My favorite outsourcing service discourages outsourcing cheap jobs out of fear of the employees underpricing each other. Specifically, posting jobs and hiring people for under $5 (for fixed price jobs) or 3$/hour is not possible anymore nowadays.
Bad method: Try not to get caught
You still can get your work done at a lower rate than 3$/hour by asking your providers to work more than what was agreed upon. You could do it and hope that you don’t get caught.
But if you repeat it often, it is possible that your account gets banned and then you will have to open a new account. For that, you will probably need another Visa or Master credit card. And if they find out that your real name is of the same guy that got banned, perhaps you cannot use Odesk ever again.
And since it has merged with Elance (as I discussed before their merger), then you lose access to the biggest outsourcing platform out there.
Outsourcing Cheap Jobs Done Right
The second possibility to do your work done in just $3 is to create an hourly job at the rate of $3 per hour and limit the work load per week to 1 hour. My virtual assistant himself has had a contract with a limit of 2 hrs/week with another employer.
If 1 hour/week limit is not available you can ask you provider:
“OK, I expect this job done in an hour. If you take longer, after 1 hours the work limit will be reached and I will assume that you are not successful and you I will provide you a bad feedback.”
In this case the provider will be motivated to do it in one hour. And it also is perfectly within Odesk’s terms of services.
If it is moral, is of course another question.
But if the task is really worth only $3, e.g. something really simple where you have to just
- click 5 links,
- download 5 links
- and send us the results,
then perhaps it’s OK.
You should think about the ethical aspects of outsourcing cheap jobs. I did the “bad method” of outsourcing cheap fixed jobs for 1$ at that time myself (that was possible a few years ago), without knowing that the TOS of Odesk had changed. I got my warning, but also was worried if what I did was immoral.
I asked my VA for his personal opinion on this matter.
Opinion from my Virtual Assistant:
Sometimes there are more elements more important than money. I think you are sort of not satisfied with yourself for hiring a person at $1 because this money is very nominal, but in my opinion the work we got from these providers did not take over an hour or so.
Now here I have another question: is it ethical that you get a lot of work done by a provider which demands 10 hours or so for just $5? In this case you are paying according to Odesk TOS, but is it really ethical to pay such amount for a fairly long quantity work?
Here I would also like to quote my personal example:
I worked for around 2 days (More than 15 hours) and downloaded and converted around 3200 excel files into another format. The job was fairly simple but it took at least 15 hours to get completed and I did all this for $5.
As I said earlier: something is more important than money. For me my first feedback was more important than $5 because I know that employers even don’t consider a person without having any feedback.
Still, I don’t have any grudges to that employer. In fact, I have a lot of respect for him because he provided me with the very first opportunity, the base of my freelancing career and I regard him a lot. If today he asks me to do the same job at the same rate, I would work for him on a priority.
Another general example to support this discussion: A fresh graduate who just completed his graduation and looking for a job usually gets up to 3 months of internship program even if he is not getting any stipend.
Why he is doing this?
Just to build his profile!
My virtual assistant and I interviewed the freelancer Kareeza, who does outsourcing in the Philippines.
Here are her interview answers. She sent us personal photos as well so that you can get a glimpse “behind the scenes”.
How old are you?
Where are you from:
Muntinlupa City, Philippines
How did you come to work as a freelancer?
I got married and my husband and I decided to have a baby. He’s now 2 months old and all I care about is to watch him over all the time. With that being said, I decided to do freelance work in oDesk which was referred by a good friend of mine.
Why did you choose to do freelance work on oDesk?
oDesk is known for its security and stability. A lot of my friends are working under oDesk and all I hear is positive feedback. I tried it myself and I’m happy that I started building my career here.
Do you use other freelance sites too? If yes, which ones and how they are different?
No. However, I tried registering in Elance but I find Odesk to be more secured and easy to navigate. Also, I prefer to focus on one freelance site and build a professional portfolio rather than work for multiple sites.
How long did it take you to get the first assignment on oDesk and how did you struggle during that period?
Getting my first job in oDesk was challenging. There was a lot of competition and I thought I’d never get a job.
I received a lot of declined applications and it took me a month to get noticed. I did some research and gathered some tips from experienced contractors.
