If you are not interested in my personal story, click here to jump straight to the tips.
“The client needs this for June 2!”
I got this email after long relaxed discussion with someone about developing a Wopress plugin. It was May 26th. Long story. I’m not really doing much of custom development anyway, but I’m selling software (and giving some for free). I just have to handle custom development requests to keep users happy.
What are the choices that I have?
In such a situation I could stop working on my projects for a week and work on his task. The payment wasn’t bad and would be worth my time.
But still this is a horrible idea for a small business owner.
You should not lose the focus of your project. Believe me, I’m distracted enough managing about 10 sites, a microISV, consulting businesses and more.
To stop working on your business projects because of some well paid customer project is plain bad.
Don’t do this regardless of the payment unless you badly need that money. And unless doing customer projects (consulting) is your primary business.
So what other choice did I have? To outsource it of course.
There are million articles giving advice about outsourcing. I won’t be writing one more. Instead I’ll tell you how I outsource my tasks on vWorker.
But first – why vWorker?
vWorker was previously named RentACoder and was primary focused on programming tasks. I used to do some freelancing there years ago. There are other similar sites too – for example Elance, Scriplance, Freelancer. All of them are used for outsourcing from small business and all of them have their advantages and disadvantages. More often Elance is used by larger companies and larger projects and as a general rule the providers there are more expensive. Scriplance is on the lower end, you can find very cheap workers there but most of them are clueless. vWorker is somewhere in the middle. I’m not saying it’s best. I’m just familiar with it and my outsourcing there works fine, that’s why I am writing about it.
My WordPress plugin and other projects
“The client needs this for June 2!”
Remember how it started? So when I had this guy wrote me this I was just about to drop a line saying “Sorry, no way”. Then I decided, why not outsource the task? Fortunately I had a programmer from vWorker working on another WordPress plugin for me (my own project). I had not seen his work yet but he seemed to know what he was doing by the questions asked and by the previous reviews so I decided he was the guy.
I mailed him, explained about my urgent project and told him approximate budget. He was happy to do it for about 40% of the payment I’d get from the client. I got 50% in advance, escrowed 100% for the programmer and now I am already in profit even before the work has started.
Making profit isn’t the moral of the story here. You won’t make such nice profit on every project you outsource. I have even lost money on some outsourced tasks.
There is more important than pure profit. Outsourcing this project helped me for several things:
- Not lose concentration for my own long term business projects.
- Not delay my projects with a week or more.
- Keep the client happy. If everything goes fine he may be back for other things. He may recommend my site to someone.
- Keep the programmer happy. If he completes the work well, I’ll have found a reliable guy who can use to outsource future programming tasks.
- Avoid stressing myself because of the tight deadline. If I had to do it myself I would most probably have tried to change my time management strategy and somehow to fit the work along with my projects.
I’ve used vWorker for outsourcing about 15 times or so. First purchased few articles for some of my sites for the price of $5 – $10 for each one – most were average but few were good. I’ve purchased few article translations from English to Spanish (they were very good except one), a sales page copy (this was a failure because I hired an amateur), and a few plugins and browser extensions (some were good, some not so good). In general my experience outsourcing there is positive and I believe I’ve learned some lessons along the way. Let me share them with you:
Tips for successful outsourcing on vWorker (or any other similar site):
- Explain your project in brief details. Brief details is oxymoron. Still, you need to do it. Should you list too short description most good providers will skip your project. Should you get into too many details about every field or every word, you’ll get too high quotes. Find the middle and explain your project with short, specific, and straight to the point sentences.
- Don’t choose based on ratings. Ratings matter very little. I’ve seen quite horrifying work by people with a lot of 10 ratings. Most buyers on vWorker or similar sites will give 10 to the worker just because they had low expectation. Or because the provider has been polite and hardworking. Not because they did terrific job. I’m guilty for such ratings too.
- Don’t choose based on price. Of course if price goes over your budget, the offer is out. I mean don’t think that high price always means high quality. Many clueless provides start with outrageous offers just to try their luck. Most providers who bid too low are worthless too but sometimes good ones will try to win a project with low bid just so they can get their first review on the site.
- Choose based on work samples. The best way to know someone’s work quality is to look at their past work. Of course there is risk here. They might be showing you someones else’s work pretending it’s their own.
- Choose based on communication. The communication should show that the provider understands the project. Too many of them start dry polite and then talk about their team and their company instead of talking about your project. The truth is often a single freelancer pretends to be a company with huge team. I personally don’t care if they are 1 or 200 developers out there, I just need the work done. I prefer someone who’ll just talk informal, say “Hi” instead of “Dear Mr X” etc. Prefer real genuine people who ask smart questions. Just follow your good feeling.
- Pay promptly and in parts. Don’t let your providers hang out nervous and wait. Pay quickly, promptly and if possible accept parts of the project when they are delivered to you. This is very easy on vWorker and I always do it.
- Always test before accepting the work. In contrary of the above you shouldn’t pay anything before you make sure what you pay for works well. This is very important for development work.
- Build a “team”. Selecting a provider takes time. On small project it could take more time than you would spend doing the task yourself. So if you find few decent providers, better stick to them and work with them often to save time posting projects, receiving bids and selecting providers for each new task.
- Avoid the desperate. Some providers are really desperate for work and will do everything to convince you to hire them. Including to work for free which is against vWorker rules. Avoid them. If someone is so desperate, they are most probably not good at all.
These tips should get you started well. If you have any tips for successful outsourcing small business tasks on freelance sites, feel free to share them too.