Sure: We issued a press release about iPhone developer stats, submitted it to a press-release aggregator or two, inspiring post on an Apple blog that got about 800 hits on Digg. That’s not even all the reads, that’s just people who read it, had a Digg account, and were motivated to vote it up. Underlying every PR campaign is the idea of “owning” your category. When people think of what you do, you want them to think of you. Your public relations campaign is simply the process of getting other people to agree that, yeah, you do own that category. You can reach that goal, and there are talented oDesk providers to help you with specific PR tasks quickly and efficiently. We have experienced publicists and marketing writers, journalists and sharp-eyed editors, plus experts in search-engine optimization (SEO), social networking, business research and more. Here are 10 focused PR goals and tips on what to look for in a provider:   Do it yourself: You will need certain expertise, but remember that you’re the face of your company. This list of DIY PR tips will help you get a handle on being your own chief marketer. You … Read Full Article

Social Media: Word of Mouth 2.0 for Small Businesses

February 20, 2009 by

In the age of cyberspace and technology, social media is helping small businesses in a way never imagined as few as 10 years ago. If you’re not familiar with social media, think of it as word of mouth…upgraded! With colloquial applications like Twitter and Facebook on the rise, and bulletin sites like Digg and Reddit taking news stories to extraordinary heights, comes the potential to change the way small businesses do…well, business. Gary Vaynerchuk, social media enthusiast and host of Wine Library TV, talks about the power of word of mouth in social media in his video titled Word of mouth has changed: Word of mouth is on steroids, my friends. It’s Roger Clemens, it’s Barry Bonds, it’s – let’s throw Brett Boon in there – it is absolutely on steroids. More and more tools are being created every day to allow your word to travel in so many more places. Anyone running a small business knows the power of word of mouth. But when it comes to social media, what’s in it for your organization? Exposure and Marketing Having a web presence opens up a wide range of opportunities for small businesses. Simply having a website makes your business accessible to the entire world. Suddenly, your business card can be distributed across the globe with minimal effort. But is it enough? In some cases, it is – for example, a lawn care service may not need worldwide exposure. For companies embracing Internet technologies and globalization, however, social media is the wave of the future. In the example to the right, the first page of a search for the term “oDesk” on Yahoo! returns five links to social networking … Read Full Article

The challenges of working from home

February 9, 2009 by

Whenever I tell people that I work from home I get the usual “that’s cool!” or “you’re so lucky.” But it’s not always as “cool” or easy as one would think. Although working from home gives you freedom from rush hour traffic and killer pollution, it also calls for strict self-discipline. Procrastination is a real menace to people who work from home. With no boss to look over their shoulder to check if they are actually working, a lot of home-based workers take their own sweet time often resulting in missed deadlines, unpaid work, broken trust, and wasted opportunities. Since the environment at home is relaxed, home-based workers often have the difficulty of staying on “work mode”. We also have challenges with support. In a regular office environment when your fax starts to act up you just call maintenance, they fix it for you and you’re good to go. Your computer crashes two hours away from your deadline? No problem, most offices have LAN (local area networking) and you can access your files from a co-worker’s computer. When you work from home you are usually on your own. You are the maintenance man, the technical support guy and your very own Mr. Fixit-All. I have been working from home for more than a year and I can say that I have mastered the tools of the trade. To avoid giving in to procrastination, my first order of the day is to create a personal work schedule. I call on my self-discipline to adhere to it. I give myself small rewards (ice cream works best) whenever I am able to follow the schedule to the dot. I made a small office for myself and keep myself confined to my office during my working hours to keep myself in “work … Read Full Article

