Make It Work!
Welcome to the Client Resource Center, your one-stop shop for oDesk success. Get started with these six essential steps.
CLIENT IQ: SMART TIPS FROM ODESK PROS
“We are a virtual company. 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!”
– Marjorie Asturias // President & CEO of Blue Volcano Media
“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.”
– Joshua Warren // Founder & President of Creatuity Corp.
“With my last venture, I had offices and leases and we had to negotiate with governments to be licensed in their country and I was dealing more with bureaucracy than I was with the creative process. With oDesk, I don’t have to open offices. I just find the best talent and hire them so I go back to the creative end of running my business.”
– Jay Shapiro // Tribal Head of the Humans at Infinite Monkeys
“Here I’m 60 years old and life is getting better and better. I only take on algorithm- and mathematics-related projects, even though these types of opportunities are rare in Florida. I basically work when I want while doing what I love.”
– Stanley Smith // Algorithm Scientist
“What we were not able to do with nearly $1.5 million and 6 full-time employees, we’ve done there and back again for significantly less.”
– Adam Neary // Founder & CEO, Activecell
“I changed careers to start a business as a writer and editor. Once I started working on oDesk, my business grew at a rate I would never have thought possible. I don’t see myself doing anything else now.”
– Siobhan Gallagher // Writer & Editor
“I had interviews with companies here in Spain, but because of the economy, the offers were not compatible with what I could earn on oDesk. Having clients from throughout the world means my earning potential is not tied to the economy locally.”
– Salvatore Balzano // App Developer
“It was a real shock to my friends when I decided to walk away from the best-paying employer on the island to go out on my own and start my own business on oDesk. But I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I couldn’t be happier.”
– Marcel Morgan // Web Developer
Everything You Wanted to Know About Online Work
(but were afraid to ask)
Learn tips, tricks, and best practices directly from clients who used online work to grow successful businesses.
Ready. Aim. Hire!
A visual representation of how businesses are using freelance talent to get the skills they need, fast. Take a look!
All About oDesk
Discover who we are, what we do, and how we make it easy to find, hire, manage, and pay the world’s best freelancers. Take a look!
The Rise of Online Work
How the online workplace has grown, evolved, and turned into a one billion dollar industry that is changing the lives of businesses and freelancers worldwide. Take a look!
How do I get started?
The three steps to getting started are 1) signing up on oDesk, 2) defining your project, and 3) posting a job. So, if you haven’t already, sign up as a client—be sure to add your details and a payment method.
Now it’s time to define your project. Outline your goals, deliverables, the skills you’re looking for, and your desired deadline. By thinking through and articulating your needs, you make it easier to write an effective job post and explain your job to others.
Hiring for a project outside of your technical experience? Log in and sign up to talk with one of our Hire Up recruiting experts. The service is free, and they can help you write an effective job post that attracts the best candidates.
Now that you know what you need, post a job! Be sure to include as much detail as possible. And here’s a little tip—”pre-screen” applicants by requesting in your job post that they answer a simple question when they apply. Toss out any applications that don’t include your answer. You can also scout your own talent by searching for freelancers and inviting qualified individuals to apply.
- Evaluate candidates
- Hire the right freelancer
- Get to work
How do I evaluate my applicants?
A proper evaluation begins with the basics—cover letter, skills, and feedback.
Scan the cover letter for content, communication level, and attention to detail. The cover letter should tell you instantly whether they have the communication abilities critical to working online, and whether their skills match your project. If you asked them in your job post to answer a simple question and they didn’t, hide their application immediately.
Next, review their profile to determine if they have the skill set and experience you need. Screen according to:
Star ratings and feedback. Look for high ratings (above 4.5 stars) and positive client comments.
Work history and experience. Have they completed jobs similar to yours and shown progression in their work and rates?
Client clues. Being rehired by the same client for multiple projects is a very good sign. So is being assigned to large, ongoing jobs.
Total oDesk hours. There are great freelancers who are new to oDesk and have the right skills you need. However, if they’re new to online work, we recommend a more hands-on style of management as they learn the ropes.
Portfolio. Do you like what you see? Is the work quality consistent?
Tests and certifications. Look for scores in the top 20% of the skills you’re hiring for.
