Learn from years of experience if you’re looking to hire a virtual assistant at Odesk.com! I’ll lay out every step of the way so that you can get the best results.
The oDesk feedback and rating system is the bottom line “carrot and stick” – next to the money paid with either fixed-price jobs or hourly jobs – to make sure the quality of the outsourced work is top notch.
It is very crucial, not only for oDesk but also for many other outsourcing services.
- The better you are rated as a provider, the more likely you are hired on the next job and vice versa.
To virtual assistants reading this, but also potential employers…
It’s not only your oDesk feedback that counts but also the feedback of others after the completion of the project.
The oDesk feedback score is like an online reputation
It works just like a job reference or testimonial. If all your testimonials sound really excited and extremely positive than you will impress your future employer and the likelihood of you being hired raises a lot.
This encourages the provider to really give their best. On the other hand, once you have a bad reference in your profile it will not go away so easily.
Employers usually read all references – at least that’s what I do and that’s what I expect everyone who reads the content of this website to do!
But sometimes providers go after sheer numbers as they might have a bad score, instead of gathering solid references, they try to fix their scores with numerous scores by doing really simple and easy small jobs which can be easily finished. This raises their average feedback a bit.
Be careful and read beyond the oDesk Feedback Score
Careful employers read beyond the simple feedback rating system. Smart employers only read the testimonials. Or take note of the missing of testimonials.
“Comment made private” always sets off my alarm bells for any provider.
The importance of the feedback score from the point of view of a virtual assistant
As always, I asked my virtual assistant for his unbiased opinion. How important is the oDesk feedback score really?
Here is what he shared with me…
For me as a provider obviously feedback is very important, but feedback score is much more important than feedback text. I would not mind if an employer gives me a 5 star rating with a little feedback like “Thanks for your hard work!” is pretty much more than acceptable.
On the flip side if someone writes long feedback praising my work and my work attitude, highly recommending me to others but only gives me 3 stars, I would not prefer it.
Many employers usually specify required feedback score within the job post.
Obviously feedback remarks are also important but I don’t think that all employers review it very carefully, normally they judge you with your overall profile and if you have a good feedback score, you are more likely to get hired rather than a person having one or two remarkable feedbacks.
But there is a thing which I rate above both feedback and score is the experience, I think the most important factor of your freelancing profile is your experience and availability. So if you have worked more hours you always have an advantage.
But here employers need to be a bit more careful because some freelancers are also outsourcing their work even further. Since they are so experienced and they have thousands of hours under their profile so they are more likely to get hired by most of the people, but here look at these statistics.
How can somebody work without eating or sleeping continuously for 6 months or so?
So I would consider it a spam because he has an experienced profile, therefore he is getting contracts and outsourcing his work to other providers.
Outsourcing your work as fixed price jobs or paying for hourly jobs on Odesk is highly dependent on the nature of your project.
There are advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing both types of work that you need to be aware of.
Advantages of outsourcing as an hourly job:
- Hourly paid jobs are well-regarded from your providers due to the secure payment system from oDesk.
- The hourly paid jobs are manageable for the employer since your provider logged hours by using the oDesk team room and you can review their work diaries on a regular basis.
- Many providers apply for hourly jobs online because they need a sustainable income they can count on. It takes time to hunt after numerous fixed price assignments – even if sometimes they can be more profitable.
Disadvantages an hourly wage jobs:
It is sometimes difficult to estimate the hourly wages for jobs done online if you are only habituated to “normal” offline work.
In my personal experience, proposing wages between 1 and 4$/hour will result in finding an appropriate provider for your project.
It also depends on the skillset needed and your budget. Of course, you need to have the right tactics for your hiring process, too.
Advantages of a fixed price projects:
- In fixed-price jobs you don’t really have to overview your provider regularly and you don’t need to really check on what they are doing.
They can surf internet of chat on Facebook as long as they want to, until and unless they deliver the required work by the deadline and after receiving the work you can review their work and then you can release the payment.
- In general, fixed time jobs will cost you less money as an employer: If you ask “I want this result for $50” the provider may be spending much more time than you paid him hourly for the same job.
Disadvantages of outsourcing as a fixed price project:
If the work is not satisfactory you will need to discuss how this will work out beforehand. So some providers agree to work for free until your satisfaction, otherwise they can say that I will not work on this anymore and you can give me bad feedback and just pay me what we decided and I am finished with your project.
It is a weakness of Odesk’s system that it does not guarantee payments on fixed price jobs.
In my personal opinion I see that I was less successful in hiring people on fixed time jobs than if you post hourly jobs.
Providers like hourly paid jobs much more. They are guaranteed to be paid.
Hourly made money is there in their pockets. However, if you make a big project over $100 and you cancel it for whatever reason – then the provider ends up with nothing! So that is why providers don’t prefer it.
Note that there are also exceptions. From time to time, you’ll find providers specialized on fixed-price jobs that are not all small and easy to do.
You’ll have to use your own judgment to find out if the provider is the right person for you.