From Queue to Interview: Finding the Right Provider

January 22, 2009 by

  A recent perspective discussed how to write a killer job description, designed to bring highly qualified providers rushing at you from all over the world. Now we’ll look at what to do if, uh-oh, it works. 1. Your first order of business is to smartly sift though the candidates queue. Some tips: Include a specific instruction or “captcha” in your job description, such as, “Include two URLs to previous jobs in your cover letter.” Applicants who don’t follow instructions, reject immediately. Reject ridiculously low or ridiculously high rates/bids — deal with serious people only. Remove providers with below-average feedback. Anyone under a 4.0 is in the bottom quartile of all providers. Tread carefully. Of course, a brand-new provider will have no feedback, and that’s natural. If you like her portfolio, give her an interview. If that goes well, you may have discovered a new gem before anyone else! 2. Once you narrowed down the candidate queue, carefully read each provider’s profile. Work history and feedback are very telling. A provider who has had only one job, but has billed 500 hours and is still in progress, is keeping her buyer very happy. If a provider has 20 one-hour or one-day jobs on his record, pay close attention to the tasks and feedback. (Hint: you can click on a job opening and see the original job description to compare.) Check to see whether he has passed relevant tests. If an interesting candidate hasn’t yet taken a test pertaining to your job, invite him to interview and ask him to take it — it’s free and shouldn’t take more than an hour. Review portfolios for the quality, style and range of their work. If someone doesn’t have a portfolio — request one. 3. Read Full Article

Nailing the Interview

January 22, 2009 by

So you’ve focused your profile, updated your portfolio and learned to write a persuasive cover letter, all to land an interview with a buyer. Now what? Here are some tips for effectively interviewing with remote buyers: First, the obvious: Be prompt, polite, professional and prepared. Consider the “Four Ps” the unofficial code of conduct in the oDesk marketplace. Be flexible. Time zones and communications preferences can be tricky; be willing to adapt to a reasonable time and the method — email, Skype, IM — that the buyer prefers. Given that, try to schedule your interview for when you are at your best. Do not interview at the end of your day, when you’ll be tired. Better to wake up early for an interview than to stay up late. If you are working on another job, make sure to stop at least an hour before your interview. You want time to wind down, get a fresh start, review any relevant materials, and make sure you’re giving your best. Make sure you won’t be disturbed — especially if you’re on the phone (or Skype) and at home, don’t let background noise or interruptions make you seem unprofessional. Bring notes. Have at hand examples of past work that are relevant to this job, and have pertinent links and reference contacts at hand. Double-check your portfolio. If there’s anything relevant to this particular opportunity that you’d like the buyer to see, get it into your portfolio or be prepared to otherwise direct the buyer toward it. Ask the buyer about his experience with providers. What bugs him about providers? What has he valued in remote workers in the past? Discuss how your strengths can make you the kind of worker he’s looking for. Are you willing to do … Read Full Article

9 Ways Social Media Can Expand Your Online Marketing

November 24, 2008 by

When every news report warns of global doom and gloom, the business owner’s first instinct is to cut all extraneous costs. You run your production team lean, run your sales force lean, and everything else goes into the deep freeze. Too many people see marketing as something irrelevant, as vague feel-good fluff that neither makes the product nor closes the sale. That’s crazy talk.When the sales pipeline is running dry, or at least no longer gushing, it’s marketing that fills that pipeline, and even in lean times, targeted efforts can keep your name out in the marketplace and create a conversation (and hey, maybe even hype). This shows you’re a thriving player, not one of many recessionary casualties, and prepares potential customers for the closing move your sales team will execute.We’ve come up with ideas for marketing yourself through the latest social media and the old-fashioned general Internet: Social Media Optimization: Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and other social media sites? If not (or if so, and you’re overwhelmed with all of it), you may want a Social Media Optimization (SMO) expert to put your message into the newest and fastest-growing Internet arena.  Have her create a Facebook or LinkedIn group for your company and invite your users; every one of their friends will see that they are related to your company and there is just nothing better than that for word-of-mouth. Keep that SMO expert onboard to troll conversation on Twitter about your company and your industry, so she can send responses and begin threads. Use Google Alerts to be notified when terms relevant to your business are mentioned. Other social media your expert can monitor: Forum and blog commenting, LinkedIn and Yahoo Answers, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and GetSatisfaction. Launch video tutorials for your … Read Full Article

