Experiences with oDesk
(November 08, 2013)
The trick is to learn how to pick the right candidate for you
A friend of mine is looking for a virtual assistant with fluent English skills and who should be able to call prospects and negotiate business deals with them.
My assistant and I have been researching for him how to best post a job for advanced skill level virtual assistants.
Since we have lots of experiences hiring, for example data entry personnel, we expected as always lots of people applying into our job offer.
In the end, very few people applied to the job opening. And the people who did apply mostly failed our “Sunshine Test”.
Use the Correct Category to Post Your Job
After looking into the job opening which my virtual assistant created with the help of some voice recording input from my site, I discovered that he posted in the area of data entry persons.
Logically, mostly virtual assistants looking for data entry jobs, in other words very simple work, would be looking at the job offer. As a consequence, very little people would be fit to apply to our job offer.
The lesson learned for you, if you need to hire someone for a specific purpose make sure that you choose the right job offer category. It can make all the difference.
Reach Out to Suitable Prospects Manually
Another alternative to get more applicants looking at your job offer is to actively screen the market place and contact people who you think would fit your job offer and kindly invite them to apply. This is another task which I outsource to my virtual assistant and which he can do without any trouble.
The hiring process is not always an easy one. Dependent on the job offer and the goal you’re looking for, you have to slightly and smartly adapt your hiring strategy. There is not one glove that fits all, but many general tips on how to hire a virtual assistant always apply.
Your Questions and Comments
Now, it’s your turn. Are you struggling with hiring a virtual assistant for a specific purpose? Does no one ever bother to apply to your job offer? Is it your job offer that has an error or did you simply post in the wrong category?
Feel free to share your experiences, troubles and questions right here in here comments.
Comments for How to Search For an Experienced Virtual Assistant with High English Skill Level
|Feb 12, 2014||Right on!
by: DeniseSpeaking from a viewpoint of someone who utilizes the internet to look for an online job through websites like Odesk, Elance, and Onlinejobs.Ph, I agree with what you’ve said that in order to hire someone for a specific purpose, one must make sure to choose the right category. That is because when we are looking for a position, we usually check out only certain categories according to our skills. So if you’re looking for someone who’s good in English, you’ll usually find them under ‘English’ or ‘Writing’ instead of ‘Web Design’.Likewise, I also think you’re right about to getting more applicants by using filters and contacting people who you think would fit your job offer. This way too, you can be sure that those who will respond already have some of the skills and requirements that you want your future employee to have. In fact, this is the way I was hired! Another reason why I’m all for it. =D
Moreover, I believe that keywords and tags can be quite useful, too. You only have to add the keywords at the end of your job post. Try it out the next time you’re on the lookout for a prospective employer. It’ll work wonders!
(April 30, 2013)
Yes, there is surety of payment if you managed to get hired in oDesk. On the other hand, this surety of payment only applies if you actually do the work you’re supposed to do. In other words, you cannot abuse the system or goof off and be paid for it. But as long as you do work on the project you’re supposed to work on, you will get paid for your time.
In which cases will you not get paid?
If for example you are surfing on Facebook while you are logged in and getting money from your employer, this would probably not work out well.
How the System Works To Make Sure Payment Is Given For Your Work
oDesk uses its own screen recording software in the so-called oDesk Team Application. This software will record, as long as you login into your project at a random point in time every 10 minutes, a screenshot from your computer.
As long as those screenshots show that you are working on your project, you will get paid for that.
For example, if you are hired to research and record a report about a certain subject; then, your screenshots will show all sorts of Google research results relevant to the topic. Perhaps, a Word file opened while you copy and paste the relevant information; perhaps, an Excel sheet or something to that nature. All those screenshots proves that you are working on the project.
If a screenshot shows you playing an online game, for example, then the employer has the right to deny you the payment for that chunk of time. Since each screenshot is recorded every 10 minutes, you would lose – and only if your employer points that out – that 10 minutes chunk of time. For the remaining 50 minutes, you would get paid.
Word of Warning – Your Work Quality and Your Reputation Are Of Crucial Importance
As you are working on your projects, you must try to stay as focused as you can. If you feel you are going to procrastinate, log off from your team. Do what you need to do then log back in and work.
The possibility to lose 10 minutes of time paid work is the lesser problem you might have if you don’t work when you’re supposed to work. Your employer could end the contract with you. At that time, he is freed from the guarantee that he needs to pay you for your work. This can happen. Of course, an employer would likely contact you but he’s not required to.
So the best way to guarantee that you are paid is to do what you are actually supposed to do. As long as you do that, oDesk protects you, your work and your payment and guarantees it.