You’ll have two power tools at your fingertips:
- The interview during the hiring process.
- The feedback information and portfolios from past jobs.
I am going to show you how I normally go about hiring a virtual assistant on oDesk.
First of all, you need to be logged in. Then, go to the recruiting table (top left) and you’ll see several options:
- Find a contractor
- Post a job
- Different job postings already opened by you.
Since you’ll not have posted any job until now, there will be no open job posting.
The best way to go about it, before you click to post a job and write the work descriptions, is to click on the dropdown menu and find a job that is similar to yours.
There might be other employers on Odesk which have explained exactly the same task in a job opening to another person – way better than you might able to do. Use this existing knowledge for your advantage. Just type in some keywords which relate to your job.
- Simply hiring a virtual assistant for regular transcription jobs.
These transcriptions could be used for blog writing. So, I’ll want a person who knows about transcription and possibly blog writing. This is what I will put into my search field and will search for it.
Then, choose 5-10 good job descriptions and study them closely. This will make the task of writing your job description much more easy. Also, you will get a feeling of how much money people are willing to pay for a certain service. You will be able to orient yourself with this information.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant with an Eye-Catching Job Description
This one, for example, looks very sharp at the first glimpse.
It shows an interesting job description. It is clear to read and it has bullet points. There are clear responsibilities and everything is greatly described:
- It’s an hourly job,
- How long it will be required,
- The feedback score which is expected
- and everything clearly laid out in advance.
You can see how much money people want to be paid who apply for this sort of job and at which rate this employer is interviewing the candidates.
You can also see the old work history of the employer. If he has a lot of good feedback you’ll know he is a “good” boss from whose job descriptions you can learn something.
This other job description below also catches the eye, because of the SHOUTING with the capitals. Let’s examine both of them.
The 2nd job description is also pretty well suited to hire virtual assistants. It is very clear and has high expectations of the providers.
Write a little about you and your business
Also, it is good to talk a little bit about yourself, so people who want to work for you will have a clear vision of what you are about.
- Are you a blogger or are you an owner of a big enterprise?
- Are you a private person or a college student?
- For which reason and tasks are you hiring a virtual assistant?
All this makes a huge difference on which is your perfect match as an ideal virtual helper.
A good work description has specific tasks numerated with explanations, one after the other.
If I was a virtual assistant, I would want to apply for this job after reading the job description.
But let’s ask my VA for his advice…
Thanks for your opinion!
What I also like is this person explains up front that he is happy to receive calls and emails but he cannot always respond immediately and that he is open to feedback and suggestions. Many providers are afraid to give feedback and directions.
But still this work description seems a little bit long for the amount of money people are applying for.
Therefore, I’ll look for other information which will make it possible to me to get a low-cost but optimal transcription expert on my team.
Your job is to first read different job postings. Then, you’ll be ready to post a job yourself.
Looking for the right people when hiring a virtual assistant
Choose the right category for your provider. If you need a writer, post a job to the writer’s category.
Many providers will only apply to the jobs in the right category. So check for the first category which you think is right and then in the sub-category if you can find the right stuff. (Be sure to look at the screenshot!)
Here, it is “Administrative Support” and then “Transcription” which is the right category for your job posting. Then you’ll see a preview just under the Subcategory about how many possible applicants you might have on Odesk.
Do you see a big number? Don’t panic!
You will not interview hundred of thousand applicants.
Make a catchy job title and make a great job description. You can also read some good tips on the right side of your description right on the odesk page for best practices of hiring a virtual assistant.
You can also put a link to an explaining video or a website within the job description.
Do not promote any services there, as it might be against Odesk’s terms of services. You can however use a link to a screenshot recorded by a screen recording software which further explains what you are looking for.
Under the “Skills Required” box write whatever skills you want. As you write your desired skills you will get propositions of what might be the right choice. Choose from those suggestions. You can also enter more than one desired skill.
- A fixed price job is well suited for an assignement of transcribing one hour of audio for a given price.
- An hourly work might be more suitable for transcription if you want to hire a virtual assistant that is reliable and works regularly for you.
Why do I use and why I am sticking with Odesk?
I originally found this site by researching different outsourcing services. Although there are many similar services, in my opinion and 3 year long personal experience, Odesk is the best and biggest. Therefore you’ll find many people to work with there for hire.
There is an advantage and disadvantage of using this service:
- The good thing is that you can chose very different people and you have chances to meet new and possibly very productive partners.
- The bad side is there are many newbies and you have to get some experience under your belt in using Odesk in order to use it effectively.
But I can teach you to use this service effectively to get only the advantages while not being held back by the disadvantages for employers.
Another great reason for using Odesk in comparison to other outsourcing services.
is its effective payment method. Other services often ask for an upfront payment which obviously protects the providers from some spam employers who just signed up, get their work done and then simply disappear without paying a single penny
Free Signup and Effective and Secure Payment Systems
My reason number one to be interested in this particual outsourcing service:
Odesk is free to sign up.
