How to Hire a Quality Team for Cheap on oDesk in 2015
The reason I first started my online journey was when I discovered how incredibly efficient and fun building a team and outsourcing could be.
Todays post from Sondra and David brings me back to what it was like discovering ODesk for the first time in 2007.
57,831 hours later I have learned a few things but also forgotten what it is like to get started.
David and Sondra provide some great insights and this could be the most important article you read on this site if you are looking to get started with building a team and outsourcing!
Since the last post, the Seattle Seahawks went on to lose the National Football League Super Bowl in a heart wrenching final play in a game that came down to the very last minute. In our guest post, we had talked about the ways to balance your life while building a business in your 20s. This article was really about how to manage time, build in accountability, create systems, and balance the hustle and bustle of life.
Building a business takes a lot of time and resources. Building a good team is arguably the most important. When looking at Jon Gillham’s recent blog posts, it became very obvious that there was a gap in the content around team building and oDesk. As a business, you have to mold to the changes of the environment and that’s exactly what oDesk is doing. But how is that affecting you?
Well today, we are giving you some hard lessons that we have personally learned through hiring a team through oDesk.
Learning the Ropes
Bill Gates once said, “You need a strong team, because a mediocre team gives mediocre results, no matter how well managed it is.”
Since starting the Six Figure Website Challenge, it’s become very obvious that we have the most to learn about niche/authority sites within the group. What we lack in knowledge about niche sites, we replace with tenacity, energy, and perseverance.
That being said, we have to learn the quickest. The first major area we have applied that learning is in oDesk hiring and team development. Without revealing too much, here’s a snapshot of my account on oDesk. I wanted to provide this in order to provide a reference point for the rest of the article.
Understanding New Rules
When you are heavily involved with a platform, community, or company like oDesk, it is imperative that you follow their updates. Simply read the oDesk Blog.
It’s been awhile since they announced the new minimum rate in August of last year.
Adapting to a company is more than just reading the news, it’s about understanding the way they think. oDesk really wants to change the way freelancers around the world work and think, which is apparent with their 2014 Annual Impact Report.
Step by Step Guide on How to Hire on oDesk
Now what you’ve been waiting for – the specifics of how to hire on oDesk.
Attracting the right applicants is all about the structure and content of the job post. Make sure you are writing your job post with these tips in mind to target the applicants you need.
- Category and Title
- Make sure you find the right category for your job post. A lot of the jobs we post are under “Personal/Virtual Assistant” because most of the time you need someone who can wear multiple hats.
- If you are hiring a more technical position, use the appropriate category, such as “Graphic Design” or “Software Development”. However, we have had success with posting WordPress jobs underneath the “Virtual Assistant” category.
- The title of your job post is extremely important. Use a title that is straight to the point and targeted. Here are some examples. “Personal Assistant Needed – Excellent Article Writer – Native English Preferred – Trial Job” Here’s another example: “Entry Level Position – Pinterest Expert – Native English Preferred – Sports Expert a Bonus”
- Outline of Job Post
- The body of the job post should provide three main things: 1) Urgency for hiring and brief description, 2) what’s required of the applicant, and 3) what you will provide in return.
- For urgency, we typically put a note at the beginning of the post stating we have an immediate opening that needs to be filled in the next 24 hours. This provides urgency and guarantees that you will get people who can start working right away.
- For the job description, we typically give a 2-3 sentence description of the task. For example “The need is for several excellent Article Writers to write (1000-1200 word) articles each writing at least 3 articles per day. The subjects of these articles will be in the health and fitness niche.”
- For what is required of the applicant, simply list out 3 things you need from them. Example: “Excellent English and grammar skills would make for a great writer. Native English required. 2 written articles per day required.”
- For what you will provide them, I simply put the following two items: “Exceptional feedback given if earned” and “potential for long term work”. Sometimes I include “great work schedule and excellent boss”, but I don’t like sounding my own horn.
- Hourly Rate vs Project/Deliverable Price
- This portion is where you have to be really creative in how you request for work and truly understand the way oDesk operates. If you have an existing freelancer for rates below $3/hour, you can continue paying them their lower rate for the remainder of their contract. All new contracts must be a minimum of $3 per hour.
- So how do you get around this seemingly high rate, especially if you want to do something like web research, data entry, or article writing – all tasks that have been historically budget friendly? Great question! You create project or milestone based work. You have to start thinking about how you can take work that was previously considered an hourly type of job, and convert it into a milestone or project based job.
- For example, web research might be finding 20 web site articles related to a specific topic that land on the first page of Google. Well normally, if you were charging someone $3 per hour, it might take them 3-4 hours to do this. But if you communicate that you will pay once the 20 website links have been entered into a spreadsheet, you now only pay for the deliverable and not necessarily the time it took to complete the deliverable. For this setup, you might have 3 different keywords that need 20 links each, for a total 60 links for which you will pay $5. Now, each “deliverable” of 60 article links costs $5.