As an employer, if I were to protest against rightfully done work for my virtual assistant; my virtual assistant would be right and he would keep his payment. So, there’s no possibility for an employer to deny you your payment. Actually, it gets retracted from the credit card of the employer automatically.
The Skillfulness of Your Work Is Not Of Relevance for the Payment Guarantee
As I said, the payment is not dependent on the skill of your work, only if you do the work. If you work slowly or if you work inefficiently, you will still get paid. But only, of course, for how long the employer will put up with that.
If at some point in time he will fire you because you work too slowly or too inefficiently, after that you would not be able to earn anymore from this contract. But all the work you have done until to that point, you will be guaranteed your payment.
On the other hand, you should have worry about your work feedback. If you do bad work and your contract gets cancelled, you will get the payment for the work you have done. But you can also risk getting a bad feedback. If you have a bad feedback, future employer will possibly not hire you.
You shouldn’t worry about being ripped off. oDesk is a very big respectable service. Thousands or tens of thousands of virtual assistants and employers are using it. oDesk has an interest in protecting both sides of the contract since they earn on every dollar paid to you by adding an additional fee to the employer.
So, this service protects and guarantees your payment. The more important problem you must solve is to be successful in getting hired.
Your payment is guaranteed as long as you work on the job you’re supposed to do.
Focus on worrying about the quality of your work and your online reputation in order to get more and more jobs and also better paid jobs.
And finally, if you ever encounter any problem with payments from oDesk, be sure to come back here and report it in the comments. I’ll try to help you out with advice or any other way I can.
Also, if you enjoyed this article, be sure to leave a comment too. I will love to hear from you.
Comments for Is There Surety of Payment after Being Hired In oDesk?
|Sep 07, 2014||VA qualifications
by: JomvieI am not familiar with how oDesk works, but in my opinion, if you wanted to work online you must be prepared in the nature of the job and discipline yourself from logging in to social media platforms.This will not only help you from being distracted, but keeps your focus to your tasks as well and later in the end a good outcome and a nice feedback from your employer..
Online workers should have all these kind of qualities..
by Virtual Assistant
(March 14, 2013)
Although in the past it was possible to access your teammate’s work diaries, now this provision is limited to only those who have admin access of the team.
In my personal opinion, it is a really good move by oDesk support to block the access for everyone else. I am sure it would have caused some privacy and disclosure issues.
Especially when you have a private discussions with your clients or another team member, or providing someone some confidential login details of their payment account, when in the meantime the Team Room captures the screen and add the same screenshot to your work diary, the screenshot is almost public to everyone.
However, as I mentioned earlier, it is possible to view screenshots of your teammates’ work diaries when you have the admin access of a particular team.
For All Employers: If you want to upgrade a team-member’s role by giving him/her the administrative permissions, please go to this helpful post.
“I Have Admin Access – How to View Other’s Screenshots?”
If you have admin access of a particular team, then please follow this step-by-step procedure to review your team member’s work diary and screenshots:
Select the correct team
Click to ‘Manage My Team’
And click the sub-heading ‘Work diary’
Select the contractor you want to view screenshots of
Select the date of which you want to view screenshots
Now you will see all the work screenshots of the selected day
Click to a screenshot to see in full window
Hope this will help you understand how you can review a provider’s work diary when you have admin access to any team.
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments about this post!
Comments for How to View Other Team Member’s Work Diary in oDesk Team Room
|Mar 14, 2013||Great ‘How To’ instructions on Viewing Each Other’s Work Diary in oDesk
by: AnonymousI’d like to say thank to my virtual assistant. This research was really eye opening especially the screenshots. Even as an employer I’ve learned something.Sometimes as an employer, you overlook privacy questions like these if you get too used to using the oDesk Team Room application.
On the other hand, just for this functionality you should not make all your virtual assistants administrators. Because if you make them administrators, they will have access to few functions that can be misused.
My own virtual assistant does have these administrative rights, but that’s because he has earned my trust. For a beginner, you should keep the settings as they are.
With regards to the question about seeing login information or any other critical secret data, here is my take on this.
(January 06, 2013)
As a regular user of the outsourcing service oDesk, I was surprised to read about its merging with its biggest competitor, Elance. This is quite big news that resonated strongly with their respective communities.
The New York Times reported this decision between these two service providers on the 18th December. The merger is planned to be effective for in about 3 month (official statement: in the first quarter of 2014)
The CEOs of both companies, Gary Swart (oDesk, click for the official statement) and Fabio Rosati (Elance, click for their statement), state that this merger was not a necessity out of lack of funding, but simply to improve both services by sharing their tools and expertise.
