Virtual outsourcing is a booming industry, and you’d be surprised at how many tasks can be handled via the internet with a virtual helper. Overall, outsourcing your tasks is convenient, and allows a great opportunity to put your time and energy into more important pursuits.
There is a great saying that you should aim to do what only you can do, so learning to delegate tasks in your own business is an essential step in growing your business to the next level.
Two of the most popular platforms for hiring virtual freelancers are oDesk and Elance. Both are great at getting the job done and allowing you to find the type of expert you need to handle your tasks. But each site has subtle differences, and one may be better suited for your needs than the other.
Posting The Job
Posting the job on each site is a very similar process. There’s a template available based on the type of job you’re posting, and you can choose all the variables about the type of contractor you’re looking for, from location, to experience, to test results, and more.
Elance offers a “featured” option where you can promote your listing so it’s seen by more contractors.
Both sites give the ability to make the listing public or private. Private listings are for when you just want to invite a handful of contractors that you’ve chosen yourself.
On public listings, you’ll find that many contractors don’t thoroughly read through the job description and instead use a copy and paste response. When posting your job you should mention some specifics and ask the applicants to respond to these factors specifically. This will help you eliminate the copy/pasters from the applicants.
Choosing a Contractor
Selecting the right contractor is a complicated task. Elance makes this easier through a rating system that allows you to give your bidding contractors a rating out of 5, and weed out the ones who aren’t so great.
Elance seems to get a lot less responses to each listing, but the length of time each contractor has been on the site seems longer, making Elance the winner in terms of quality of respondents.
oDesk takes it to the next level by encouraging an interview, which is great if you want to be absolutely sure that the contractor you hire is the right one for the job.
One major problem with oDesk is that there is no way to filter the applicants based on common search criteria like skills or ratings, so if you get a lot of applicants for one role (and on oDesk it’s quite easy to get 300+ people applying for the same position) it can be a nightmare sifting through them all and manually narrowing the field based on skills and experience.
Both sites have a “hide” function, so you can instantly remove from view the applications that don’t fit the bill, allowing you to narrow down the number of applicants you’re looking at.
With both platforms you have plenty of range to check the potentials contractors’ portfolios, test scores, past jobs and ratings, so there is always a lot of information to go on when hiring the right person for the job, once you have a shortlist.
Both platforms offer great services for monitoring the work of your contractors. This feature allows you to track hours worked and see the screens as they work, so you know your contractor isn’t wasting time, but is actually using paid hours effectively.
For fixed-price projects it’s more difficult to monitor the work, but it’s not so important because you only pay when you’re happy with the finished result.
For fixed price jobs it’s better to set a due date and request frequent status reports. A lot of clients also ask for an early sample of the work for bigger projects, to make sure the contractor’s on the right track. This is a great option even if it means the client must pay a little money up front. It helps to minimize communication errors and general time going back to revise work.
Elance has an escrow solution that offers prime security to both contractors and providers. You fund the account once the terms are accepted on both ends, and Elance holds the funds until you agree to release them after reviewing the contractor’s work.
oDesk isn’t exactly the same, but the system still strives to be equally as secure. As a matter of fact, oDesk has several options to choose from, called verified payment methods. This means that you and your contractor get to discuss and decide which method will work best for you. If you’re looking for more flexibility with payments, take the oDesk route.
Both sites make hourly billing very easy, with automatic deductions from your linked account (e.g. a Paypal account) so you just get an email with the weekly summary of hours and the amount; the actual payment is done automatically on a set day of the week. Elance seems a little clunkier in this regard, sometimes doubling up on the invoicing and not making it clear if one is expected to pay the time sheet manually or if it will be deducted automatically.
Now that you know a little of the basics about oDesk and Elance, you should try the one you think might be better suited for your needs a chance. Better yet, try them both! All you have to do is sign up with a business profile and post your own job. There’s no obligation to go through with the hiring process, so you can dip your toe in the water without any commitment to hire.
For more information about getting started with oDesk and Elance visit our Resources page.
What are some of your experiences with each site? Do you find one is clearly better than the other for your needs? Tell us about it in the comments section below.