I followed their advice and luckily I got my first job 🙂
How much time do you usually spend with applying jobs and interview discussions per day?
What is an hourly rate you would be very comfortable working with and why?
$4. I think this amount isn’t too much to ask as I have the skills and experiences. I always provide quality service to all my clients.
What sort of work would you be willing to do with this rate?
Data entry, web research, transcription, personal assistant, phone support, chat support, article writing and recruiting.
I’m experienced with these fields and I’m confident that I can meet the client’s demand in a timely manner. I am flexible and am open to new learning.
I’m highly trainable and am always open for constructive criticism.
What is an hourly rate that is unacceptably low and why?
50 cents. I am seeing several clients who offer this rate and I think it’s like taking advantage of the fact that new contractors would accept this rate just to gain good feedback.
What were your prior thoughts about earning money online?
I never thought that freelance sites exist. I thought it’s impossible to gain money online. I had this belief that most online transactions are fraudulent and will only cause problems to the people involved. Good thing I had the chance to try it myself. Now I can say that it is the most convenient tool to earn money and build a career.
What motivates you as s a freelancer? As a Person? What kind of extra push (extra motivation) do you expect from an employer?
Personally, what motivates me is my family. Freelancing is having the extra time to spend with my family and the comfort of working at your home which leads to less expense for food and transportation allowance.
I’m expecting my employers to be professional, dependable, fair and considerate with their team or employees.
How would you handle it if your employer criticizes your work?
I take all criticism in a positive way. It’s an effective way for me to learn and avoid making the same mistake in the future. Criticism will help me grow personally and professionally. In the event that I will receive a criticism from an employer, I will acknowledge it, take an action and learn from it.
Tell us one of your success stories as a freelancer. (Did the employer give you any sort of extra recognition, some respect or some attribution what you ever mentioned in your work or helped you in any of your future jobs.?)
I handled a very urgent project. I’ve been working with that client for quite some time and I know how important the project is. What I did was complete the job before the proposed date and delivered high quality outputs. She was very happy with my service and gave me a bonus to show her appreciation.
Suppose your employer is not happy with the work quality and you’ve tried your best to satisfy his needs, but in vain. In this scenario, how ill you respond?
I believe that we can’t please everyone all the time. What I will do is ask for her feedback and opinion. I will then do the necessary changes with extra effort and dedication.
What are the biggest threats while working as a freelancer / working online?
I think one of the biggest threats is working for an unprofessional employer. Unprofessional can mean a lot of things such as lying to his employees about the scope of the job and terms of payment. There are some clients who will hire you just for the sake of having his task completed without even paying the agreed amount.
Fixed price jobs or hourly jobs? Which would you prefer and why?
Both are acceptable. Hourly jobs allow me to do my job with the assurance that I’ll be paid every week. Work diary is a very effective tool in determining the hours billed plus screenshots to see how an employee works.
Fixed price jobs, on the other hand, allows me to do my job wherever I want without having to log in to the time tracker.
How do you see your future as a freelancer?
My goal is to learn more. Learning is a gradual process and I am not limiting myself to new and exciting learnings. My plan is to build my own team and start my own business while having a fruitful relationship with oDesk contractors. For the meantime, my short term goal is to fulfill my clients’ demands by using all my skills and expertise.
If there are only highly paid jobs (above $5/hr), obviously there would be a lot of competition and people from Europe and US would also apply for this job, in this case how do you see your future as a provider?
I think I still have the chance to be considered for the job. I know there are applicants who have the same skills as mine, even greater and bolder. What makes me different from these candidates is my attitude towards work. I have good work ethics, very flexible and is always open for challenges.
Would you rather be hired for 500 hrs at a lower rate (below $2/hr) or shorter jobs (for example 50 hrs @ $5/hr). What would you prefer and why?
I prefer to be hired with less time but with high rate. Less time won’t hinder me to do the job well and I can maximize all my resources to finish the job in a timely manner.
What is the maximum number of employers for whom you have been working at the same time?
How would you efficiently manage all of your employers at the same time.
I manage my time by having a list of the most urgent project to the least one. I also allot at least 2 hours per project for me to make sure that one project is not being neglected or left behind. I always make sure that I have constant communication will all my clients.
From your previous working experience on oDesk, what helped you most in getting hired.