However, I believe this will definitively come with some re-organization (read: some people might be out of a job) as well as with some unexpected changes.
Just for an example: if Thomas Layton (oDesk) will become the executive chairman of both companies, what happens with the former executive chairman from Elance?
But I can understand that in order to stay in business, globally, these companies must make business decisions.
What is good and what is bad about this merger?
If you take the time to review the comments of the user base, you will find the following worries and a few positive reactions:
First, the positive reactions:
- If they combine the escrow system from Elance with the fixed price projects from oDesk, there would be more security for the VAs doing fixed price projects.
- Instead of wasting resources fighting each other, both competitors can now invest more into making the services even better.
However, the negative reactions outweigh the positive by far. Here are some points of criticism from users of both services:
- A very valid concern, that I also support, is that less competition (or even monopoly) is bad for the quality of the services. It will stand to be proven in the future how the services will really change.
- Some VAs are afraid that their hard worked on profiles might change somehow. But for now, it is planned that both services continue to co-exist, with profiles, payment methods, platform usage and feedback rates unchanged. At least that is what can be read in the official statements.
- In the opinion of some users, there seem to be more scammers on Elance. In others, people state that the users of oDesk are lowballing the prices. Other commenters claim that Elance has a better reputation than oDesk among freelancers, and that this merger will injure the reputation from Elance. Especially the fear of the market becoming “cheaper” is very visible among comments from users.These general opinions are not confirmed by me, but the general worries are that whichever service has the less honest users will pollute the other.
- Some users are afraid that an apparent business principle of Elance, focussing on lowering bids and increasing fees, might be ported to the other platform.
- Finally, some freelancers, especially in the comments of the oDesk statement, take the opportunity to appeal against unfair bannings and suspensions against them. Interestingly, some official answers looking into the case are given. Perhaps because the mods need to take care of appearances.Anyways, if you feel you might have been treated unfairly, it might be a good idea to appeal publicly on these posts?
Generally speaking, underpricing yourself is not something you should do, even if you feel pressured to do so. It’s a question of principles.
Is this merger good or bad business?
But will these decisions be good or bad for employers and virtual assistants alike? As an active oDesk user, my opinion is not easily impartial. But I have found a great critic from geekpreneur.com supporting the opinion that virtual assistants (the providers) should be worried about this merger.
Both services try to reassure, but only time will tell what will happen
The biggest worry is clearly the cost structure and the fear of fee increases due to this merger. Both outsourcing services insist that nothing will change to this regard.
But take a look at their words, stated like a politician. If you look closely, there’s a “legal” loophole:
The CEO of oDesk, Gary Swart, states that there will be
“No increase in fee based on the merger.”
In other words, whenever these two merged companies can find another reason (to cover expenses, due to the economy, because it is “unavoidable”) they might still increase fees…
A commenter observed this well, and I put a screenshot of his comment into an illustration on top of this post.
What is your opinion about this change?
What do you think about this merger?
Will it be beneficial? If yes, for whom (employers or VAs)? And if not, why?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
(December 19, 2012)
My virtual assistant takes on many of my tasks for me. Recently, he started managing other virtual assistants in my place.
This way, I can have a team or a network of virtual assistants working for me with acceptable time investment on the side of managing all these people.
My main virtual assistant works as a hub, in some way. I instruct him and he updates me. At the same time, he has to take care of managing several people at times. Normally, this works out very well.
Shortly, we invited someone very promising on our team. He did not have any experience on oDesk before. But he had some specific knowledge only a specialist could have. So, we gave it a try.
As always, I peeked into the screenshots provided by the oDesk software to see what my virtual assistant is up to.
I was not sure if I should have pity with my virtual assistant or if I should be amused. This specific provider had extremely high problems getting started with his job.
First, there were internet connectivity problems.
Then, my virtual assistant really had to explain to the new guy every step of the way in excruciating detail.
I know the feeling very well. I’m not sure my virtual assistant has made this experience as a hiring manager until now.
Sometimes, managing a virtual assistant online can be extremely tiring, time consuming and challenging.
That’s something everyone who seriously considers doing outsourcing with more than one personal assistant should deeply keep in mind.
In the end, I don’t know how far the new provider on our team will make it. Will he get how the job is done and deliver the high quality results we expect from him?
Or, will our patience go to an end at some point in time and we will have to let him go?
Let’s see. It’s up to him.
Comments for The Job for a Hiring Manager Sometimes is Hard
|Aug 18, 2014||Being a Manager is a tough job
by: JohnI do agree with the fact that it’s not easy to manage a bunch of people and take note—every individual grew up in a different culture. We have our differences in the way we are brought up.