If the applicant passes this initial screening, contact them directly to get the conversation going. We recommend also asking a few project-specific questions to get further evidence of their experience and written communication skills.
Did all go well? Time for an interview! For smaller jobs, a quick chat or email exchange may be all you need. If you’re hiring for the long-term, interview via live chat or video call to confirm they’re a good fit. Ask them about work similar to yours and to explain how they would approach your project.
Last, but definitely not least...hire a few top candidates for a short “test-drive” job to determine if their skills and personality are up to par. Give them a day or a few hours to complete a small portion of your job. If you’re happy with the quality, speed of work, and communication, then make the hire and kick off the project in full!
How do I choose the best freelancer?
You posted a great job description and whittled down your applicant list to a few outstanding candidates. How to choose which one will be best?
Place a premium on written communication abilities when hiring. There is often a strong corollary between the ability to express yourself via writing and overall communication and work skills. We know one top client who specifically does a lot of communicating through email before he hires because of this.
And then there’s the test drive! Hire your top picks to perform a small part of your project. This will give you a chance to evaluate their work firsthand, and give them an opportunity to prove their skills.
Give them from a few hours up to a day to deliver. When they do, review the work to determine how efficiently they worked, their communication skills, and the quality of their work. This should tell you everything you need to know to make the best hire!
How much should I pay my freelancer?
You’ll find a very wide range of rates based on a freelancer’s skills, experience, feedback, and work history on oDesk. And though a seasoned mobile app developer is going to command a higher rate than a rookie virtual assistant, there are a few rules of thumb to follow when you’re negotiating a rate and setting your budget.
What’s your management style? Are you a hands-on, enthusiastic manager who likes to follow a project closely every step of the way? Or would you rather be a little less involved? If you don’t want to commit to the active management of your freelancer, hire someone with more experience with the understanding that they will proactively manage their project and keep you in the loop.
Is it a specialized skill? Proven, qualified specialists, particularly in technical fields, will typically command a higher rate. Think twice before you hire a Ruby on Rails “expert” whose hourly rate is $2!
How familiar are you with the skill you’re hiring for? If you’re hiring outside your comfort zone and aren’t prepared to accurately evaluate a project’s progress, we recommend paying a little extra to secure a qualified freelancer with proven experience and great client feedback.
At the end of the day, while you can still find fantastically affordable help on oDesk, the old saying “you get what you pay for” generally applies. Or, as our client Chris Clegg told us, “if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait ‘til you see how much it costs to hire an amateur.”
How do I kick off a project?
A good kick off meeting sets the groundwork for a smoothly running project. It’s your big chance to get your new freelancer (and anyone they’ll be working with) ramped up and ready to go. And it’s even more important if you’re working with a freelancer for the first time.
Introduce yourself and your team. Take a little time to get to know each other by talking about the job, your business, and your background.
Set expectations and ground rules. Go over what you expect from your freelancer, and what they can expect from you. This can include timing, delivery methods, priorities, and anything else important to the success of the project. Is it okay for your freelancer to add manual time? How often will you check their Work Diary? Talk about these and any online work-specific behaviors now.
Agree upon a communications plan. The importance of clear and consistent communication can’t be underestimated! Decide how and how often you should touch base, what hours of each day you’ll both be available to IM, and what you’d like from them in terms of a work progress report. We recommend an end-of-day report detailing what was accomplished and what will be done the following day.
Remember, the more info you give your freelancer about the job, the better. So take the time to cover all your bases, reiterate your project requirements, and kick things off on a high note!
What’s the best way to communicate with my freelancer?
You’ve got multiple options when it comes to communicating with your freelancer, so choose whatever works best for both of you. Here are the ones we recommend:
Good, old-fashioned email. For longer communications, we’re fans of email, as it allows you to really document and detail your work communications and requests. The oDesk Message Center is an excellent resource for centralizing your online work communications, but you can also use a personal or business email account.
Instant message. Great for getting a quick question answered or touch base for a fast project update. Be sure to establish daily times when both you and your freelancer will be online and available.
Video chat. Sometimes, it’s just nice to connect face-to-face with your freelancer. Skype and Google Hangout are two leading video chat services.
Regardless of how you do it, communicating often and clearly is the key to keeping your project on track!
How do I know if my freelancer is working?