Budget Salvation! 10 Ways That Less Does More

October 24, 2008 by

You may have noticed that the economy is on shaky ground pretty much everywhere. It’s been in all the papers. While everyone’s on edge, the small-business owner is probably most nervous — you’ve got all the concerns everyone has, plus the future of your business and employees to worry about. A real challenge is how to make money go further — you can’t slash expenses, because you’re already running lean, and you don’t want to stifle your business out of economic fear. Move customer service to a remote team.   Move your system admin, network professional or support team from a retainer to hourly pay (for just those tasks that you need).   Hire writers or graphic designers from rural areas rather than more expensive urban areas.   Focus on search engine optimization instead of paid search efforts: Showing up at the top of a Google search beats buying an ad slot, anyway.   Expand the role of your existing team members, online and offline, so everyone participates in stretching your dollar further.   Free up executive time to focus on higher-value activities: Hiring someone for data entry and other time-consuming, lower-level tasks lets you and your top people concentrate on taking the business forward.   Buy used equipment from failed companies that need to sell computers, furniture or office supplies. You may even be able to score an amazing deal on that cool espresso machine you always wanted.   Use what’s free: Trade land lines for Skype, ooVoo or TokBox; use oDesk Share instead of paid web conference tools.   Use open source instead of paid software: PostgreSQL instead of Oracle, Gmail and Google Apps instead of an expensive in-house email and collaboration server.   … Read Full Article

Writing a Killer Job Description

September 23, 2008 by

There are hundreds of thousands providers on oDesk. You, however, don’t want 100,000 providers. You may want one provider — the one who offers the best combination of experience, reliability and affordability. And the thing is, you’re competing on any given day with dozens of other buyers to get her attention. On a random day this month, 550 jobs popped up for a search of Graphic Design, and nearly a thousand for PHP. We have a lot of talent on oDesk, and a lot of buyers, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t have first pick. The secret to that: writing a killer job description. The best people aren’t worried about keeping busy, and they’re not throwing themselves at any job that comes along. They’ve got two priorities: work that is interesting or challenging, and work that can turn into longer projects, so they can spend more time billing hours and less typing up cover letters on spec. When you get to the point of conducting interviews with hopeful applicants, you’re in control — you’re doing the hiring. When a provider sits down to sift through the latest job posts, he’s deciding whom to apply to — he’s hiring you, in a sense. Here’s how to make yours work: Make it interesting — no one wants to be bored, and talented people have multiple options. Be open and informative — providers want a strong communicator, and they want to see that you understand the project you’re hiring for. “Need programmer to build website” will not draw the best people. Give details, especially about deadlines and deliverables. Identify yourself and your company. If this isn’t appropriate, write a sentence about who you are and what your company does. Specify requirements, including skills tests, so the candidate can take them before applying. Also … Read Full Article

Success Stories: DIGICorp

September 20, 2008 by

Just six months after signing up as a provider company, oDesk jobs account for 25% of five-year-old Ahmedabad, India-based DIGICorp‘s workload. We talked to cofounder Abhishek Desai about oDesk’s part in the rapid growth of his online custom application development business. Q:  Some providers describe a learning curve before establishing themselves on oDesk. When did it click for you? A:  I think the best thing I did was creating my profile and my company’s profile as per guidelines provided by oDesk. Also, I apply to carefully selected jobs that I think we are really capable of doing. And I write personalized cover letters for all my applications. I don’t believe in just copy-pasting readymade cover letters. Because of all these, I can say I hit the ground really fast after becoming a member of oDesk. Q:  When you’re choosing which jobs to apply for, what tips you off about the best opportunities, versus the ones you decide not to pursue? A:  We tend to apply to jobs of a certain size, usually four weeks or longer. That does not mean we don’t do smaller jobs — if a job is interesting enough, we tend to pursue it. From the job description a buyer has written, you get to know how much the buyer is interested in really going forward. I like to work with a buyer who is equally excited to have his/her project up and running. Q:  If a buyer asks you how to attract the best providers, what’s your advice? A:  Carefully choose them by reading their cover letters first. Make sure you have providers who have written a personalized letter for you. This means the provider cares about your job and he/she has already spent time … Read Full Article