Being a manager is a task that can somehow make or break one’s personality or he/she could be bring out the best in one’s personality and ability. Say, good luck!
|Sep 05, 2014||You Need the Right Personality in a VA for Him to Be a Hiring Manager
by: FrancisI’m with you, John. When I have asked my main virtual assistant to start taking up tasks that are close to being a Hiring Manager, he excelled in every level and really blew my socks off.
You need to start small with small tasks and see if your virtual assistant is up to par for these tasks. When he really surprises you with great results then you might be on to a winner.
In this case, it’s very business-wise to use your virtual assistant’s main strengths where you can best use them. In this case, letting my main assistant take over Hiring Manager tasks was a great find that I wouldn’t have found if wouldn’t challenge my assistants from time to time with new tasks.
(November 06, 2012)
A few days ago, I made a fun experiment. My girlfriend needed some pictures researched for an online publication. Stock photos would have been needed instead of free photos in order to make sure that the copyright stays on her end.
As it is almost my reflex now, I persuaded her to rent out so to speak my virtual assistant for this task. I was excited about showing her the ropes of working with a virtual assistant on a trial basis.
Unfortunately, I had underestimated that I have worked with my virtual assistant for 2 years now.
Although I can proudly say that the way of working of my virtual assistant is pretty awesome, there were some communication problems on both sides.
The moment I was aware of those problems, it was already too late. The project got cancelled.
How it all began
Let me take a step back here, I sent my virtual assistant a screen recording message informing him about a new project where the instructions would come from my girlfriend.
As a next step, I provided my girlfriend with access information to my virtual assistant. What was already not clear at that point is that any work my virtual assistant would do would automatically be billed to my account. This was not a problem actually because my VA did not do much work until the project got cancelled.
But let’s see what happened next.
The actual project: how it should have worked out
The task was pretty simple, actually. We had already researched 10 photos from a stock photo bank that seemed too expensive for us at that time. But more about this little twist later.
Since I saw the potential to save a lot of money, I saw the opportunity of outsourcing the picture research to my virtual assistant. He has done similar work before and I knew it would be a piece of cake for him.
One day later, my VA already sent the results to both my girlfriend and me. Unfortunately, the pictures he found were not ideal. So he went ahead and took the good decision to choose alternate pictures.
He then sent an Excel sheet with all the links to those pictures choices to my girlfriend for her to choose from.
Now, another big understanding came into place.
My girlfriend only saw that some or all of the stock photos my virtual assistant proposed had price tags that surpassed the initial budget.
The misunderstanding was that my virtual assistant would be buying those out of his own budget.
So she decided it wasn’t worth the time and money anymore and cancelled the project.
I needed to dig deeper into the whole discussion in order to find out where problems were.
Why we “the double team of employers” was stupid in the first place
The misunderstanding that started the whole project was so simple that I’m almost ashamed to admit it.
The problem with the stock photo bank where we discovered the original pictures we wanted called Fotolia seemed to have a rule that you need to purchase a package of credits in order to download pictures.
It was a real “duh!” moment.
The other misunderstanding: Where does my virtual assistant get the stock photos from?
Unfortunately, I did not share this crucial detail with my girlfriend as I got accustomed to my virtual assistant smartly researching pictures from all sorts of temporarily free places.
What my virtual assistant did is he researched promotion actions of stock photo banks.
For a short time, many stock photo banks – and you won’t believe how many they are out there in the internet – give out coupons or action codes for temporarily free credits that you can change into downloadable stock photos.
In other words, my virtual assistant gets the stock photos for free in exchange for doing some research. It is a well thought out leveraging of his time and the money I pay to him.
Just because I am accustomed to his strategy does not mean my girlfriend knows about this.
The solution: Communicate better with each party and the power of a deep breath
If I had taken care more of the project by communicating clearer – what the background of the ability of my virtual assistant was on how he can get stock photos – many misunderstandings would have been avoided.
If my girlfriend and me would have seen at the very beginning of the project that it was not even necessary to invest more than the required amount into Fotolia; then this whole misunderstood project would have not been started in the first place.
So this case study of outsourcing will have to be put to the files as a temporarily failure. This is not a bad thing.
As long as everyone involved learns from this. 🙂
Actually, the whole discussions, the back and forth of emails and the changing of the project went about pretty intense and many discussions were going on.
But the bottom line is:
If something goes wrong, nothing beats a deep breath of air.
That’s calming down – and it doesn’t cost anyone anything.
Hope you enjoyed this case study. Feel free to chime in down in the comments.