Between communicating well and our online tools, you should be able to get a pretty clear picture of how many hours your freelancer is working, on what, and how well.
Check the Work Diary daily. Your freelancer’s Work Diary provides a work-in-progress snapshot taken directly from their screen every ten minutes. It also records activity level by monitoring keystrokes and mouse clicks (but not what was written or clicked) and a memo entered by your freelancer describing the work. It’s a great tool for auditing what work is being done and number of hours worked.
Communicate daily. Communication is critical to establishing work progress and quality. Ask your freelancer to provide you with a daily end-of-day report detailing what was accomplished and what will be done the following day.
What should I do to make my project a success?
While every project is different, there are certain principles that will always help guide your job to success.
Know what you want. Be crystal clear about what you want to achieve with your project before you post a job or hire. It’s easier to explain the job and find the right talent once you’ve articulated your goals and deliverables for yourself.
Hire well. Just as in the offline world, the key to a job well done is to hire the right person to do it. So, particularly for larger, ongoing jobs, take your time and vet your candidates well. Evaluate them first through their cover letter and portfolio, then during a real-time interview, and finally by hiring them for a short, test-drive project.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! We know we say this a lot, but communicating clearly, thoroughly, and consistently is just too important not to make a big deal about.
Be an active manager. The temptation with online work is to toss the job over the wall and hope that your freelancer delivers the job on time and up to par. Online or off, this isn’t the best way to ensure great results. Be sure to actively engage your freelancer—don’t be afraid to check in, ask to see work in progress, or request daily updates.
Provide feedback. Is the work going well? Then be sure to give your freelancer a virtual pat on the back. Positive feedback goes a long way towards building long-lasting work relationships and fostering great work. On the other hand, if you’re not satisfied with their output, say something! Be polite, but clear in your constructive criticism—there’s a good chance your freelancer didn’t know you were dissatisfied and will adjust to live up to your expectations.
I didn’t find the freelancer I need. What do I do?
If you posted a job and you just didn’t get the applicants you were hoping for, there are a few things you can do.
Revise your job post. Go back and take a look at your original post. Was it detailed enough? Did it clearly and accurately articulate your project? Do a search for similar job posts to get insight into what other people are asking for and how they’re wording it.
Increase your compensation. Are you requesting a mountain of work for minimal pay? Posts with below average compensation simply don’t attract top talent.
Scout your own talent. Do a freelancer search to pinpoint people with the skills and experience you need. Contact qualified candidates with an invitation to interview for your job.
Add a payment method. If you haven’t already, be sure to add credit card as your primary payment method. You won’t be charged until you hire and work begins, but it proves to experienced freelancers that you are serious about hiring and have a proven ability to pay.
I’m not sure it’s working out. Now what?
If your project isn’t going along as planned, step back and consider these possibilities as you reassess the job.
Talk it out. Get in touch with your freelancer to express your concerns. Be upfront about why you are unhappy, and give them clear directions for rectifying the situation. There’s a chance they had no idea you were unhappy and can easily correct the course of events.
Manage more actively. Misunderstandings most often arise when one or both parties aren’t communicating effectively. If you feel like your wires are crossed too often, be more proactive in your management style—check in often, ask to see work in progress, or request daily updates.
Trust your instincts. If your sixth business sense tells you that a freelancer isn’t honest or is giving you the runaround, trust your gut and end the relationship. There are plenty of trustworthy, hardworking professionals out there ready to step in and do the work.
How do I hire and manage a larger team on oDesk?
Whether your team is growing rapidly as you get the hang of distributed work, or you’re migrating an existing team onto the oDesk platform, here are some best practices to get more done with a larger team of freelancers.
Get help recruiting. Log in and sign up to talk with a Hire Up recruiting expert. The service is free, and they can help you write an effective job post to attract the best candidates.
Hire a project or team manager. Hire a professional project manager on oDesk to manage your team as you grow, or promote internally if one of your standout freelancers is ready to step into a team leadership role.
Build a team culture. Once you have more than a few freelancers, you’ll want to ensure your team is all working in sync. Introductions and team check-ins go a long way.
Got a 20+ team? Contact our Enterprise Solutions team. They have different levels of support services that are flexible, affordable, and remarkably manageable.