Success Stories: William Bridges of CogWise Software

August 20, 2008 by

CogWise Software specializes in building Ruby on Rails web applications. Based in Nashville, TN, USA, the company was founded in January 2007 and started hiring oDesk providers last November. The company relies on oDesk to simplify administration and to provide the bulk of its manpower–with only two in-house employees, it has 12 to 15 oDesk providers working on projects at any time. The company had been known as BluePaw Software, but was rebranded as CogWise just this week. CEO William Bridges says the new company is a fresh partnership with an oDesk provider, and the time was right for a new start. “CogWise is also about building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with clients and building our own internal software projects that my partner and I have thought of.” Q:  Do you have a small group of providers you work with regularly, or do you tend to seek new providers to suit each individual project? A:  A little of both. As we’ve grown, we’ve needed more developers. We actually look in the oDesk marketplace and outside, but we always have new developers sign up for an oDesk account, because it makes things a lot easier to manage. Our strategy is to have two or three small teams and some specialists for technology outside our core interest. Q:  How do you manage your providers? What have you learned about setting timelines, specifying deliverables or managing communication that’s unique to the remote worker relationship? A:  We use a project management software package called RedMine to foster communication. We usually have one lead developer who sets up tickets, milestones, and the deliverable schedule, and then the other programmers help execute that vision. Remote situations can be difficult and rewarding … Read Full Article

Outsource Customer Support and Save Money

August 20, 2008 by

Outsourcing customer support can be nerve-wracking. If you hire someone to build a website but don’t like the result, you’re out some time and money. Failures in customer support will cost you clients. Yet, if your in-house resources are drawn too thin, you can’t do a good job of managing your customers, either. There are reliable, responsible people working from home, and the cost savings over hiring and housing office staff are obvious–there’s a reason it’s a growing trend. JetBlue has thousands of people fielding customer calls from their homes, and the airline consistently ranks high in customer satisfaction. So it can be done. The question is, how do you do it right? Profile Details: Scan feedback for comments that praise not just work product, but interaction: “a joy to work with,” “an excellent communicator,” “very responsive.” Also look for test scores; oDesk offers certification in email etiquette and call-center skills. Anyone serious about the job will have taken the tests and scored well. Enjoy the Interview: The best customer service people are extremely competent and genuinely dedicated to helping you out. They’re sympathetic and friendly, but always professional, not chatty. When you interview your candidates, make sure they’re giving you the vibe you want your customers to get. Asset Allocation: Does the candidate have the time to commit to the schedule you need? Does she have the necessary technology and a quiet place to use it? Does she demonstrate the problem-solving skills the job requires? Role-play: Practice a few scenarios to see how your top candidates perform. Can your prospective hire listen in on a few well-handled calls? You should definitely monitor the first few calls after you hire her and provide very specific feedback. Read Full Article