- Second example, writing articles may be a job that requires 8 articles to be completed. Say you need 1000 words per each article. You could set the expectation that you need each article to be between 900 and 1100 words, and that you will pay $40 for a batch of 8 articles. Now although this may seem cheap at a per article rate, often the writer will value the larger project payment over the lower hourly rate and be eager to work on your articles for you. To track this, I simply enable the oDesk user to track manual hours. Each 1 manual hour is logged as each 1 article is written. I then pay $5 per each article written and expect that only 8 hours or articles, will be logged.
- I have used both of these methods to find extremely talented individuals who provide quality work at a very affordable price.
- Long Term Work
- Talking about the possibility of long term work, especially early on, is a particularly important motivator for your oDesk hire.
- Most people on oDesk want to make a long term living off oDesk work and value the longer term, consistent project over the shorter term project. Therefore, motivate the applicant that if they do a good job in the short run, that you will consider them for work in the long run. Stick to your word if they do a good job in the beginning. You always want to put your actions first.
- Positive Feedback
- One of the ways that any user on oDesk can quickly gain more opportunities is attaining positive feedback as either a buyer or seller.
- A high star rating shows future buyers and sellers that the oDesk user with the high rating is going to provide a great experience.
- For freelancers, high ratings mean that they have a higher chance of getting hired and therefore a higher chance to make more money.
- Therefore, promise a user a high rating if they do a good job and provide excellent feedback as promised. Most of the time, this always motivates the user to do well.
- Always Ask Screening Questions
- During a job post, always ask screening questions. Consider these questions important for two reasons. First, it is similar to a set of interview questions and saves you time later on in the process if you decide to talk to this person further. Second, you can quickly see if the person took the time to answer your set of questions or if they simply copy and pasted a canned message into a bunch of job offers.
- Be specific in your questions as it relates to your job posting. The more specific, the better. For example, if you want to hire a sports article writer, you should ask a question about their top 3 examples of sports writing. Another example, if you want to hire a graphic designer to create a logo for you, have them paste links to their top 3 logo designs in the past 3 months.
- Use this field to get their Google account, Skype information, and email address. By doing this, it’s very easy for you to immediately contact them to take things to the next level.
Here is a screenshot of one of the job postings we posted for an article writer:
On this job posting, we had 58 applicants within 24 hours.
The next step in the process is to review the applicants. Jon already wrote a great post about this so go read Step #4 on his post “How to Hire a Virtual Assistant”. The four things to consider are the following:
- Number of hours worked – although sometimes new applicants are golden because they have something to prove.
- oDesk feedback
- Matching skillsets and portfolio experience on their resume
- English skills
I would add one more consideration and say that timeliness in responding to your messages and accuracy in responding to your screening questions is very important as well.
Offer Trial Job
- The trial job is really important. It should be a small job between 1 and 2 units of resources required. For example, 1-2 articles, or 1-2 hours of work, or 1-2 logo mockups, or 1-2 WordPress updates. Keep the trial job small so that you can evaluate their progress and make quick adjustments where necessary.
- If possible, hire 2 or more people to complete the same trial job. The ability for you to hire quickly with limited interviewing or sample work is really important. It’s better to hire 3 people to complete the trial job to find the one person that you need rather than hiring 1 person in hopes that they fit the job description perfectly.
- Find the one person who did the best job on the first trial job and hire them for a larger trial job, say 5-10 units or resources and let go the applicants who didn’t make the cut. You don’t have to “fire them” per se. Simply let them know that you no longer need their services, but that you will leave good feedback and a high rating. Also, let them know that if you need additional work in the future, that you will post another job. I believe that this is the sole reason why I have a perfect client feedback rating on oDesk after over 30 jobs posted.
As mentioned above, the follow up is so important. Never let someone work more than 5 hours on a trial job without getting feedback from you. Typically, I request the hire to follow up after 1 hour of work to see if they are on the right track. You do not want an applicant to bill you for hours worth of work, all of which cannot or will not be used.
Also, another thing to note here is the response time on the follow up. Typically, I like to provide feedback via email or Skype chat (not calls) because communication via chat clearly shows how quickly they respond. If their response is received over 24 hours later, I would consider closing the job immediately. If they cannot respond quickly during a trial job, most likely, they will not respond quickly for long-term job contracts.
Once the second trial job for 5-10 units has been completed, I will offer a longer term “trial job” in which the hire provides a consistent 5-10 units per week for the next 3-4 weeks. Typically, I don’t hire the applicant full time until after at least 1 month of observing their behavior, work ethic and reliability.
