Elance and oDesk are large – each has over 1 million registered workers ready to go. Both are world-focused, meaning they have workers from all around the globe. Both offer hourly time tracking, which can be important if it’s hard to guess how much time your job might take.
Guru is more US-focused, with about 350,000 registered workers. Guru offers pricing by the project, but it looks like they’ve recently added hourly time tracking too.
You can join these sites as a client or contractor for free, then (as a client) post jobs and have contractors contact you for interviews. All three of these sites have nice user interfaces and are pretty intuitive to use for a new client.
What can online freelancers do for you?
Much more than you probably realize! Here are just a few of the many types of workers you typically find on a major freelance site:
- Administrative Support
- Data entry
- Handling email responses
- Internet research
- Personal assistant
- Business Services
- Project Management
- Customer Service
- Order processing
- Phone support
- Technical support
- Do social media marketing for you
- Public relations
- Web Development
- Web design or development
- Mobile applications
- Software development
- Writing or Translation
- Technical writing
- Write articles or blog posts
Tips for making your first hire
Here are a few things I’ve learned from my experiences.
- Use a site that has an escrow system. This means you pay the site, not the individual worker, and the money doesn’t go to the worker until you’re satisfied with the job. The larger the job, the more important this is.
- Read the reviews! Don’t just look at the number of stars – read some reviews to get a better picture of the person you may be hiring.
- Look at the number of jobs they’ve performed. Hiring a brand-new worker could be hit or miss.
- Ask to see a portfolio or work samples. Particularly important for design and writing jobs.
- Check test results. Some freelancer sites offer tests in English as well as other technical topics related to their specialties. If this is important to you, check out their scores.
- Agree to terms up front. Make sure both parties understand exactly what is to be done, and when, and what happens If the job runs longer than anticipated.
- Consider time zones. Most of your communication will likely be by email; keep in mind that workers will often be on a totally different schedule.
- Pay fairly. Don’t be cheap – you get rated just like the worker on many sites.
- Consider a bonus. If the job was done well, give some extra money. You may work with this freelancer again.
- Change passwords. Just for safety, when a job is complete change any passwords you might have provided to the worker.
My personal experiences with hiring freelancers from an online service
I’m happy to say, my experiences to date have been good. I’ve used oDesk to hire two workers, one of them for multiple projects. The first time I use oDesk was to look for someone who could help me get my QuickBooks data entry nightmare figured out. I hired an accountant from Jordan, QuickBooks-certified, and he handled what would have taken me weeks in just a few days. I gave him a bonus for his quick and accurate work.
The second worker I’ve hired for multiple projects is Filipino. She’s a web researcher also experienced with Photoshop, and I had her submit images to portfolios for me, as well as doing general research tasks. Again, I paid a bonus for each job. I’d hire either of these workers again with no hesitation.
I found that they both represented their skillsets very accurately. Both were fluent in English, both were well-rated and had many jobs to show for their time as oDesk contractors. If you’re looking for task-based help on a budget, hiring an online freelancer may be a good choice for you too.