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How to Use oDesk and Outsource Successfully

Outsource To Grow Your Consulting Business

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In today’s post I’m going to share with you how I access a low cost pool of skilled contractors that help me grow my business and how you can do the same.

There are 5 people in the “office” at my company. I put office in quotations because most of the time we all work virtually from our own home-offices.

Let me first set the stage for you before I get into all of the details.

There are 5 people in the “office” at my company. I put office in quotations because most of the time we all work virtually from our own home-offices.

Other than when I’m meeting with clients or working at their offices, I’m working from my home office.

This setup provides ultimate flexibility. The constraint used to be that unless you wanted to fill your kitchen table or spare bedroom with your employees you needed a physical office space for everyone under one roof.

With the explosion of outsourcing that model has been shattered. And today I can pull in specialists and support staff of every imaginable kind in a matter of a day or two, sometimes even in hours.

For example, when we were creating a video for one of our Consulting Products, instead of having someone here spend hours trying to figure out how to edit the video to a professional level, I went to a single website and posted that I needed a video specialist.

The old-school idea that outsourcing work all goes to some poor person in a 3rd world country that can’t speak English is crap.

I got one within 3 hours and he completed the work the very next day. Plus, it cost about 60% less than if I would have had someone here take the time to do the work. And the quality was better than we could have done in-house.

Some people complain that outsourcing doesn’t work and that you can’t find specialists or skilled people that can do the job right. And that it ends up taking you more time to explain what needs to be done than for you to just do it yourself.

The old-school idea that outsourcing work all goes to some poor person in a 3rd world country that can’t speak English is crap.

I can tell you from over 5 years experience outsourcing work of all kinds that outsourcing for consultants works. You just need to know how to do it properly.

Work to Outsource

  • Data entry
  • Research
  • Editing/Proofreading
  • Audio/Video Editing
  • Design work
  • Administrative help
  • Programming
  • The list goes on…

Work Not to Outsource

  • Strategy
  • Business planning
  • Marketing
  • Sales (sometimes outsourcing is fine)
  • Generally anything that involves detailed knowledge of your business or market.

How to Outsource Successfully

There are several websites that you can use to hire contractors. We use oDesk most of the time (others include Elance, Freelancer and others).

Over the years I’ve developed a process that I use and I’ve found it to work extremely well.

Odesk for Outsourcing

It goes like this…

1. Go to oDesk and create an account.

2. You’ll need to get your account setup and verify your payment information. The verification step can take a couple of days as they will often place a small charge on your credit card and then refund it right away.

3. Next, it’s time to find the talent. A big mistake that many people make is to post their job right away and then sit back and wait for the applications to come in.

While this works, it also means that you’re going to get all kinds of people contacting you about your job. Including those with no relevant experience and poor past performance.

A trick here is to setup your job and initially keep it as a private job. This means that your job can only be seen by the people you show it to.

At this stage you should start searching for contractors that have the skills and experience you’re looking for.

oDesk provides a great filter tool to help you refine your search.

Here are a few filter options you should know about:

Search Keyword: Here you can enter keyword(s) that are relevant for your project. Keep in mind that simply using this option will give you a wide range of results. Often too wide. So it’s important you use the other filters.

Keyword Search

Category and Sub-Category: This will show you contractors that have relevant experience. The more you can be specific here the better.

Feedback: This is critical. I always set this to 4.5-5.0 Yes I’ll be cutting down the pool of candidates and maybe I’ll miss the cheapest ones, but I’m not looking for cheap, I’m looking for value. This criteria is important because it shows you how the person has performed in the past. I like to work with winners and those that work hard to please those they work with.

Rate: When you set your rate I suggest always listing it at a higher hourly rate than you intend to pay. You can almost always negotiate the price if you need to. So it’s best not to cut out potential contractors because their default rate is set higher than you’re thinking.

Rating on Odesk

Location: This is only an issue if you’re hiring for a job that requires the work to be done in a certain time zone. I’ve worked with many contractors that have almost complete opposite time zones and it still works fine.

English Level: This level is determined by the contractor themselves. I usually set this to 4 out of 5.

Contractor Type: Your options here are to search for people that are part of a company/agency or individuals. I typically prefer working with an individual and have had the best results with that.

Contractor Type

Hours Billed: I use this filter to select that I want to work with a contractor that has at least 1 hour of work billed on oDesk. My thinking is that I want someone that is familiar with how oDesk works and that they have some experience with this type of engagement.

There are other filters but I find the above ones the most important.

4. Once I’ve got a good search going I’ll go through the results and invite anyone that looks like a good fit to check out the project I’ve posted. I include a short personal note. When I do this I find a get a good response.

What I’ve done is put my project in front of the highest quality providers possible. Rather than sitting back and waiting from the outset, I’ve now made sure that the people I really want to work with know about the project.

Once I’ve invited all the people I think could be a good fit, I might wait a day or so to see what kind of response I get. Usually I start getting replies within 2-4 hours.

If after a day or so I haven’t received the response I’m looking for,  I will then open the job up to Public so that others can see it – and the applications will start flooding in (it just takes more time to go through them).

5. As soon as I’ve found someone that looks like a good fit I get back to them and let them know I’m interested and that I’d like to have a quick chat. This usually involves jumping on Skype.

I do this for several reasons:

  • Ensure the person really understands the requirements
  • Confirm their language level
  • Check their comfort level with getting on a call

Once on the call I quickly get a sense of whether the person will work out or not.

6. Then it just comes down to hiring them.

There’s More

If you’re interested in learning more about using oDesk or the other sites let me know in the comments below. There are several other key points regarding the actual project posting and process to work with a contractor that are critical to success. I’m happy to go into those in more detail if there is enough interest.

To building business!


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10 thoughts on “How to Use oDesk and Outsource Successfully

  1. Vanderlei Pinho - Brazil says:

    Thank you for all the tipis you´re giving. For me it is very usefull. Tks.

  2. Karen Richardson says:

    Hi Michael, and thanks so much for posting this information. I would be very interested in learning more about how to work with contractors. I have a project I would like to outsource but I am nervous about it. I’d like to get it right so any more help you can offer would be much appreciated.

    • Karen – you’re welcome. Send an email to info [at] and we’ll see how we can help you out.

  3. Emily Blitz says:

    Hi Michael,
    Would be great to learn more about the process of working with an online contractor.

    • Emily – thanks, I’ll work on some additional materials to share on this topic.

    • bhagirath says:

      Online working for regarding odesk

  4. Mandi says:

    Thanks for posting! I am interested in learning more about Odesk.

    • Mandi – appreciate the comment. Look for training on this topic soon. I’ll put something together and notify through our email list so join our newsletter if you’re not on it already.

  5. John Rodriguez says:

    Thanks for all the tips, Michael. Do you have some tips on how to pass the Odesk exam? Hope you can post it in your future articles as I’ve been struggling on it especially the ‘technical’ part.

    By the way, I hope too you will allow me to share this blog I found on Facebook, it talks about the countries where you can hire freelancers at your own preference.

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