After the applicant has proved they are capable on the endless venture of trial jobs that you have given them, finally onboard them to the team. Now, being part of a bigger team is a significant detail to me because now the applicant is committed to not only myself, but all other members of the business. This means that they have the ability to impact other members of your team for better or for worse.
That’s it! If you have followed the above vetting process very thoroughly, you will have set yourself up in the best possible position to make that transition as smooth as possible. Now, you may have thought that the next logical topic is how to manage the team once you’ve hired them, but Jon’s already done a great job writing about How to Manage a Virtual Team!
Final Thoughts: 7 Tips to Hire and Keep a High Quality Team for Cheap
Some of you may skip to the very bottom, so here’s a very quick list of tips to hire and keep a high quality team for cheap:
- Communicate frequently
- Set clear expectations
- Understand motivations
- Give clear goals for future work
- Weekly status updates
- Praise the positive
- Fire fast and often
It is a pleasure being involved with the Six Figure Website Challenge. Sondra and I are thoroughly looking forward to continuing to learn, grow, and mature our project into a six figure business. In the mean time, feel free to reach out to us via twitter @DavidGoecke or @SondraKinder.
As a final thought, let me leave one question to you for the comments: What is your biggest obstacle or struggle in finding quality team members whether it be on oDesk, Elance, or hiring an in-person team member? Please share in the comments below!
Thank you David and Sandra,
I have been working with many writers through eLance and Odesk and now I am in process of hiring full time VA.
I am made a process really easy to find perfect candidate to avoid issues with spammers and slackers.
I will start with one and will see how it goes.
I have been reading a lot your blog Jon about how are you hiring and managing your team. Pretty cool.
And thanks for info 😉
Oh and Go Hawks ! 🙂
Yeap, I am from Seattle.
Yaro! Thanks for the kind words and cheers for the Seahawks! It’s a very small world so always great to connect with likeminded people.
As for building a team, having a specific process that you write down and follow when hiring people is a must. As you continue to do it more often, you will find more and more improvements. Kaizen, or “continuous improvement”, is a huge part of our business mindset.
Best of luck to your endeavors!
Nice one David, I know that you’ve definitely taught me a thing or two about hiring on oDesk, and you gave me the confidence to get my own team built too!
This is probably the hardest part about building a 6 figure website (at least for me), and I think as you get these systems in place, the rest will be easier to catch up.
Hey Dom! Thanks for the kind words. And you are right! I remember when you were making your first hire on oDesk and look at you now, you have a whole team that you’ve hired!
Being able to see a step by step guide on how to post a job listing and the kinds of things you should for are instrumental in making a great hire. Also, having the ability to fire quickly is important. Not only will you save your own resources, but you will save the time of the person you hired so that they can find a better fitting job.
If you are looking for a long term position, you can actually prevent from “Fire fast and often” if you have selected the right person.
Hello there. Thanks for the comment on our article and yes, you are absolutely right. If you make the right hire, and things work out between the two of you, you might not have to fire very quickly.
However, I would encourage you to always be looking for the right fit, for the right price, for the right deliverables. Finding the right team is very difficult. You might be one fire away from making the perfect long term hire.
It surprises me a lot of times when a manager or business owner complains about a specific person on their team. It might be lack of knowledge, communication, or timeliness. They will never find another team member, who might be 10x better, if they do not have the courage to fire someone sooner, rather than later.
All in all, making good hires is hard. Learning to fire fast is hard. Do both and you’ll be ahead of a lot of people building out teams!
Nice Guest post and extremely relevant to a project me and my partner are working on at the moment. Quick question though, we have been struggling with the decision to use Odesk to manage/find our team or use a service like onlinejobs.ph or Virtual Staff Finder. Would love to hear your Pro/Con arguments about the differences you have experienced.
Appreciate the kind words and we are happy to help you! Hiring a team can be very difficult, as I am sure you are aware.
Unfortunately, I cannot speak credibly to onlinejobs.ph or Virtual Staff Finder because I have not used either of those services. However, I have a lot of respect for Chris Ducker of Virtual Staff Finder as I follow his business.
Here’s what I can tell you off the top of my head. oDesk’s biggest strength is the ability to hire an individual for a short term, project for cheap. Another positive is simply the mass availability of talent. One downfall is that sometimes you take a dice roll with new members on the platform and second, the executives are coming out with a lot of new changes that provide an unknown in terms of how this may impact my business.
For the virtual assistant services, such as Virtual Staff Finder, these positions are typically longer term in nature and for full time work. From what I have read and heart, the benefit here is that you will have a higher quality resource on your team because it will be vetted by the company first. Additionally, because you have a longer term contract, you will typically pay less per month for a salaried position than if you were to hire someone and pay them hourly. The downfall, from my limited knowledge, is probably that it’s more difficult (and potentially costly if there are service fees involved) to hire and fire resources.