Of course, you are going to pay something, but it’ll only be for the work you’ll have gotten done by others.
- What you’ll have to do before hiring new people is to verify your credit card.
- You can also setup a backup payment method with another credit card which ensures that if something goes wrong with one bank, your provider can still be paid for his work by the other source, protecting your reputation as an employer.
- Or you can simply pay via Paypal!
These security mechanisms are always for the advantage of everyone, employer and provider.
The providers want employers to pay them on time. Actually, if your payment system does run out of credits, all your contracts are suspended temporarily and your providers cannot logged into hours for you.
Imagine how low the work morals would be if the virtual assistants wouldn’t know for sure if they would ever get paid!
Secure payments establish a deep level of trust which is important if you want to hire good people. If you go to a service which does not provide any assurance chances are high that you will get someone desperate who will not deliver quality work!
Guaranteed work for your money
As an employer you ONLY PAY very specifically for good work being done.
Good work means that if a person works on your subject or on your project, he is entitled to earn the money. Your responsibilities as an employer are
- to look after the work of your providers
- and to give him pointers on how to continue to work in regular intervals
- or to stop him if he does not do good work.
You cannot protest against Odesk if you hire someone, he works for you and then end result is unsatisfactory.
You always have had a chance to look at his work diary and screenshots while he was working!
It is one of their prime features that they track the worked time using a time tracking software, which is part of the comprehensive Odesk team application.
- It not only records the activity of your provider with random screenshots of his work…
- It also reports the keyboard and mouse activity of your provider.
- And if your provider has a webcam then it also captures live photos of your provider while he is working!
It is quite funny if you see three screenshots of your provider working on his computer and in the forth snapshot you see an empty chair…!
From my personal experience, very rarely providers had their personal webcam up and running while they were working. And even if they have webcam screenshots, it was not really very interesting to look at them: I mean, you see their faces – which is nice and nothing too personal to look at – but the face of someone sitting on the computer and working hard is not especially interactive.
The Team Room is Essential
The time tracked screenshots from your providers are essential!
I made it a habit to regularly look at their work diaries.
Seriously, review the work they are doing.
If you see if they are idling their login time or chatting on Facebook, you can protest against this part of their work diary (1 screenshot reflects the activity for 10 minutes) and you can ask them to delete such tracking time from their work diaries.
If they refused to do so you can also file a dispute to the Odesk office team. Since you have screenshot proofs that they are not working in the disputed hours, chances are high that you will win that dispute.
Personally, I never had to file a dispute in over 3 years. Most virtual assistants are very eager to not upset their employer – you.
So this is the guarantee that is made to both sides: If the provider does work related to the project, he is guaranteed to be paid.
Odesk will ensure to automatically deduct the money from employer’s credit card and pay to the provider. But if the provider does bad work or a completely irrelevant task, this of course is not acceptable. Here you have enough time to review his work diary before he gets paid and here you as an employer are protected.
I think this type of guarantee that made me trust in Odesk in the first place. The most important reason I stayed with it was just that I have found what I wanted.
- I found a good platform for providers and employers
- and I found very different talent for providers and personal assistants to work for me
- and I am happy with the payment system.
So where is the catch?
This service of course is not absolutely free.
It charges 10% of the whole payment which you pay to your providers.
If you pay somebody $2 per hour you are actually charged with $2.22 per hour – including a $0.22 fee. This can sum up to some quite amount of money.
However, if another service has a $50 cost for getting started, in comparison you only would have that sort of costs if you had invested 500$ into Odesk. That’s why I started with this service and have not looked back ever since.
Fixed vs Hourly Contracts?
At Odesk.com there are two kinds of contracts.
- Fixed price contracts
- Hourly contracts
Both have advantages and disadvantages, but in most cases you should choose hourly jobs on Odesk.
An important advantage of hiring few people long term at an hourly rate it that time spent for virtual assistant training is less than for multiple short term employees.
Hiring Virtual Assistans Like a Pro
Some providers just send recycled, copy pasted, standard applications to hundreds of employers. Of course they should not do that.
We’ll show you the best procedure of hiring a virtual assistant.
As an employer you should always look out for unique and interesting applications where you can see that they actually read the job description thoroughly.
The key lies in effectively writing a job description that saves you time and gets your work done.
This will attract lots of potential workers (providers). How do you choose the best one?
Make sure to have a good look at their feedback score!
In the beginning it is really nice setting up the interviews if you have all the information at one place at Odesk. Later on, when you actually start working, I prefer to use my personal email account to write back and forth, using chats and voicemails.
I found that using voicemails in particular are the most effective way to manage my virtual assistant’s jobs.
This always has proved much more effective than logging into Odesk for messaging every time. Still, you also get notified by email if you get any new messages.
All in all, Odesk provides you
- all sorts of analytics, e.g. how much time was spent on which tasks,
- security of payment and work
- and you have virtual work place.
There, you can see your entire team, if you don’t hire only one person but different providers for different tasks. You can see them working in real time together and you have a messaging system where you can message everyone back and forth.