Test Drive oDesk

July 23, 2008 by

oDesk is an exciting new paradigm that offers multiple advantages– remote, low-cost and low overhead work product without upfront outlay; a wealth of skilled contractors to select from; pay-for-performance; flexibility with a built-in background structure and real-time monitoring. However, with all these pluses, buyers are left with the same final hiring decision they have in any employment situation. New buyers and experts familiar with oDesk face the same question and the same challenge. The challenge. How can I be confident that I’m hiring the best person for the job at hand? Although  relevant for first time buyers and buyers seeking expertise in an area they have never hired for, any long term relationship is going to have the same initial trial period. I want to know not only that the people I hire are qualified, but also that they are going to fit my organization and the way I conduct business.. Examining provider profiles, portfolios and feedback is the suggested method, and for many jobs, this is sufficient. But  this may not be enough. There’s more to it than selecting a qualified person: Will this person work well with me? Will they meet my specific expectations, time constraints and budget? Will our relationship be effective and productive? The solution. There’s a way to test drive providers at oDesk with little risk. A way to answer the important questions and ease the worries that come with any new hire. And it can be key when filling a longterm position. The idea is simple. Post your Job and expectations normally, but when you find providers that have the qualifications necessary, hire them with limited hours and assign a portion of a project (or a smaller but similar project). You can create a small … Read Full Article

Finding the Right Provider

July 20, 2008 by

It’s easy to find skilled workers on oDesk–post a job, check out providers’ profiles, interview. It really is that simple, but a few tricks can help you get more from our global network of nearly 100,000 remote workers. Feedback: The first thing you’ll do is check the provider’s feedback and work history, but don’t just count stars. Look at what your candidate’s impressive 4.5 score really means to you. How many people contributed to that rating? Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, but the length of their track records should matter. Were they short projects or long? A ten-hour job is one thing, but longer assignments reveal the ability to handle complex jobs, manage relationships and deliver consistently, so weigh feedback on that 200-hour project more heavily. Are they getting repeat business? Seeing the same buyer IDs come back is a stronger recommendation than the highest written praise. What about ongoing projects? If the provider has a lot of continuing jobs, check whether she’ll have time to meet your deadlines. But be encouraged when a provider is still engaged in a project after logging 400 hours: She’s proven herself indispensable. What kind of jobs are listed? Your prospective Java developer lists a full alphabet soup of skills: ActiveX, CSS, J2EE, PHP, the works. If most of his projects have been in PHP and CSS, even dazzling feedback might not qualify him for your six-month J2EE project. Portfolio: Feedback lets you see whether a provider’s work made the buyer happy. The portfolio lets you see whether their work makes you happy. Is it good enough? Do you like your prospective writer’s “voice”? Do you find that prospective web designer’s last site attractive and easily navigable? Is it big enough? Does the portfolio contain work of the scope … Read Full Article

Success Stories: Tarun Verma of Sun Softwares

July 20, 2008 by

India’s Sun Softwares does graphic design and web development. It started with one person in 2003 and now employs 20. Owner and CEO Tarun Verma credits a lot of that growth to oDesk. Sun signed up as an oDesk provider in July 2006, but Verma says his company didn’t start using oDesk effectively until the following January. Today, about 60 percent of Sun Softwares’ work comes via oDesk buyers. Q: It’s important for a provider to find a client he or she can work well with. Besides looking for a project that fits Sun Softwares’ expertise, what do you look for when you see a job post? A: We try to look for projects that are required to be built from scratch using the latest technology, and we look at the client’s comments in the job postings. At times we see some harsh comments in the job post, and we tend to ignore those posts, as there are high chances of project failure due to the client’s attitude. Some job posts call only for bug fixing–we ignore them, as it’s difficult to take those projects to completion which are already in some kind of mess. We pursue the full projects and the projects with complete specifications. The projects which are posted with complete specifications show that the buyer is really keen and would be very good to work with, as the scope has been clearly defined. Q: When you interview with a first-time client, how do you make sure you’re understanding the project requirements and the buyer’s needs? A: We try to get detailed specifications from the buyer, URLs of example websites, wire diagrams of screens, expected time for completion, expected budget. If the client does not provide the complete details, … Read Full Article