The factors that helped me to be noticed and hired by employers are my good rating, relevant work history and unique cover letter.
What is the best tactic to write a cover letter for the job post and what is your winning rate?
A cover letter should be unique and personalized. I don’t do “copy-paste” as jobs that I am applying for differs from each other in some way. My cover letter is always written in a professional yet friendly manner. I also depend my rate on the complexity of the job. I always bid for a very acceptable rate.
How much you can earn if you have a normal white collar job (starting level) in your country according to your qualification and experience. In addition, is it easy for you to get this job? What skills do you think would they hire you for? What are the changes that you will get this job?
I can earn $640/month. I usually apply in BPO companies here in Manila and I am being considered for the position most of the time.
I have the experiences and great achievements that always make me qualified for the position that I am applying for.
Most of the skills that BPO companies are looking for are excellent communication skills, analytical and technical skills.
Do you think that your virtual job experience would count or help you in giving confidence in getting jobs.
Yes. oDesk gave me the chance to work on several projects that I’ve never tried before. I can use all these experiences to apply for same positions but with wider range of job scope and responsibilities. My freelancing experience actually gave me more confidence and made me more responsible in terms of handling a job effectively and efficiently.
Are there any tax deductions in doing freelance work?
What is the feedback of your family and friends about your freelancing job?
My family is very happy to see me working at home because I have more time to spend with them while still earning a good amount of money. My friends are actually asking for several tips on how to be successful just like me. It makes me happy to share my freelancing experiences to everyone.
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.
We’ll cover two different histories:
- The General History of Outsourcing
- My Outsourcing Background
General Outsourcing History
Outsourcing done via the internet started in the USA in the mid-nineties (formally a business strategy since 1989) and was accepted practice in Europe from the early 2000s.
Any task that was not vital for the companies, (especially tedious) work like
- data entry jobs
- support services
- mail distribution within the company
- and human resources
were more and more outsourced (more exactly, off-shored) to cheaper countries.
Outsourcing to India
The history of outsourcing to India started in the mid-1980s and mainly focused on online services. Outsourcing telecommunication tasks followed in the nineties and lead to many jobs being offshored from the US to India. Billions are invested nowadays into offshoring tasks.
Why to India?
- There are many, many capable Indians around
- They all speak English
- They generally are low-cost workers
Potential for outsourcing in other countries
India is not the only country well-suited for virtual assistants. Other countries also are more and more a force to be reckoned with. Some, from whom I personally have hired employees over oDesk are:
- The Philippines
oDesk was founded 2003 by Odysseas Tsatalos and Stratis Karamanlakis, with the latter living in Greece. They collaborated over the distance “virtually” and developed a system to make this worldwide cooperation possible. Its biggest strength was that all online work was visible and everyone’s effort could be accounted for.
This platform was the base for oDesk, which enjoyed roaring success that still is not stopping, even now.
My Personal History of Outsourcing
Where do I come into play? I’m running this website about outsourcing from personal experience, so I’ll introduce my story.
What can I say? I did not start out very originally.
- I read the book “Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris and was hooked.
Personal development and all creative to crazy ideas about life have always been alluring to me. No wonder I devoured Ferris’s book in half a day.
Now, I thought I was smart, and quickly jumped to implement the only last chapter of the book: outsourcing. Pretty stupid move, but I would probably do the mistake again.
The previous, priceless lessons about the definition, elimination and automation were just less… sexy in my eyes. What I didn’t know was that I had some ideas from the book already covered from countless lessons about goal setting in the past.
So, I would learn about automation the hard way, by managing numerous projects with freelancers from all around the world.
What about elimination?
Well, I stopped watching TV, but I guess this doesn’t cover the lost hours and hours spent on Facebook and the rest of the internet! More seriously…
One of the biggest time wasters I have encountered in the outsourcing world was… the hiring process.
You can eliminate most pitfalls of time-waste if you follow along closely with the information found on this website.
Where did outsourcing lead me?
After some initial time setting up the cooperation with the virtual assistants and getting jobs done since 4 years, I enjoyed, amongst others:
- Getting written text transcribed effectively
- Web research or data entry jobs being done overnight
- And even learning new skills with a virtual teacher
The one place I recommend for outsourcing is oDesk – it’s like an all inclusive package.
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.