When Jamie Swartz launched Synergy Buzz Marketing in 2008, her first efforts at finding reliable freelancers were hit and miss at best. Talent she hired locally, or directly online, didn't always have the skills she needed, and didn't always deliver on promises.
"I've had to sue people I've paid a significant amount of money to," she says.
She spent five months hiring freelancers through another online marketplace, but found it inconvenient, too focused on short-term work, and not transparent.
"It was easy to find designers and writers, but I had no idea whether they were working the whole time I was paying them," she says. She also wasn't finding all the talent she needed to keep her growing agency moving forward. After five months, she was in search of a better solution. What she found changed her business.
Jamie Swartz / Partner, Synergy Buzz Marketing
"oDesk guarantees the work and the payment for hourly jobs. No other marketplace can say that."
Jamie stumbled across oDesk through a simple Google search, and five minutes after posting her initial job, she had her first freelancers applying. She was able to quickly assess them through their profiles, portfolios, test scores, work history and feedback—a wealth of information that makes hiring easier. In her first seven months as an oDesk employer, Jamie has expanded her regular team to six people, from as far away as Bolivia and Turkey, and from as near as Dallas, where she has an office. Jamie credits much of her success as a small agency to her oDesk workteam. "I've tripled my income because I have people who like what they do. They work hard, and we communicate well."
'So Fast, So Well, So Affordable'
Managing a widely distributed team might sound inconvenient, but Jamie says the Work Diary makes it easy to keep up on progress. "oDesk is the only way I can get a glimpse into what my teams are doing, and I know that I pay for work completed, and only for work completed," she says.
An obvious disadvantage to far-flung freelancers would seem to be coordinating across time zones. Jamie finds the mild inconvenience of an occasional late or early Skype call well worth the significant market advantage of having a 24-hour team.
"I'm able to turn my projects around overnight. My clients say they don't understand how I can work so fast, so well, and be so affordable," she says. "So whatever small inconvenience there is because of time differences, it's worth it."
The value isn't just in the turnaround, of course. Her team members have diverse talents and backgrounds, and together they deliver exceptional results.
She says she's able to bounce ideas off them, too. "I cross-reference every new person against other [freelancers] I use," she says. She routinely consults with a valued developer in Bolivia, for example, when she's vetting candidates for new software jobs.
"She's one of the best people I've ever had the opportunity to work with," Jamie says. Sustaining relationships with reliable freelancers is vital to Synergy Buzz's continued success, so she makes sure her team members know they're appreciated. "I give them bonuses every month, because I want to and because they deserve it."
Jamie Swartz / Partner, Synergy Buzz Marketing
"I've found really great people and they give me really great turnaround, better than I could get locally. I've gotten a lot more business because of that."
While she's a believer in the value of a globally distributed workteam, she says some people take awhile to come around.
"Some of my clients were a tad concerned about outsourcing, but once they saw how I can deliver so quickly and with such high quality, they were no longer concerned," she says. She also notes that this is a practice that nearly all marketing and web development agencies do—they just don't talk about it. "The funny thing is that I have recently been hired by two agencies to take all their SEO work and manage a lot of the client work."
'Well Worth the 10 Percent'
And payments—regular hours and bonuses—are easier through oDesk. "I'm not an accounting or money person," Jamie says, "so being able to just set a direct deposit and see all the reporting so easily is just great." Independent freelancers often demand money up front, with no real accountability in return, and she found other marketplaces' payment systems to be cumbersome. "With oDesk, I don't need to put money in escrow and negotiate money back when something goes wrong."
oDesk doesn't charge fees for membership or for posting jobs. It simply takes 10 percent of what a employer pays the freelancer, a seamless process that Jamie says is a great value.
'A Real Person Called Me'
Surprisingly, what helped sell Jamie on oDesk were some newbie hiccups.
"As soon as there was a problem, someone from the oDesk Customer Support team called me preemptively." She says she hadn't even known something was amiss. "I was impressed that a real person called me—and being attuned to customer service, it meant the world to me."
"Without oDesk, you'd lose your administrative desktop," she says. "Then I wouldn't have any of the resources—screen shots, price comparison module, review status, the secure payment system." All those things—and oDesk's global talent pool—would go out the window, she notes.
"I'm willing to pay 'extra' because ultimately, you get what you paid for—and to me, it's well worth the 10 percent," she says. "I have 22 clients right now that I'm managing all the projects for, most of them through oDesk. I couldn't get it all done without oDesk."
How Jamie makes use of oDesk data:
- Dig into Feedback: "I'd see people with high overall scores who had some really good reviews, but also had some really bad ones. That told me that 50 percent of the time they're 'on,' but 50 percent of the time they're off, too."
- Quality Over Quantity: The desire for consistent performance led her to trust newer freelancers. "I decided to invite people even if they had worked fewer hours."
- Proof is in the Portfolio: Jamie relies on test scores and portfolios to show what a freelancer can really do. "Test scores help verify people's claims of expertise."
Synergy Buzz Data Sheet
oDesk user since:
16 filled jobs
# of team members:
6 primary freelancers,
plus short-term jobs
Turkey, United States