To conclude, I prefer oDesk because you can hire someone on a temporary basis (5-10 hour job) and if things work out, hire them long term. But, as I mentioned in my post, if things do not work out, it’s very easy to find another quality resource.
Hope this helps you!
Good sum up and some new tricks for me, thanks! I think the good way is to split the tasks into small fixed-budget projects $5-$20 and give a small bonus if they work great. This keeps ppl motivated and provides you some space if they do not perform very well.
Actually, my biggest struggle is my quite specialized niche = big trouble getting good writer. Already had 3, 2 of them gave up after some work (despite $1/100 words rate and great feedback) and the third one is quite useless. I keep trying… Also tried to get some linkbuilders but this was real disaster – all used dangerous spammy techniques. And the real good ones are way over my own salary.
Thanks for your kind words! You are absolutely right regarding oDesk being a great fit for the small fixed-budget projects. I didn’t speak much to managing a team or motivating them, but giving a bonus after work completed is certainly a great way to motivate someone to get a task done. I could write a whole post about motivation, especially since I recently read the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink.
Regarding your questions about a niche article writer and a link builder, here is my advice. Let me know what you think.
1) Put your niche topic in the title of the job posting. It doesn’t have to be super focused if you don’t want to give your niche away, but perhaps even the high level category would help.
2) When vetting the applicants, ask them for specific examples for your niche. For example, if you were writing about men’s health and you asked for some article examples, if they gave you an article about yoga for pregnant women, you would probably turn down the offer.
3) Consider assisting your article writer with research. You might find a great writer, who simply doesn’t have any experience in your niche. If you provided a list of related articles as well as research for the article you want them to write, they might produce higher quality articles. Of course, you could also hire a VA to do the research for you.
4) Implement a great editing process into your system. You could hire a great editor, or you could do the editing yourself. But if you are able to provide constructive feedback to someone who is struggling, you might have the ability to turn a C+ writer into an A- writer in no time.
Regarding link building, the more and more I hear about Google’s algorithm, the more and more I think that white hat link building is the safest and best way to go. However, sometimes subscribing to a service like Jon’s PBN service is a good assist when you are struggling. Here’s my advice for making sure you find someone who won’t spam your site.
1) Be very specific about what you want them to do for link building. If you give them a generic task or assignment, most of the time you will receive generic results.
2) Request that the link builder provide examples of previous links they have built. (Sound familiar?) Past behavior informs future behavior so I would review and analyze their previous abilities. Any small sign of spammy links or black hat behavior would immediately remove them from my consideration.
3) Consider more organic ways to out reach and build links. I am a particular fan of Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique because it incorporates a lot of natural outreach methods.
4) When it comes to pricing and cost, be creative with your job titles. You may not need a link builder to do some of the tasks you want accomplished. Maybe you can use a personal assistant, virtual assistant, or basic “web researcher” who can complete a standard list of tasks. In my experience, a “web researcher” is typically cheaper than a “SEO Specialist.” Get my drift?
Hopefully this helps! Jon has been a tremendous help to our project as well as the mastermind and so helping out his audience is the least we can do! Feel free to let me know if you need any clarifications.
I have never had success finding competent writers on odesk. I always post the same job post on both odesk and elance. After three days the quality of those applying on elance always fat outshines those applying on odesk and the same goes for the quality of the work they supply after the job is awarded.
Elance is the only way to go for me.
Thanks for the insights here! I do not have any experience using eLance, but that would be a great area of discussion for a future case study and or post. Since I have heard a lot about people struggling with finding writers, it would probably be a great resource for others.
Appreciate your comment!
I agree with you 100% with Elance content.
I still like Odesk in many ways and currently hire writers for PBN articles (yes, I use PBNs). But, when you’re looking for quality “money” content, Elance is the way to go.
From my experience, Elance feels like the more professional platform (at least for writing).
Kent, I agree as well. I have only used Elance and I’m very pleased with the content.
Robert, I fully agree that oDesk sounds like it would be a perfect place to outsource PBN content.
Do you think the $5 approach outlined above would work on Elance? I have never hired like Jon outlines but I definitely want to try it for a new site I’m building.
Great article, though I’ve yet to be able to hire any VA’s/extra staff for my IM ventures. I just can’t seem to justify it at the moment….Maybe when I’ve got more of a revenue stream.
That was a great read! I’m finally putting in the effort when it comes to outsourcing. It’s easy to grind it out try to do too much on your own.
I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with creating content systems over the past month. I have templates and a workflow for hiring writers. That said, I’m getting sick of editing the posts on WordPress (adding images, on-page SEO, linking out, interlinking within my site, etc).
Have you outsourced this type of job? If so, what was your experience like? I’m nervous at hell to have someone go into my WordPress accounts.
Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!