Success Stories: Jan Zands of Phonesheet.com

June 20, 2008 by

The Vision: In 1996, Jan Zands was answering phones at a Hollywood studio, trying to manage the high volume of incoming and outgoing calls with paper and pen–an overwhelming challenge. “A film producer will make about 40 calls per day and receive another 40 per day — and in Hollywood, a lot of people don’t return calls,” Zands explains. “It’s necessary to have a good system for tracking calls and what they are about, but at the time no such software existed — I saw an opportunity that a lot of other companies could benefit from as well.” Zands saw a way to build something better, and went into business building and installing FileMaker databases to handle call tracking. He soon realized that this was a cumbersome and expensive proposition for users. ìI needed to make it into a web-based application”, he said. The Problem: Good programmers are hard to find. Starting in 2001, Zands tried newspaper ads and Craigslist postings, then costly consulting firms and Internet-based offshore companies. Repeatedly he’d hire programmers who seemed reliable, but would end up leaving their work incomplete. “My biggest challenge was finding programmers that were affordable, but also skilled enough to finish the entire job,” Zands said. “I was wading around in the ocean of providers for over five years until I found oDesk.” The Solution: He found oDesk in April last year. “I went on oDesk and it was awesome! I posted my job and got about 20 responses within a day,” he said. “I was able to find people at the rate I needed and was also able to look at testimonials so I was certain that these people would finish the job.” That helped eliminate the biggest frustration he’d been experiencing. Read Full Article

oDesk Perspective: Integrating Virtual Staff

June 20, 2008 by

Most oDesk assignments start small–you hire a provider to complete a specific project. But when the provider proves he can be relied upon, you start giving him more hours and increasingly vital tasks. Soon you may find your remote provider fully integrated with your in-house staff, and that begins to change the relationship between buyer and provider. We know–here at oDesk we hire providers to work with our in-house staff, and on some projects, one type of worker is virtually indistinguishable from the other (click here to read more about Team oDesk). Add to the mix workplace flexibility that allows traditional employees to telecommute instead of coming to the office each day and you’ve got a team requiring an entirely new set of management skills. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned on the job. When you hire a provider to, say, write a discrete piece of code, you may not care when he does the work–as long as the Work Diary and memos look good, and you get good code on time. But when you need more real-time collaboration, you have to reach an agreement for the provider to be available during some or all of your business hours. But how will he be available? Is IM enough? Does he need to have a Skype account? A webcam? When he’s out, will he leave an away message telling you what time he’ll be back? Will your in-house staffers do the same? You trust your provider to work around his daily life. Maybe he doesn’t log on until after midnight, or frequently suspends sessions to handle family needs. Once he’s agreed to be available at set times, you have as much right to make sure he’ll have a distraction-free work … Read Full Article

Success Story: Stuart Hibbert / icomplete.com

May 22, 2008 by

Stuart Hibbert from icomplete was kind enough to interview with oDesk and share some of his insights into how to successfully use oDesk as a buyer. His interview was included in a recent oDesk newsletter. Based in Swindon, England, icomplete.com was conceived by three founders who, after many years of running successful small businesses, wanted to pass on their knowledge to help other companies improve their image, save time, and increase profits. Their Software-as-a-Service Business Suite incorporates CRM (contact management), calendar, task management, collaboration tools, telephony and website widgets, plus real-life personal assistants to answer calls and undertake tasks clients don’t have time or expertise to do themselves. The beta version is due out soon, to be followed by the commercial launch in the United Kingdom – starting at just £25 ($50) per month – there are no upfront costs, or contract tie-ins. An advertising-supported ‘free’ version will also be available worldwide (minus some of the enhanced features). CEO Stuart Hibbert is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and specifically the product and technical teams. “Ultimately,” he says, “the buck stops with me.” As an oDesk buyer: Hibbert has been using oDesk for nearly a year, hiring developers within several disciplines; Java, AJAX (JavaScript) and Asterisk; as well as product testing and technical writing. “We started off with just a couple of Java developers back in June 2007,” he says. “We wanted to understand how outsourcing would work for us and which service best suited our requirements. We initially worked with two remote management services, but we liked oDesk so much that we moved those developers over to oDesk too. Our team is now nine providers strong. We tend to have a regular stable of providers – however, for certain skills we do … Read Full Article